Members of Parliament etc.

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 21 April 2016.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to consider new clause 11—Confidential and privileged material—

‘(1) Where any conduct under this Part will cover or is likely to cover special procedure material, or relates to individuals handling special procedure material, the application must contain—

(a) a statement that the conduct will cover or is likely to cover special procedure material, or relates to individuals handling special procedure material, and

(b) an assessment of how likely it is that the material is likely to cover special procedure material.

(2) Where any conduct under this Part is likely to cover excluded procedure material, or relates to individuals handling excluded procedure material, the application must contain—

(a) a statement that the conduct will cover or is likely to cover excluded procedure material, or relates to individuals handling excluded procedure material, and

(b) an assessment of how likely it is that the material is likely to cover excluded procedure material.

(3) Where a warrant issued under this Part will cover or is likely to cover special procedure material, or relates to individuals handling special procedure material, the procedure set out at section 5 below must be followed.

(4) Where a warrant issued under this Part will cover or is likely to cover excluded procedure material, or relates to individuals handling excluded procedure material, the procedure set out at section 6 below must be followed.

(5) Further to the requirements set out elsewhere in this part, the Judicial Commissioner may only issue a warrant if—

(a) there are reasonable grounds for believing that an indictable offence has been committed, and

(b) there are reasonable grounds for believing that the material is likely to be of substantial value to the investigation in connection to the offence at (a), and

(c) other proportionate methods of obtaining the material have been tried without success or have not been tried because they were assessed to be bound to fail, and

(d) it is in the public interest having regard to—

(i) the public interest in the protection of privacy and the integrity of personal data, and

(ii) the public interest in the integrity of communications systems and computer networks, and

(iii) the democratic importance of freedom of expression under article 10 ECHR to grant the warrant; or

(iv) the democratic interest in the confidentiality of correspondence with members of a relevant legislature; or

(v) the importance of maintaining public confidence in the confidentiality of material subject to legal professional privilege.

(6) Further to the requirements set out elsewhere in this part, the Judicial Commissioner may only issue a warrant in accordance with provisions made in Schedule 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and Schedule 5 of the Terrorism Act.

(7) An application for a warrant under this Part must not be granted where the information could be sought using a warrant under schedule 1 PACE, unless seeking this information under PACE would defeat the purpose of the investigation.

(8) Special procedure material means—

(a) special material as defined in section 14 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984;

(b) correspondence sent by or intended for a member of the relevant legislature.

(9) Excluded material procedure has the same meaning as in section 11 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

(10) A warrant under this Part may not authorise any conduct undertaken for the purpose of accessing any material relating to matters subject to legal privilege.

(11) For the purposes of subsection (10), “legal privilege” means—

(a) communications between a professional legal adviser and their client or any person representing their client made in connection with the giving of legal advice to the client;

(b) communications between a professional legal adviser and their client or any person representing their client and any other person with or in contemplation of legal proceedings or for the purposes of such proceedings;

(c) items enclosed with or referred to in such communications and made—

(i) in connection with the giving of legal advice, or

(ii) in connection with the contemplation of legal proceedings or for the purposes of such proceedings;

(d) communications made with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose are not subject to legal privilege.

(12) Where the purpose of the warrant is to conduct interference to obtain material that would normally be subject to legal privilege but that falls within subsection (11)(d), the interference and examination conduct authorised must relate—

(a) to the offence as specified under subsection (5)(a), or

(b) to some other indictable offence which is connected with or similar to the offence as specified under subsection (5)(a

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I want to make some observations about this clause. I know that the Minister is looking at the way Members of Parliament are dealt with, but I want to put on the record what I see as the major limitations. The clause is intended to be additional protection when the purpose of a warrant for equipment interference is to obtain a communication sent by or intended for a member of a relevant legislature—so all our communication.

The first concern is that a warrant for equipment interference permits the obtaining of communications equipment data and other information, so the first observation about the clause is that there is no special provision for a warrant to interfere with an MP’s laptop to get secondary data or any other information. That applies to all of us. If a warrant were issued that touched on my equipment, as long as it dealt with equipment data and other information, there would be no need to consult the Prime Minister. I am not sure whether colleagues have appreciated that they could effectively be hacked without additional safeguard.

