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Powers to require retention of certain data

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 6:23 pm, 7th June 2016

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.