My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. As he just said, this is one of a suite of reports commissioned by the previous coalition Government into investigatory powers; it is a very important one by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
On first reading, it appears to be a fair and balanced report. While some may have preferred there to be no state intrusion into people’s privacy, we on these Benches understand that there needs to be a balance between the powers given to the police and to the security services, and the right to privacy and the upholding of individuals’ civil liberties. It is for the police and the security services to argue for more powers, for civil libertarians to argue for less, and for us as politicians objectively to decide where the balance properly lies.
The Home Secretary, in her Statement, lists a whole range of potential threats, concluding that,
“we have a duty to ensure that the agencies whose job it is to keep us safe have the powers they need to do the job”.
As a consequence of what the right honourable Member said in the other place, I am concerned that the Government are already biased in favour of the state and against the individual. Thankfully, David Anderson is having none of it and neither should we. Along with consideration of the threats that we face as a country, will the Government consider a digital Bill of Rights to give citizens a clear and unambiguous understanding of where their rights lie and what protections they have against state intrusion? Will the Minister also agree with David Anderson that,
“there should be no question of progressing proposals for the compulsory retention of third party data before a compelling operational case … has been made”,
for it, and agree with him that this case has not been made to date?
The fact is, the draft communications data Bill, to give it its correct title, is hopelessly out of date and can no longer deliver what the police and the security services need while massively intruding into people’s privacy—all pain and no gain. The right honourable member for Sheffield Hallam when he was Deputy Prime Minister took a lot of flak for blocking legislation that required the retention of third-party data. Would the Minister not agree that David Anderson, in his report, agrees with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat position on what some have called the “snoopers’ charter”, even if he cannot bring himself to say that he agrees with Nick?
David Anderson recognises that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is no longer fit for purpose, and we welcome the Government’s approach that there should be a pre-legislative committee of both Houses to look at its successor. Will the Minister confirm that such a committee will be given access to all relevant information to enable it to make a proper judgment on the Government’s proposals?
Finally, we strongly support David Anderson’s recommendation that intercept warrants should be judicially authorised by specialist judicial commissioners, rather than by government Ministers. Surely it is for the police and the security services to decide whether applying for such a warrant is necessary in the interest of national security and it should be for judges to decide whether such action is lawful. Will the Minister give an undertaking that, pending a change in the legislation, the Government will operate within the spirit of the independent reviewer’s recommendations by ensuring that the Secretary of State consults the existing surveillance commissioners prior to authorising such warrants?