Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 2:45 pm, 7th June 2016

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention. He is absolutely right; it makes sense to bring these powers together and, while doing that, to consider the safeguards.

Yes, the Bill provides our security and intelligence agencies with the ability to obtain data in bulk in order to identify new threats and to learn more about existing threats, but I feel that it does not confer on them new and sweeping powers. Our intelligence agencies have bulk collection powers but they do not conduct analysis of the data in an indiscriminate manner without reasonable suspicion—it would not be lawful for them to do so. In the modern world these powers, which already exist, are crucial. Bulk capabilities are crucial.

To investigate a target, our agents need to be able to acquire its communications in the first place. When a target is overseas, bulk interception is one of the key means, and may be the only means, by which we can obtain communications that would otherwise not be available. This is especially so if that potential threat is operating in an area where we have no strong diplomatic link or where the governing authority is not in control of all its own territory. We know from yesterday’s debate that bulk powers and their use have been instrumental in keeping us safe from threats abroad and, indeed, at home. It is worth noting that the bulk powers in the Bill have already played a significant part in every major counter-terrorism investigation of the last decade, including in each of the seven terrorist attack plots disrupted since November 2014. They have been essential in identifying 95% of the cyber-attacks on people and businesses in the UK discovered by the security and intelligence agencies over six months. Here at home the existing powers have been used to identify serious criminals who were seeking to evade detection online and could not be pursued by conventional means, supporting the disruption of more than 50 paedophiles in the UK in the past three years.

I would like to quote the words of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve, who is no longer in his place but who has been contributing to today’s debate. He is a former Attorney General and not, if I may say so, a man who lightly allows liberties to be chipped away. He said of the Bill:

“The present Committee and its predecessor are satisfied that the Government are justified in coming to Parliament to seek in broad terms the powers that the Bill contains. None of the categories of powers in the Bill—including the principle of having powers of bulk collection of data, which has given rise to controversy in recent years—is unnecessary or disproportionate to what we need to protect ourselves.”—[Official Report, 15 March 2016;
Vol. 607, c. 836.]

Of course, some will disagree with the former Attorney General and they rightly have the opportunity to do so, but I happen to agree with him on those points.

Finally, I want to touch on calls from Labour and the SNP on Second Reading and in the Public Bill Committee for independent validation of the operational case. We should recognise that the Government have listened and, in response to those calls, have confirmed that David Anderson QC will undertake a review to inform the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords. Parliament will then be able to decide.

I will support this Bill as one that codifies the law as much as it extends it, and that builds robust safeguards against intrusion while at the same time safeguarding the public. I believe that it is an extremely important Bill—important to our country, important to the people of our country, and important to our constituents.