Clause 1 - Requirement for authorisation

Part of Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 7 March 2024.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 11:45, 7 March 2024

What can I say? We have got a little further on clause 1 than I anticipated. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings, the right hon. Member for North Durham and other hon. Members who have spoken. Bulk personal dataset authorisation is clearly an important change, as my shadow, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central, has set out; I was interested to hear the suggestion from my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings that this was the shadow Minister’s first step on the path to greatness and to leading the Opposition. I am grateful for the points that hon. Members have made.

The type of data that may fall into part 7A is indeed covered—things like news articles, academic papers, public and official records, and the sort of bulk personal data that many people would have access to routinely. The changing nature of the need to hold data has meant that bulk personal data must be authorised in a different way than was previously thought. Paragraphs 4.14 and 4.20 of the draft code of practice set out further details of the datasets that would fall under the section 22A test, of which the hon. Member for Barnsley Central is no doubt aware.

The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East touched on various aspects of data that might fall within this approach. He will remember that Lord Anderson noted in his independent review that MI5 and MI6 estimate that roughly 20% of their bulk personal data holdings would fall into the category of “low and no”; for GCHQ, the figure would be nearer to 8%. Clearly, these things will evolve. To answer the point made by the right hon. Member for North Durham, the simple fact is that our world is producing incomparably greater volumes of data than ever before. The need to understand, handle and triage that data is therefore essential.

It is worth making the point, right at the beginning, that creating and storing huge volumes of data is to nobody’s advantage, and particularly not that of the intelligence services. The only purpose of having or examining data is to enable investigatory operations to get to targets of interest. It is not about anything other than ensuring that investigations can be properly targeted against those who threaten the interests of the British people, under various existing laws. This measure does not change those laws; it merely assists the targeting.