Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The first duty of Government is the protection of their citizens, and the first duty of Parliament is to hold the Government to account for the way they protect those citizens. This landmark Bill will ensure that our police and security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to keep us safe in an uncertain world. It provides far greater transparency, overhauls safeguards and adds protections for privacy. It also introduces a new and world-leading oversight regime. It is a vital Bill—on that, we are agreed across the House.
It is only right to afford such an important Bill proper scrutiny. Three independent reviews informed the Bill’s drafting: the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC: an expert panel convened by the Royal United Services Institute; and the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. It was then scrutinised by not one, but three parliamentary Committees. We have now had a further report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which said:
“We welcome the introduction of a Bill as representing a significant step forward in human rights terms towards the objective of providing a clear and transparent legal basis for…investigatory powers”.
The reports produced on the Bill, when piled up, reach nearly 1 foot high of paper. It has proceeded through the House of Commons on the normal timetable and with the usual forensic line-by-line scrutiny applied by the House. I thank the right hon. and hon. Members who sat on the Public Bill Committee; those who sat on the Joint Committee that gave the Bill pre-legislative scrutiny with Members from another place; the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Science and Technology Committee for their reports; the right hon. and hon. Members of the Intelligence and Security Committee, who scrutinised the more sensitive aspects of the Bill; and all those right hon. and hon. Members who contributed on Report. The scrutiny that they have given the Bill may well be unprecedented.
I extend particular thanks to the Security Minister, the Solicitor General and Keir Starmer for the detailed way in which they have worked on the Bill. I also thank the hard-working team in the Home Office who have supported the Bill, and all those who supported the Committees.
It is because the Bill is so important that it has received unprecedented scrutiny. It provides a clear and comprehensible legal basis for the powers used by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It introduces the most fundamental reform in investigatory powers since the avowal of those agencies with the introduction of judicial authorisation of the most sensitive powers. It puts the Wilson doctrine protections on to the statute book for the first time; creates one of the most senior and powerful judicial oversight posts in the country with the creation of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner; and brings the powers of our police and security and intelligence agencies up to date, making them fit for a digital age.
I have always said that I am willing to listen to constructive contributions from those on both sides of the House to get the Bill right, which is why the Government returned with amendments that I am grateful the House passed on Report. We have strengthened safeguards for journalists, for MPs and for the use of medical records, and added protections called for by communications service providers. Reflecting the cross-party support for the Bill, I am pleased that we have been able to agree the Opposition amendment to put beyond doubt the protections for trade union activity. We have welcomed amendments from the ISC to add clarity and strengthen safeguards.
Perhaps the most important change to the Bill is the new privacy clause, which places the protection of privacy at the heart of the Bill. The manuscript amendment that we tabled and passed yesterday will ensure not only that privacy is at the heart of the Bill, but that privacy must also be central to the decision to authorise the use of the most sensitive powers.
It is because we continue to listen that we have committed to make further changes when the Bill enters the Lords. Responding to another suggestion from the official Opposition, we will introduce a threshold for access to internet connection records, to put beyond doubt that those vital powers cannot be used to investigate minor crimes. We will introduce an amendment to respond to the Opposition proposal on the important appointment of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. We have also committed to implement a number of further reforms proposed by the ISC.
I look forward to the continued careful scrutiny the Bill will receive in the other place, but the key message their lordships should take from the last two days of debate is that this House supports the Bill. We have before us a world-leading piece of legislation, which has been subject to unparalleled scrutiny, and which now, I hope, commands cross-party support. Being in government means taking the difficult decisions about the most fundamental questions that democratic societies face. It means striking the right balance between the need for privacy and the right to live in safety and security.
Being a responsible Opposition means scrutinising those decisions thoroughly, but fairly. I commend the Opposition for the constructive approach they have taken to these most important issues. I commend all those who have contributed to the scrutiny that we have seen today and throughout the passage of the Bill. I commend this vital Bill to the House.
