Debates between Matt Warman and Christian Matheson during the 2019 Parliament

Telecommunications (Security) Bill (Seventh sitting)

Debate between Matt Warman and Christian Matheson
Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

Absolutely. Members of the Committee should note that in exercising the powers created by this Bill, the Secretary of State will be advised by the NCSC on relevant technical and national security matters. The NCSC’s work already falls within the Intelligence and Security Committee’s remit, so the right hon. Gentleman has found his own salvation.

In that context, the amendment seems to duplicate that existing power, while also seeking to do something that is better done in reform of a different Act, if that is what the right hon. Gentleman seeks. I am sorry to disappoint him again. I think he knew already that I would do that, but I look forward to his third, fourth and fifth salvos in his ongoing campaign.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear the Minister’s explanation, which we have been over before when considering other amendments. He talks about other salvos by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham. I go back to the statement that my right hon. Friend made last week, which is that he expects that at some point something will happen and we will move forward.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill (Eighth sitting)

Debate between Matt Warman and Christian Matheson
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
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I will be brief, but it is important to cover the Government amendments. The clause provides that any increase in expenditure attributable to the Bill is paid out by Parliament. Clause 27 covers the extent of the Bill and clause 28 provides for the commencement of the Bill’s provisions.

I turn to the small set of amendments that the Government deem necessary, given that the Bill will be carried over to the second Session. The Bill creates new national security powers for the Secretary of State to address the risks posed by high-risk vendors through the issuing and enforcement of designated vendor directions in clauses 15 to 23 and 24. Amendment 1 enables clauses 15 to 23 to come into force on the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent. Amendment 2 ensures that the higher penalties also come into force. Amendment 3 removes the subsection of clause 28 providing for sections to come into force at the end of the two-month period. Finally, amendment 4 ensures that the provisions of clause 24 that are not commenced early come into force via commencement regulations on a day determined by the Secretary of State. Without the amendments, the provisions relating to those powers would come into force two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent, which could put at risk the timely implementation of this important policy.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28

Commencement

Amendments made: 1, in clause 28, page 46, line 19, leave out “section 14” and insert “sections 14 to 23”.

This amendment would cause clauses 15 to 23 to come into force on Royal Assent.

Amendment 2, in clause 28, page 46, line 19, at end insert—

“(ca) section24, so far as it relates to section18;”.

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 1. Clause 24 provides for higher penalties to be available for certain contraventions of information requirements, including contraventions associated with section 105Z12 of the Communications Act 2003, which is inserted by clause 18.

Amendment 3, in clause 28, page 46, line 25, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment is consequential upon Amendments 1 and 2.

Amendment 4, in clause 28, page 46, line 30, at end insert—

“(ba) section 24 (so far as not already in force by virtue of subsection (1));”.(Matt Warman.)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendments 1 and 2.

Clause 28, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 3

Duty of Ofcom to report on its resources

‘(1) Ofcom must publish an annual report on the effect on its resources of fulfilling its duties under this Act.

(2) The report required by subsection (1) must include an assessment of—

(a) the adequacy of Ofcom’s budget and funding;

(b) the adequacy of staffing levels in Ofcom; and

(c) any skills shortages faced by Ofcom.’.—(Christian Matheson.)

This new clause introduces an obligation on Ofcom to report on the adequacy of their existing budget following the implementation of new responsibilities.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

--- Later in debate ---
Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Budget allocations can go down as well as up and there might be a future Government who are not quite as generous as past Governments have been. What guarantee can the Minister offer us that without some kind of reporting, such as that we propose, Ofcom’s budget will not be frozen or, indeed, reduced?

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

Ultimately, a mechanism already exists by which Parliament is able to scrutinise Ofcom’s resourcing. Ofcom is required under the Office of Communications Act 2002 to publish an annual report on its financial position and other relevant matters. That report, which is published every March—I am sure the hon. Gentleman is waiting with bated breath for the next one—includes detail on Ofcom’s strategic priorities as well as its finances, and details about issues such as its hiring policies.

--- Later in debate ---
Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

How to choose?

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is the shadow Minister.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I give way to the hon. Lady.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I would say that there is a sensible place to put some of that information, which is the communication to the ISC that I have offered, and there is a sensible place to put other information, which is the annual reporting that already exists. Hopefully the hon. Lady can find some comfort in the fact that both the information that cannot be shared publicly and the information that can will be subject to an appropriate level of parliamentary and public scrutiny.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I simply want to welcome the Minister’s comments, and the fact that he has recognised that the Intelligence and Security Committee is the appropriate place to discuss these matters, which, of course, cuts across other clauses that the Committee has already considered. He might bear that in mind on Report.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I hope that now that I have given those various reassurances, hon. Members are appropriately comforted.

