Nick Thomas-Symonds contributions to the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019


Wed 30th January 2019 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
51 interactions (3,275 words)
Tue 18th December 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: House of Commons
87 interactions (3,322 words)
Mon 3rd December 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
11 interactions (1,753 words)

Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords]

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Nick Thomas-Symonds Excerpts
Wednesday 30th January 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:07 p.m.

May I begin by making a slight apology to the House? As the amendments have been grouped together, my speech will be in a single block, so I ask Members to be patient.

Let me begin by addressing amendments 12, 1 and 24. I recognise that amendment 24 has not been selected, but I am happy to deal with it, because it was tabled.

Throughout the progress of this Bill, as with others that I have piloted through the House, I have been keen to reach a consensus. Labour Front Benchers, as well as members of the Scottish National party, will know that I have often been open to their ideas, and that in the case of a number of Bills—such as the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill and indeed this Bill—I have taken their ideas on board and put them into law. I have done so not only because I truly care about keeping our citizens safe, but because I know that our laws work best when they do what they set out to do and are supported by the broadest consensus of the public.

The House of Commons cannot ignore the times in which we live. In the last decade, we have become more and more dependent on the internet and smartphones. In fact, 78% of people and 95% of 16 to 24-year-olds now possess a smartphone. Such technology can be a force for good, but it has also become an accelerant to those who wish us harm. Whether we are talking about county lines, terrorism or child abuse, smartphones have opened up a whole world of encrypted communications which I believe presents the biggest single challenge to our police and to law enforcement.

As Security Minister, I recall many occasions on which I was woken to deal with security issues. I remember being woken on the night of the Manchester Arena bombing, and I remember hearing the chilling news that a nerve agent had been used on the streets of Salisbury. But the day that I remember above all from the last two and a half years was the day of my visit to a regional and organised crime unit, where I had to listen, via an online chatroom, to a paedophile plot to kidnap, rape and kill a seven-year-old girl, about the same age as my daughter. If that was not sickening enough, I could sense the frustration of detectives who needed data from overseas to stop the abuse being committed, because in case after case timing is everything in these investigations.

So when the US Government, supported by Senators in the House of Congress, offered to help to solve this problem we grabbed at the chance. The House should recognise what they have offered: they have offered to remove legal barriers in the US to enable compliance with UK court orders. The Americans recognised, as we do, that the vast majority of data that we need for our investigations reside on the other side of the Atlantic—Google, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, to name but a few. In fact, 99% of data that we need for child abuse investigations resides overseas and only 1% resides here.

These stark figures say two things to me. First, the reality is that we need the US data far more than they need ours. That was true before Donald Trump and it will be true after Donald Trump. Secondly, in this case, the US is doing us a favour. The Bill before us is the legislation required to give effect to a future US treaty and any other treaty we may make with another country in future, for example, Canada, so we can access that data much more quickly than we do now. These treaties will come before us separately, to this House and the peers House, at a different time, and Members will be able to scrutinise and challenge them at that point.

Let me deal directly with the Labour amendments. During the Bill’s passage in the Lords the Labour party attached to this Bill an amendment that would prevent the UK from making the necessary treaty with the US unless it got assurances that data sent across the Atlantic would not lead to the death penalty. This Bill allows enforcement agencies to access content directly from communications service providers based overseas using an overseas production order. These orders can only work when a relevant international agreement, such as a treaty, is in place between the UK and another country and as the majority of the CSPs, as I said, are based in America we expect the first such agreement to be with the United States. Both amendments 1 and 12 attempt to amend the Bill and reinsert the Lords amendments.

First, and bearing in mind how little data we hold here, having looked back over 20 years, we have not been able to find a single case whatsoever where only the data that the Bill deals with would have led to a death penalty overseas. Secondly, this is about data, not people. Extradition from the UK is dealt with by separate legislation and Her Majesty’s Government are already prevented from handing over someone without death penalty assurances. Thirdly, this Bill is about our data requests overseas in order to bring data back here for investigations and when I last looked we do not have the death penalty in this country. So to try to use the Bill as a vehicle to deal with a treaty as yet not concluded is simply wrong.