I was first elected to the House 15 years ago to this very day. In that time, debates on security and privacy have produced some of the most fractious exchanges I have seen. It is treacherous territory littered with past failure. Too often, such debates are pitched as a clash between two absolutes of privacy and security, where there can be no compromise and only one winner—witness the Apple versus FBI debate in the US.
I have always started from the point that people should not be forced to choose between the two. We all have an interest in maximising both our personal privacy and our collective security. We have to work to find the best point of balance between the two. Over the past three months, this House has got closer to finding that balance than ever before. We have elevated the debate above simplistic loyalties to the security or privacy lobbies. As a result, we are now significantly closer to developing the balanced, modern, world-leading framework, which the Home Secretary spoke about, for the use of investigatory powers that this country needs in the digital age.
I echo the thanks the Home Secretary gave to right hon. and hon. Members of this House and its various Committees: all Members who have contributed in the past two days; the members of the Public Bill Committee; the Chairs of that Committee, Nadine Dorries and my hon. Friend Albert Owen; and the Clerks and the Public Bill Office for overseeing such a high quality process.
The Bill leaves this House in a much better state than we found it. That is due in no small part to the forensic mind and engaging approach of my hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer. By setting out clearly after Second Reading our seven substantial concerns, we have been able to bring a focus to this debate that I think has been to the benefit of this House. I am pleased to say that we have secured major commitments on all seven concerns, in particular on bulk powers, the independent review, the privacy clause, judicial oversight and the double lock, and trade unions. Thanks to the constructive work of Labour, there are stronger safeguards in the Bill that protect people’s privacy and their human rights. I say this to those who might be planning to vote against the Bill tonight: a vote against it is to deny people those safeguards and to leave on the statute book a much weaker piece of legislation that does not afford those protections.
Our consideration has also been helped by the way in which we, as a country, continue to shine a light on some of the darkest chapters in our past. We continue to learn of instances where the power of the state has been unfairly used against ordinary people. By being prepared to open up about that and be honest about how we were governed and policed in the past, I believe we are now beginning to make better legislation in the present. I pay tribute to the Home Secretary for the courage she has shown in being prepared to do that, but I say again that she should be prepared to carry on going wherever that evidence takes us. Following the Hillsborough verdict, I believe that that trail now leads very firmly to Orgreave, and, following the court settlement last month, to blacklisting.
I will continue to press the Home Secretary on those matters, but I congratulate her on how she and her Ministers have handled discussions on the Bill. The Security Minister, or Brother Hayes as we might now call him after his starring role in today’s papers, has brought all his considerable experience and personality to bear in moving the Bill forward. It is all the better for it. Although he probably does not want me to mention him, I feel the need to mention Simon Kirby, who has been the most helpful Government Whip I have ever come across.
Let me be clear: the Bill is not there yet. We need further changes on internet connection records—the Home Secretary alluded to that—and on the protection of journalists and their sources, and on legal privilege. However, if the Government continue with the same approach as the one they have adopted in recent weeks, I have every confidence that we will get there. We must do that for those who depend on the Bill we are debating. The police and security services do incredibly difficult work on our behalf and we thank them for it. Their job has got harder as both the level of the threat has risen and the nature of communication has changed in the modern world. To fail to respond to that would be a dereliction of our duties to them; it would also fail our constituents. The Bill is ultimately about their safety, the safety of their families and their privacy. I think we can look ourselves in the mirror tomorrow and say we have done our level best to maximise both.
I start by placing on record my thanks to all the organisations that have supported and advised the Scottish National party during the passage of the Bill. I said at the outset of the debate yesterday that I made no apology for tabling so many amendments and I stick by that. This is one of the most lengthy and complex Bills that the House has debated for many years. The powers it seeks to give to the state are immense and far-reaching. The Bill is of huge constitutional significance, yet we have had fewer than two full working days to debate it on Report. Accordingly, the number of amendments that could be put to a vote was just a very small proportion of the number tabled.