Everyone is waiting for the headcount of DCMS; I am assured that it is 1,304 people, some 300 more than that of Ofcom. I do not know whether that makes the right hon. Member for North Durham happier or more sad.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

We can discuss the optimal sizes of quangos and Departments outside this room. However, the right hon. Gentleman is obviously right that Government Departments and regulators need the resources they require to do their job properly. I hope that by describing the various mechanisms I have provided hon. Members with the reassurances they need to withdraw the new clause.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I owe you an apology, Mr McCabe; so keen was I to crack on with the consideration of the Bill that I did not say how great a pleasure it was to serve yet again under your chairmanship. I should have done so at the outset and I apologise.

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am looking to the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, for a little guidance. It could well be that we might want to serve a little bit longer under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe, by testing the views of the Committee on new clause 3, if we may.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill (Eighth sitting)

Debate between Matt Warman and Christian Matheson
Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 - Government Bill Page View all Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 Debates Read Hansard Text
Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
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I will be brief, but it is important to cover the Government amendments. The clause provides that any increase in expenditure attributable to the Bill is paid out by Parliament. Clause 27 covers the extent of the Bill and clause 28 provides for the commencement of the Bill’s provisions.

I turn to the small set of amendments that the Government deem necessary, given that the Bill will be carried over to the second Session. The Bill creates new national security powers for the Secretary of State to address the risks posed by high-risk vendors through the issuing and enforcement of designated vendor directions in clauses 15 to 23 and 24. Amendment 1 enables clauses 15 to 23 to come into force on the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent. Amendment 2 ensures that the higher penalties also come into force. Amendment 3 removes the subsection of clause 28 providing for sections to come into force at the end of the two-month period. Finally, amendment 4 ensures that the provisions of clause 24 that are not commenced early come into force via commencement regulations on a day determined by the Secretary of State. Without the amendments, the provisions relating to those powers would come into force two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent, which could put at risk the timely implementation of this important policy.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28

Commencement

Amendments made: 1, in clause 28, page 46, line 19, leave out “section 14” and insert “sections 14 to 23”.

This amendment would cause clauses 15 to 23 to come into force on Royal Assent.

Amendment 2, in clause 28, page 46, line 19, at end insert—

“(ca) section24, so far as it relates to section18;”.

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 1. Clause 24 provides for higher penalties to be available for certain contraventions of information requirements, including contraventions associated with section 105Z12 of the Communications Act 2003, which is inserted by clause 18.

Amendment 3, in clause 28, page 46, line 25, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment is consequential upon Amendments 1 and 2.

Amendment 4, in clause 28, page 46, line 30, at end insert—

“(ba) section 24 (so far as not already in force by virtue of subsection (1));”.—(Matt Warman.)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendments 1 and 2.

Clause 28, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 3

Duty of Ofcom to report on its resources

‘(1) Ofcom must publish an annual report on the effect on its resources of fulfilling its duties under this Act.

(2) The report required by subsection (1) must include an assessment of—

(a) the adequacy of Ofcom’s budget and funding;

(b) the adequacy of staffing levels in Ofcom; and

(c) any skills shortages faced by Ofcom.’.—(Christian Matheson.)

This new clause introduces an obligation on Ofcom to report on the adequacy of their existing budget following the implementation of new responsibilities.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

--- Later in debate ---
Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady for her contributions. To address her central point, it would not be possible for Ofcom to meet the duties Government have tasked it with without addressing the foundational issue of security. It is important that we bear in mind that that is not an exhaustive list, but security will always be a foundational point.

The new clauses would require the Secretary of State to lay a report before Parliament within 12 months of Royal Assent. New clause 3 would require Ofcom to publish an annual report on the adequacy of its budget, resourcing and staffing levels in particular.