Throughout the passage of the Bill, I have been clear that the US has been generous in its offer. I have also admitted on the record that on this subject we do not have equality of arms with the US. This is not about a fantasy that we are bowing to the US. I noticed the allegations that the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) made in her column in the Daily Mirror recently saying that this was all about cosying up to Donald Trump, that the Labour party amendment

“simply blocks data sharing co-operation with all countries if the death penalty is a risk”,

and that the

“reason Ministers seem to be so keen to tear up our laws and ignore our human rights is because they are in a terrible mess in refusing to rule out a No Deal Brexit.”

Of course, nowhere does her op-ed address the central allegation that her blocking data will mean child abusers will be free to continue abuse of children for longer because we simply will not be able to get the data that we wish. And perhaps I could put her mind at rest: the US offer on this treaty was initiated not under President Donald Trump, but under President Obama. This is about the reality and the decisions we need to make to put our citizens’ safety first. Members should understand that the current drawn-out methods of getting data can take months and years.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:14 p.m.

As the Security Minister well knows, we have been working constructively on this Bill and I will not be opposing it on Third Reading irrespective of the outcome of various votes, but it is correct to say that, in the case in the summer in respect of which the High Court has just issued its judgment, the American embassy told the Government, when they failed incidentally to seek assurances at all, that if they asked:

“At worst, they will wind the president up to complain to the P.M.”—

the Prime Minister—

“and, potentially, to hold a grudge.”

The Foreign Office’s strong advice was to seek a death penalty assurance, so why on earth did they not do so if it was not for fear of the American President’s reaction?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:15 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman offers an incredibly selective quote from the ruling in the High Court by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales that found in favour of the Government on that case on all five counts. Every single count and every single challenge by Liberty and its glitterati up in the House of Lords failed at that test. The hon. Gentleman has also not answered the central charge, which is that to jeopardise this legislation and the treaty puts at risk children, because our law enforcement officers will not get the data in a timely fashion. Is he happy to accept that that delay should be maintained for the sake of a theoretical, never-happened occasion in the future?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:16 p.m.

I am in favour of speeding up the data exchange. Under the mutual legal assistance treaty, since 1994 the seeking and securing of assurances has been commonplace. I take this from the High Court judgment. Ministers did not even bother to ask for assurances in the summer, so I am not confident that they have been as robust as they should be in their negotiations with the United States. There is no point in saying there is not equality of arms in this treaty. What if the Minister says that about a trade deal with the US—are we going to be allowing, then, US companies to come and take our NHS? The Minister should stand up for this principle.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:17 p.m.

I am going to stand up for the security of our citizens and a responsible Government have to balance abstract, theoretical, minute probabilities with keeping our constituents safe. Perhaps I should remind the hon. Gentleman of what we found in one of the cases. It is not related to this data, As I have clearly said, this Bill produces not a single example in the last 20 years, but under the MLAT process in the past no assurances have been sought and indeed the Government of the day indicated there was potentially a death penalty. It was a Labour Government who did not seek the assurances and did transfer the data. What does that mean? It means a responsible Government know the balance between keeping our citizens safe and making sure they comply with our international obligations. Members on the Opposition Benches have managed to do that in the past and I hope they do it again.

I have been absolutely clear. The hon. Gentleman may say he would do a better job in the negotiations if Labour was in power but, as I pointed out, we do not have equality of arms. Our negotiating position is this: there is 1% of data here versus about 90% of data there, which means our leverage is minuscule when it comes to demanding strings attached of the United States.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:32 p.m.

I will come to the right hon. Gentleman. All the amendments are grouped, so we have plenty of time.

Having said that, I have to apologise to the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and to the Leader of the Opposition. In her column, the right hon. Lady said that I attacked her personally by criticising what was going on. I apologise that I did so, but I did so because I meant it. That is not the Labour party that I know. I have family in the Labour party. I have a relation who was a Labour MP in the 1930s and, if I remember correctly, the first socialist Lord Advocate in Scotland. The Labour party that I know would not play this type of politics with our constituents. A Labour party led by pretty much any other Labour Member would never have indulged in this type of nonsense.

The Labour party that I know in Lancashire, in the north of England and in Scotland keeps people safe and recognises the responsibility that goes with governing and that there is a balance. It is a truly difficult balance, which people of the best motives make every single day, between upholding values and keeping people safe. That is why I apologise that I had to make that attack, but I made it all the same. It is incredibly important that a Government in waiting should be led by people who recognise that their duty in government will be to make difficult decisions and to reflect the reality of the 21st century, not some abstract theoretical nonsense that panders to a few.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Parliament Live - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:33 p.m.

