My Lords, I first congratulate the many people who have worked so hard to ensure that the Bill is nearly fit for purpose. Interception of communications and civil liberty are uncomfortable bedfellows but we are within a hair’s breadth of a sensible compromise. Indeed, I believe—unlike the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger—that this will be a benchmark for security legislation globally. Certainly, on talking with my old counterparts in a number of countries, I found that they also feel the same.
We live in a more dangerous world than at any time in my 50 years on the active list, notwithstanding the Cold War. It is more unstable and more dangerous. We must not forget that all the numerous terrorist plots thwarted in the UK over the last 10 years—the seven referred to by the noble Lord, Lord King, were only last year, and there were 10 while I was a Minister, so the number is a lot greater than that—were initially discovered by intercept. Intercept has kept our people safe. We clearly cannot allow terrorists, such as Daesh, serious organised crime syndicates, murderers, paedophiles and so on to exchange information, plan and operate, safe in the knowledge that law enforcement is unable to monitor or get at their activities.
I also hope—as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Lord, Lord King—that the politically loaded and seriously misleading phrase “snoopers’ charter” has been removed from our lexicon. I pay tribute to those of our security services and agencies who work tirelessly to protect our people. I have worked cheek by jowl with them over many years, and they are basically ordinary British men and women doing an extraordinary job. They are not some Stalinist or Gestapo group intent on oppressing our people. My only complaint is that too many of those at GCHQ are Guardian readers and seem to dress rather casually. Too many people in the civil liberties field see them as fascist bogeymen: they are not.
The lead-up to this Bill has been tortuous but it is needed urgently, and there was an overwhelming requirement to replace the outdated legislation and ensure the correct safeguards for our civil liberties.
What is absolutely clear is that the Bill is certainly not part of a “dangerously rushed parliamentary process”, which is what Amnesty International has said. It is the result of highly detailed scrutiny, over a very prolonged period—I suggest that it has taken longer than two years in its various guises. That was not least as a result, as was mentioned by the Minister, of the report by David Anderson, A Question of Trust; the detailed work of the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill; the independent surveillance review from RUSI; the ISC study; the work of the Science and Technology Committee; and so on.
The Bill has been pored over in the other place and the Government are to be congratulated on their willingness to accept so many necessary amendments. There are still a number of areas where the Government have promised changes, and we need to wait and see what they come up with. Those include, as has been mentioned, issues that relate to protecting journalists and source confidentiality, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, mentioned, lawyer-client confidentiality.
The web is transnational and knows no boundaries. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether we are moving towards a more predictable, transparent, usable and coherent legal framework for providers overseas, as was endorsed by David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation; by Sir Stanley Burnton, the Interception Commissioner; and by Nigel Sheinwald in the study that the Prime Minister asked him to do.
I also have concerns about clarity over compliance costs, where I believe businesses will be unable to make the necessary financial planning for storing internet connection records.
From all my experience in this area, I know that equipment interference is absolutely crucial to law enforcement and our security. We need to be very wary and very careful of constraining our agencies too much in this area.
I have concerns also about authorisation and the double lock in certain circumstances, particularly political issues to do with some sort of monitoring overseas. I will be interested to see how that develops over the next few months as we debate this.
Lastly, I know from personal experience how crucial to our people’s safety bulk collection is, primarily for terrorist purposes. I await David Anderson’s review of all bulk powers with great interest, but hope that he will not try to constrain that too much. It is not about prying on all those data; it is about getting the key little points that enable us to get after the people who wish to do us harm and kill us.
We still have a way to go, but I look forward to hearing the debate in this Chamber over the next few months. We have a lot of people who know a lot about these issues. My initial impression is that this is a timely, valuable and necessary piece of legislation, which gives us the powers we need. It is infinitely better than the flawed legislation that it is replacing.