Clause 18 - Review of notices by the Secretary of State

Part of Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 7 March 2024.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 3:15, 7 March 2024

The notice review mechanism is an important safeguard. If operators are dissatisfied with a notice that they are given, or with any part of it, they have a statutory right to refer it to the Secretary of State for a review. Clause 18 is essential to ensure that operators do not make any technical changes during the review period that would have a negative impact on existing lawful access capabilities.

Operators will not be required to make changes to specifically comply with the notice. However, they will be required to maintain the status quo. If there was lawful access at the point at which a notice was given, access to data must be maintained by the operator while the notice is being comprehensively reviewed. This will ensure that law enforcement and intelligence agencies continue to have access to vital data during that period in order to keep people safe.

To be clear, companies can continue to make technical changes or roll out new services during the review period, so long as lawful access remains unaffected. The status quo will apply only to services or systems specified within the notice; anything outside the scope of the notice will be unaffected. If, at the conclusion of a review, the Secretary of State confirms the effect or varies the notice, maintaining the status quo will be vital to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence communities do not lose access to data during the review period that they would otherwise have been able lawfully to obtain. In the Lords, the Government amended the Bill to introduce a timeline for the review of a notice.