As the Committee is aware, the Bill gives Ofcom significant new responsibilities. Ofcom’s budget is approved by its independent board and must be within a limit set by the Government. Clearly, given the enhanced security role that Ofcom will undertake, it will need to increase its resources and skills to meet these new demands. As such, the budget limit set by the Government will be adjusted to allow Ofcom to carry out its new functions effectively. This is of a piece with the direction of travel we are going in. In 2012, Ofcom had 735 employees. Last year, it had 937 employees, so as its remit has expanded, so has its headcount. That will continue to be reflected in the level of resourcing that it will be given.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Budget allocations can go down as well as up and there might be a future Government who are not quite as generous as past Governments have been. What guarantee can the Minister offer us that without some kind of reporting, such as that we propose, Ofcom’s budget will not be frozen or, indeed, reduced?

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

Ultimately, a mechanism already exists by which Parliament is able to scrutinise Ofcom’s resourcing. Ofcom is required under the Office of Communications Act 2002 to publish an annual report on its financial position and other relevant matters. That report, which is published every March—I am sure the hon. Gentleman is waiting with bated breath for the next one—includes detail on Ofcom’s strategic priorities as well as its finances, and details about issues such as its hiring policies.

--- Later in debate ---
Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

How to choose?

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is the shadow Minister.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I give way to the hon. Lady.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I would say that there is a sensible place to put some of that information, which is the communication to the ISC that I have offered, and there is a sensible place to put other information, which is the annual reporting that already exists. Hopefully the hon. Lady can find some comfort in the fact that both the information that cannot be shared publicly and the information that can will be subject to an appropriate level of parliamentary and public scrutiny.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I simply want to welcome the Minister’s comments, and the fact that he has recognised that the Intelligence and Security Committee is the appropriate place to discuss these matters, which, of course, cuts across other clauses that the Committee has already considered. He might bear that in mind on Report.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I hope that now that I have given those various reassurances, hon. Members are appropriately comforted.

Everyone is waiting for the headcount of DCMS; I am assured that it is 1,304 people, some 300 more than that of Ofcom. I do not know whether that makes the right hon. Member for North Durham happier or more sad.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

We can discuss the optimal sizes of quangos and Departments outside this room. However, the right hon. Gentleman is obviously right that Government Departments and regulators need the resources they require to do their job properly. I hope that by describing the various mechanisms I have provided hon. Members with the reassurances they need to withdraw the new clause.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I owe you an apology, Mr McCabe; so keen was I to crack on with the consideration of the Bill that I did not say how great a pleasure it was to serve yet again under your chairmanship. I should have done so at the outset and I apologise.

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am looking to the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, for a little guidance. It could well be that we might want to serve a little bit longer under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe, by testing the views of the Committee on new clause 3, if we may.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill (Seventh sitting)

Debate between Matt Warman and Christian Matheson
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

Absolutely. Members of the Committee should note that in exercising the powers created by this Bill, the Secretary of State will be advised by the NCSC on relevant technical and national security matters. The NCSC’s work already falls within the Intelligence and Security Committee’s remit, so the right hon. Gentleman has found his own salvation.

In that context, the amendment seems to duplicate that existing power, while also seeking to do something that is better done in reform of a different Act, if that is what the right hon. Gentleman seeks. I am sorry to disappoint him again. I think he knew already that I would do that, but I look forward to his third, fourth and fifth salvos in his ongoing campaign.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear the Minister’s explanation, which we have been over before when considering other amendments. He talks about other salvos by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham. I go back to the statement that my right hon. Friend made last week, which is that he expects that at some point something will happen and we will move forward.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill (Sixth sitting)

Debate between Matt Warman and Christian Matheson
Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 21st January 2021

(12 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 - Government Bill Page View all Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 Debates Read Hansard Text
Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I think this would be impossible to identify without carrying out some kind of audit. There is a danger of a semantic argument, but I understand the point the hon. Lady is making. We want people to be in the position to make the kind of identifications that we are requiring. I do not see how they could do that without the records to which she refers, in terms of both the existing kit and future kit that they might put into their network.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is an important point. The criticism that I will articulate later is that too much of the Bill is based on an assumption that the players in the sector will automatically do the right thing. For example, there is an assumption of a dialogue between Ofcom and the major players. Will the Minister think about whether he is satisfied that an assumption goes far enough in something as important as this?

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

The regulation that I cited is an example of the Government not relying on assumptions. It is an example of us publishing, in advance, exactly the sort of material that demonstrates that this is not assumptions, and that it is there in black and white. That is an important distinction and it demonstrates the cross-party consensus that we have had thus far. We continue to be on the same page in terms of the level of detail required.