The SNP wants to give the security services necessary and proportionate powers to fight terrorism; we wanted to support those parts of the Bill that maintained and codified law enforcement’s existing powers; and we would have been happy to support an enhanced oversight regime. However, so long as the Bill allows such significantly unfettered collection of, and access to, communications data, including internet connection records, we cannot give it our support. Neither can we support a Bill that sets out such far-reaching powers to acquire the personal and private data of our constituents, while a proper case for the necessity of those powers has yet to be made out.
We have been happy to support some Government amendments, including new clause 5, which appears to recognise the importance of taking into account the right to privacy and other human rights, but such concessions as the Government have made have been vastly exaggerated by both the Government and, I am sorry to say, the main Opposition party. There has been a great deal too much mutual congratulation. Only the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have been concerned enough to put opposition amendments to votes. Were there really no issues that the Labour party considered worth putting to a vote?
We were pleased to offer our support to the Labour party on its amendment protecting trade unionists going about their lawful activities, but what about other activists and campaigners? What about non-governmental organisations and whistleblowers? The SNP’s amendments were also designed to protect them. Why were they not supported? The main Opposition party seems content to take Government assurances at face value and to leave matters to the Lords. The SNP believes that these issues should be debated in full and resolved on the Floor of this Chamber, which is democratically elected and accountable to the public, not in the unelected, unaccountable Lords. [Interruption.] I would appreciate it if those who have been absent for most of the debate would stop chuntering from the Front Bench. I am angry with people who treat these matters so lightly.
I want to take bulk powers as an example. All parties now accept that the case for bulk powers has not been made and that it needs an independent review. We sought to get the bulk powers taken out of the Bill until such time as a case had been made. It is possible that a case for the necessity of bulk powers will not be made. As we have heard in detail, America has recently retreated from the necessity to use bulk powers. What happens if the case for bulk powers is not made? Neither the Minister nor the official Opposition would answer that question. Because the SNP amendment to take bulk powers out of the Bill until such time as a case has been made was defeated, those powers are still in the Bill. When the independent operational case is published, it will be the House of Lords, not the Commons, that will scrutinise and debate it. I am proud to say I consider that a travesty of democracy.
There is huge public concern about the implications of the Bill. The public—our constituents—are concerned about their privacy and right to data security. It is disappointing, therefore, that the House has in effect abdicated its responsibility properly to scrutinise the Bill to an unelected Chamber. The interests of our constituents have not been well served by the system, and it simply reinforces me in my view that the interests of my constituents, the people of Scotland and the people of these islands are not always best served by the way we do things in this House.
For all those reasons, the SNP will take a principled stand and vote—[Interruption.] I know it is hard for Government Members to recognise the notion of a principled stand, but they will see one in action in about 10 minutes. For all the reasons I have outlined, the SNP will take a principled stand, reflecting the views of many people across these islands and their concerns about the Bill, and vote against it tonight.
It has been my privilege to serve on not one, not two, but three Committees examining this Bill. Whether it is the Joint Committee, the Bill Committee or the Select Committee on Science and Technology, they were just three examples from a huge number and an unprecedented level of scrutiny that this hugely important Bill has received.
In the Bill Committee, on which I served with Joanna Cherry, we saw a remarkably conciliatory approach from those on the Front Bench. I also thought it was a genuine privilege to be in the same room as an Opposition who took a view that went so far above party politics, because this is a Bill that is above party politics. That is because what our constituents worry about, even more than the vital privacy concerns that the SNP has persistently raised, is the threat that we face in a global and unstable world. The threats that we have seen on the Committees examining this Bill are greater than they have ever been before and they need to be tackled in a fundamentally different way from that provided for in the broken legislation that is currently in force.
