Moved by Lord Rosser
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 19, at end insert—“(4A) The Secretary of State may not make regulations designating an international agreement under section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (interception in accordance with overseas requests) where that agreement provides for requests to be made by the competent authorities of a country or territory, or of more than one country or territory, in which a person found guilty of a criminal offence may be sentenced to death for the offence under the general criminal law of the country or territory concerned.(4B) Subsection 4A does not apply if the country or territory has, within the international agreement, given assurances that the death penalty will not be imposed in any case in which or in whose preparation electronic data obtained under this Act has been used.”
The Bill is intended to assist in the fight against serious crime, not least terrorism, by making it possible to conclude agreements with other countries that would provide for electronic data in the possession of a service provider, in that other country to the agreement, to be passed to the UK authorities upon that service provider being served with an overseas production order made by a court in this country. Such arrangements would almost certainly have to be reciprocal, so that the authorities in that other country could make an overseas production order or equivalent in respect of the provision of electronic data by a service provider in this country. The necessity for having these provisions in the Bill is that the current procedure for obtaining such data, which is increasingly used in major crimes or in their planning as the technology rapidly develops, is what is known as mutual legal assistance. Under this process, the application for such data must be through the authorities and a court in the country of the service provider from which that data is being sought. If the application is agreed, there is still the process of actually obtaining the data from the service provider.
In reality, obtaining electronic data under the existing mutual legal assistance arrangements can take many months—apparently up to 12—which is not exactly conducive to fighting effectively serious crime and terrorism, with the length of time taken to obtain that data acting either as a disincentive to seeking it at all or it being obtained so late as to seriously negate its relevance and effectiveness. As I understand it, discussions have already taken place between the United Kingdom and the United States of America about concluding reciprocal arrangements for securing electronic data under the Bill’s provisions on overseas production orders. Indeed, I think the United States has already passed its necessary legislation to enable such arrangements or agreements to be concluded with the UK. We are not in any way opposed to the introduction of these new arrangements in principle but we have two significant areas of concern, one of which is the implications for the UK’s stance on opposition to the death penalty. That is the subject of Amendment 1, which is also in the names of my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.
An order from this country for an overseas production order applying to a service provider in the USA would, under the Bill, be made in a UK court. The service provider in the USA would, under the terms of the arrangements likely to be concluded, be expected to comply. In fact, as I understand it again, our Government have stated that they will not seek such an order unless they know that the provider would be willing to comply voluntarily.
As understand it again, service providers are likely to be willing to comply because the Bill will provide them with legal protection for releasing such electronic data. Likewise a service provider in this country would, in the normal course of events, be expected to comply with an overseas production order made by a court in another country—such as America, with which it looks as though we are close to concluding an agreement—under the terms of the Bill. I am not sure that there has been an indication from the American authorities that they would seek such an order only if they knew that the relevant service provider over here would comply, so some form of enforcement action could be the result if there was non-compliance.
Our concern in respect of the death penalty, to which this amendment relates, is that in a number of states in the USA it can be handed down as the sentence if a defendant is found guilty of certain serious crimes, including acts of terrorism. In the UK we are opposed to the death penalty—government Ministers have repeatedly stated that—and do not apply it as a sentence. However an overseas production order made by a court in the USA for electronic data from a service provider in this country could result in a situation whereby that electronic data might be significant in or key to enabling a court in America to convict a defendant who could be a citizen of any country, including Britain, of an offence carrying the death penalty as a possible sentence.
There is no issue with an individual being convicted of a serious offence they have committed, not least terrorism, as a result of electronic data obtained from a service provider in the UK and receiving an appropriate sentence, but we have an issue with the provision of such information from this country under the terms of the Bill without an assurance that the death penalty could not be imposed. We cannot as a nation say we are opposed to the death penalty and then sign an agreement with another country, whether the USA or another nation, knowing that a court in that other country could then make an order for a service provider here to provide electronic data which could make the difference between a defendant, perhaps a British citizen, being convicted or not convicted of an offence that led to the death penalty being applied.
This amendment provides that, in any agreement on overseas production orders and the provision of electronic data under the terms of the Bill, assurances must be obtained from the other country concerned that the death penalty will not be applied in respect of any offence for which a defendant has been found guilty and in which the information provided from this country contributed in any way to securing that conviction.
I believe the Government have previously said that there will need to be some form of disputes procedure against an overseas production order made in another country with which we have concluded a reciprocal agreement. However the Government have not been able to say what form that dispute procedure will take, how it will operate or, crucially, on what grounds an overseas production order made in that other country could successfully be challenged. Since the Government have resisted any suggestion of the Bill specifically stating that no reciprocal agreement or arrangement can be made with a country that will not give a cast-iron assurance that any electronic data from this country would not be used to help convict a defendant of an offence for which the death penalty would be applied, it seems extremely unlikely that grounds for a successful objection to an overseas production order under any disputes procedure could be that the data being sought could be used to help secure a conviction that could lead to the death penalty being imposed.
I repeat that the amendment does not preclude a reciprocal agreement being reached with other countries on overseas production orders to secure electronic data in the battle against serious crime, not least terrorism, by improving the prospects of securing convictions and, with them, the prospects of lengthy sentences of imprisonment to reflect the severity of the crime. The amendment seeks to ensure that our policy as a nation of opposing the death penalty is not compromised by service providers here being required by a court in another country with which we have reached an agreement under the terms of the Bill being expected to hand over data when there is no guarantee that that information will not be used to assist in securing a conviction, which could be of a British citizen, for which the death penalty could be applied. We cannot claim that we did not know that that would be the outcome. It will have come about through passing the Bill at the behest of the Government and the Government concluding an international agreement with another country, such as the USA, where the death penalty can still be applied in some states, without securing an assurance as part of that international agreement that the death penalty will not be applied where data secured under the Bill has played a part in securing that conviction. I beg to move.
