Requirements which must be met by warrants

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 21 April 2016.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 12:45, 21 April 2016

I beg to move amendment 275, in clause 101, page 79, line 19, leave out “describe” and insert “specify”.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 452, in clause 101, page 79, line 21, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

“(b) precisely and explicitly the method and extent of the proposed intrusion and the measures taken to minimise access to irrelevant and immaterial information”.

Amendment 453, in clause 101, page 79, line 22, at end insert—

“(c) the basis for the suspicion that the target is connected to a serious crime or a specific threat to national security;

(d) in a declaration with supporting evidence—

(i) the high probability that evidence of the serious crime or specific threat to national security will be obtained by the operation authorised, and

(ii) how all less intrusive methods of obtaining the information sought have been exhausted or would be futile, and

(e) in a separate “Cyber-Security Impact Assessment” all potential risks and damage to the security of the device targeted and communications systems more generally and how those risks and/or damage will be eliminated or corrected.”.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

Amendment 275 is a simple amendment to subsection (4), which sets out the matters that a targeted equipment interference warrant must “describe”. The amendment would change that word and require more specificity.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am not sure whether that will make any practical difference, but I am happy to consider the hon. and learned Lady’s amendment.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

I am very grateful to the Solicitor General. I leave the other two amendments to the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras.

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

Amendments 452 and 453 speak for themselves. Concern has already been expressed about the general nature of the requirements that must be met by warrants; this is a further example under the head of equipment interference warrants. Clause 101(3) sets out in some detail what is required, and the amendments would tighten that up by requiring more precision and more matters to be explicitly stated. They are a version of other amendments tabled to corresponding provisions for other warrants.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

To deal with the thrust of the hon. and learned Gentleman’s argument, we would say that the amendments are unnecessary because the draft statutory code of practice already requires an application for a targeted warrant to set out what the conduct is and how collateral intrusion is being managed, which is the really important public interest here. That should rightly be in the warrant application itself, and the detailed requirements should be in the statutory code; that was recommendation 5 in the report by David Anderson QC, so we are faithfully following his recommendation.

On the code of practice, the hon. and learned Gentleman will find the requirements under the heading “Necessity and proportionality”, particularly in paragraphs 3.26, 3.27 and 4.10, which deals with collateral intrusion.

I note that amendment 453 is part of this group, so I will speak briefly to that. We have concerns that I have expressed before in other contexts about the problem of the police being asked to exhaust alternative methods even where there is unlikely to be any effect. That is not only wasteful and costly, but could unintentionally lead to further undue intrusion into people’s privacy. For those reasons, I have grave concerns about that amendment.

Photo of Byron Davies Byron Davies Conservative, Gower

Will the Solicitor General accept our plea—I speak as someone who has operated this in a practical situation—that what is being asked in this amendment is completely impossible?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who speaks with many years of operational experience in the Metropolitan police. When he was a senior officer in that force, he had responsibility for investigations and took his responsibilities extremely seriously. I am grateful to him for his contribution. We have to balance any concerns about a jump to these powers with real-world responsibilities. I want clarity, but also an element of flexibility for those who investigate crime, so that they can get on with the job in an effective way and catch criminals. That is what we all want. I am worried that the amendment, well intentioned though it is, would complicate the process. For those reasons, I urge the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras not to press the amendment to a vote.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 101 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 102