My Lords, as noble Lords will know, the purpose of the Bill is to sidestep the bureaucratic barriers that we currently face in investigating and prosecuting serious crime. The Bill allows law enforcement agencies to access content data directly from communication providers based overseas using an overseas production order.
Briefly, before turning to the amendments to the Bill made in the Commons, I know from conversations with the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Kennedy, that there were some concerns surrounding extradition. I put on the record and reassure noble Lords that this Bill has nothing to do with extradition. Overseas production orders are about seeking stored communications content data from overseas providers for the investigation and prosecution of UK criminal matters; it does not provide any new avenues for extradition, which is entirely out of scope of this Bill.
I turn to the amendments made in the other place. Orders under the Bill can work only when a relevant international agreement is in place between the UK and another country. As the majority of the CSPs are based in North America, we expect the first such agreement to be with the United States. Amendments 1, 13 and 15 relate to death penalty assurances in any such international agreement.
Amendment 13A, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, would amend the Bill to oblige the Secretary of State to seek and secure a death penalty assurance in any future international treaty. I make it absolutely clear: if noble Lords vote in favour of this amendment, they will be tying this and all future Governments’ hands in negotiations that are never entirely under our control, whether they be with the US or any other country with which we wish to enter into an agreement. Live international negotiations do not work in this way. If we are unable to secure a relevant international treaty, this Bill and its powers will be rendered entirely pointless.
As I have stated throughout the passage of the Bill, it is our duty to give our law enforcement agencies the tools that they need to fight and prevent serious crime, and our prosecution authorities the tools that they need to bring offenders to justice. Current delays in accessing content data held and stored by companies based outside the UK make their job much harder. Delays prevent criminals being brought to justice. If we do not successfully conclude this Bill and the US agreement, child abusers will be able to continue their heinous crimes while the police wait for up to two years for the relevant evidence to be transferred from abroad, or worse still, drop investigations because they simply cannot afford to sit through long delays.
The reality is that the majority of communication service providers are in the US. It is a fact that we need access to data held in the US a lot more than the US needs access to data held in the UK. The UK holds only 1% of the data that we need to prevent and catch sexual abusers of children, meaning that 99% of it is stored abroad. The level of child sexual abuse reported by US service providers has increased, and continues to increase, in horrific quantities—by 700% since 2012. There is a clear inequality of arms from the outset, and to restrict Ministers’ discretion in negotiations could jeopardise the US agreement and result in serious criminals being able to continue their abuse.
Of course the US treaty will have some form of death penalty assurance associated with it, but the exact details and practicalities of this assurance have not yet been negotiated. That is why Parliament will, rightly, have its say on any treaty put before the Houses during designation and prior to ratification. Members can then decide whether the contents of the treaty and its death penalty assurances are acceptable to the House.
In recognition of the concerns raised by noble Lords, the Government have amended the Bill so as to mandate the Secretary of State to seek death penalty assurances in connection with all relevant international agreements. For the first time, this puts into primary legislation policy that reflects the overseas security and justice assistance brought in under the coalition Government in 2010. The outcome of such negotiations will be implicit in the international treaty necessary to give effect to this Bill. The Government will commit to make a Statement, in both Houses, when the relevant treaty is put before Parliament in the usual way. Indeed, this Government and previous Governments are familiar with the need to obtain death penalty assurances when providing evidence to other countries. We do this in line with OSJA, a fundamental piece of long-standing policy that recognises that negotiating with another country is complex and does not attempt to dictate the outcome of any particular negotiation. Governments of all colours have agreed with and used the approach set out in OSJA.
The Government’s amendment, in line with OSJA, is therefore a sensible compromise that does not jeopardise law enforcement agencies’ capabilities. I ask noble Lords to support Amendments 1, 13 and 15, to let the Government continue our negotiations with our international partners as we have done for so many years, and to exercise powers of scrutiny—both prior to ratification of the agreement under CRaG and when secondary legislation comes to be laid—to assess whether the terms of any death penalty assurances are acceptable.
My Lords, Amendment 13A in this group is in my name. I make it clear from the outset that we support this Bill, which is why at Third Reading in the other place we did not vote against it. What we did—and what Labour did in the other place—was to vote against the Government’s Amendment 13 proposing a new clause after Clause 15, because it does not go far enough. It does not ensure that death penalty assurances are secured from foreign states to make sure that data provided by the UK, whether by law enforcement agencies or private companies, does not lead to someone being executed. The Government claim to have come a long way in their amendment, but it requires only that a Secretary of State seek death penalty assurances, not that any agreement is dependent on death penalty assurances being received.
The UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1988. It is also a signatory to Protocol 13 to the convention. Article 2 of the convention states:
“Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which the penalty is provided by law”.
Article 15 states:
“In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law”.
Article 57 states:
“Any State may, when signing this Convention or when depositing its instrument of ratification, make a reservation in respect of any particular provision of the Convention to the extent that any law then in force in its territory is not in conformity with the provision”.
However, the UK is also a signatory to Protocol 13 to the convention, Article 1 of which states:
“The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed”.
Article 2 of the protocol states:
“No derogation from the provisions of this Protocol shall be made under Article 15 of the Convention”.
Article 3 states:
“No reservation may be made under Article 57 of the Convention in respect of the provisions of this Protocol”.
In other words, there should be no death penalty in any circumstances whatever. That is our international legal obligation.
The UK has been clear—until this Conservative Government took office—that it will campaign to remove the death penalty wherever it exists in the world and will never facilitate the execution of anyone in any foreign state. The difficulty with the type of agreement covered by this Bill is that data provided by the UK to an American law enforcement agency, for example, could result in someone in the US being sentenced to death, contrary until recently to both the UK’s international obligations and its declared intention to do all it can to eradicate the death penalty wherever it exists in the world.
I say “until recently” because, in a High Court case in October last year, it was revealed in correspondence from the Home Secretary to the then Foreign Secretary that, in the case of two ISIS terrorists, evidence was going to be supplied to the US without a death penalty assurance. His letter said that,
“significant attempts having been made to seek full assurance, it is now right to accede to the MLA”— mutual legal assistance—
“request without an assurance”.
The then Foreign Secretary replied that in this,
“unique and unprecedented case … it is in the UK national security interests to accede to an MLA request for a criminal prosecution without death penalty assurances”— a unique and unprecedented case to provide evidence to the US that may lead to executions. The Bill as drafted allows the Government to enter into a data exchange agreement where potentially there would be no death penalty assurance in any case. The Government’s new clause requires the Secretary of State only to seek such assurances; it does not bar the Secretary of State from entering into the agreement without death penalty assurances.
The Government will say that not entering into an agreement with the US could potentially allow terrorists and paedophiles to be a threat for longer. We say that we will not stand in the way of such an agreement provided that it does not result in UK data resulting in people being sent to the electric chair. The first thing to say about what the Minister said in her opening remarks is that these agreements are about securing legal authority to enable data to be provided that can be used in evidence in criminal proceedings. It is about giving legal cover for the handing over of data. It should not prevent the arrest and detention of dangerous suspects while that formal legal authority is obtained, and it can still be obtained through existing MLA arrangements, as in the case of the ISIS suspects. It may delay the trial, but it should not prevent the arrest and detention. Even if there were circumstances that I cannot personally envisage where the arrest and detention of a dangerous criminal were delayed, if the US says it will not sign an agreement containing death penalty assurances then it is the US that is prepared to allow the threats from terrorists and paedophiles to go on for longer by having to rely on the current MLA system.
I shall summarise our position using someone else’s words:
“Our amendment would prevent authorities in this country sharing data with overseas agencies where there is a risk of the imposition of the death penalty. More than 50 years ago parliament as a whole passed a law which ‘opposes the death penalty in all circumstances’. That is the law of the land. It means we do not co-operate with any government if the consequence could be capital punishment. Parliament has for a long time believed that the death penalty is so abhorrent, and the risks of a miscarriage of justice so awful, that we outlaw it. Our ban applies to all countries where the death penalty is still on the statute books. But government Ministers are desperate to cosy up to Donald Trump’s administration in the US, where the death penalty is still imposed. Our amendment simply blocks data sharing co-operation with all countries if the death penalty is a risk”.
I have just quoted, word for word, the shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott from her column in the Daily Mirror on
The opposition parties have worked together on this issue from the beginning, but this should not be a party-political issue; it is a question of fundamental human rights. Again, the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but essentially this Government are willing to sacrifice people to the electric chair in America if that is what it takes to secure the kind of agreement that the Bill covers. Asking us not to tie the hands of those negotiating the deal really means, “Do not ask them to insist on death penalty assurances”.
The question is: do we stand by Article 2 and Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and do we oppose the death penalty in other countries, or do we not? If we are prepared to see people being executed on the back of evidence provided by the UK, then noble Lords should support the government amendment rather than Amendment 13A. This is a question of principle, a question of conscience and a question of human rights, and we should support it on all sides of this House.