I regret the Minister’s tone in places, because it is clear that we have worked together on this Bill and that the Opposition are in favour of it. Let me be clear about the difference here. The Minister is essentially saying that he is happy to be mandated to secure death penalty assurances. Labour’s amendment simply sets out that in the event that assurances are sought but not obtained, the data should not be handed over. As he says, the change will affect a tiny amount of cases, but nobody is disputing the need to speed up the MLAT process to obtain the data. That is exactly what the difference is.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard

No. The Labour Front-Bench team are saying that if we do not get what they want, we should block the treaty. The condition from the United States or any other country could be, “Look, I’m terribly sorry, but we have 90% of the data and you have 1%, so here’s our offer and this is the reality of it.” Labour is saying, “If they do not give us the assurances we want”—they go beyond the OSJA guidance and beyond the public policy of this Government and the previous Government—“the treaty will not be completed.” I am here to say that the treaty will not be concluded if those strings are attached in that way. That is the simple reality.

The consequences of that, as I have pointed out, will be felt in our constituencies up and down the country and will also be felt should the Labour Front-Bench team become the Government in a few years’ time. The people could be facing an existential threat to their security, and that Labour Government would have to make these same difficult decisions. We have worked incredibly well together on this Bill, but this issue cannot be removed into some abstract debate when this is about giving our law enforcement agencies the tools to do their job on a day-to-day basis.

Break in Debate

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:53 p.m.

Order. Before we continue with the debate, the House has the exciting prospect of the results of the deferred Divisions.

In respect of the question relating to consumer protection, the Ayes were 309 and the Noes were 268, so the Ayes have it.

In respect of the question relating to financial services and markets, the Ayes were 309 and the Noes were 261, so the Ayes have it.

In respect of the question relating to floods and water, the Ayes were 310 and the Noes were 267, so the Ayes have it.

In respect of the question relating to radioactive substances, the Ayes were 309 and the Noes were 265, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division lists are published at the end of today’s debates.]

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:54 p.m.

The first thing I should point out is that everyone in the House wants to see a way in which the mutual legal assistance treaty system is speeded. I do not think there is any issue with that in any part of this House. The issues to which I shall come in a moment in essence fall into two categories: first, the issue of death penalty assurances; and secondly, protections for journalistic data.

In respect of the intervention from the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), he has tabled an amendment that is essentially the same as the one that I pursued in Committee. I do not accept in any sense the difference that he suggests there is between the two. I am pleased that his amendment has been accepted and adopted by the Government.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:55 p.m.

I apologise if I have got this wrong, but my understanding is that the hon. Gentleman’s amendment would not have included circumstances in which the journalist could not be traced, whereas the amendment I have tabled takes that into account, meaning that it would not be a blocker. It is in that limited aspect that our amendments differ.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:55 p.m.

All I will say is that I had discussions about that amendment and others with the Minister, and they were things on which we were able to compromise. I am trying to assure the hon. Gentleman that the idea that I was trying to do something to scupper the treaty is completely wrong. I am sure he would accept that that was the case, whatever the differences between us on the detail.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:56 p.m.

I absolutely accept that. The hon. Gentleman will know that he and I worked closely throughout the Committee proceedings to make sure that the intent behind what we have now was in the Bill. I pay credit to him for that assistance.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:56 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for acknowledging that.

Let me turn to the issue of death penalty assurances, which has clearly aroused a great deal of controversy, and explain our position. I should say to the Security Minister that I totally accept that new clause 1 is an improvement. The position the Opposition have ended up in today is a procedural one: unfortunately, because new clause 1 is the lead provision in the group and is therefore at the head of the list to be voted on, the only way that the Opposition can secure a vote on our own amendment is by voting against new clause 1. That is just the procedural position we have ended up in, but accept that it is a step forward and make that entirely clear from the Dispatch Box at the outset.

Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:57 p.m.

Just to be clear on the procedure, my hon. Friend’s direction to Labour MPs will be to vote against new clause 1, although he accepts it to be an improvement; were he successful in stripping out new clause 1 and unsuccessful in passing his own amendment, would that not put us back to a worse position?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:58 p.m.

