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Viscount Colville of Culross: My Lords, not merely are the orders compatible with Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, they are an essential ingredient of it. I do not know anything about Part I. I wish that I had joined the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Bassam of Brighton, in discussing the legislation, because I am now extremely familiar with Part II, to which the orders relate. There is sister legislation in Scotland about which I shall also make some observations.
I must declare my interest. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, there is a job for the Office of Surveillance Commissioners. The office was set up under the Police Act 1997, and they now have an extended power to examine the way in which public bodies use their powers and carry out the functions under Part II of the 2000 Act mentioned by the Minister. It is an important role. Not only is it the sole way in which article 8 of the European Convention can be given effect for the benefit of the citizens of this country but it is a great protection to public authorities. If they use their powers correctly, they will be protected against complaints and other actions by those who feel that they have been dealt with improperly by the public authority and had their privacy infringed.
The procedures must be correct. Part II of the Act is not the most brilliantly transparent legislation that I have seen. That is why I would like to have taken part in the discussions. In the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, there are several ranks. I am one of the most junior, but, as a surveillance commissioner, I go round inspecting public authorities not involved in law enforcement all over the United Kingdom. Since the Act came into force in October 2000, we have lacked the codes of practice that the Minister is now introducing. There were some drafts, but they were not
There has been consultation. We were consulted, and all the things that we wantedexcept, I think, oneare in the codes. They will be immensely useful for the purposes of ensuring that the procedure is properly carried out. It would be less than grateful of me if I did not say to the Home Office that we are pleased to have the codes of practice. We shall use them to good effect from now on. I know that, if the courts intervene, codes of practice can be changed, and we might have amendments in due time. For the moment, the codes will do extremely well, and they will underpin greater understanding of some difficult legislation.
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the orders. When they were debated in another place, my honourable friends voted against them. As a consequence, the Minister, Mr Bob Ainsworth wrote a letter to my honourable friend Mr Nick Hawkins that sought to explain further the matters on which my honourable friend had expressed opposition. The explanation in the letter has made it possible for us to refrain from opposing the order today.
We fully appreciate that the draft codes have been made in exercise of the powers conferred on the Secretary of State by Section 71 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which requires the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice relating to the exercise and performance of powers and duties under RIPA. The assurance given by Mr Ainsworth in his letter that the orders did not add to the public authorities already covered by RIPA and listed in Schedule 1 is important, as is his assurance that the draft codes do not provide those public authorities with any additional powers. We accept that chapter 3in particular, paragraph 3.2of both draft codes of practice sets out further safeguards and places restrictions over and above those contained in RIPA on the public authorities listed in annex A of the codes.
Throughout the scrutiny of the orders, it has not been our intention to deprive public authorities already covered by RIPA for these purposes and the public of clear statutory guidelines on proper procedures. We endorse the safeguards in the code. Our purpose throughout has been to ensure proper scrutiny of the orders, and that has now been achieved.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, with my noble friend Lord McNally, I was deeply enmeshed in the debate on the original Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, is now deeply involved in the implementation of the Act as a commissioner. It is mildly reassuring to hear him say that it is complex legislation. The
One of the issues raised in the debate on the legislation was whether the codes would be duly, comprehensively and properly observed, however well they looked on the page. When we debated the Bill, there was a general lack of confidence that the resources would be made available to allow it to work properly. Now, there is serious doubtin the mind of those on these Benches, at any ratethat there will be sufficient resources of the right sort to implement the codes. The overall legislative framework is difficult for us legislators, even though some of us are practising lawyers, so we must have huge sympathy for the public authorities and officials who will have to find their way round that jigsaw puzzle while doing highly pressurised jobs. They have many demands on their time and are unable to prioritise what they do because of the emergencies with which they must contend.
One of the issues that the Minister must address is the allocation of resources to the commissionersthe surveillance commissioners, the interception of communications commissioners and others. How many people will there be in how many offices? The House also deserves to know what extra budgetary allowance has been made forto take the example of one of the principal public authoritiesthe police? It will require a significant increase in paperwork for them to observe properly the terms of the legislation and the codes. We need only think of reviews or cancellations of surveillance orders, intrusive or not. We need only consider the stages set out in the codes to realise that they represent a significant addition to the already heavy bureaucratic obligations on the police and other public authorities.
I should be grateful to learn whether the Government have thought about this and specific allowance has been made for it. In that way we will be assured that the impressive verbal reassurance on the face of the codes will be implemented, not only now and then but in all cases.
