We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Investigatory Powers Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 19th July 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 6:45 pm, 19th July 2016

My Amendment 169AA would ensure that applications for targeted equipment interference or targeted examination warrants are granted only on application to a judicial commissioner, removing the role of the Secretary of State. It also applies additional safeguards to the correspondence of parliamentarians when a warrant for hacking is sought. I have held my tongue this afternoon despite listening to some astonishing statements. I will keep my remarks now quite brief. This is not to say that I do not feel a lot of passion for this debate, because I do, but I value your Lordships’ time and so I will be brief.

I feel very strongly that politicians and journalists are not above the law, but politicians have a unique constitutional role, not least in holding the Executive to account. There should be a strong legislative presumption against their surveillance, which should be rebutted only in clear and specific circumstances, overseen only by judicial commissioners, without political involvement, which could have bias. A single process of judicial authorisation ought to exist across the Bill, but in relation to politicians being under surveillance it is imperative to remove any political involvement.

It is illogical to suggest that an adequate replacement for an almost complete prohibition on surveillance of politicians—the Wilson doctrine—is to expressly allow it, needing only the Secretary of State to consult with the Prime Minister prior to authorising interception or hacking. In fact, instead of securing an independent authorisation process, involving two politicians rather than just one makes the process even more political, not less. It is inherent in our democracy that members of the public can correspond with their representatives in private. It is vital that anyone contacting their Member of Parliament and any material that they provide will be handled with confidentiality and sensitivity. This also applies to journalists, of course.

Keir Starmer MP QC raised the issue of communications sent by or intended for Members of Parliament and journalists in Committee in the Commons, saying that,

“the protection is not for the benefit of the journalist or the Member of Parliament but for the wider public good”—[Investigatory Powers Bill Committee, 12/4/16; col. 191.]">Official Report, Commons, Investigatory Powers Bill Committee, 12/4/16; col. 191.]

People have to know that they have privacy and confidentiality. Of course, it is also essential that the protections granted to elected representatives are consistent across the different methods of surveillance. John Hayes, who was a Minister quite recently—I am not sure where he is now—said that the Government would consider the issue of consistency across the different methods of surveillance. I beg to move.