Moved by Lord Paddick
2: Clause 1, leave out from beginning to “given” in subsection (4B) and insert—“(4A) The Secretary of State may not make regulations designating an international co-operation agreement providing for the use of—(a) section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (interception in accordance with overseas requests), or(b) any other enactment which provides for the collection of electronic data,unless the condition in subsection 4B is met.(4B) The condition is that the states party to or participating in the international co-operation agreement have”
My Lords, unusually, I shall be supporting Amendment 1 but I shall also speak to Amendments 2 and 3 in this group. My noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have added our names to Amendment 1 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Kennedy, but we feel that the amendment to Clause 1 as drafted does not go far enough.
Before I come to that, however, I wish to say that I wholeheartedly support what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has said about the provisions of the Bill. Bearing in mind that they are likely to be mutual, in that similar provisions would be in a Bill in a country with which we are going to enter into a treaty, it is very important to have a death penalty assurance in that treaty, which is what the amendment seeks to do. In addition to what the noble Lord has said about UK Ministers saying that we in the UK are opposed to the death penalty, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, together with Protocol 13 to which the UK is a signatory, provides for the total abolition of the death penalty. In early meetings with the Minister, we were led to believe that that death penalty assurance would be part of any treaty. However, we feel we need that reassurance in the Bill.
As I say, we took the unusual step of both supporting and amending the Labour amendment on the basis that we both agree on the principle of Amendment 1— that the Government should not enter into a treaty that would require UK companies to provide electronic data to law enforcement in a country that had the death penalty unless the treaty contained assurances that the death penalty would not be implemented if data provided by UK companies was used. We believe that the prohibition on entering into a treaty with a country that has the death penalty should be broader than just the data covered by Section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which is what Amendment 1 covers, because that provision covers only the interception of communications in the course of transmission—wiretaps, listening in to telephone conversations and that type of electronic data. A British company could hold personal information about an individual that could be crucial in an investigation for an offence that carries the death penalty in the country making the request. Such electronic data would not necessarily be in the course of transmission but held on servers in the UK.
Our Amendment 2 would therefore include,
“any other enactment which provides for the collection of electronic data”.
Amendment 3 makes it clear that the prohibition on entering into a treaty would not apply if an assurance had been given that the death penalty would not be imposed whether either intercepted communication or any other kind of electronic data had been provided under the Act. That amendment is consequential on Amendment 2.
We want to ensure that no UK company is complicit in providing electronic data of any kind that could lead to someone being executed. I beg to move.
I thank both noble Lords for speaking to their amendments today and express my gratitude to all Members of the House for their contributions both in Committee and today on Report—I think it is the same two noble Lords, but perhaps there are one or two more.
I stress to the House the importance of the UK-US data access agreement. The agreement will allow the UK authorities access to valuable evidence and intelligence directly from US communication service providers. The House should be made aware that the vast majority of CSPs and their data reside in the US, not the UK. The Bill gives our law enforcement a strategic advantage in the fight against the threat we face.
Indeed, in almost every serious criminal investigation, we expect those we investigate to be using services provided by CSPs based in the US. The agreement will make a significant contribution to the detection, investigation, prevention and prosecution of serious crime and terrorism. The Government have been working towards the agreement with the help of US CSPs and the US Government for several years following the recommendation from the then Prime Minister’s data envoy Sir Nigel Sheinwald.
All Governments and any future Governments have the duty to put the security of their people first. It will always be in the public interest to ensure that our police and agencies have access to the necessary intelligence and evidence in order to fulfil that duty. Just as it was under the previous Labour Government and as it is today, Ministers must always be mindful of the current threat environment they find themselves in. That is why we believe that better scrutiny of these agreements and accountability for future treaties is the best way to ensure that the Government’s principles are tested, rather than prescribing a rigid format for treaties that have not yet even been mooted, let alone being currently under negotiation.
Of course, the Government’s objective is to obtain a satisfactory death penalty assurance, but negotiations are ongoing and not yet concluded. Playing the discussions out in public may make it much harder to conclude them effectively.
Let me be clear to the House: there will be an assurance in the agreement. We can expect it to rule out the direct use of information obtained under the agreement as evidence in a prosecution where the death penalty might apply. Parliament will scrutinise the final detail of any agreement and the assurance it contains. We have already tabled an amendment today clarifying that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 process will always apply to relevant international agreements, ensuring that Members have two opportunities to scrutinise a treaty.
But I am willing to go further. Noting the concerns that noble Lords have expressed, the Government will commit to bringing forward an amendment in the Commons. Such an amendment would not pre-empt negotiations with the US, or any future agreement with another country, but would instead absolutely guarantee that Parliament has the chance to conduct proper, thorough scrutiny of relevant agreements and death penalty assurances.
The amendment I envisage would ensure that Ministers cannot make regulations to designate any agreement with a country which retains the death penalty for incoming requests without first laying before Parliament the agreement and details of any assurances obtained. There would then be a defined period during which Parliament would have a chance to examine those details, and this could include scrutiny by any relevant committees.
