Overview of Act

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 12 April 2016.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 9:45, 12 April 2016

I will make some progress, if I may. I would like to echo the comments of the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras about the proper role of the Opposition, which I spoke about on Second Reading. As he said, it is the proper role of the Opposition to robustly challenge the legislation, to push back on it and to probe, hopefully with a view to improving it. That is why my party did not vote the legislation down on Second Reading. We are honestly engaged here in a process of improvement, but if the Government are not prepared to listen to us then we may well vote against the legislation at a later stage.

I echo what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about the failure to amend the draft Bill to deal with the ISC concerns regarding the lack of overarching principles on privacy. I also strongly echo what he said about a request for the Minister to clarify how the Committee is to approach the codes of practice which, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, this Committee does not have the power to amend, and which contain some enormously important detail. Jo Cavan, the head of the Interception Commissioner’s Office, also drew attention to that in her evidence.

On Second Reading on the Floor of the House, I promised to table radical amendments. The SNP has tabled radical amendments to the part of the Bill we will look at today. We want to ensure that surveillance is targeted, that it is based on reasonable suspicion, and that it is permitted only after a warrant has been issued by a judge rather than by a politician. We want to expand the category of information which will be accessible only by warrant, and to ensure that warrants may not be provided without proper justification. We also want to remove the widely drafted provisions of the Bill that would allow modification of warrants and urgent warrants without any judicial oversight. Those provisions, if they remain in the Bill, will drive a coach and horses through the so-called double-lock protection in the legislation.

We have also laid amendments to ensure a proper and consistent approach to the safeguards afforded to members of the public who correspond with lawyers, parliamentarians and journalists. We want to put a public interest defence into the offence of disclosure of the existence of a warrant. Those are the sort of radical, principled amendments that we believe are required to render parts 1 and 2 of the Bill compliant with international human rights law, bring the Bill into line with practice in other western democracies and meet the concerns of the UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy. We recognise that the security services and the police require adequate powers to fight terrorism and serious crime, but the powers must be shown to be necessary, proportionate and in accordance with law. If the House is not about the rule of law, it is about nothing.