My Lords, I have been struggling to understand what the Government’s position might be. I think I picked up the Minister saying that the amendment concerns prosecutions in the United Kingdom only. With great respect, if that is right, I do not understand how that fits in with the language of the statute and the amendment itself. I will explain where I am coming from.
Section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016—the section being amended—is headed “Interception in accordance with overseas requests”. We are contemplating a situation where a request comes from another country, presumably for prosecution in that country, on the basis of information that we have obtained via intercepts. The whole point of Section 52, without the amendments, is to authorise the making of interceptions in accordance with that request.
My understanding is that subsections (6) and (7) of Clause 1 deal with a precaution against the kind of point that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was talking about—our international obligations. I agree almost precisely with the background which the noble Lord traced for us, set against Article 1 of Protocol 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which provides that sentencing to death is a violation of the right to life under Article 2 of the convention. If one applies Article 1 of Protocol 13, it would seem to be a breach of our convention obligations to provide information to a foreign country that would lead to somebody being sentenced to death. I do not know whether that has ever been tested in a court, because I do not think the issue has been brought before a court—I am not aware of that happening. However, there seems to be a strong prima facie case that if the Secretary of State was proposing to do that, he could be stopped on the grounds that it would be in breach of this country’s international obligations.
I am puzzled about whether the Minister is right that the purpose of this section is to enable us to prosecute in our own country, where we have no death penalty. The idea of an international agreement is, I think, that it should be reciprocal; it would be a bilateral agreement with a particular country—let us assume it is the United States—and there would be obligations on both sides. We would seek the benefit of the agreement to obtain information for us to prosecute cases of child abuse, which the Minister referred to; one would very much want to secure an agreement which would enable that information to come to us. However, in the context of Section 52, the thrust seems to be the authorisation of intercept information by us to provide for prosecution abroad. I am having difficulty seeing how that fits in with what the Minister said earlier.
Let us assume that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is right that this is really dealing with provision of information to go abroad. Then one comes right up against Article 1 of Protocol 13. What mechanism does one install to prevent a breach of the article? I think I am right that the mechanism of an assurance is well established in international law. In fact, in 2006 the United Nations produced a very helpful note, Diplomatic Assurances and International Refugee Protection, which traced the mechanisms that had been established to protect people who were being sent abroad by a country in answer to a request. The message in the United Nations paper is that one can protect oneself or one’s country against a breach of the international obligation by obtaining an assurance. However, the emphasis is on obtaining the assurance, because an assurance is given by the requesting country to the country from which the information to go abroad is being requested.
There was sometimes some doubt about whether that mechanism was reliable in a case where the threat abroad was of torture, because some countries are really not capable of preventing torture being perpetrated by all manner of officials, so an undertaking in that sort of situation is not really reliable. The paper goes on to say that if one is dealing with the kind of problem that we are contemplating—the risk of a death penalty being imposed—that is easily verifiable and an assurance could be relied upon as a secure protection against a breach of the international obligation.
Of course, all this assumes that the assurance is actually given in answer to the request. I suppose that the question comes down to whether it is necessary to put “received” into the amendment or whether one can simply assume that it is implied. I am inclined to think that it is implied because that is the background against which the whole amendment was drafted. There is no point in simply seeking an assurance because that in itself is not enough to protect this country against a breach of the international obligation.
There is a possible further point to be considered: the various stages at which this process is pursued. In the first place there is a negotiation stage, which I think the Minister was talking about, which involves making the agreement to get it in place. Secondly, there is the CRaG process, whereby if the negotiation is successful, the treaty has to be approved. Thirdly, there is the process of giving effect to whatever requests come in under the treaty once it is established. As I understand the Minister’s position, we are at stage one—the negotiation—and the Government are seeking authority to enter these negotiations without being too restricted at that stage. I am inclined to give some leeway to the Government’s wish, so long as it is understood that when we come to the point of actually releasing information the assurance would have been given in response to the request.
I hope that I have not made things too complicated. One needs to understand, first, whether we are talking about the provision of information to go abroad, which I think is the correct reading of the statute. Secondly, there is the question of which stage these amendments are contemplating. If it is the initial stage of negotiation, so that we can get the benefit of the other side of the agreement—provision of information to us—the amendment may be unnecessary or premature. The background, however, goes back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick: ultimately, we have to be extremely careful that we do not run ourselves into a situation where we are in breach of Article 1 of Protocol 13 of the convention.