Finally, the Secretary of State would be obliged to consider any recommendations made by a committee in relation to the assurances before laying regulations to designate the agreement. Of course, the regulations themselves would then be subject to the usual process of parliamentary scrutiny, during which time Members of both Houses could consider any recommendations and respond to them.
Ultimately, it is right that Parliament has a say on the difficult decision between not concluding negotiations on agreements and securing the death penalty assurances we would like. Both the amendments tabled by Labour and Liberal Democrat Peers could lead to our being unable to conclude a data access agreement with the US. If we find ourselves in that situation, law enforcement agencies and the UK intelligence community will continue to be denied timely access to valuable evidence and intelligence.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said that Section 52 of the IPA covers only material intercepted in the course of transmission. That is not entirely correct. It can authorise obtaining stored communications as well as intercept. As I said, there is a balance to be struck here. That is why I ask Members not to tie the Government’s hands in negotiations. Instead I will commit to amending the Bill in the Commons to ensure that Parliament has ample opportunity to scrutinise any future treaty and, if relevant, its death penalty assurance.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. Unless she wishes to contradict me, I think she just said that these treaties are very important to the extent that the British Government are prepared to allow people to be executed on the basis of data provided by British companies to overseas law enforcement. The essence of these amendments is that that should not be allowed and we want that reassurance on the face of the Bill.
Forgive me, but I do not see the difference between what I said and what the Minister has just said, unless she wants to clarify further.
We are concerned about this because of the recent case of Kotey and Elsheikh, in which the American authorities asked for information from the British on two people who were part of an ISIS cell. The Home Secretary decided that the information would be provided without a death penalty assurance. We are concerned that what might considered a one-off case which contradicts the British Government’s usual global opposition to the death penalty is now going to be enshrined in treaties. I understand what the Minister said about Section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act, but that is not our understanding and I therefore wish to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 2.
Ayes 108, Noes 185.
Division number 1
I thank the Minister for the Government’s response to my amendment—or rather the amendment I have moved; it is not purely my amendment. The Government’s argument appears to be based on two or three strands. The first is an inference that another country—realistically, we are talking about the USA—might not be willing to conclude an agreement with us under the Bill, including of course a reciprocal agreement, if this amendment is passed with its provisions for prior assurances on non-application of the death penalty. Why, though, should we not have the assurances that this amendment seeks, when we are talking about information from this country? Why should we have to compromise on our stance of opposition to the death penalty by having to hand over electronic data following an order in a court, or made in a court in another country, which could lead to the death penalty being applied if that information helped in securing a conviction in that other country?
I notice that the Government said that such information would not be used in evidence. However, information can be of value in securing a conviction without that evidence in itself being produced in evidence, since it may point people in directions which will lead to other evidence being produced which could assist in securing a conviction. It surely is not opposition to the death penalty—and government Ministers keep telling us that we are opposed to it—if you conclude an agreement that you know could allow the death penalty to be applied thanks to our assistance and co-operation over the provision of data. We need the safeguard that the death penalty will not be applied.
The other point is that orders will be made in that other country that the international agreement we conclude with it will expect to be adhered to and data supplied without any ability of a British court or the Government to say no on the ground that the death penalty could be applied. No assurances have been given that that will not be the case. In the absence of any detail about any disputes procedure and the circumstances in which it would operate, we will not be able to stop information being handed over on the ground that it could allow the death penalty to be applied.
In that regard, we do not know how many overseas production orders will be served on service providers in the UK by other countries with which we reach an agreement and where the death penalty could be applied. It could be a considerable number, and the Government cannot deny that. We could, in fact, be assisting in the application of the death penalty on a not infrequent basis.
As I understand it, the Government have now indicated that they will put down an amendment when the Bill reaches the Commons. It appears that that amendment might provide—I am really not sure—for some kind of review of any agreement reached on overseas production orders with another country, the outcome of which would presumably be available to Parliament before Parliament decides whether or not to ratify the agreement. But Parliament will presumably have to say yes or no to the agreement and will not be able to amend it, and neither will there be any requirement on the Government to accept the findings of any prior review or investigation of an agreement with another country reached under the terms of this Bill and, in particular, on any recommendation that an assurance should be sought on the non-application of the death penalty if it applies in the country concerned.
I really do not think that the assurance given and the statement made about the nature of a possible amendment in the Commons meet the provisions of this amendment, which clearly state that, if we are going to conclude such agreements with other countries on overseas production orders, and if it is a country where the death penalty can apply, firm assurances must be sought that, where information is handed over by service providers in this country, it will not be used to secure a conviction that could lead to the death penalty being imposed. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 208, Noes 185.
Division number 2
Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
4: Clause 1, page 1, line 21, leave out from “means” to end of line 3 on page 2 and insert “a relevant treaty which—(a) relates (in whole or in part) to the provision of mutual assistance in connection with the investigation or prosecution of offences, and (b) is designated by the Secretary of State by regulations.(5A) For the purposes of subsection (5) a treaty is a relevant treaty if a Minister of the Crown has laid before Parliament a copy of the treaty under section 20(1)(a) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.(“Treaty” and “Minister of the Crown” have the same meaning for the purposes of this section as they have for the purposes of Part 2 of that Act.)”
My Lords, the Government recognise that, when it comes to agreements for direct access to data, it is unlikely that either the UK or another country would commit to complying with orders that have extraterritorial scope without acknowledging this through a formalised agreement or arrangement. Therefore, in reality, any arrangement we choose to enter into for direct access to data will likely be in the form of a treaty requiring formal ratification before entry into force. It is not the Government’s intention to conclude such international arrangements by memoranda of understanding, for example. We do not think that such informal arrangements would afford the appropriate level of certainty that such international arrangements require.
