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Investigatory Powers Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 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 6:30 pm, 19th July 2016

My Lords, Amendments 159 and 160 would introduce new clauses requiring the person making an application for a warrant to make a detailed assessment of the risks of the proposed equipment interference activity to any critical national infrastructure, to the security and integrity of systems and networks, and to the privacy of those not targeted. Amendment 164 is linked to the requirement to produce risk assessments and would require the Secretary of State, when issuing warrants to the Chief of Defence Intelligence, to consider the content of these assessments when deciding whether the activity under the warrant would be proportionate. Amendment 169A would require a judicial commissioner to take into account a technical cyber risk assessment, conducted by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, of the specific equipment interference proposed when deciding whether to approve a decision to issue a warrant.

I start by making an important general point. It seems these amendments are based on a fundamental misinterpretation of what GCHQ and others are here to do. Their role is to protect the public. That includes protecting cybersecurity. Indeed, the Government have invested very considerable resources into improving our cybersecurity efforts. Last November, the Chancellor announced the creation of a new national cyber centre led by GCHQ, with an additional £190 million of funding.

GCHQ has an excellent track record in identifying cyber vulnerabilities and making leading computer companies aware so they can improve their security. For example, in September 2015, Apple publicly credited CESG, the information assurance arm of GCHQ, with the detection of a vulnerability in its iOS operating system for iPhones and iPads, which could have been exploited to allow the unauthorised modification of software and to extract information from the devices. That vulnerability has now been patched.

I appreciate that the noble Lords’ amendments are intended to introduce safeguards, but I contend that sufficient safeguards are already contained in the Bill. Part 5 already requires the Secretary of State or law enforcement chief to consider whether the proposed conduct is necessary and proportionate before issuing a warrant. The Government have provided even more reassurance since the discussion of these same amendments in the other place. As we have frequently reflected, Clause 2 is a new provision that sets out overarching privacy duties. It includes a requirement to have regard to the public interest in the integrity and security of telecommunication systems. This requirement applies to any decision on whether to issue an equipment interference warrant.

The draft statutory code of practice also sets out, in detail, the factors that must be considered in respect of proportionality. The code states at paragraph 3.27 that one element of proportionality that should be considered is,

“explaining how and why the methods to be adopted will minimise the risk of intrusion on the subject and others”.

It goes on to state at paragraph 3.30:

“Equipment interference activity must therefore be carried out in such a way as to appropriately minimise the risk that the activities of the equipment interference agency would result in any increase of the likelihood or severity of any unauthorised intrusion into the privacy, or risk to the security, of users of equipment or systems, whether or not that equipment is subject to the activities of the equipment interference agency”.

If noble Lords will allow me one last quote, paragraph 3.31 states:

“Any application for an equipment interference warrant should contain an assessment of any risk to the security or integrity of systems or networks that the proposed activity may involve including the steps taken to appropriately minimise such risk … The issuing authority should consider any such assessment when considering whether the proposed activity is proportionate”.