Modification of warrants issued by the Secretary of State or Scottish Ministers

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:00 pm on 21st April 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 1:00 pm, 21st April 2016

I beg to move amendment 638, in clause 104, page 83, line 17, at end insert—

“(8A) Section 97 (approval of warrants by Judicial Commissioners) applies in relation to a decision to make a modification of a warrant issued under section 96 as it applies in relation to a decision to issue such a warrant, but as if—

(a) the references in subsection (1)(a) and (b) of that section to the warrant were references to the warrant as modified, and

(b) any reference to the person who decided to issue the warrant were a reference to the person who decided to make the modification.”

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 639, in clause 104, page 83, line 18, leave out “Sections 94” and insert

“Section [NC11 Confidential and privileged material]”.

Amendment 502, in clause 104, page 83, line 22, at end insert—

“( ) Where section 100 (items subject to legal privilege) applies in relation to a decision to make a modification of a warrant as mentioned in subsection (2)(a), (c) or (d), other than a decision to which subsection (7) applies, section 97 (approval of warrants by Judicial Commissioners) applies to the decision as it applies in relation to a decision to issue such a warrant (and accordingly any reference in that section to the person who decided to issue the warrant is to be read as a reference to the person who decided to renew it).”

Amendment 640, in clause 104, page 83, line 23, leave out “Section 100” and insert

“Section [NC2 Items subject to legal privilege]”.

Amendment 641, in clause 104, page 83, line 35, at end insert—

“(14) Any modification which constitutes the adding or varying any matter must be approved by a Judicial Commissioner in accordance with section 97.”

Amendment 642, in clause 105, page 84, line 4, leave out from “period” to “which” in line 5 and insert “48 hours after”.

Amendment 643, in clause 105, page 84, line 4, leave out from “period” to “which” in line 5 and insert “24 hours after”.

Amendment 644, in clause 105, page 84, line 26, at end insert—

“(8A) Section 97 (approval of warrants by Judicial Commissioners) applies in relation to a decision to make a modification of a warrant issued under section 96 as it applies in relation to a decision to issue such a warrant, but as if—

(a) the references in subsection (1)(a) and (b) of that section to the warrant were references to the warrant as modified, and

(b) any reference to the person who decided to issue the warrant were a reference to the person who decided to make the modification.”

Amendment 503, in clause 105, page 84, line 33, at end insert—

“( ) Where, by virtue of section 104(10), section 100 (items subject to legal privilege) applies in relation to the making of a modification of a warrant pursuant to section 104(7), this section applies as if each reference in subsections (2) and (5) to (8) to a designated senior official were a reference to a Judicial Commissioner.”

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

The amendment relates to modification provisions similar to those in clause 30, which we discussed at some length last week. I will not go over the territory again, but all the arguments I made in relation to modifications under clause 30 apply equally to modifications under clause 105 and I will not take time by going through all the similar points. It is worth observing, however, that clause 104(2) lists in paragraph (a) to (f),

‘“The only modifications which may be made under this section”,

which cover practically all the matters that appear on the requirements of warrants, so it is an interesting use of the word “only”.

There is a substantive issue on which I would like an answer. When we were debating clause 30, I made the point that the test for a modification set out in clause 30(9) is a test of necessity and proportionality that only applies to major modifications, not minor ones. We have dealt with that and I will not go over it again, but it seems to me that the test for a major modification is, quite sensibly, whether it is necessary and whether the conduct authorised by it is proportionate. I was expecting to see in clause 104(4) a version of clause 30(9) and I did not. Perhaps the Solicitor General will explain why.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

In this context, all modifications are considered as major; that is the difference. I hope that helps.

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

Well, no. [Laughter.] I do not mean that disrespectfully, but the test in clause 30(9), which is in relation to major modifications, is whether the modification is necessary and whether it is proportionate. That is a sensible test. I accept that the test in clause 104(4) is in relation to all modifications, but one would expect to see the words “that the modification is necessary”, not

“that the warrant as modified continues to be necessary”.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

In the context of EI, we are not making the distinction between major and minor, so the effect is that all modifications will be major. If there is a discrepancy, I am happy to look at the language again to make it absolutely clear. I hope that assists the hon. and learned Gentleman.

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

I am grateful for that indication. Otherwise, in relation to modifications, my points are essentially the same as I made on clause 30. I know the Solicitor General has agreed to look at and deal with at least some of the points I made last time; I ask him to take this modifications clause under the same umbrella when he looks at the modification provisions.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I will try to deal with this in short order. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for the way in which he advanced his argument. It is in that spirit that I adopt the arguments I made previously. I simply make the point that under this clause we are dealing with safeguards that in my view do not undermine the important double lock standard.

I have some concerns about the amendments that relate to the judicial commissioner having to approve the decision to make modifications to EI warrants. The decision will already have been subject to the safeguard, so to require the judicial commissioner to authorise tactical operation day by day—indeed, minute by minute—is not necessary; in fact, it could be operationally damaging. The Government believe that the code makes clear, on the basis of the arguments we had before, the way in which the scope of the warrant needs to be addressed. Reading across, I would say that the safeguards in the code are helpful and clear.

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

One concern is that under subsections (9) and (10) as they stand there is no requirement for modification that touches on MPs or legal privilege to go to a judicial commissioner, which is at variance with the point that the Solicitor General just made.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

The hon. and learned Gentleman anticipates the point that I was about to make. I am happy to consider whether subsections (9) and (10) need to be strengthened to put it beyond doubt that the double lock will apply in those contexts. I hope that that helps him. I have already made similar points on the thrust of these amendments and there is nothing more that I need to add at this stage other than to respectfully invite him to withdraw his amendment.

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

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 104 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 105 to 108 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.— (Simon Kirby)