As noble Lords know, treaties that require ratification are subject to formal parliamentary scrutiny in the form of a procedure under Part 2 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—CRaG—which must be followed before the Government can complete the ratification process necessary to bring the agreement into force. The text contained in the Bill introduced to this House was intended to allow the UK to consider other measures, such as EU instruments that do not fulfil the definition of “treaty” under CRaG. However, we have since concluded that it is highly unlikely that the UK, or any other country we enter into agreements with, would accept anything less than a formal treaty. I therefore propose to make an amendment to Clause 1 to make this clear.
The amendment provides that a designated international co-operation arrangement must be a “relevant treaty”. It would further provide that a “relevant treaty” is one that has been laid before Parliament under Section 20(1)(a) of CRaG. The effect of the amendment would be to ensure that where the Secretary of State, by way of regulations, wishes to designate an arrangement under the Bill, they can do so only if that arrangement is a treaty that has been laid before Parliament for scrutiny under CRaG. Only treaties that have been laid before Parliament under CRaG can be designated. However, it is still possible for an agreement to be designated before ratification. There may be operational reasons why one would want to designate an agreement before ratification has been finalised. For example, an agreement may come into force on ratification—depending on the terms of the agreement—in which case designating after ratification may be too late and there may be a risk of breach of obligations under the agreement.
The effect of Amendment 5 in the names of the noble Baroness and the noble Lord would preclude any designation of an international co-operation agreement until it has been ratified. Ratification is a process which requires an act—for example, the exchange of diplomatic notes between the parties—which signals in international law the parties’ consent to be bound by the agreement. However, the amendment could cause a detrimental effect, as I have explained, where the terms of an agreement require that it comes into force on the day of ratification. The amendment would make it impossible to designate until after the ratification process, which may put the UK in breach of any obligations under the agreement. I should also make clear that even where an agreement is designated after having be laid under CRaG but before it is ratified, an agreement could not come into force until the process of ratification is complete and therefore any requests could not be made until the agreement is entered into force, following ratification. I hope that the noble Baroness will be happy to withdraw Amendment 5. I beg to move.
My Lords, we welcome the Government’s significant movement towards the use of the treaty procedure, which we and, I believe, the Labour Benches argued for at the previous stage. I was concerned that the amendment was incomplete, and the Minister has explained why her amendment refers to “laying” the treaty, but not the other provisions of Section 20 and several subsequent sections of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.
As the Minister has told the House, it is quite a complicated and potentially long drawn-out procedure. I accept that, but it is long drawn-out because it is designed to give Parliament a proper opportunity to have input into the final product of the treaty, with various stages for its consideration, ending up in ratification. The Minister, in arguing on the first group of amendments, stressed the importance of the procedure. She has just said that the Government might want to make a designation before ratification. It seems to me that this nullifies the impact of the procedure process, and assumes that Parliament will ratify—in other words, will vote as the Government tell it to, which is precisely the arrangement we do not want in place.
The Minister has, however, just talked about the treaty not coming into force until ratification—she is nodding at that, for which I am grateful. I wonder whether she would be prepared to have a discussion—she has been prepared for lots of discussions on the Bill already, for which we are grateful—about an amendment we might table at Third Reading to tidy this up, encapsulating what she has just said to the House about delaying the process until the parliamentary process has been completed. I had better move this amendment, and then we can debate it.
Of course I am happy to do that. I am sorry, I thought that was implied. I do not wish any more exercise on noble Lords than we need to have during the course of this afternoon. I look forward to that discussion and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 4 agreed.
Clause 3: Meaning of “electronic data” and “excepted electronic data”
Moved by Lord Rosser
6: Clause 3, page 4, line 21, at end insert—“(8A) “Journalistic data” means electronic data that—(a) was created or acquired for the purposes of journalism, and(b) is stored by or on behalf of a person who created or acquired it for the purposes of journalism.(8B) Where a person (“R”) receives electronic data from another person (“S”) and S intends R to use the data for the purposes of journalism, R is to be taken to have acquired the data for those purposes.(8C) Journalistic data is “confidential journalistic data” if—(a) it is acquired or created by a person or persons in their capacity as a journalist and is held in confidence, or (b) it is communications data of a person acting in their capacity as a journalist, or(c) it is held subject to a restriction on disclosure, or an obligation of secrecy, contained in any enactment (whenever passed or made).”
The Bill extends the ability of law enforcement agencies through overseas production orders to obtain electronic data held by service providers overseas for the purposes of fighting serious crime, including terrorism. Since the assumption is that an agreement with another country will be reciprocal, the terms of the Bill when implemented will also, in reality, allow law enforcement agencies in that other country with which we have a reciprocal agreement to more easily obtain electronic data held by service providers in this country. But the Bill does not appear to provide adequate safeguards against confidential journalistic material being handed over in a way that results in sources losing their anonymity. We thus appear to have a Bill that potentially compromises the position and values of our free press. If sources of information do not feel that their anonymity will be protected, they are much less likely to provide information to journalists—information that might bring to light corruption, fraud, sexual offences, adverse environmental activity or failings by large organisations or government, for example, that those involved might wish to keep secret.