The evidence sessions with industry demonstrated that national providers already maintain some asset registers. Witnesses were clear that those registers are maintained and updated as technologies are updated. That is an important part of the existing landscape, but our regulations will ensure this kind of best practice is extended across public telecoms providers.

In addition, the Bill contains measures with regard to the use of particular vendors’ equipment. Inspection notices under clause 19 enable Ofcom to carry out surveys of a specific network or service where Ofcom receives a monitoring direction from the Secretary of State to gather information on a provider’s compliance with a designated vendor direction. Alongside that, clause 23 enables the Secretary of State to require the provision of information about the use of goods, services or facilities supplied, provided or made available by a particular person. That could be used to require information about a provider’s use of a particular vendor’s equipment.

Taken together, the issues that have been raised are not only entirely legitimate, in the view of the Government, but are addressed in black and white already, both in the Bill itself and in the drafts that we have published. We are ensuring that “hardware of interest,” whatever that might be, is subject to proper oversight and monitoring. That objective does not need the approach that might come as a consequence of this amendment, because it is already there. For that reason, I welcome the probing nature of the amendment. I hope that my answer has satisfied some of the concerns, and I look forward to doing so further in future answers.

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Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

I am very happy to do so. I think it is obvious that clarity of communication would be incompatible with duplication.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

General duty of OFCOM to ensure compliance with security duties

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 11, in clause 5, page 9, line 41, at end insert—

“(2) Providers of public electronic communications networks and public electronic communications services must notify Ofcom of any planned or actual changes to their network or service which might compromise their ability to comply with the duties imposed on them by or under sections 105A to 105D, 105J and 105K.”

This amendment would require providers of public electronic communications networks or services to notify Ofcom of any changes to their network or service which might compromise their ability to comply with their security duties.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. Since this is my first substantive contribution to the Committee, I pay tribute to the Front Benchers. It is nice to have a Minister who, I believe, was formerly a tech journalist specialising in telecoms, and who knows the subject well. Of course, the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, was a telecoms engineer and an Ofcom regulator for many years, and I pay tribute to her and her staff. The Committee should know that in addition to running this Bill Committee from the Opposition’s side, she has also been working in the main Chamber this week on the National Security and Infrastructure Bill Committee. Juggling two Bills at once is no mean feat.

I have also greatly enjoyed the interplay between my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham and the hon. and gallant Member for Bracknell, both of whom have considerable national security experience. I was intrigued by my right hon. Friend’s estimation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman’s intervention as Schrodinger’s intervention—one that managed to be simultaneously right and wrong. He has set a new standard there.

From listening to the debates on previous clauses, it is clear that a common thread passes through the Bill, which we in the Opposition have been hoping to link up. Partly, it is to do with the question we raised earlier about the assumption that everybody understands exactly what the intention in the Bill is, and that everything will be all right in the long term. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham has talked about the importance of making things as clear as possible when it comes to responsibilities, because a future Minister might not be as adept in this subject as the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness, who currently occupies that position. In a sense, that is the heart of amendment 11.

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Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

If the hon. Lady were right, the only people from whom we would have heard evidence over the last few days would have been public sector employees. She knows just as well as I do that the cyber-security sector is a vast mesh of public and private expertise, which is inevitable given that we have private networks offering communications services. Although I understand her point, and I am all for Ofcom having as much expertise as it needs to do its job properly in-house, I simply do not think that we should constrain what it can access in the way that the amendment would.

On this, I think we probably agree on far more than we would perhaps like to admit, but the reason that this is a probing amendment, as the hon. Member for City of Chester said, is because imposing artificial constraints would not be beneficial to Ofcom’s work. We understand what he said, however, and in broad terms, the Government agree.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the debate and for the Minister’s response, but I do not intend to press the amendment any further. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Matt Warman and Christian Matheson
Thursday 9th July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend rightly pays tribute to an extraordinary industry. The only thing that I would say in addition is that he clearly deserves a cameo role in that next “Mission: Impossible” film.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Follow that!

One of the best ways to support the voluntary sector is to listen to it when it calls for a policy change. For example, the petition of Age UK to keep over-75s’ TV licences free has now attracted more than 634,000 signatures, while 93% of the nearly 90,000 pensioners who responded to a survey by the charity said that television had become more important since the pandemic erupted. The BBC is cutting jobs and content to pay for the cost of the licence, which was dumped on it by the Government, and pensioners are forced to choose between eating and watching TV. Will the Government now listen to Age UK and reverse this unfair policy?