I would therefore argue, and I hope the whole House would agree, that this is legislation that transcends party politics and goes beyond what we have seen from the legislation that exists today. What is demanded from us in this House is legislation that understands and is adaptable to technology that is unlike that in the world that the previous legislation was built to combat. I believe sincerely—from a principled position, I could even say—that, whether on ICRs, protection for journalists, bulk powers or bulk datasets, this Bill struggles and finds the balance that we all need to keep our constituents safe. That is why I will be voting for it this evening.
I accept, of course, the changes that those on the Labour Front Bench have got from the Government—it would be churlish of me not to say so—and although I voted in all the Divisions with her, I dissociate myself from some of the remarks made by Joanna Cherry, representing the Scottish National party. I am sure that those on my Front Bench work on the basis of trying to get the best possible arrangements for this measure, and I accept that.
Unfortunately, I do not accept that this Bill is necessary. It would have been even worse if the measures I have mentioned had not been included, although I suspect that the original Bill that came to us on Second Reading would still have been supported by virtually every Conservative Member. As far as I am concerned, the Bill is unacceptable. Despite the changes, it remains the position that internet service providers and others will be compelled in certain circumstances to retain every person’s communication data, texts, emails and, indeed, browsing history. I find that far too intrusive and indiscriminate. It should not be part of such legislation.
It is the first time this has happened. I find it unfortunate that such a measure can be put before the House of Commons, even more so when I take into consideration what happened when the Labour Government were in office and the manner in which the Tory Opposition at every opportunity said that they had such a deep concern for civil liberties. This Bill is hardly an example of such concern.
We are told that the review of such bulk powers—which, as I have said, are totally unacceptable—is to be done by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. That is fine, but should it not have been done before the measure came before the House of Commons? Why should it have to wait until the Bill goes to the unelected House of Lords? Why should we not have the conclusions of any such review?
Let me say that literally no one in this House has a monopoly when it comes to wanting to prevent terrorism. All of us deplore the slaughter of innocent people—the manner in which, for example, 7/7 occurred, in which 52 people were slaughtered and so many were injured, and of course the terrorism that goes on abroad. All of us want not just to condemn such terrorism, but to take effective measures to stop it happening in Britain and elsewhere. However, I do not believe that this is the way to achieve that. If I did, I would support the Bill with no hesitation whatsoever, whether I was in the majority or the minority: that would not concern me in the least.
It is interesting to note that, as I pointed out on Second Reading, a former technical director of the United States National Security Agency—who presumably had a fair amount of knowledge of such matters—argued, in an article in The Times, that bulk collection simply did not work. It did not work, Bill Binney said, because dealing with such vast details defeated the purpose. He made the good and valid point that what was required was the targeting of suspects and their social network—the targeting of those who, in the eyes of the security authorities and the police, were likely to cause damage and murder in our country.
I greatly regret that I cannot support the Bill, and believe that it should be defeated. I do not know what the House of Lords will do, but if the Bill is passed there, I hope that it will incorporate amendments that will make it somewhat more acceptable. However, one thing is certain: when I look back on my many years in the House of Commons, if I live long enough to reflect on votes in which I have participated, I shall be pleased that I voted against this Bill. It will give me some satisfaction that I voted against a measure that intrudes on civil liberties on such an extensive scale.
It is always a pleasure to follow Mr Winnick. We have co-operated on civil liberties matters in the past, and the hon. Gentleman has shown great courage in many of the approaches that he has taken, including those to legislation when his own party was in government. I hope he will accept, however—just as I accept the principles that underpin his opposition and, indeed, that of Joanna Cherry—that those of us who will support the Bill on Third Reading are not acting in an unprincipled fashion.
As was pointed out by Andy Burnham, the simple fact is that this is not just some opportunistic gimmick employed by the Government in an attempt to acquire more power. The existing legislation was doing positive harm; indeed, allowing it to remain would have been far more likely to undermine civil liberties than ensuring that it was properly replaced. It seems to me that, during its passage in the House of Commons, the Bill has been immeasurably improved. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for listening and responding to the concerns expressed by the Intelligence and Security Committee and for accepting virtually all our amendments, although I recognise that we shall need to negotiate on some areas of detail.
