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Investigatory Powers Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 19th July 2016.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 5:45 pm, 19th July 2016

My Lords, the amendment seeks to amend the definition of “relevant communications data”—that is, the communications data that the Secretary of State will be able to require communications service providers to retain.

In looking at how the amendment is couched, I would like to bring the Committee’s attention to a statement made by David Anderson QC in his report on investigatory powers. He said that,

“any new law … must be couched in technology-neutral language”.

The Government agree. However, the amendment would go against that advice. It would seek to revert to the technical language from the data retention regulations 2009. This, in turn, as the noble Lord mentioned, was drawn from the EU data retention directive 2006, which was struck down in 2014.

I suggest to the noble Lord that it would be inappropriate to base today’s law on specific tele- communications definitions from a decade ago. For example, the amendment would ensure that we retained a reference to dial-up internet access in our legislation. That surely cannot be appropriate where broadband and mobile internet access are now the norm. The approach we have taken is to keep our definitions technologically neutral, as David Anderson recommended and as, indeed, is sensible in the drafting of any law that needs to apply across a range of technologies over time.

I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that it is not appropriate to tie our data retention regime to specific, and outdated, technological language. Those are the reasons why the Government cannot support the amendment.