Investigatory Powers Bill - Commons Reasons

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 2nd November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Liberal Democrat 4:00 pm, 2nd November 2016

To follow the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, I think it important that the other place be given another chance to think about the Bill. To date, it has had only one opportunity to consider it, based on the amendments your Lordships’ House passed when the Bill was in this House. There will be another opportunity.

As has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker and noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, a number of Conservative Members yesterday during the questions following the Statement by the Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport indicated that they were not persuaded by the Government’s case for not yet implementing Section 40. Dr Andrew Murrison asked whether the Secretary of State agreed,

“that it would be reasonable to accept Baroness Hollins’ amendments”,

and Sir Gerald Howarth—not someone I am usually given to quoting with approval—asked:

“Does she not agree that a great virtue of the Leveson inquiry was that it took this whole contentious issue out of the hands of politicians; that by going for this consultation, which she will respond to, she is in danger of embroiling politicians in the issue again; and that low-cost arbitration has to be part of the solution?”.—[Official Report, Commons, 1/11/16; col.806.]

So there is some indication that even on the Government Benches in the Commons, there are Members who are not persuaded of the Government’s position. I hope that one might describe it as a consultation of convenience that it came along when it did.

I will come back to that point but, on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick—which has been addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Butler—we know that the legislation which this Bill as a whole seeks to replace has a sunset clause. That clause is just under two months away; we have heard from the Minister that even if your Lordships vote for the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, today, it will be another two weeks until the House has the chance to consider it again. There is no urgency on the Government’s part to get Royal Assent this week.

It is also clear that the content of the Bill is in no way threatened by the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness. They are supplementary and do not detract in any way from the security issues which have been a matter of considerable debate on the part of your Lordships and, indeed, the House of Commons. They seek to address the very specific reasons that were put forward by Ministers and in the other place as to why this was not a suitable amendment. She has sought to, as it were, uncouple these amendments from the other parts of the Bill. They are supplementary and in no way detract from the security issues in the Bill.

As I indicated when we debated this matter on Report, for me what is important is that commitments were made to Parliament—to both the House of Commons and your Lordships’ House—back in March 2003, when various amendments were withdrawn: amendments to the Defamation Bill that your Lordships’ House had passed and amendments that had been tabled, I believe, to the Enterprise Bill and, in the other place, to the Crime and Courts Bill. They were withdrawn on a clear understanding that certain amendments going forward to the then Crime and Courts Bill would be implemented. I was part of the group who worked on the cross-party agreement, although I was not present when it was reached. Subsequently I also did much on a royal charter so that press regulation would be taken as far away from politicians as possible. The commitments made to Parliament are in jeopardy through the Government not implementing Section 40. More importantly, commitments were made to some of the victims of hacking. We should remember that the amendment we are discussing does not go as far as Section 40: it relates only to phone hacking. Along with the then Deputy Prime Minister, my right honourable friend Nick Clegg, I met the parents of Milly Dowler. Two things that struck me were their great dignity but also the great pain they had suffered. The Prime Minister gave commitments to them and other victims that there would be an inquiry, which took place, and that efforts would be made to ensure that such things did not happen again. These commitments trump any consultation. That is why I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins.