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 Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham 3:00 pm, 7th June 2016

It is a privilege to speak in this debate, and indeed to have participated in the Committees that have considered the Bill: I was a member of the Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Bill in February, and I was also a member of the Bill Committee earlier this year. I want to put on the record my appreciation of the Labour party’s constructive and fruitful contributions. This vital legislation has come far since its first iteration. It is an example of cross-party collaboration, so I am glad that party politics has been put aside in the name of national security. I urge all Members of the House to act in such a manner when we go through the Lobbies later today. However, judging by the words of Anne McLaughlin, I do not think that will be the case.

I rise to speak against amendment 309 and the others relating to bulk powers. The Scottish National party Members says that those powers are disproportionate, that they have no utility and that they are therefore unlawful. The amendments propose removing most of parts 6 and 7, from clause 119 onwards, and with them the three types of bulk power afforded to our security and intelligence services—bulk interception, bulk acquisition of communications data and bulk equipment interference. Those powers allow for the collection of large volumes of data and are set out in clause 119 onwards. Further warrants are required before those data can be examined. The purposes of such examination, which are set out in the Bill, may be to pursue more information about known suspects and their associates or to look for patterns of activity that may identify new suspects. Crucially, those powers are not afforded to law enforcement services.

I have a few points to make. First, these powers are founded on a clear and robust legal basis. They are all available to the agencies in existing legislation. Bulk interception is covered in section 20 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Bulk communications data are covered in section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984. Bulk equipment interference is covered in sections 5 and 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994. If amendment 390 and the others were passed today, we would remove the vital powers on which our agencies rely to do their jobs and we would prevent them from acting on those powers.

Secondly, these powers are not novel or a quirk of the modern age; they have been around for decades. Back in world war one, our intelligence services tracked the worldwide network of German cables under the sea by using secret sensors. They were able to intercept telegraph messages on a bulk basis, looking for patterns in communications and signals from the enemy.

When cables ended, radio surveillance was necessary to break codes during world war two. That involved bulk interception of data by hand. That work was famously based at room 40 of the Admiralty. Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park would never have cracked Enigma were it not for the bulk interception of cyphers. That advanced cryptanalysis changed the course of history by enabling the allies to pre-empt enemy planning, saving countless lives and shortening the war.