I accept that there is always a danger that when we vote on a number of new clauses and amendments in a row, the order matters and what happens on them matters, as we have seen in recent days. Let me reassure my hon. Friend: what I am trying to say is that although I do accept that new clause 1, with its duty to seek assurances, is certainly an improvement on the case we had in the summer, when no assurances were sought at all, it does not match the position of the Labour Front-Bench team, which is that if there are circumstances—they will be rare—in which assurances are sought but not given, the data should not be handed over. That is the difference between myself and the Minister. The Minister accepts that we should be getting assurances. That is the difference: new clause 1 is an improvement, but it does not match our position.

Dr Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con) - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:59 p.m.

As a children’s doctor, I have looked after a number of children who have been sexually abused, and they have sometimes horrific physical injuries and, as we know, physical and mental scars. The mental scars in particular can last a lifetime. The House is united in wanting to be able to prevent that. Am I misunderstanding the hon. Gentleman when he says that seeking assurances is not adequate, and that if faced with a real situation in which a child is in imminent danger and those assurances cannot be got, that child should remain in danger and in a situation in which he or she is being abused, to avoid the theoretical risk of something that has not happened in 20 years?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 2:59 p.m.

I just do not accept that conception of how this works or, indeed, how the MLAT treaty would work. I am afraid it would not work in the way the hon. Lady suggests. The point I am making is about cases in which assurances were not secured. By the way, I totally agree with the Minister that the United States looms into view because of this treaty, but this is a framework for other treaties with countries all around the world, and the Opposition are simply saying that we should be embedding into it the idea that, in the event that those assurances are not forthcoming from whichever country it is—rare though those circumstances are—the data should not be handed over. It is as simple as that. By the way, that has been the position for decades.

Dr Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3 p.m.

rose—

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3 p.m.

I will give once more, but then I need to make some progress.

Dr Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson - Hansard

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that, in this situation, which is not perfect, what he is having to do is weigh up the risk of an actual child on whom abuse can clearly be seen to be happening or at risk of happening, with a theoretical possibility, which the Minister has said has not happened in 20 years, and that such evidence can potentially, theoretically, possibly, at some point in the future, be used to convict somebody in a way that may or may not ultimately end in the death penalty? Meanwhile that real child will end up being further abused while this data is waited for.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3 p.m.

I do not accept that at all. The hon. Lady talks about theoretical possibilities, but these will be actual cases—actual cases, not theoretical cases.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con) - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3 p.m.

rose—

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3 p.m.

I will give way once more.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:01 p.m.

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for giving way. Despite the fact that this is about not extradition, but data exchange and that it is heinous crimes that will incorporate this provision, does he accept that the threshold for the death penalty, both at state and federal level, is actually far higher—the bar is higher?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:01 p.m.

Yes, it is significantly higher, and the cases will be extraordinarily rare. That is what everybody who has looked at this says.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:01 p.m.

rose—

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:01 p.m.

This is genuinely the last time that I give way.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:01 p.m.

I am very grateful. The hon. Gentleman is being more than generous. On the issue of assurances, does he also accept—I know that he thinks logically—that if those assurances were given and were not actually fulfilled, future assurances would obviously not carry the same weight as previous assurances that were carried through?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:02 p.m.

I honestly cannot imagine a situation where a country that gave those assurances did not stand by them. That would undermine the whole system if that were the case. I do need to make some progress now. I hope that the House will realise that I have been generous in giving way to Government Members.

We absolutely agree, as I have said, with speeding up the mechanism, but we believe that in this framework, which will be a framework which many reciprocal treaties will be plugged into in the years to come, we should make clear our opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances. The Security Minister has spoken about the United States. I appreciate that that is where much data is held. I also appreciate that that is the treaty that is being negotiated at the moment. First, let us look at what the practice is at the moment. It is obvious that the United States would expect us to require full death penalty assurances prior to sharing this information. It routinely complies with that requirement. It has long been the case, under the 1944 Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters that now exists, that the seeking and securing of assurances is commonplace. What the Opposition are trying to put into law is what has been the norm for decades.

