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Powers to require retention of certain data

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:34 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 6:34 pm, 7th June 2016

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.