The second concern is that the added safeguard is when the purpose of the warrant is to obtain a communication. That is because communications are especially protected, but I remind colleagues that secondary data and equipment data may include the details of who has contacted whom, so if someone contacts an MP, the fact that they made that contact and who did so would not be protected. Here, the purpose is just to get a communication.

If the purpose was to achieve some other objective, but it was inevitable that communications between an MP and a constituent would be affected, clause 94 would not apply. I just wonder whether that needs a little further consideration because the protection for MPs’ communications ought to cover deliberate attempts to intercept a communication and also when it is likely to happen, although the purpose is perhaps to intercept the communication of someone else. Those are real issues that I want to put on the record.

The other issue, which may be straightforward, is that clause 94 comes after the two powers we have seen in clauses 91 and 93, which deal with the Secretary of State’s warrants. It makes sense in that context, because it is the Secretary of State who consults the Prime Minister before acting. We will come on to equipment interference warrants that can be authorised by law enforcement officers. Those warrants will not go through the Secretary of State. It may be that clause 94 applies equally to those, and I suspect that it is intended to, because otherwise there would be another type of warrant that could touch on an MP’s unprotected correspondence; I cannot see that that is the intention.

If there is an easy an answer to this, I am happy to sit down and be corrected, but it seems that there are a number of ways in which the clause could be toughened up to achieve its desired objective.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

The hon. and learned Gentleman does a service to the Committee by raising this, because it is a matter of continuing discussion. I think the Committee recognises that there are particular groups of people—lawyers, journalists, Members—who, because of the character, particularity and importance of the work that they do, need to be dealt with in an appropriate and sensitive way. We are talking not only about those people but about the people who are in contact with them. In a journalist’s case it would be sources; in a Member’s case it would be constituents and others. He is right, too, to suggest that we need to ensure that we have a consistent approach across the Bill.

It is true that there is a level of intrusion associated with content that is not shared in other areas. Equipment data are less intrusive than content, and we have already considered why they are necessarily subject to less stringent safeguards. Nevertheless, I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is right that close examination of consistency in the Bill, in terms of how we deal with Members, is important. To that end, I hear what he says and will look at this again.

The conversation on this, in the Committee and more widely, needs to take full account of the proper assumption on the part of those who contact their Members of Parliament that any material they provide will be handled with appropriate confidentiality and sensitivity. The hon. and learned Gentleman makes that point well. It is a point that I have heard and will consider further.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I intervene to make sure that I have been clear enough on the second point, which is when law enforcement officers are issuing targeted equipment interference warrants. On my reading, the safeguard is the judicial commissioner, which is understandable. Clause 94 makes it clear that:

“Before deciding whether to issue the warrant, the Secretary of State must consult the Prime Minister.”

It is the consultation of the Prime Minister that is the added safeguard; I understand that. The problem with a clause 96 warrant is that it is not required to go to the Secretary of State. In other words, it goes from the law enforcement officer to the judicial commissioner, not via the Secretary of State.

One reading of clause 94 may be that it applies only to a clause 91 or clause 93 warrant. If that is right, there is no provision for consulting the Prime Minister if a clause 96 warrant is intended to obtain the communications of a Member of Parliament. There may be a simple explanation, but on the face of it that is a warrant that does not go via the Secretary of State, so clause 94 cannot operate in its intended way.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

One of the most important things about the function of a Committee such as this is that we deal with minutiae, and rightly so. A bonus for this Committee is that, as its members know, I never feel entirely constrained by my notes. To that end, I want to emphasise that the Wilson doctrine of course applies to warrants issued by the Secretary of State. The hon. and learned Gentleman may well come back to me and say that greater clarity about the application of the Wilson doctrine in relation to the Bill is an important part of his argument, so for the record, and to make progress, I repeat that these are matters of ongoing consideration. I want to make absolutely sure that we get consistency, because the important thing about delivering certainty—I have argued throughout our proceedings that the Bill is about clarity and certainty—is that it is underpinned by consistency. In terms of the Wilson doctrine and the role of the Prime Minister in all these matters, I want to be absolutely confident that the measure can be and is applied to all the provisions we are considering.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 94 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 95