Investigatory Powers Bill - Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:27 pm on 27th June 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Browning Baroness Browning Conservative 8:27 pm, 27th June 2016

My Lords, I welcome the Bill. The amount of scrutiny it has received has been such a help in producing the Bill before your Lordships tonight. I was pleased to have the opportunity to serve on the Joint Committee, which was so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy. I was particularly pleased—comment has been made about this tonight—by the way in which another place dealt with the Bill. One of my permanent gripes is that we in this Chamber often receive legislation which is imperfect not because nobody at the other end was interested in it but because the iniquitous guillotine fell and huge chunks of legislation passed totally unscrutinised from another place to this Chamber. I opposed this vigorously when it came in many years ago—as Members will remember—but lost. I feel that if we are about anything in this Chamber, we are about scrutiny, but that applies also to another place. So it was not just that they spent a lot of time on it but that they looked at every line. I hope that perhaps future Bills will emulate that procedure.

On the Joint Committee we had the opportunity for a visit to the Metropolitan Police intelligence bureau. One of the things that struck me was that although a lot of our conversation was about how the Bill would help with serious organised crime and terrorism, we saw things in practice there—the noble Lord, Lord Evans, just touched on this—such as how having quick and timely access to data can help in ways that had not occurred to me. For example, when the police are notified of somebody who has gone missing who is a potential suicide case, or when a child goes missing and there is concern about them, access to telephones—a lot of children walk around with telephones and electronic devices—to be able to find out in a timely way where they are and who they have called saves lives, apart from the bigger issues that the Bill concentrates on.

Of course, among the people who came before us to give evidence, we heard from the judges. I support the double lock; it is a very good move forward to reassure the public and politicians. It is one of those measures that is perhaps tucked in the pocket just in case, at some point, this country could not rely on its politicians. I believe that we can rely on our politicians but—who knows?—maybe one day we will not be able to.

I was worried about the training of judges. Are these judges really going to get to grips with this subject, which is not something that they are dealing with every day? But I was reassured. I notice that my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew is not in his place at the moment, but I will draw to his attention that I said this. The judges reassured us that they would look at each warrant, case by case, and apply the rules of judicial review to give some reassurance on the way that they would approach their side of it.

It is also very important, perhaps more for the other end than for this end, that the Home Secretary can appear at the Dispatch Box and be questioned about individual warrants—something that a judge cannot be required to do. That is such an important part of our democratic process in this House.

Already mentioned is the way that technology moves and the way that our security services have to keep one step ahead all the time. However, there is another ingredient in the mix where our intelligence and security services need to feel that they are always one step ahead, and that is to do with political will. The intelligence and security services need to feel that, in these two Chambers, there is the political will to enable them to be able to access the sort of information and methodology that they need. As former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher said, back in the 1980s, terrorists only have to be lucky once. It is against that backdrop that our security services need the support of this House to keep things well balanced. We must make sure that we give them every opportunity to keep us safe.

There are measures that have already been mentioned that we will need to look at. I know that my noble friend the Minister will be as forthcoming as he can be on the issues that have been raised about lawyers and journalists.

Finally, another area on which we took evidence in the Joint Committee, which has already been touched on, is the situation with the communications service providers. My noble friend Lady Harding spoke on behalf of what I regard as quite a large service provider. But we also took evidence from some of the smaller service providers, which expressed concern about the capital costs involved in this. So I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us in Committee. It would not be a satisfactory outcome if, when we were finished with the Bill, it was public knowledge that some small companies were not up to speed and up to the mark in terms of people who might use their services. That would leave a gaping hole in our security. Just think what would happen if we ensured that the larger communications service providers could meet the standards required under the legislation but, somehow, those who wish us harm could go elsewhere.