G20 and the Paris Attacks — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:54 pm on 17th November 2015.

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Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative 3:54 pm, 17th November 2015

My Lords, I strongly commend the Prime Minister’s Statement that my noble friend has repeated on the response to the terrible tragedy and outrage in Paris.

There is an aspect of the Statement that I regret. It rightly says that, recognising the threats that we face, intelligence is a crucial first line of defence for this country—one or two breakdowns in that respect may have contributed to the disasters in Paris. It also says that we will do all that we can to support the intelligence and security services. If I may make one small point, I do not think this Parliament has done that. For more than two years, we have been trying to consider the gaps that exist in our armoury of what is available to our intelligence services to protect our country. Two weeks ago in this House I asked a question about the Investigatory Powers Bill, pointing out that we are now embarked on a pretty leisurely process which, if we are lucky, will get those powers into effect by next September or October. I wondered at that time what events might happen between now and then. I am all too sorry that within two weeks that has proved to be the case.

I have one constructive suggestion. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, I do not think it realistic to take the whole of this huge Investigatory Powers Bill through on some accelerated process, but there is one element in it that the Home Secretary has indicated is the one additional power that she wants: the retention of internet communications data, which might enable us to identify some of the links that obviously existed in the attack in Paris and the way that it was organised. I suggest that, by discussions through all the usual channels, this particular element in the Bill is taken out and dealt with by an Order in Council and emergency regulations, with a sunset clause, so that it is operational while the normal parliamentary procedures for the Investigatory Powers Bill can continue in the way proposed by the Government without the liability that we do not yet have the crucial power that the Home Secretary has identified as being essential.