My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Marquess. His political path and mine have crossed on a number of occasions over the years, particularly when I had the great privilege of chairing the ISC, of which he was then a member—and still is, of course.
A number of noble Lords have said during the course of the debate—and will continue so to say—that we live in a much more dangerous world, that technologies have developed enormously over the last number of years and, of course, that the security services need new tools to deal with the new world. I pay tribute to the security services in all that they do.
Another theme that has emerged over the last number of hours, and will continue so to do, is the balance that we must have between, on the one hand, the security of the country and, on the other hand, the liberty of the citizen. Certainly I recall, when I was the Northern Ireland Secretary, that every time I had to sign a warrant for intercept—I had to do so many times—I realised that I was depriving someone of their liberty. Sometimes they needed to be deprived of their liberty, but it was in my mind all the time that I was doing a serious thing.
It is certainly the case that since the draft Bill, as it then was, was introduced in November of last year there have been a great number of changes to it. As chairman of the Joint Committee of both Houses on the Bill, I pay tribute to those Members of this House—some of whom have already spoken and some of whom will be speaking in this debate—and the other place who took part in the deliberations of the Joint Committee. I also pay tribute to Mr Duncan Sagar and his parliamentary team, who were absolutely first class in the advice that they gave us, and to the two special advisers, Martin Hoskins and Professor Peter Sommer.
It has been mentioned that some people think the Bill did not receive or is not receiving sufficient scrutiny. I reject that. The Joint Committee worked for over two and a half months, sometimes meeting three times a week. We received 1,500 pages of written evidence and interviewed 59 witnesses. At the end of all that, the committee made 87 specific recommendations to government to improve the draft Bill, the vast number of which were agreed by the Government. The recommendations included the need for codes of practice on internet connection records, on equipment interference and on bulk personal databases; a further role for the ISC; urgent warrants to be reviewed not after five but after two days; the need for the Government to justify bulk powers; and, perhaps most interestingly, that at the end of five years both House of Parliament would review how the legislation has worked.
After scrutiny by the Joint Committee the Bill went to the other place, and my noble friend Lord Rosser and others mentioned the changes that were made to it in the House of Commons. When I started my life as a politician a million years ago, changes to Bills were very rare. One would go to a standing committee for up to three months and it was likely one or two amendments would be accepted. I am glad to say that the Government have not taken that attitude with regard to this Bill. I pay tribute to Sir Kier Starmer, who led for the Opposition in the House of Commons, and to Mr John Hayes, the Minister for Security, both of whom worked well together in the House of Commons both in Committee and on Report.
There were substantial changes made to the Bill, as we have already heard, on issues such as legitimate trade union activities, access to medical records, how privacy should be built into the Bill as a substantial issue, and the independent review into bulk powers under David Anderson QC. All those necessary changes were made on the Floor of the House of Commons or in Committee as a consequence of both Front Benches sensibly talking to each other.
Now, further work has to be done. I think that your Lordships’ House is the place where detailed scrutiny can take place because of the expertise, the experience and the background of many of your Lordships who are not only speaking today but undoubtedly will speak in Committee and at other stages of the Bill.
We still need to look at some issues. The professions have been mentioned already by a number of your Lordships, with reference made to lawyers and to journalists. There is still work to be done on that. We look forward to David Anderson’s review, because that will give this House the opportunity to see what he says and to look further into the question of warrants. Thematic warrants, referred to by the noble Marquess, are important, too.
So there is plenty of work to be done on the Bill, but it is a Bill that is necessary for the security of our people. It needs to strike that essential balance between the liberty of the citizen and the security of the country. It is a much better Bill today than when it was introduced in November last year and I look forward to taking part in the deliberations before and after the Recess.