It is a privilege to speak on the second day of consideration of this very important Bill and to follow hon. and right hon. Friends and colleagues, as well as the many learned friends and colleagues—[Interruption.] I did not quite expect to hear that noise from the skies during my opening comments; I do not normally have this sort of impact.
I do not wish to disappoint people, but unlike my hon. Friend Simon Hoare I sought neither inspiration nor cake from Kipling. Instead, I turned to the American scientist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson, who wrote very perceptively:
“Any time scientists disagree, it's because we have insufficient data. Then we can agree on what kind of data to get;
we get the data;
and the data solves the problem. Either I’m right, or you’re right, or we’re both wrong. And we move on. That kind of conflict resolution does not exist in politics or religion.”
Very wise words, I think.
I believe that the advantage scientists have over the rest of us who base our judgments on instinct or hope should also be available to the people who keep us safe, our security personnel and the agencies in which they so importantly serve. I appreciate the sensitivities and difficulties with this topic of bulk powers, but I feel that the Bill has had a lot of scrutiny. It has been a long time in gestation, and rightly so.
Our security services need data, the raw information—perhaps from dozens of sources. They need the hundreds, perhaps thousands of pieces with which to build a picture of the threats that face us, and they then have the knowledge to take the right action against them. In today’s world in which data are all around us, our security personnel need to be able to collect them and to have the right, with safeguards, of course, to pull them all together.
There was a good deal of discussion on Second Reading, in Committee and now on Report on the nature of bulk powers and bulk review. It saddens me that a notion seems to have developed among some that the security services, given the chance, will use new powers to hoover up all the information on us all without any control at all. I think that that perception is false. Why? As we have been told, the bulk powers referred to in this Bill are already provided for in existing legislation. The Bill brings them together and, importantly, makes them subject to robust statutory safeguards.