The Minister makes the point about his judgment as to whether or not the US would wish to conclude a treaty in those circumstances—in the circumstances that the House passed the amendment that the Opposition have proposed. I just want to examine this because the recent High Court judgment in El Gizouli, which has been published in recent days, is instructive in this regard. It is very rare that we see Government papers in the public domain so soon after a particular decision is taken. That is because in July last year the House became aware of correspondence between the Home Secretary and the then United States Attorney General that the Government had not sought death penalty assurances at all. Let me be clear that we on these Benches absolutely condemn the actions of the so-called foreign fighters, which is why I have worked with the Minister to put the designated areas offence onto the statute book—it is not quite on our statute book yet, but it will be in due course. I made various suggestions about that matter, as the Minister knows, that were eventually incorporated into the Bill. We supported that principle and it will be on the statute book. However, the fact is that that matter did lead to a court case, which is instructive about Minister’s decision making.

I go back to one of the earlier interventions. This is not about naked partisan politics. These are very serious issues on which Members from all parts of the House have very strongly held opinions, and I respect whatever those perspectives are. A number of things came forward from that case in the summer. The UK embassy in Washington was asked what was the likely response from the US Administration if the UK were to seek full or partial assurances on the death penalty. The response was that

“parts of the US machinery—notably career DOJ officials—would not be surprised if we asked for death penalty assurances. It is what they expect of us.”

That, I suggest, is what I said a moment or two ago. It then added:

“But that doesn’t go for the senior political levels of this administration...At best they will think we have tin ears. At worst, they will wind the President up to complain to the PM and, potentially, to hold a grudge.”

That is worrying to see, and it would not be a way to run any negotiation. It is no surprise really that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave strong advice to seek an assurance. This was cited as the Government’s consistent policy over many years, which has been maintained without exception—I appreciate the one point that was made in an intervention by the Minister that there may be an exception to that. I accept that, but this is what the advice says—and without difficulty in co-operating with allies such as the US. It agreed that a sole exception would undermine the UK’s consistent and total opposition. This is what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said about this in the summer:

“Her Majesty’s Government seeks a comprehensive assurance that the suspects will not be subject to the death penalty. This is critical to the consistency with which we apply HMG’s policy on Overseas Security and Justice Assistance…Were we not to apply this practice to this case, it could undermine all future efforts to secure effective written death penalty assurances from the US authorities for future UK security and justice assistance. The exception made for the US in this case could also undermine future attempts to secure similar assurances from other countries with which we have a security relationship... particularly if it seems likely that there is litigation which leads to the disclosure of the level of assurance. It could leave HMG open to accusations of western hypocrisy and double standards which would undermine HMG’s Death Penalty Policy globally, including in the US.”

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:07 p.m.

rose—

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:07 p.m.

Let me finish this point and then I will give way.

The Foreign Office officials were correct, and I wish that the Ministers had listened in the summer. As the Security Minister knows, this was the subject of an urgent question some months ago to which, I think, he responded.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I wonder whether he will quote at length my response in that court case, the response of the Home Secretary, and, indeed, the other parts of the correspondence. He makes the point about the embassy. The embassy in the United States is the other part of the Foreign Office. He may like to reflect on the fact that, first, we won on all five counts, so he has picked out a few parts of the case, but not the full case. He will also know that, under this and the previous policy, one cannot seek assurances under strong reasons. He talks about hypocrisy. One of the strong reasons—a bit like some of the challenges around data, but he is referring to an MLAT case—is that the alternatives for these individuals for their rights—[Interruption.] No, I get that. The alternatives for those individuals were very much less about their rights—potentially extrajudicial killing in the back of the head and potentially being shipped to Guantanamo, to which we fundamentally object and oppose and, as that case highlighted, something in which we would not assist. The alternative for their human rights was far, far worse than a lawful trial in the United States.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 11:30 a.m.

I am not disputing the outcome of the case; that is very clear. This goes back to the earlier point that I was making about new clause 1. It is clearly not currently set out in primary legislation that there is a duty to seek assurances. I am not questioning the genuine nature of what the Minister does or his decision making, but in that case and against that backdrop, no assurances were sought at all. The Minister has set out the reasons for that, but that is the brutal reality of what happened in that case, against the backdrop of the advice that I have read to the House.

