Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Conservative, Tonbridge and Malling 3:30 pm, 7th June 2016

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Madam Deputy Speaker, particularly as you are appropriately attired in something that may indeed be collecting bulk data.

We are talking about amendments that would fundamentally undermine the very Bill that we have come to support, and would change the very tone of the debate. I speak very much in support of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve, who has gone through various aspects in quite significant detail, explaining to us time and again why the controls over the collection of bulk data are entirely appropriate. I also speak in support of Keir Starmer, who has been through the Bill with the eye he has as a former Director of Public Prosecutions, seeing both the loopholes and the potential abuses, and covering them off.

I also speak in support of the Solicitor General, who has done exactly the same for us, and the Minister for Security, who has brought forward a Bill that answers the very questions that this state must always ask itself: how we guard our citizens and keep them safe while also keeping them free. This Bill does exactly that.

My first encounter with bulk data collection came in the constituency of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, where the Defence School of Languages was sited. I was going through vast amounts of Arabic text. Although I was doing so in a most junior and rather ineffective manner, I learned how it was done properly. I was only a student; the masters have learned from that great Scots mathematician John Napier, who in the 17th century developed the logarithm, and whose lesson to us all, through mathematics, is how to build the pattern, understand the shape and break the code. That is why bulk data matter. We cannot build patterns without data and without volume, and we cannot make shapes without substance.

The bulk data are not themselves intelligence. As an intelligence officer in Her Majesty’s armed forces I was very proud to work on intelligence. It is not the raw product. It is what is analysed, what is useful and what decisions can be made from. That is not the bulk or the mass—the intelligence is the product. I am sorry to say that there appears to be a slight misunderstanding as to what is the intrusion. The intrusion is surely not the clay from which the form is made, but only the detail on the individual that could be used against them. The Bill does not allow that without the tightest of safeguards, both from former judges and from serving Ministers.