Investigatory Powers Bill - Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 27th June 2016.

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Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Conservative 9:00 pm, 27th June 2016

I support the Bill, and I have to say that, in all my years in this House, I do not think I have ever seen a Bill that has had better and more thorough scrutiny as it has passed through another place and various committees.

I served on the Joint Committee that looked at the draft Bill under the very skilful guidance of our chairman the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, and I thank him for the work he did, particularly given the very difficult time constraints. We only started sitting in November and had to produce a report by February. Others have gone into the amount of time we spent on that Bill, the amount of written evidence we received and the number of witnesses we saw. We can only offer praise to the noble Lord for what he did on that Bill. I hope the Government take note of that.

Others who have spoken in this debate also served on that committee and there is no need for me to add any more; however, I also served on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She will no doubt want to say a little more about that in due course, as will I. I should also add that I had the privilege of serving as a junior Minister with my right honourable friend Theresa May, the present Home Secretary—where she will be in a number of weeks or months, we do not know, but I hope she at least sees this Bill through—as did my noble friends Lady Neville-Jones and Lady Browning.

I say in passing—this is not related to the merits of this Bill—that I believe that my noble friend Lord Howe and my noble and learned friend Lord Keen will do the most excellent job in taking the Bill through this House. I would normally like a Bill to be represented by its own Minister as it is taken through, rather than by people who have come in from other departments. This is not simply a question of propriety for propriety’s sake, but one that goes to the heart of how this House performs its duties and functions. My noble friend will remember that we served together on the Front Bench, in government and in opposition, for some 20 years. Indeed, he has been in this House on the Front Bench, government and opposition, for some 26 years. He will remember that, particularly in the 1990s, we often had to speak for other departments. Seeing my noble friend Lady Chalker here, I remember on occasion doing Foreign Office Questions for her when she was away on important business, when I was serving in other departments.

However, when it comes to Bills, it is very important that the Minister in question should be properly embedded in that department, so that everyone knows they are a Home Office Minister, for example. It is they who have day-to-day access to the civil servants; it is they who have seen the Bill develop, and probably played a part in that development. They will know better than a Minister from outside exactly what is in the mind of the Secretary of State and what she is thinking. As I said, he is seeing the civil servants on a daily basis. He is no hired gunslinger brought in from outside to get the legislation through but part of the team that has developed the Bill. I hope that my noble friend will not mind my making that brief point as it is important. I hope that whoever the leader will be in the future will take note of that when ministerial posts are allocated.

As I said, I do not want to say anything about the Joint Committee that looked at the draft Bill under the noble Lord, Lord Murphy. However, I wish to comment briefly on the work of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. As noble Lords will be aware—this has been referred to—the Joint Committee managed to produce a report on the Bill before another place reached Report. I think the report was dated 2 June. It made a number of recommendations which influenced the debates on the Bill on Report in another place. I think that various amendments were made. As noble Lords who have had a look at the report will be aware, it proposes that the Joint Committee table further amendments at later stages of the Bill. Certainly, the Joint Committee will be looking at those. Therefore, I would be very grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Keen if he could say a little more about the Bill’s timing when he winds up than did my noble friend in his opening speech. We know that we will have four days in Committee before we break up for the summer. We will then have a further two days in Committee in September, which will allow us to look at the report by David Anderson QC into bulk powers. I take it that we will then come to Report at some point in October—presumably the second half of October. However, it would be useful if my noble and learned friend could confirm that so that we on the Joint Committee can consider those matters in time to produce yet a further report among the many other reports with which both Houses have been burdened—however, those reports have been useful—before this House considers those matters.