More widely, Governments across the piece—this Government, the coalition Government and previous Labour Governments—have, on numerous occasions, sought to promote the UK’s opposition to the use of the death penalty around the world. There are multiple examples where Governments of all colours have sought to avoid any complicity with the use of capital punishment and have argued around the world for its abolition. In fact, the Prime Minister herself said in the House on 31 October last year:

“Our long-standing position on the death penalty is well known: we call for its abolition globally.”—[Official Report, 31 October 2018; Vol. 648, c. 911.]

And the Opposition say the same.

There are a number of examples where this country has agreed that it is highly undesirable that drugs used by some states in the United States for the purposes of execution could have been sourced here. We have decided not to fund counter-narcotics operations in Iran because of the risk that they could lead to the use of the death penalty. When the Prime Minister was Home Secretary, she triggered a review of all security engagement when Pakistan resumed executions after a long moratorium. Back in October 2016 the Government withdrew a bid to provide offender management services to Saudi Arabian prisons, again over the issue around the death penalty. And of course the UK will not export products for use in capital punishment. That is the well-established position, as is the seeking and securing of assurances.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:11 p.m.

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:13 p.m.

I will make some progress; I did give way to the hon. Gentleman about three times earlier.

What I am simply saying is that we should not move away from that norm and send any kind of signal because, in any event, this Bill goes far beyond America. I appreciate the Minister’s point about data and where it is held at present, but as the internet continues to evolve, other countries will hold more data as well. The Security Minister has often said in Committee that he would only negotiate treaties with countries that shared our respect for the rule of law. I do not disbelieve him for a moment, but of course he is not going to be the Security Minister forever. Therefore, in those circumstances, we have to put the assurance in this framework now.

Opposition to the death penalty has been a bipartisan UK Government position for over half a century. Since 1965 when the work of many across this House—including the remarkable Sydney Silverman—came to fruition, this Parliament has stood as a beacon of common human values, promoting the abolition of the death penalty across the globe. For this country to continue to stand tall in the world and to use our considerable soft power, which we must, we always have to hold ourselves to the highest standards. Put very simply, for us to credibly argue for the abolition of the death penalty in other countries, we cannot be complicit in its application ourselves, and I ask that we send that strong moral signal to the world today.

It seems an odd move to now start talking about these technical issues of confidential journalistic data, important though they are. But that is of course where we are because this whole set of amendments have been grouped together. I therefore want to deal with the matter now, as well as some of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle.

In general terms, I am pleased with the Government’s direction of travel on these issues, but there are still some real causes of concern. I am pleased with the movement on Government amendments 19 and 20, which were mentioned earlier. The notification requirement now extends to all journalistic data. There was a concern that, if we were distinguishing between confidential data and non-confidential data, some would not be covered. This move is therefore to be welcomed, as is the genuine notification requirement that specifically includes the journalist, which I believe is included in Government amendment 20.

There are still some concerns that I hope the Security Minister will take on board and listen to, although I do broadly welcome the measures. In proposed clause 12(2)(b), there is an override of this requirement where it would prejudice investigations into indictable offences and terrorism investigations. Now, I accept that emergency overrides are necessary, and I would expect to see them in this Bill and other similar types of Bill. There is, however, quite a low threshold in this measure. I totally accept that prejudicing a terrorism investigation may well constitute an emergency, but prejudicing an investigation into an indictable offence is extremely broad, because indictable offences are a huge category. Indicating that they can only be tried on indictment draws the provision extremely widely.

I think that there is a path by which the police could access confidential data still without notifying the journalist. The Minister has openly said that a number of provisions in this legislation are drawn from the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Under the Terrorism Act, this can happen, although there is a concern about some of this most sensitive data being accessed without notice. It is not my intention to push amendment 10 to a vote today, but in that amendment I have raised the issue of at least some confidential journalistic data simply being beyond the reach of the police. I appreciate the Government’s position, but the breadth of this measure to cover all indictable offences is a concern, and we need to give deep consideration as to how that might work in practice. I know that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle genuinely intends to produce safeguards in the Bill, but we would not want to construct a path that somehow becomes the norm, as opposed to something that is meant actually to be the exception.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:43 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned against the death penalty for very many years and who, as co-chair of the all-party group, knows a thing or two about it. I do not think he would say that lightly if he did not feel it.

My shadow made some points about the judgment in the “Beatles” case, which is not of course related specifically to this data, but makes the point about exceptional circumstances. I urge him to read the judgment in full.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:44 p.m.

I have.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:44 p.m.

