Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 1:45 pm, 7th June 2016

We made good progress in the House yesterday. We now have clarity about the terms of the independent review of bulk powers, which we are looking at today; and we have an overarching privacy clause, a stricter test for the judicial commissioners, protection for trade union activities, and an undertaking from the Solicitor General to consider how to amend the Bill to make it absolutely clear that whistleblowers can make disclosures to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner without fear of prosecution. I hope we can make as good progress today.

One of the amendments made to the Bill yesterday concerned the requirement for judicial commissioners to consider necessity and proportionality with a sufficient degree of care to ensure that they comply with the general duties in relation to privacy—this is the tighter judicial review test. That amendment was made to clause 21, which relates to intercept warrants. Today we are dealing with bulk powers. The judicial commissioners have an important role in relation to bulk powers and are an important safeguard in respect of warrants involving bulk powers. It is therefore important that we have clarity in the House today that the tighter scrutiny that is now in clause 21 applies equally to all other exercises of authorisation or approval carried out by judicial commissioners, including where they are exercising their powers in relation to bulk warrants. I think that otherwise there will be a risk of two tests, one under clause 21 and one under the other clauses applying to bulk powers. There is a real danger relating to combined warrants, in respect of which judicial commissioners would be asked to carry out different tests. It is important for the bulk powers to be scrutinised every bit as closely as the intercept warrants. Perhaps, in his response, the Minister will make it clear that the test applies generally across all the functions of the judicial commissioners, whether in respect of the specific warrants referred to clause 21 or in respect of the warrants relating to bulk powers and other provisions in the Bill. That, I think, would be a helpful extension of the safeguards relating to bulk powers.

Let me now deal with the bulk powers themselves. As has been pointed out by Anne McLaughlin, they are very wide. What concerns her constituents and mine—and, indeed, many other constituents—is that inevitably the bulk powers will be applied to, and will have an impact on, people who are not themselves suspected of any wrongdoing. That worries everyone who has spoken to me, and I am sure that it worries members of the public who have spoken to many other MPs.