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Investigatory Powers Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:25 pm on 19th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 3:25 pm, 19th July 2016

My Lords, we recognised during the passage of the Bill thus far that care must be applied to the acquisition of internet connection records—in particular, that they should not be acquired for trivial purposes. Their value to law enforcement has been widely recognised, and the Bill, as introduced, already restricts access to four specific purposes. In addition, local authorities cannot acquire them for any purposes.

However, in response to a suggestion from the shadow Home Secretary in the House of Commons, the Government committed to consider further restrictions which would provide greater reassurance that the powers to acquire internet connection records would only ever be used proportionately. These amendments therefore apply a threshold to the acquisition of internet connection records when the statutory purpose is for the prevention and detection of crime. This means that they will be able to be acquired only for offences that are sufficiently serious that an offender can be sentenced to at least six months’ imprisonment.

In implementing this threshold, however, it is important that internet connection records can continue to be used for certain offences which, for whatever reasons, carry a lower sentencing limit. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that internet connection records should be available for these offences. These are: the investigation of any offence where the sending of a communication is an integral part of the offence: for example, offences related to stalking, cyberbullying and harassment which can, if not investigated, quickly escalate to more serious offences; offences relating to breach of a person’s privacy, such as stealing personal data, which recognises the importance of protecting privacy in the digital age and the need to fully investigate any suspected breaches; offences committed by corporate bodies—for example, corporate manslaughter, where a penalty of imprisonment cannot apply; and any offence meeting the serious crime threshold in the Bill for the most intrusive powers, ensuring that these powers can be used to investigate offences involving the use of violence, conduct that results in substantial financial gain and conduct by a large number of people in pursuit of a common purpose.

A number of consequential amendments are made as a result of this amendment. The Government and law enforcement are clear about the value and importance of accessing internet connection records to prevent and detect crime, and to keep the public safe. That has been recognised during the passage of this Bill thus far, including by noble Lords at Second Reading. The amendments build significantly on the safeguards that the Bill already applies to the acquisition of communications data. They are based on the amendments proposed by the Opposition in the House of Commons and they will ensure public trust in the use of these vital powers. I beg to move.