Unless the Minister suspects that I am being a little pedantic about this, when sitting in this gilded Chamber it is terribly easy to forget that the powers in the RIPA 2000 and under these codes are the most heavily intrusive and potentially dangerous to the liberty of the subject that we have in our entire law. For that reason, the need to be reassured on issues of resources, both with regard to those charged with overseeing the proper implementation of the Act and the codes and for those who will have to use the powers day by day is great. They are not marginal matters; rather they go to the heart of the concerns expressed both in this House and in the other place throughout the passage of the legislation about the wisdom of it. That is because, on whichever Bench noble Lords sit in this House, and whether noble Lords have been in government, we know only too well the terrible tendency of modern governments to legislate
Great relief and gratitude is felt on these BenchesI am sure that I speak for other Benches as wellthat the Home Secretary has withdrawn the other statutory instruments that initially he was minded to bring forward under the Act. I thank David Blunkett for the direct and unvarnished way he presented his decision to the public. It was most refreshing to find a Minister acting in that way.
I turn now to record keeping. Those bold enough to try to follow the legislation have expressed deep concerns about intrusion into the privacy of the subject, in particular in terms of what information on citizens is to be stored under this tangled web of legislation. Perhaps I may make a general apology to the Minister for not having given him notice of the various points that I shall raise, but I was brought into the lists, so to speak, only today.
I should like to be reassured on paragraph 2.14, covering the central record of all authorisations. I wish to draw particular attention to the fact that there does not appear to be a central, national record of authorisations or any information on what is done with them. The code refers to a "centrally retrievable record", but that is to be held by "each public authority". Surely it would be easier for those tasked with overseeing the process, with resources that will never be sufficient to cover everything, if there was in place a retrievable national record.
Under what circumstances would a member of the public either identified or referred to in the records have the right to search against the same in order to discover if he or she had been the subject of an authorisation, whether or not the authorisation was still live? I do not expect an answer tonight, but I recall that during the course of our debates this issue was keenly debated. We should not forget that the entire defence mechanism of the tribunal set up under the auspices of the Act will be an empty vessel if those who may have complaints to bring do not know that they have a complaint to make.
One of the most disturbing aspects of state warehousing of information on individual citizens is that those citizens never get to know that they are on the state records, whether the records are correct and whether or not they should be included in terms of legislative permit. How are authorisations cancelled; what is the process? Who oversees the cancellation process? By what means can the person charged with the task go about their business? In all, I was left more rather than less worried after reading paragraphs 2.14 to 2.18 of the code.
Paragraph 2.16 deals with the destruction of "the product"an unhappy phrase. Who decides, and on what criteria, whether and how destruction is to take place? Who decides whether a further period of retention is to be sought? Under paragraph 2.18, I should like to know how the information referred to is
I hope not to delay the House for too long, but these are important matters. I turn now to the question of "confidential personal information" dealt with at paragraph 6.30 onwards. I am sure that all noble Lords will appreciate the importance of this part of the code. It allows the powers of the Act to be used in circumstances covering personal information. That could be information subject to legal privilege; it could be journalistic information or it could be the information that passes between a priest and someone resorting to him. Again, I am left feeling unhappy about where the code takes us.
The central point I wish to make here is that that very real protection in an extremely sensitive class of circumstance is not a statutory protection. I do not think that paragraph 6.30, covering the requirement for the prior approval of a surveillance commissioner, is reflected in the Act itself. That means that the protection is unsafe and should have been included in the Act. Our feeling on these Benches is that this and many other aspects of the code should have been in primary legislation. It is no good saying that on the whole the police, NCIS, the military and so on are decent, honest fellows. The whole point of legislation giving the state power over citizens is for us to act as watchdogs against the few bad apples that can, and always will, disregard the proprieties.
Given that these aspects of the code are not in the primary legislation, Section 72 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act does not give any solace. It states expressly that failure to comply with any provision of the code of practice shall not of itself render the person breaching the code liable to any criminal or civil proceedings. I am not even sure that any such breach has to be brought to the attention of the surveillance commissioner. Again, I should be
I am told that debate on the orders should end at 8.30 p.m. Therefore, I shall need to romp through the remainder of the points that I want to make. I turn first to consultation. I am not at all sure that consultation on these codes was adequate. I have been in touch with a number of organisations which one might have thought would take a great interest in the contents. I should be grateful to know how the Government consulted. Did they go out to various organisations, or did they simply post the draft code on the Internet? How long did they give for consultation and how many people made representations to them?
I turn finally to the use of vulnerable individuals and juveniles under the cover human intelligence sources code of practice. They are two classes of person to whom we have a particular obligation. The code states that vulnerable individuals can be used as sources of information under the powers given in RIPA, but goes on to state that they shall be used as a source only,
Annex A lists the officers who may authorise the use of a vulnerable individual or a juvenile. We find that a chief officer of a local authority or the head of paid service has the power to authorise the use of vulnerable individuals for the purpose of acting as a source of covert intrusive or other information. Is that right? Is it right that the immediate senior officer of the DEFRA prosecution division should have that right? It is an enormously important one. I query whether all matters of the utilisation of vulnerable individuals should either have been included in the statute, or whether even now they should be included in an amending statute, or have to have the clearance of the surveillance commissioner, as for other sensitive issues under the Act.