My Lords, I am far less clear than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, that it would be a breach of our obligations under the European Convention for us to supply information abroad in circumstances where it may be used in a prosecution that may lead to a death penalty. As he well knows, all the cases concern extradition. They concern circumstances in which this country is removing a person to face possible trial abroad where that person may be executed. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly made it clear that that is a breach of our obligations. I am far less clear on whether the same would apply where all we do is provide information, which is under the control of the authorities in this jurisdiction, to assist a prosecution abroad.
A particular reason why I am far less clear is that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned the one example where there was a challenge to the decision of the Secretary of State to do precisely this: to provide information abroad to the United States in circumstances where it was said, accurately, “These people may face prosecution which may lead to the death penalty”. My recollection, which I would be grateful if the noble Lord or the Minister could confirm, is that the Home Secretary’s decision was the subject of a legal challenge and—again, please confirm whether I am right or wrong—the High Court rejected that challenge. It held that it was lawful for the Home Secretary to act in that way.
I am very grateful. I do not have immediate access to that judgment, but perhaps the Minister can provide the House with some assistance in relation to it. Can the Minister also confirm what I understood her to say: no information will be provided abroad under the Bill, unless and until there is an agreement with the relevant state—here the United States? My understanding—again, I think the noble Baroness said this, but I should like he to confirm—is that before any such agreement has practical effect, it must be put before this House and the other place for approval. Ratification cannot take place unless and until, under CRaG 2010, Parliament has had that opportunity. It seems that is the time at which both Houses of Parliament can consider whether they wish to approve such an agreement, if it does not contain the sort of assurance that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is seeking.
I can respond to two of the noble Lord’s points. First, I am happy to agree with him about the stages in which we are moving, which was my earlier point: we are at the preliminary stage of negotiation, rather than the CRaG stage. As for whether the provision of information over which we have control is a breach, that is still open to question. That is why I said that I realised it had not been tested. I was certainly thinking about the very point that the noble Lord makes. It is quite different if you have an individual—that is absolutely plain—but if you are gathering information nevertheless, it runs up to the big question of whether that is a breach. It is an uncertain point, so we have to be very careful.
I am entirely in agreement with the noble and learned Lord. All I was saying was that I would not wish to assert to the House that it would be a breach of our international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to provide information to another state in circumstances where we are not extraditing a person to that state. The courts and the European court may take a different view. I have no doubt that in the legal proceedings arising from the case referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, one of the grounds of challenge would have been that this is a breach of the human rights of the individual concerned, who, as a consequence of our providing the information, may face a death penalty. That is why I should like the Minister to give any further assistance to the House on what the court said.
My Lords, I make clear at the start that we support the Bill, as noble Lords throughout the House have. My party and I oppose the death penalty. I fully accept that the Government and the noble Baroness have moved forward, and in that sense the new clause before us today is welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has set out the treaties, conventions and obligations that we have signed, which underpin the intention and support of the British Government to oppose the death penalty.
This House has many important functions, and asking the Government to think again is one of them. It is right to do so again here: we need to look at this issue once more. I have expressed concern many times from this Dispatch Box about this risk; particularly around Brexit, whatever else we do, we must never allow a situation where we are helping criminals or terrorists. I ask the House to think again. It is not about helping criminals or terrorists; it is about ensuring that we support the things that we, as a country, believe are right. It was the Labour MP Sydney Silverman whose Private Member’s Bill in 1965 abolished the death penalty for murder. For treason and other offences, it was not until 1998 that it was finally abolished completely.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, set out some serious legal matters about where we are going with this. In the context of those, and the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, it is right for this House to ask the Government to think again. I entirely accept that when the Bill is passed nothing will happen until the treaty is signed, but it is not wrong, at this stage, to ask the Commons to look at it once more. I also understand that the amendment is about information going to other countries.
In conclusion, this is an important amendment. If the noble Lord divides the House, we will support him.
My Lords, the central point here is whether or not we are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. My view is that we are not. Article 1 of the 13th protocol does not prevent member states providing assistance to a third country, where that assistance contributes to the use of the death penalty by that country. Even if the amendment related to the use of the designation power, under Section 52 of the 2016 Act—which would be the gateway for the flow of information from the UK—it would still not prevent designation in the absence of assurances about the use of our material. That is not to say that we will be sharing information for the pursuit of the death penalty. Noble Lords have heard, on many occasions, that I am not going to pre-empt our negotiations with the US, but this shows that not only is the amendment unnecessary but it may not do what its sponsors hope.