The ISC has always taken the collective view that this legislation is necessary, and that that necessity applies to bulk powers of collection. We look forward to and will accept David Anderson’s report, and will consider whether there are indeed any alternatives that might be advanced, but I have to say that, on the basis of everything that we have seen up to now, we believe that bulk powers are needed, although sensible and proper safeguards are required to ensure that they cannot be abused. The Bill contains such safeguards, and I believe that when it comes back from the other place, it will be in an even better condition. Parliament, it seems to me, has been doing its job rather well.
If I have any complaint to make about the Bill’s passage, it is this: the quantity of amendments tabled on Report has rendered the Order Paper entirely inadequate. Until we have an Order Paper that marries the amendment numbers to page numbers—which is vitally needed—we shall be wasting a great deal of our time in the Chamber faffing around when we might have been doing other things. I hope that that complaint is passed on. I might even suggest that someone should consult GCHQ if there is a difficulty in finding the necessary formula on a computer to do the page numbering and the amendment numbering at the same time.
With that thought, I just want to say that it has been a privilege to participate in the passage of this Bill, and I hope that when it comes back to this House we will be able to reassure the hon. Member for Walsall North and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West that they have a piece of legislation that will actually stand the test of time and be a credit to this House.
I recall that the first Public Bill Committee on which I served was on the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, when Mr Grieve led for the Conservatives. I seem to recall that he made the same point about the Order Paper in 2001. Despite the modernisation that we have seen over the past 15 years, it remains a piece of work that is outstanding.
My party voted against this Bill on Second Reading, and it is a matter of profound regret that I will be doing the same again tonight on Third Reading. Notwithstanding the progress that has been made, the Bill is still not yet fit for sending to the other place.
Andy Burnham reminded us that it was 15 years ago today that he and I were elected to this House. I have seen a lot happen in that time, and I like to think that I have learned a thing or two, one of which is that when Government Ministers and Government Back Benchers shower the Opposition Front Bench with praise, it is time to head for the hills because we are going to do something that is seriously bad and dangerous.
The first time that the right hon. Gentleman and I saw that in this House was in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 when the Conservatives, then in opposition, said that they would take the Government position on trust. Later on, they said, “Of course, if we had known what we know now, we would not have supported them at the time.” They could not have known then what they knew later, because they never asked the questions. It is not the job of the Opposition to take the Government’s views on trust, but that is what they are doing. I do not question their principle, but I am afraid I cannot share their judgment.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to be advocating an argument that we can only achieve progress by being oppositional or party political. Surely there are occasions when we can do more by working across the House. We have shown that on this issue and on others, such as Hillsborough and other past injustices.
I do not need to take any lessons about working with other parties from the right hon. Gentleman. I did that for five years in a coalition Government when the Labour Front Bench could do nothing but tribally oppose.
No, I am sorry. We have a shortage of time, so I am not taking any more interventions—[Interruption.] It will not be worth listening to; will the right hon. Gentleman just sit down, please?
We are told that a review is coming from David Anderson QC. We anticipate further amendments regarding the definition of internet connection records. We still await further detail on how the thorny issues of legal privilege and journalistic sources will be protected. That all adds up to a picture of massive doubt, and massive questions remain about the efficacy and necessity of the powers that the Government are bringing forward tonight. It would be an abdication of our responsibility as Opposition MPs to vote for it, and I will not be party to that abdication.
It has been my privilege to serve on the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Bill Committee. I want to challenge gently the tone adopted just then by Mr Carmichael, because I felt during the Joint Committee and in Committee that the people whom the Bill seeks to protect and those who sadly fell on 7/7 and in terrorist atrocities since were haunting me and many other members of those Committees.
