Investigatory Powers Bill - Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:43 pm on 27th June 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Labour 7:43 pm, 27th June 2016

My Lords, because of time constraint and the long list of speakers, I intend to be as brief as possible in this Second Reading of a vital and very detailed Bill. I hope there will be plenty of opportunity to deal at greater length with issues at the later stages of the Bill.

I speak from a base of my own professional experience in government service, where I spent some time in this precise field of activity, as well as having served in my parliamentary life twice on the ISC and later on the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. Today, I would like to make a few general remarks about what are called bulk powers because, over the last decade or so, they have been absolutely essential to the three security and intelligence agencies—SIS, MI5 and GCHQ—and everyone agrees that they are bound to be increasingly important in the future.

Bulk data are information acquired in large volume, as the Minister explained so very well in his opening speech, and are used to provide vital and unique intelligence that is unable to be obtained by any other means. Bulk data are among the most important tools that the agencies have to help them identify security threats inside the United Kingdom and threats to UK interests and citizens abroad, including in the Armed Forces, to find links between targets of interest, to establish behaviour patterns and communication methods, and to monitor attack planning et cetera. The Minister confirmed in his opening speech that the Government are committed to a review by David Anderson to assess whether the bulk capabilities provided in the Bill are necessary. I understand that the review is expected to conclude in time for our consideration of Parts 6 and 7 in Committee, so I look forward to dealing with it all then.

I conclude with one brief personal comment. Like the noble Lords, Lord West, Lord Campbell and Lord Rooker, I have some serious reservations about the so-called double lock, which involves a judicial commissioner in the authorisation process. I am quite content to have judges in oversight and judicial review but I do not feel at all relaxed about letting judges into the authorisation process. Not for the first time in this House, I say with the greatest of respect to any noble and learned Lords here tonight that I really wonder where this cult of judge worship comes from. It seems to grab legislators, especially when they are dealing with intelligence and security affairs. However, I hope we can come back to and elaborate on this at future stages of the Bill. On the whole, it really is an excellent Bill and I wish it a smooth passage through this House.