The case of the foreign fighter, which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about, shows that we are compatible with the ECHR, for the reasons outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said that any agreement would have to be put before Parliament. That is absolutely the case. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, talked about this being the negotiation stage. I would put it further back than that: it is the pre-negotiation stage. It is a framework Bill, on the basis of which treaties would be negotiated and made.
My Lords, will the Minister confirm that, when a treaty is put to Parliament, if the House of Commons approves it, then it does not matter what the opinion of this House is; the treaty is ratified even if this House votes against it? I obviously agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, that whether this is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights has yet to be tested in court—certainly not at the European level. Will the Minister explain why the then Foreign Secretary had to say that seeking death-penalty assurances in the ISIS case was unique and exceptional, if the Government were not concerned about people executed on the back of evidence provided by the United Kingdom?
My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. The treaty would be put to the Commons; the Lords could certainly have a view but that might not be taken into account by the Commons. That is nothing unusual. The Commons quite often exerts its supremacy.
Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 2 to 12.
2: Clause 4, page 5, line 25, at end insert—“(5A) The judge must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that all or part of the electronic data specified or described in the application for the order is likely to be relevant evidence in respect of the offence mentioned in subsection (3)(a). This requirement does not apply where the order is sought for the purposes of a terrorist investigation.”
3: Clause 4, page 6, line 15, at end insert—“(9A) For the purpose of subsection (5A), “relevant evidence”, in relation to an offence, means anything that would be admissible in evidence in proceedings in respect of the offence.”
4: Clause 6, page 7, line 19, at end insert—“(ba) does not require the person to do anything that (taking into account the existence of the overseas production order) would result in the person contravening the data protection legislation, and”
5: Clause 6, page 7, line 20, after “effect” insert “, subject to paragraph (ba),”
6: Clause 10, page 9, line 28, at end insert—“(1A) Subsection (1) does not authorise the doing of anything that contravenes the data protection legislation.”
7: Clause 12, page 10, line 16, leave out subsection (1) and insert—“(1) This section applies to an application for an overseas production order if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the electronic data specified or described in the application consists of or includes journalistic data.”
8: Clause 12, page 10, line 23, at end insert—“(2A) Where this section applies, notice of the application must be served on— (a) the person against whom the overseas production order is sought, and(b) if different, the person by whom, or on whose behalf, the journalistic data is stored.(2B) But a judge may direct that notice of an application need not be served on a person falling within subsection (2A)(b) if the judge is satisfied that—(a) serving notice on the person would prejudice the investigation of an indictable offence or a terrorist investigation, or(b) it is not reasonably practicable to establish the person’s identity or to make contact with the person so as to enable service to be effected.”
9: Clause 12, page 10, line 27, leave out subsection (4)
10: Clause 12, page 10, line 39, at end insert—“(6) In determining for the purposes of subsection (5) whether or not a purpose is a criminal purpose, crime is to be taken to mean conduct which—(a) constitutes one or more criminal offences under the law of a part of the United Kingdom, or(b) is, or corresponds to, conduct which, if it all took place in a particular part of the United Kingdom, would constitute one or more criminal offences under the law of that part of the United Kingdom.”
11: Clause 12, page 10, line 39, at end insert—“(7) Subsections (8) and (9) of section 4 apply for the purposes of subsection (2B) of this section as they apply for the purposes of subsection (3)(a) of that section.(8) In this section, “terrorist investigation” has the same meaning as in the Terrorism Act 2000 (see section 32 of that Act).”
12: Clause 15, page 13, line 12, leave out “section 4(3)(a)” and insert “sections 4(3)(a) and 12(2B)(a)”
Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 13.
13: After Clause 15, insert the following new Clause— “Designation of international agreements for purposes of section 52 of Investigatory Powers Act 2016(1) Section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (interception of communications in accordance with overseas requests) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (3), at the end insert “(see further subsections (6) and (7))”. (3) After subsection (5) insert—“(6) Subsection (7) applies where an international agreement provides for requests for the interception of a communication 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. Such an offence is referred to in subsection (7) as a “death penalty offence”.(7) Where this subsection applies, the Secretary of State may not designate the agreement as a relevant international agreement unless the Secretary of State has sought, in respect of each country or territory referred to in subsection (6), a written assurance, or written assurances, relating to the non-use of information obtained by virtue of the agreement in connection with proceedings for a death penalty offence in the country or territory.””
Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 14 and 15.
14: Clause 17, page 14, line 20, at end insert—““the data protection legislation” has the same meaning as in the Data Protection Act 2018 (see section 3 of that Act);”
15: In the Title, line 1, at end insert “and about the designation of international agreements for the purposes of section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016”