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My Lords, Clause 58 is the first clause of Part 3 of the Bill and deals with the targeted obtaining of communications data. It provides the power for only those public authorities listed in Schedule 4 to the Bill to authorise conduct to obtain communications data. Obtaining communications data may be authorised only when necessary for one of the statutory purposes listed in Clause 58(7) and where the conduct authorised is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved. Similarly, Clause 146(2) provides the statutory purposes for which a bulk communications data acquisition warrant will be considered necessary. Those purposes mirror the statutory functions of the security and intelligence agencies, since bulk warrants are of course available only to those agencies. They are where it is,
“in the interests of national security”,
for the prevention or detection of serious crime, or
“in the interests of the economic well-being of”,
the UK where relevant to national security.
Throughout the passage of the Bill, we have heard repeatedly of the vital importance of communications data for the full range of law enforcement activity and national security investigations. This Government are committed to ensuring that law enforcement and the intelligence agencies have the tools they need to carry out the critical responsibilities that Parliament has placed upon them. Indeed, one of the key aims of this legislation is to ensure that investigatory powers are fit for a digital age and that crime can be investigated wherever it takes place, regardless of the method of communication. However, the Government consider these amendments unnecessary for targeted communications data and an inappropriate extension of responsibilities for our intelligence agencies for bulk communications data.
The Bill already provides that communications data may be acquired for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, wherever that crime takes place and whatever scale it is on, where an application for communications data meets the requirements for necessity and proportionality. So it would already be available for the purpose of suppressing less serious crimes perpetrated on a large scale. I commend the aim of my noble friend Lord Lucas’s amendment but I believe that the Bill already provides the powers that he seeks.
As I said earlier, the bulk acquisition of communications data is available only to the intelligence agencies, whose statutory functions relate to serious crime and national security. The inclusion of a statutory purpose to obtain communications data in bulk so that our intelligence agencies could suppress less serious crime would therefore, in my submission, be inappropriate.
I hope that my noble friend finds those comments helpful and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.