Clause 12 requires that where an overseas production order is made in respect of confidential journalistic data, it must be made on notice. The agency applying for the overseas production order would have to judge whether the material sought was ordinary or confidential journalistic material, but there is no guarantee under the Bill as it stands that the journalist, or indeed media organisation, will be able to make representations to the court. There is no requirement in the Bill for the journalist or media organisation that acquired the confidential material to be informed. The judge has a discretion to notify the journalist but not a duty. Without a requirement to notify the journalist or media organisation, take representations from them and have regard to what they say, there is no means by which journalists or media organisations can seek to protect their source.
This amendment seeks to address this concern by providing the right of journalists or media organisations to be given notice that an order in respect of confidential material is being sought, and to then be able to make representations to oppose the making of an order involving such journalistic material. It would also provide that the judge must be satisfied that there is a public interest that overwrites the confidentiality of the data sought before an order is made. If the Government have concerns that there might be journalists whom they would not wish to inform of an application for an order, then the advice could be given to the media organisation for whom that journalist worked.
The amendment seeks to ensure the continuation of an important safeguard. I beg to move.
My Lords, from these Benches we had an amendment in Committee requiring the court to be,
“satisfied that … data … is not confidential journalistic data”.
We were concerned that the Government had not consulted the NUJ or other organisations; I wonder whether they have had an opportunity for a discussion since then. The News Media Association certainly made its views clear with its concern about what it described as an artificial distinction between “journalistic material” and “confidential journalistic material” and what might flow from that distinction.
New subsection (8C)(b) proposed in Amendment 6 seems to make all data held by a person acting as a journalist “confidential journalistic data”. I see the attraction in that but I wonder whether this is the place to treat material differently from how it is treated elsewhere in UK law—in other words, I wonder about making that provision apply for the purposes of this piece of legislation only, which is a fairly small piece of the jigsaw of legislation that applies to journalism. Can the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, confirm when he winds up whether I have read this correctly: is he eliminating a distinction in this piece of legislation only, and only in the circumstances to which it will apply?
With regard to Amendment 11, we support a requirement to give notice of an application. We had an amendment to that effect in Committee, and we have amendments in the next grouping that are an attempt to respond to the Minister’s comments on the issue then.
My Lords, the Bill provides that journalistic material which is non-confidential can be obtained through an overseas production order without having to give notice. This type of material may, for example, be the manuscript or copy that the journalist is working on. A judge must be satisfied that the material is relevant to a UK investigation and in the UK public interest before he can approve an order to obtain it. The Bill implicitly recognises that a person named in an order may merely store data on behalf of a person, including those who create or acquire it for journalistic purposes. Journalistic material that is already published is unlikely to form part of an application for an overseas production order. That is because this material can already be freely accessed by law enforcement agencies, and there would be no need to compel production of information that was already in the public domain.
However, where information relates to confidential journalistic material—that is, it is created subject to an obligation that it would be held in confidence and that obligation continues to be held, or it is held subject to a restriction on disclosure or obligation of secrecy contained in legislation—that material will be subject to the notice provisions under Clauses 12 and 13. Therefore, if a journalist stores information—whether in their manuscript, copy or otherwise—that relates to or contains such confidential material, that can be sought but only if an application is made “on notice”. We expect court rules to set out that such an application cannot be determined by the court in the absence of a respondent unless they have waived the opportunity to attend. That already exists in court rules in relation to domestic production orders if, for example, the police wish to obtain access to a journalist’s notebook.
Our objective is to protect legitimate journalism, ensuring that those who may wish to harm us cannot hide behind claims of the data being journalistic to evade investigation or prosecution. Coupled with that, we have been clear that material acquired or created by the journalist to further a criminal purpose is not considered journalistic material. That terminology is borrowed from the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which sought to ensure that safeguards and protections were targeted at legitimate forms of journalism.
The reason that the Government have carved out material,
“created or acquired with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose”, is to follow the direction that the Investigatory Powers Act identified, which is that safeguards should not exist for those who intend, through media channels, to do us harm, but then seek to hide behind spurious claims of journalism. One example is the media wing of Daesh, which may use an internet blog designed to disseminate harmful information and claim that it was journalistic material and therefore not caught by the provisions. Conversely, if a journalist acquires a leaked document from a source which alludes to criminal conduct, the journalist acquires it for journalistic purposes, not with the intention of themselves furthering a criminal purpose.
The Government’s intention has always been to protect confidential source material which would fall within the definition in Clause 12(4). I think this is helpful and should provide reassurance to noble Lords, as well as the journalist community, that the Government intend to protect this type of information and take the issue of freedom of the press very seriously. There are sufficient safeguards in the Bill to protect particularly sensitive data. I say again that that the Bill has sought to reflect existing provisions of PACE. That is why I do not feel that the noble Lord’s amendment to Clause 12 adds to the protections already provided for under the current drafting or in court rules.
Clause 12 requires that an application be made on notice if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the material applied for consists of or includes confidential journalistic data. However, as in PACE, the practice and procedure for when courts are permitted to determine applications in the absence of affected persons will be set out in court rules. We expect court rules to include the same provisions as are in place for domestic orders, where there is a presumption that an application will not be determined in the absence of the respondent or another affected person, and therefore notice of any application for an overseas production order should be given to every person who would be affected by a production order.
The presumption is subject to exceptions, which we feel are necessary to ensure that investigations or prosecutions into serious crime are not put at risk if notice is given that could prejudice an investigation, for example, or where the journalists themselves are the subject of the investigation and notice may risk dissipation of relevant data. A person affected by the order therefore has the opportunity to be heard by the court unless the court is satisfied that the applicant cannot identify or contact that person; that it would prejudice the investigation if that person were present; that it would prejudice the investigation to adjourn or postpone the application so as to allow that person to attend; or where that person has waived the opportunity to attend.