No, I am going to finish this point. What is more, I met the police officers and members of the security services who hold our safety in their hands, and they do that for reasons of good faith, not bad faith. I regret the tone that has been taken, but I am conscious of the time—
I am not going to give way. The Joint Committee heard from 59 witnesses in 22 public panels. We received 148 written submissions, amounting to 1,500 pages of evidence. We visited the Metropolitan police and GCHQ, and we made 87 recommendations, more than two thirds of which have been accepted by the Home Office.
No, thank you. The Bill Committee considered nearly 1,000 amendments, and in it the Government were led with style and eloquence by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General. It was a pleasure to hear the forensic examination of the Bill by Keir Starmer and contributions from Joanna Cherry. The scrutiny, care, considered argument and good will of those involved in the past seven months has improved this Bill. I have absolutely no doubt that it will help the security services, the police and other law enforcement agencies to protect us and to prosecute those who mean us harm. It is world-leading legislation and I commend it to the House.
I certainly rise to support this measure, which has improved enormously during its passage. I cannot think of a measure in my 15 years here that has been more thoroughly scrutinised than this one. Our constituents are going to be very pleased with what we have been doing over the past weeks and months. I have to say to Mr Carmichael, whom I respect very much, that one thing our constituents dislike most about this place is the perpetual protest in opposition, which we hear too often, particularly from his party. It does him no good. This Bill is—
Certainly not. This Bill has been characterised by consensus, and I have been heartened by the constructive attitude that the Labour Front Benchers have taken to this measure, moving from a position of abstention on Second Reading to one of support now. It does them a great deal of credit and has made this Bill very much better. The double lock was a turning point in this measure as far as I am concerned, but may I also say that the privacy clause, new clause 5, is essential for many of us? The Home Secretary pointed that out. We have not had an opportunity to debate it very much today, but new clause 14, on health matters, has also been particularly important for a number of us who had concerns.
Clause 222 has not been debated at great length, but again it is vital because it allows us in five years’ time to come back to this measure to see what more needs to be done and what might be removed. That is particularly relevant in the context of ICRs. We have heard that one outstanding issue relates to the definition and use of ICRs, and I know that the other place will debate that at some length. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Security has referred to it and he is right to do so. I firmly believe that we will want to come back to it in any event in five years’ time, as technology will have changed so much in that period.
In summary, I very much welcome this measure—it is absolutely right. I am convinced that that overwhelming majority of our constituents will be pleased with the assiduity we have applied to this measure and, in particular, with the consensual nature of our debate. It is a great measure. It will give our constituents the protection that they undoubtedly need, while safeguarding their historic liberties.
I will be short and to the point, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I rise to speak in support of this Bill, as it is a hard-won fight for all of us, and something of which this whole House can be proud. The nature and scale of the threat that we face today differs from the one that we faced even 12 months ago, as it is rapidly evolving and complex. I am proud to have contributed to this Bill as a member both of the Joint Committee and the Bill Committee. We made more than 100 recommendations, many of which have been adopted by the Government.
It is vital for our constituents that we pass this Bill today, and it will get my vote. I wish to put on record my thanks to the Front-Bench team, which was led by the Home Secretary and ably assisted by her turbo-charged team of the Solicitor-General and the Minister for Security who brought style, eloquence, professionalism and panache, and to our Government Whip, my hon. Friend Simon Kirby. I am proud to support this Bill, and it has my vote tonight.
Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The House divided:
Ayes 444, Noes 69.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. That was clearly an important vote, and one in which I wanted to take part. I turned up at St Stephen’s entrance only to be told that I was not allowed to go through to vote, with only a couple of minutes to go, because of filming in Westminster Hall. That is completely unacceptable when clearly the primary purpose of this place is to serve our democracy. Will you use your offices to look into the event and how this happened and ensure that never again will a Member of this House be turned away from an entrance and nearly prevented from voting?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving advance notice of his point of order during the Division. I think that everybody shares his feeling that under no circumstances should that ever happen. I am delighted that he did make it to the Division, and that there are no further Divisions this evening in which Members could be prevented from voting. We will certainly ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate and get back to us in order to make sure that that never happens again. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order.