Review by the Secretary of State

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 3rd May 2016.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 6:00 pm, 3rd May 2016

I beg to move amendment 851, in clause 220, page 170, line 31, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

‘(6) The Board must consider the technical requirements and the consequences, for the person who has made the reference and for others likely to be affected, of the notice so far as referred.”

This amendment would require the Technical Advisory Board to look at more than just an implementation of cost measure and instead examine the full costs of the notice.

Our discussions have already strayed on to clause 220. This short amendment is reasonably clear. Subsection (6) makes it clear that the technical advisory board, referred to in subsection (5)(a),

“must consider the technical requirements and the financial consequences, for the person who has made the reference, of the notice so far as referred.”

That is where the person served with the notice has referred the notice back to the Secretary of State, which then triggers a consultation exercise. The board must be consulted; subsection (6) sets out what the board must consider. The amendment is fairly self-explanatory; it would serve the limited purpose of requiring the technical advisory board to look at more than just the implementation of cost measure, and instead examine the full costs of the notice.

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

As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, the amendment would broaden the scope of the technical advisory board by requiring it to consider other matters as part of any review of the obligations imposed by the Secretary of State in a notice. Under the amendment, the board would be required to consider the consequences for others likely to be affected by the obligations imposed by a notice. That is understandable—I can see why the hon. and learned Gentleman tabled the amendment—but unnecessary.

The technical advisory board is essentially a committee of experts. It has a very specific role to play in advising the Secretary of State on cost and technical matters. That role is reflected in its membership: a group of experts drawn from communications service providers and from those entitled to apply for warrants and authorisations under the Bill. Such people are well placed to consider the technical requirements and the financial consequences. If they consider it appropriate, they may look beyond cost and technical feasibility, but those matters, rightly, are the board’s central purpose and are at the core of its work. The board is also required to consider evidence or representations made by communications service providers and must report its conclusions to them and to the Secretary of State.

In my view, responsibility for considering the broader effects of the notice on the communications service provider to whom it has been given should sit with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. While it is absolutely right that the board considers both the technical aspects and the cost, the broader matters that the hon. and learned Gentleman is rightly concerned about should fall within the scope of the commissioner, as they do in the Bill. As part of any review of the obligations set out in the notice, the commissioner must report on the proportionality of those obligations; that will include an assessment of the consequences of the notice, both on the persons seeking the review and on anyone else affected—which is essentially the argument the hon. and learned Gentleman made for the amendment.

Furthermore, the clause requires the commissioner to seek out the views of the person who has received the notice, who will have the opportunity to raise any concerns about the effect of the notice with the commissioner for consideration; the commissioner must report his or her conclusions to that person and to the Secretary of State. Essentially, combining the role and responsibilities of the board with the role and responsibilities of the commissioner means that each of them will provide a function central to the hon. and learned Gentleman’s concerns, so the amendment is unnecessary. I should add that the commissioner is properly and well placed to consider the proportionality of the matter as a whole, after careful assessment. The amendment’s wording would introduce duplication and, frankly, a degree of ambiguity about the respective roles of the board and the commissioner and about what each of them is considering. With that reassurance, I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

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

The Minister says that the Bill places no inhibition on the wider technical consequences looked at by the board, and that other consequences rightly come under the remit of the commissioner. I am grateful for that clarification; I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 852, in clause 220, page 171, leave out lines 1 and 2 and insert—

“(9) The Secretary of State may, after considering the conclusions of the Board and the Commissioner, and with approval of a Judicial Commissioner—”.—

This amendment would require judicial authorisation for these clauses and bring them in line with other parts of the bill.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 7, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 859, in clause 220, page 171, line 4, at end insert—

“(9A) Any variation made under subsection (9) must be approved by a Judicial Commissioner.”—

This amendment would require judicial authorisation for the variation and revocation of national security and technical capability notices. This would also extend the “double lock” standard that is set in other parts of the Bill.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 7, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clauses 220 and 221 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 222