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I am obliged to the noble Lord for his suggestion that this is essentially a probing amendment, which he directs at what he perceives as anomalies in the Bill. For reasons that I shall expand on, those anomalies do not exist.
Amendment 176 seeks to introduce a clause that would enable the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring that the authorisation of property interference under the Police Act 1997, where the purpose is to enable the interception of communications, should be subject to the equivalent approval processes as set out under Part 5 of this Bill, including double-lock review by a judicial commissioner. That is how I understand the amendment and the noble Lord indicates his agreement.
It is worth being clear that interception warrants are not issued under the Police Act 1997, but are currently issued by the Secretary of State under Part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. However, sometimes it may be necessary for intercepting authorities to carry out property interference to enable interception to take place. In these circumstances, the intercepting authority would need to ensure that appropriate property interference authorisation is obtained in addition to an interception warrant.
Clause 14 will restrict the ability of law enforcement agencies to authorise this type of equipment interference under the Police Act 1997. The restriction will mean that where the purpose of the interference is to enable the acquisition of communications, private information or equipment data, the activity can no longer be authorised under the Police Act 1997. As a result, the amendment in question is not required, as it will not be possible to authorise the type of activity it envisages under the Police Act 1997.
In future, if it is necessary to interfere with property to enable interception to take place, the interference with equipment will need to be authorised under Part 5 of the Bill. The Bill and its associated codes of practice make it clear that an equipment interference warrant cannot authorise activity which would constitute live interception of communication in the course of its transmission. As a result, both an equipment interference warrant and an interception warrant will be required.
In practice, this activity is likely to be authorised as a combined equipment interference and interception warrant. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 8 to the Bill enables the Secretary of State to issue such a combined warrant to the relevant intercepting authorities, such as the NCA. This reflects the fact that the Secretary of State is responsible for issuing targeted interception warrants, and the Bill ensures that combined warrants always default to the most senior level of authorisation. Any such warrant would always also go through the double lock of judicial commissioner authorisation.
I hope that reassures the noble Lord that the amendment is not necessary and I accordingly invite him to withdraw it