Payments towards certain compliance costs

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 3 May 2016.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 4:30, 3 May 2016

I beg to move amendment 844, in clause 213, page 165, line 26, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

“(6) The appropriate contribution shall represent the full amount of the relevant costs, subject to any audit process under subsection (4)”.

This amendment would ensure that the Government meets 100% of the compliance costs and that there is full cost recovery for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) implementing the legislation.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. The amendment speaks for itself, I think. The clause deals with payments towards certain compliance costs and subsection (1) deals with appropriate contributions. As the Committee will know, there has been real concern about what the cost of compliance will be for those called upon to comply and what contribution they will receive toward their relevant costs. The clause allows for “an appropriate contribution”. The amendment would ensure that the Government met 100% of the compliance costs and there was full cost recovery for communication service providers implementing the legislation..

There is concern among providers about what they will be expected to do by way of compliance and what the cost will be. It may be convenient for the Minister to deal with the estimated costs, because £170 million was mentioned at one stage but I am not sure that that is a final figure as far as the Government are concerned.

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

The amendment is designed to ensure that the Government’s commitment to cost recovery for providers is explicitly provided for in the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman is right to raise this issue again, reflecting what we heard during the witness session when we debated the issue in part. In his evidence, Mark Hughes said he was aware that

“Under the proposals in the Bill—the Home Secretary has made reference to it—we would recover our costs from the Home Office, as we have done under existing legislation.”

He went on to say that

“the proposed regime is more sensible as long as it is clear that we will recover 100% of our costs.”––[Official Report, Investigatory Powers Public Bill Committee, 24 March 2016; c. 45-46, Q126.]

And I am clear, quoting the Home Secretary, that

“100% of the compliance costs will be met by the Government.”—[Official Report, 15 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 821.]

The hon. and learned Gentleman asks what that means in practice. The £174 million he mentioned is not a cap, but an estimate. It is dealt with in the impact assessment, and there is no cap in the impact assessment. We will meet costs such as they arise. We are determined to make sure that the Bill works and is not inhibited by any doubts about the cost of its implementation. Clearly, future Governments will inherit this legislation. It is worth emphasising that the current policy has not changed since the passage of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, so it has survived three Governments of different colours or combinations of colours—we used to be more rainbow-like than we are now, which is actually quite welcome, by the way. We are clear that 100% means what it says.

Above and beyond that—the hon. and leaned Gentleman did not ask for this, but I will add it—we need to be clear that the providers are consulted on any changes to the cost model and that they will be able to seek review of any variation to the notice that affects the level of their contribution. To sum up: we have an estimate, not a cap; a determination that 100% means 100%; a willingness to have a proper input into this; and an assurance—which I think is what the hon. and leaned Gentleman really seeks—that the Government will cover the costs so that the Bill does what it should.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Labour, City of Chester

What a great reassurance it is to see you in the Chair, Ms Dorries. I will be very brief. I welcome the contributions of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras and the Minister for Security. As Committee members know, I have been banging on about this issue—

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Labour, City of Chester

—rather tediously. The Minister says, “Yes,” but I have to point out that he said it before I said “rather tediously”. I welcome the Minister’s assurance as I have been concerned about communications service provider security since Second Reading. Will the Government consider providing security advice and testing for the smaller communications service providers, in addition to the financial contribution that they are making?

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

I will make only two points in reply to the hon. Gentleman. First, when he describes it as “banging on”, he understates his contribution. I see it more as informed, eloquent and sensible inquiry. Secondly, he is absolutely right that the small providers need to be fully involved at all stages. It may be fair to say that the bigger providers have the mechanisms to implement the requirements for data retention more straightforwardly, so we need to ensure that that does not mean that small providers are in any way disadvantaged. I acknowledge that point, and he is right to make it elegantly. He should never apologise—at least to me—for banging on about anything.

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

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out that assurance for the record. That will reassure those who are concerned about this issue. In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 213 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 214 and 215 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 216