Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 2:30 pm, 7th June 2016

I am grateful to the Minister for that. We are now best served by allowing Mr Anderson to get on and do the job that we have given him. I merely say in passing that it would have been better if we had given him that job some time ago, so that this House might have had the benefit of his conclusions when debating this whole matter. None the less, I welcome the conversion of the Government, however late in the day it may have come, to the need and to the acceptance of what even the Labour party has said, which is that the operational case for the extent of the bulk powers that the Government have sought to introduce in this Bill has not yet been made. The operational case that they have published has been vague, to be kind to it, and it has certainly been lacking in any persuasiveness.

We will look very closely at David Anderson’s conclusion with regard to the necessity of these powers, because that should have been the first test that was set and that was required to be met. I take very little issue with Mr Grieve, or indeed the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, when they talk about the protections that they think should be built into the Bill. Protections are necessary only if the powers are first judged to be necessary, which comes to the very heart of the points made by the hon. Member for North Dorset. The Bill has very much been a work in progress and I wonder whether we would have had the 104 Government amendments we had yesterday and the 20 that we have today, never mind those tabled by the Intelligence and Security Committee, by those on the Opposition Front Bench and by the Scottish National party, if the House had taken the approach to the Bill and its scrutiny that was being urged on us a few minutes ago.

On the question of bulk personal datasets, I share the substantial concerns that have already been expressed. That brings me back to the objection that I have already spoken about—to the operational case. That is another aspect of the Bill that the Government have failed to explain. The operational case is perhaps even more opaque than anything else in the Bill. Although the abuses—let us use that term—outlined by Joanna Cherry and acknowledged by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield might be at the lower end of the scale, I have a strong suspicion that it was because they were at the lower end of the scale that they came into the public domain in the first place. When we are dealing with something that strikes in such a fundamental way at the relationship between the citizen and the state, there is, frankly, no such thing as a trivial abuse. Any abuse is serious, any abuse is to be taken seriously, and that is why I thought that the hon. and learned Lady was right to bring them to the House’s attention.