Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy Conservative, South Ribble 3:00 pm, 7th June 2016

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention; he speaks with great experience.

Bulk powers are not novel. The powers already exist, but they are being given better oversight, scrutiny and transparency here. Some Opposition Members have spoken about the lack of necessity for these powers, but the necessity arises from an absolute obligation on our intelligence services to be as flexible and nimble as our enemies. Other Members, including my hon. Friend Wendy Morton, have set out the operational necessity of bulk data collection. It is about collecting information on overseas targets and providing that first sift of information—like a haystack, as my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat mentioned—so that it is possible to drill down to the necessary data and discover new threats from people who were previously unknown and identify patterns of behaviour. That would then exclude innocent citizens and facilitate more targeted searches.

The effectiveness of collecting bulk data is borne out by the fact that it has been used in every major counter-terrorism operation in the past decade. It has prevented 95% of cyber-attacks and disrupted 50 paedophiles. It is clear that the UK does not undertake mass surveillance, first because of the existing legal framework in which the intelligence services already operate, and secondly because of resource constraints. I know that the Bill Committee heard evidence about that.

I want to speak briefly about the wrong hands argument to which Joanna Cherry referred. My right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve quite rightly said that if we worried about the wrong hands everywhere, we would never pass any legislation. Only the security and intelligence agencies will be given the powers set out in the Bill. Those are people who have an interest in disrupting plots and bringing suspects to justice. Very little evidence is being brought forward to suggest that they are motivated by prying into innocent citizens’ private lives or that they use information wrongly. Millions of us, including all of us sitting here, handle sensitive data every day and are subject to rules, and to a large extent we obey that. Are we honestly saying that intelligence agents, having gone through rigorous vetting and appraisal, are less trustworthy than our bank managers, our GPs’ receptionists and our council officials?

The safeguards in the Bill pertaining to bulk powers are manifold and robust: the Secretary of State has to authorise bulk warrants; there is a double-lock authorisation procedure; the warrants are time-limited; there is a code of practice for the security and intelligence agencies on handling the data; and of course there is the review, which right hon. and hon. Members have expanded on at great length.

In conclusion, the proposed amendments would remove from the Bill the powers that are necessary for our security services to react to the evolving dangers that face our constituents today, here and now. Our security services do that while respecting our nation’s values. For that reason, I will oppose the amendments.