Police Surveillance of Journalists

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Home Department 12:48 pm, 17th July 2019

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will want to make it clear on behalf of the Opposition that they entirely support the police having the ability to get on with their work and identify the leaker. The police certainly have our full support on that, because those leaks should not have happened and they have been damaging. I am sure everyone wants to see the leaker identified.

The hon. Gentleman will also I am sure, having done his homework, be aware of what the Official Secrets Act 1989 says, in particular section 5, and that is how the law stands at the moment, but what is critical—I am delighted to come to the House again to make this clear—is that in going about their business on our behalf, the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to jump through some very significant hoops and go through very robust processes, including, as I have stated, when they seek a targeted communications data authorisation approval by a judicial commissioner before it can take effect. We are satisfied—but this must always be open to challenge—that those processes, safeguards and checks and balances are robust.

We operate in a vibrant democracy, and we in this place always in my experience have vigorous debates about these balances and the need for safeguards. We have debates about pushing back the powers of our law enforcement agencies—whereas in other countries those debates do not take place—and that is a symbol and sign of the health of our democracy. I am sure that at the end of this UQ, we and the watching public will be in no doubt about this House’s commitment to the freedom of the press.