By way of example, where an appropriate officer is investigating a serious crime, they may believe that some information in a journalist’s copy would be of substantial value to the investigation. Where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the data specified or described in the application includes confidential journalistic data, the respondent to the application—in this case, the service provider—will be given notice under Clause 12. In addition, we expect court rules to include the same requirements as already exist for applications under PACE, with a presumption that notice of any application for an overseas production order will be given to every person who would be affected by a production order, and they will therefore have an opportunity to be heard by the court unless the exemptions apply. In addition, a production order for confidential journalistic material cannot be determined in the absence of the respondent unless that person has waived their right to attend.
I am not persuaded that Amendment 8 is necessary. If the revised Clause 12 were to form part of the Bill, a court would be precluded from making an overseas production order in relation to confidential journalistic material unless the requirements set out there were satisfied. It would not be necessary to say again, in Clause 5, that those requirements must be fulfilled before a judge can specify electronic data that is confidential journalistic data in an order. For that reason, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I may have misheard the Minister and therefore misunderstood her argument, but she seemed to be saying at one point that my noble friend’s amendments were not necessary because this is already covered under the PACE regulations. Is that the reason for resisting it—it is not necessary because it goes no further—or is she suggesting that there are elements of it which do go further that the Government are resisting? If the latter is the case, perhaps she could indicate to us what has gone further that she does not like. If it is simply that it is not necessary, can she explain why the Government are resisting it?
I think I have already explained at length why it is not necessary. If Clause 12 were to be amended, a court would not be able to make an overseas production order in relation to confidential journalistic material unless the requirements set out there were satisfied.
The protection of sources in relation to confidential journalistic data is very important to the free press in our country. I pointed out—and, as far as I understand it, this is not being contested by the Government—that there is no requirement in the Bill for the journalist or media organisation which acquired the confidential material to be informed. That seems to be a significant hole in the legislation. Surely in that situation the journalist or media organisation concerned should be able to make representations and to oppose the granting of an order; in other words, their voice should be heard—perhaps, from their point of view, to seek to protect their confidential sources.
I note the Government’s argument that this is already provided for in other legislation. I say only that we are dealing with something here which can relate also—under reciprocal arrangements, presumably—to orders made by a court in another country and not only in relation to orders made by a court in this country. In that situation it is absolutely vital, even if the Government believe that the safeguards are already there, that the ability of a journalist or media organisation to be informed of an application for an order, and the chance to appear and make representations in connection with that order, should be repeated in the Bill. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 200, Noes 205.
Division number 3
“The judge must not specify or describe in the order electronic data that … consists of or includes excepted electronic data”.
The clause would not include the phrase,
“the judge has reasonable grounds for believing”, includes excepted data. That may sound as if I am dancing on the head of a pin but I think it is quite an important issue. In Committee I explained that I was seeking a formula that was objective. The Minister responded by referring to the phrase “reasonable grounds” being used elsewhere in the Bill. Indeed, the clauses that she mentioned, Clauses 1 and 7, include that phrase but they are not about an order; they are about the basis for making an application, which I suggest is a rather different matter.
I accept that, as she said, the contents of data may not be known until they are produced, but without our amendment, or some such amendment, the judge could make an order that it later turned out did include excepted data. I was looking for an objectively based exception because how otherwise do you appeal? Would you be appealing against the judge’s reasonableness? That would not be the same as appealing on the basis that the data was excepted. I would find it very uncomfortable to have to appeal against whether or not a judge was reasonable. What really should be at issue is the character of the data, and we are not satisfied that the Bill really addresses that. I beg to move.
I thank the noble Baroness for moving her amendment and for raising this point again. Perhaps my response in Committee was not persuasive enough for her.
The Bill has been drafted to include multiple safeguards so that a person is not required to produce excepted electronic data. “Excepted electronic data” means electronic data that is either an item subject to legal privilege or a confidential personal record. The Government do not want to see overseas production orders being used to obtain such information, nor do we expect our officers to target it.
First, Clause 1(3) sets out that an appropriate officer must not apply for an overseas production order in respect of electronic data where that officer has reasonable grounds for believing that it consists of excepted electronic data. Clause 5(2) includes another one of these safeguards: a judge must not specify or describe data in an overseas production order where he or she has reasonable grounds for believing the data sought includes or consists of excepted data. The wording “reasonable grounds for believing” is important given that there is no guarantee, at the time of considering an application, that either the judge or the applicant can be certain if the data sought will, in fact, contain excepted data.
Let me put it in this context: say the email records of criminal X were requested from June in a certain year because law enforcement agencies believed they had been communicating for criminal purposes with someone else. It would be impossible for either the law enforcement agency or the judge to know for certain that within those emails, there also happened to be correspondence between criminal X and their doctor.
I understand that the noble Baroness’s concerns in Committee were about the objectivity of the judge in allowing an order including potentially excepted data. The Government believe that the term “reasonable grounds for believing” gets us as close to objectivity as practicable. If a judge has “reasonable grounds for believing” that excepted data is included in the data sought in an application, they will not specify that excepted data when making the order. But if they do not have “reasonable grounds for believing”, as long as the other criteria are satisfied, the judge can make the order.
Indeed, should the respondent in receipt of an order know that it includes excepted data, Clause 6(4)(b) ensures that, despite the terms of the order, they are not required to produce that data. The noble Baroness asked in Committee how, if electronic data was within an order, it could be varied or revoked. The fact that the respondent is under no obligation to produce the excepted data removes any need for the respondent to apply to vary or revoke the order. To the extent that the order includes excepted data, it has no effect.
If we return briefly to criminal X, if a judge has allowed an order to be served on a communication service provider where the judge did not know that the emails requested included medical records, but the CSP did, that CSP would not be required to produce those emails. If the CSP provided the emails, knowingly or by accident, the data would then be sifted out by the appropriate body during the sifting exercise. It is therefore reasonable and proportionate for the Bill to retain the term “reasonable grounds for believing”, and it is a sensible reflection of what would happen in practice with overseas production orders.
I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Baroness will feel happy to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. Much of what we said was what we rehearsed in Committee. I have been looking to see whether Clause 6, which deals with the effect of the order, would meet my point. It takes us straight to the provision about the order having effect despite any restriction on the disclosure of information, which we found a difficult provision when we discussed it in Committee.
I will not tax the House by continuing with this at this stage, but I hope that the Minister will understand that I was not simply playing with words; there is real concern that the way that the Bill has been framed raises questions which people may have to grapple with in practice. I hope that they do not have too hard a time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 7 withdrawn.
Amendment 8 not moved.
Clause 11: Procedural matters
My Lords, Amendment 9 is grouped with Amendment 10. I thought that the point about court rules might get a bit lost in the debate on journalistic data, which is why I separated them when we were asked to approve the groupings.
In the context of journalistic data, in Committee the Minister relied heavily on how rules of court would operate. Clause 11 provides that the rules “may” make provision. I appreciate that rules will be made, because that is the way things are, but drafting styles change. I find this quite difficult; I get left behind with what is the up-to-date style. In ordinary speak—and I understand that attempts are being made to make parliamentary drafting as close to that as it can be—“may” is not the same as “must” or “shall”. I appreciate that there are differences between “may” and “must” elsewhere in the Bill, for instance in Clauses 8(1) and 8(3).
The issue of notice, which has prompted this, is very significant. In Committee, the Minister said that my amendment about requiring notice was unnecessary because court rules give the judge power to consider notice being given. She said:
“Court rules will provide the judge with the ability to require that notice be served on anyone affected by the order”—
I assume she meant the application for the order at that point—
“which is the case at the moment under court rules dealing with domestic production orders”.—[
She said something similar today in the discussion on the journalism group. However, given that the Bill starts with a provision for an order to be made on application of which notice need not be given, which will affect third parties, the data subject and journalists in particular, it would be more comfortable and appropriate to have an explicit provision on the face of the Bill. That is what Amendments 9 and 10 would provide. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Baroness has suggested amendments stipulating that court rules must make specific provision for certain things. Amendment 10 prescribes that court rules must be made relating to service of notice on a data controller, a data subject or where the application relates to journalistic data. I hope that I have already set out how we intend rules to include notice provisions in respect of the respondent and anyone else affected by an order. The rules already made by the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee in England and Wales for applications for production orders under Schedule 1 to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and under other legislation, already include provision for the service of notice of applications, and additional special requirements where what is sought is the product of journalism. I refer the House to Part 47 of the Criminal Procedure Rules. The Criminal Procedure Rule Committee has already settled draft rules that, if this Bill passes, would be in terms corresponding with those existing rules.
We expect the court rules to include the same provisions as are currently in place for domestic orders. They would provide that a court must not determine any application for an overseas production order in the absence of the respondent, or other person affected, except in the following circumstances. First, the person has at least two days in which to make representations. Secondly, the court is satisfied that the applicant cannot identify or contact the person. Thirdly, the court is satisfied that it would prejudice the investigation if that person were to be present. Fourthly, the court is satisfied that it would prejudice the investigation to adjourn or postpone the application so as to allow the person to attend. Fifthly, the person has waived the opportunity to attend. In the case of an application which would require the production of confidential journalistic material, the court must not determine the application in the absence of the respondent until they have waived the opportunity to attend. I hope that that satisfies the noble Baroness on Amendments 9 and 10.
My Lords, we have learned about the draft of the new rules and I am grateful for that. It is obviously difficult to take them in simply by listening and not reading them, although I noted the wording that one of the exceptions was that the court was satisfied that the person concerned—I am not sure what the technical term would be—“cannot” contact somebody. That is not the same as “will not” contact: anybody “can” contact someone, so I suspect that there might be a little more reflection on that.
Throughout the Bill’s progress, we have been told that the Government “intend” something or “expect” something. There comes a point when one hears that rather too often not to want to see something on the face of the Bill when it is material to the Bill. However, I am glad to have heard that progress has been made with regard to the rules and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 9 withdrawn.
Amendment 10 not moved.
Clause 12: Notice of application for order: confidential journalistic data
Amendment 11 not moved.
My Lords, were we to leave the European Union, the EU would examine our data protection regime to satisfy itself that it would be safe for the EU 27 to continue to exchange electronic data with the UK. This continued exchange of data is essential not only for law enforcement and counter- terrorism purposes but for commercial transactions.
The Government have recently passed the Data Protection Act 2018, which not only provides the necessary infrastructure to enable the UK to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation, a piece of EU legislation, but ensures that the UK complies with EU standards of data protection in relation to law enforcement and national security that are not covered by GDPR. In other words, the UK is ensuring that it complies with all EU data protection standards, so as to guarantee that it will be issued with a certificate of adequacy that will enable continued exchange of electronic data if we leave the EU.
