Anderson Report — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:54 pm on 11th June 2015.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department 4:54 pm, 11th June 2015

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their welcome of the report and of the Statement. When we deal with matters of this importance it is vital that we work, as far as possible, in a cross-party way. That was certainly reflected in the commissioning of this review and the Government will seek to continue that as we consider its implications.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, rightly asked whether the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is still fit for purpose. That is a key element. Fifteen years ago, we could not have envisaged the plethora of social media that have exploded upon us. Some 204 million emails can now be flying around every minute, placing challenges on those who have the duty of keeping us safe. Therefore, we accept the noble Lord’s important point.

The noble Lord also sought a commitment with regard to clarity on this issue. When we are dealing with matters of great sensitivity that concern people’s individual security and rights, it is vital that the language used is clear and understood, as is the relevant legislation. That is one of the key elements that the pre-legislative scrutiny will bring to the Bill. I am happy to confirm to the noble Lord that the Bill needs to be drawn up before a committee is established. However, when the Bill is presented in the autumn, a Joint Committee will be established which will have a wide remit. It will be for the House to determine the committee’s composition and remit but it should certainly have the very wide remit necessary to carry out its important job of scrutiny.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about rights and a Bill of Rights. The Government have now secured a mandate from the electorate to look at ways of modernising our human rights laws and are reflecting on that. We recognise the arguments about privacy but argue that, for people to enjoy that privacy, they first need security. That is where the balance needs to be struck.

The noble Lord also referred to the importance of people having trust in the system, and it is no accident that David Anderson’s report is entitled AQuestion of Trust. Indeed, he says on page 245 that,

“the road to a better system must be paved with trust”.

That is a central principle, along with the other principles he outlined. In the report he drew on some public opinion data and pointed out that, far from being sceptical about the security services’ use of data, there was wide support for it among the British public, and that:

“66% think that British security and intelligence agencies should be allowed to access and store the internet communications of criminals or terrorists; 64% back them in carrying out this activity by monitoring the communications of the public at large”.

That is not to say that this is the line we are going down. The Government are still considering all the options but the important thing is to work thoroughly, carefully and methodically. This report, along with that of the Intelligence and Security Committee and the RUSI report which is still to come, commissioned by the former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, will all provide the firm evidence base that we need to progress in this very sensitive area.