Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 3:15 pm, 7th June 2016

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. On Second Reading, I said that much of this can be dealt with in two ways: first, by making quite a sensationalist argument; and secondly, by looking at what is actually being proposed. Many of these powers, particularly on bulk data, are already being used, but they are now being avowed, put into legislation, and given a consistent framework. The legislation that already regulates much of this activity is from an era well before smartphones and the idea that a phone could do anything other than take a phone call. This Bill provides a much more modern piece of legislation, subject to clear safeguards.

While I appreciate the sentiments expressed by Tom Elliott, I would always be tentative about using the argument, “If you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to worry about.” I understand his point of view, certainly in terms of the bulk data powers, but we should always be rather careful about that being an argument for absolutely anyone being under surveillance at any time. That is not what is proposed in this Bill or these powers, given that there would need to be a warrant concerning how information is gathered.

It has been a pleasure to sit through the debate this afternoon, which has convinced me that the amendments are not justified and should be opposed. The speech given by Keir Starmer was thoughtful. He adopted a responsible position, as a member of the Opposition, in teasing out some of the legitimate concerns about the Bill and making some genuine progress in getting reassurances from the Minister. It was encouraging to see that level of exchange on things that genuinely cause some concern.

I did not find allusions to the idea that we will take every letter from the Post Office particularly helpful or constructive. Neither did I find helpful the suggestion that if the police kick a door in, it will no longer be secure. When the police conduct a raid, they secure the property again afterwards, so that was not a particularly good analogy. I would never cast aspersions on any area of the country in particular, but it was a novelty to get a lecture on heckling from SNP Members, who regularly give me a good old heckle during my speeches. It is quite strange to be talking without being heckled, although perhaps that will change at any moment. [Interruption.] Absolutely; I am only too happy to have it all the time. To be fair, some legitimate points have come out of one or two interventions, and we will need to work with Scottish law enforcement authorities on many of the powers that are exercised at a UK level.

A balance has to be struck. If we accept the amendments, we will remove the proposed powers completely. We will not modify them, make them slightly more secure or include extra protection. We will remove them completely, and I do not think that that is an appropriate step to take.