If, as a result of this Bill or the treaties associated with it, UK companies were required to provide law enforcement agencies in other countries with personal data covered by the Data Protection Act and/or GDPR, and those foreign law enforcement agencies’ data protection standards were deemed by the EU to be inadequate, there is the potential for the EU to withdraw its adequacy certificate from the UK. Basically, if member states of the EU share data with the UK, and the UK shares that data under this Bill with law enforcement agencies that have inadequate data protection standards, the EU might stop sharing data with the UK. This amendment is designed to ensure that this does not happen. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, raised an issue about which Act would take precedence in the event of a conflict between this Bill—when it becomes an Act—and the Data Protection Act 2018. His amendment makes clear that, in the case of a conflict, the DPA, along with the GDPR, would take precedence. That seems quite sensible: it gives us certainty on the matter, for the reasons outlined by the noble Lord. I support his amendment.
I thank both noble Lords for their points. There has been nothing in our own domestic law that requires a UK provider to comply with an overseas order. There will therefore be no conflict with domestic law if a CSP decides that complying with a foreign order would put it in breach of its obligations under the GDPR.
The existence of any conflict with UK data protection law does not have the effect of making the order from the other country invalid. Equally, the existence of the order does not compel the UK CSP to ignore its data protection obligations under UK law. It will be for the CSP on which an order is served to reconcile and comply with all legal obligations it is under. It could apply for the variation or revocation of the order, or use the dispute resolution mechanism that we expect all specific international agreements to include. That said, we do not think that this is likely to be necessary in practice. The GDPR contains several “gateways” which permit the cross-border transfer of personal data, including in response to a request or order from overseas law enforcement.
I know the noble Lord’s concerns about data protection, and I absolutely sympathise with him. We have discussed this before, and I think that ultimately we all want the same thing: adequate protection for the privacy rights of individuals. I hope that my explanation will satisfy the noble Lord that the Bill does not in any way threaten data protection rights, which are robustly protected by existing legislation. UK CSPs will continue to be bound by the GDPR and the Data Protection Act. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel happy to withdraw Amendment 12.
I am grateful to the Minister. I understand that she has just said that a communications service provider could refuse to comply with an order coming from overseas if the CSP believes that that would bring it into conflict with the GDPR and the Data Protection Act, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 12 withdrawn.
Clause 17: Interpretation
My Lords, I explained in Committee that Clause 7(1) creates a power for the judge to vary or revoke an overseas production order. Where a non-disclosure requirement is included in an overseas production order—by virtue of Clause 8— Clause 7 will apply so that the non-disclosure requirement can also be varied or revoked by a judge.
However, as I said to this House in Grand Committee, it is the Government’s intention that judges should be able to vary or revoke all orders made under the Bill. As well as overseas production orders, this includes other orders made under provisions in the Bill: for example, an order made under Clause 8(4) which maintains an unexpired non-disclosure requirement when an overseas production order has been revoked. It has also been the intention of government that the procedure and process for varying and revoking an order would be governed by court rules, mirroring current legislation for production orders under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or the Terrorism Act 2000.
We gave a commitment in Grand Committee to review whether provisions that can be made in court rules relating to non-disclosure requirements when an overseas production order has been revoked should themselves be capable of being varied or revoked on application. Clause 11 provides that court rules may make provisions in relation to the practice and procedure to be followed when making an overseas production order. But the Government accept that this could give rise to doubt as to whether court rules could make provision in respect of other orders made under the Bill. I have therefore proposed an amendment to Clause 17 that puts beyond doubt that court rules can be made not only in relation to overseas production orders but in respect of the types of orders made under Clause 8(4) and Clause 13(3) and (4)(b). This will include making provision for the practice and procedure to be followed when applying to vary or revoke such orders.
Noble Lords raised questions in Committee about the process concerning how someone could vary or revoke an order. The future appeals process also arose in the context of notices that could be served by another country party to an agreement on UK companies. While the Bill only deals with outgoing orders—that is, ones issued by a UK court—we have ensured that the remedies available to someone served with a domestic production order are available to a person served with an overseas production order, and we would expect the other country to do the same.
In addition, we envisage a dispute resolution mechanism as part of any agreement we might designate under the Bill, which would allow a service provider concerned about whether the order that was sought complied with the terms of the agreement to raise objections with the authorities of the country concerned. This would allow a UK service provider to raise objections if it believed that a particular order should not have been served under the agreement. At first instance, these objections would be raised with the issuing country. If the service provider was still not satisfied, it could then go to the relevant UK authority. There may be ongoing discussions between the two parties to the agreement, but ultimately it would be a decision for the relevant UK authority to say whether or not the request from the other authority could safely be given effect to. I hope this addresses the concerns raised in Committee.
My Lords, I think it must be lucky 13 for the Minister. However, I have a question. It may be that I did not properly follow the latter part of her explanation but I come back to “normal speak”. The amendment says that the references,
“include proceedings for the making, variation or revocation of an order”.
Is “include” here a synonym for “mean”? Do we read it as “references mean”? I am sorry to throw that at her at this point. Perhaps I should talk inconsequentially for a moment or two until she receives information via semaphore. The term does suggest that something else might be within the references. I think the Minister is about to get a response to that question.
With the leave of the House, I suggest that the Government return to this tiny thing before the next stage.
Amendment 13 agreed.