My Lords, it is now some 19 years since I concluded my time of more than 11 years in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It was in that time that I became deeply aware of the need for proper legislation to assist the Government to protect our citizens. In the intervening 19 years, technology has changed out of all recognition, as many of your Lordships have already said. The Bill has been most thoroughly prepared, and I support it fully, but it may need some amendment—not major, because most of that work has been done, as has already been described.
Some will be surprised at my intervention in this very erudite debate, and it would be foolish at this hour to repeat the case for the Bill made so well by my noble friend Lord Howe in introducing our debate some hours ago and the detailed remarks that have been made about the different aspects of the service providers. I was very glad to hear from my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones when she spoke of the data outside the UK and the need to establish international agreements as the primary route for UK agencies to obtain data from the communications service providers—I agree with her. What I believe we need to do above all is to make sure that the Bill—the Act that it will become—is a template for other countries.
As noble Lords will know, I am involved in trying to encourage investment into the developing world. There is an urgent need for our legislation to be a template for other countries because no one, apart from the United States, is thinking in the terms that this Bill is thinking about what is needed. British companies, especially those in technology such as BT, are considering major investments overseas. They need to be satisfied that the legislation which will cover their operations in India, South Africa and many other countries is properly drafted. My concern is a little different perhaps from that of other noble Lords. It is that we get the Bill absolutely right, not only for the reasons that have been expressed here but so that we can work with others on security matters on a similar basis. We shall never be able to prevent all the criminal activity or the terrible sexual grooming using only UK measures and UK internet connection networks—we have to have, and set, an international standard. In thinking about the wider effect of the Bill, I suggest to my noble friend Lord Howe that we will need further amendments to it so that it is worthy of emulation around the world and minimises the risk of retaliatory action against UK communications service providers that are investing abroad.
We need to establish some international agreements as the primary route by which UK agencies obtain that data from overseas CSPs. I believe we should disapply the extraterritorial application of UK law in situations where it is done pursuant to an international agreement, in line with David Anderson’s recommendations. We should also ensure that overseas CSPs can bring their concerns to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner without conceding jurisdiction and permit the commissioner to see amicus curiae from effective parties. I hope we can set out the functions and responsibilities of the Investigatory Powers Commission, including a power to hear and respond to petitions from interested parties. I hope, too, that they extend the conflict of laws defence for overseas companies. We should not state in the Bill anything which might be construed as requiring a company to weaken or to defeat its security measures, which are a critical component of efforts to protect users from hackers and from other threats. This is a complicated area on which I have only very limited experience, but I believe we need to set the example for other countries and help to ensure that other Governments have laws with which we can work.