Clause 1 - Authorisation of criminal conduct

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament 2:15 pm, 15th October 2020

Yes. What it is important to remember and, it must be said, what has not always been remembered in recent times, are the provisions of the Justice and Security Act 2013. That Act, among other things, said that the Committee would have greater powers to “require” the agencies to give certain information. Prior to that, it could only “request” the agencies to do so. The question is: will we have the power to be assured of getting these figures, or are we going to be able only to ask for them and perhaps not get them? The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: if we saw something that we did not like the look of, even if we did not have the power to require that particular piece of information in order to delve further, we could at least request it. For many years, that was the only basis on which the Committee could operate anyway.

The new clause we are proposing today, new clause 3, is a simple one. As I have said, it does not seek to duplicate the role of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, but would require the Secretary of State to provide the number and the categories, and the Committee could then decide whether further scrutiny of that data once supplied was necessary. That would give the House an additional reassurance that these powers were being used correctly by the intelligence services. There is a precedent for that, because there are similar provisions in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 that ensure that the ISC is kept regularly updated on the use, for example, of bulk interception powers. Obviously, the new clause does not cover those organisations that the ISC does not oversee—most notably in the context of this Bill, the police.

In typically helpful fashion, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security has been in touch with me, and we have been having certain negotiations about what assurances could be given that the ISC would get the sort of information that it needs. In particular, I understand that he is going to suggest that the CHIS code of practice could be amended to highlight the role of the ISC. There is still, however, a degree of uncertainty. He has written me a letter, and that letter will be laid before the House and put in the Library. There is just one area of concern that we are still not happy about—we are within a hair’s breadth of agreement—and it relates to current operations.