Then the hon. Gentleman has quoted so selectively. If he has read it in full, he will know that all five points of allegation—

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 3:44 p.m.

I said that.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard

Yes, but the hon. Gentleman did not expand on them. If he had, he would have said, for example, that the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales made it very clear that

“the Government recognises and responds to the realities of political life in the state concerned, whether or not it likes those realities. It would be very odd indeed to ignore them. Ministers, diplomats and other officials are engaged in a constant process of evaluation, making judgements about the differences between what is said and what is meant; between what is threatened, explicitly or implicitly, and what is likely to happen; about the impact of action of the UK. That is what was done here. The Home Secretary had the advice of the British Ambassador…The suggestion that he was not entitled to take it into account and rely on that expert assessment when making his own judgement is misconceived.”

The Lord Chief Justice recognises the political realities within which we operate in the course of trying to keep people safe in this nation. It is a great shame that the shadow Home Secretary cannot manage to recognise those realities when the Lord Chief Justice can.

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

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 4:24 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Throughout the process, the Bill has been about giving our law enforcement agencies a step change in capability to access the vital data needed to investigate some of the worst crimes perpetrated against our constituents. The House has spoken. We examined the Opposition’s amendment 18 and the amendments that mirrored those attempted in the House of Lords. A majority of 53 in rejecting amendment 18 sends a clear notice that Members in this House have considered the delicate balance between obligations and security and have favoured that we should send the Bill back to the Lords with the amendment rejected. I hope that their lordships will reflect on that.

This Bill is about the security of our children and our constituents and about taking up an offer made by President Obama’s Administration to help us with vital investigations where time is of the essence, so that we do not have to go down the long bureaucratic route of the MLAT process, which can take months or years. Indeed, I meet police officers who tell me that they cannot actually progress investigations as a result. When that process of obtaining vital data is turned into days and weeks, this House should be proud not only of our special relationship with the United States that has enabled this to happen, but of the fact that our police will be able to get the necessary data.

Members from across the House often quite rightly complain that data from faraway CSPs, such as Facebook and Google—data that is corrupting the internet and radicalising our families and our children—is being used to prosecute cybercrime and that we need to do more about that. We need to take action to stop such things happening. This Bill contains a strong measure offered by the US Administration, and it means that we will be able to do much more to keep our citizens safe. It is the responsible thing to do.

I have listened to suggestions throughout the Bill’s progress and have taken them into the Bill where and as much as possible, including on the protection and notification of journalists. I hope that the other place recognises the consensual way in which we have made progress on 90% of the Bill. We will be the first nation to have such an arrangement, although there is more work to be done around the treaty.

I do not know whether the Lords will send the Bill back—I pray that they do not—so I will say a grateful thanks to my Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), who has done great work; to the usual channels; and to the Labour and SNP Front-Bench spokespeople, the Democratic Unionist party and the Liberal Democrats, who have all either accommodated offers or had the time to listen to me in private to try to resolve matters. I thank my officials and the Bill manager. This is her first Bill, and she was allocated a Bill that looked so boring and innocuous that there would be no controversy. Little did she know how our friends in the upper House would behave—I can only apologise for that. I thank the team for doing a sterling job. I hope that the Bill does not return and that we can look forward to its coming into law.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 4:26 p.m.

I echo the Minister in saying that 90% of the Bill has been consensual, and a number of parties, including the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and others, have sought to contribute constructively throughout its passage.

The issue of death penalty assurances generated a great deal of controversy, but the Minister will have noticed that I indicated earlier that we would be supporting the Bill on Third Reading, irrespective of the outcome of previous votes. That remains our position, and I join him in his frustration with the slowness of the MLAT process. MLAT is a well-established process but, clearly, we need to look at speeding it up, and this Bill is a mechanism by which we can do that.

The Minister rightly focuses on America, partly because of the extent of the data it holds and partly because that treaty has been negotiated, and it will be a framework for other reciprocal treaties all around the world. Of course, he would expect me and the Opposition to scrutinise every single one of those treaties when they come before the House in due course. Parties on both sides of the House share the long-cherished principle of international human rights.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 4:27 p.m.

I apologise for missing some of the debate on Report. Will my hon. Friend reassure us about the sources of intelligence information? There have been stories in the past about how our intelligence has been gained. Is he satisfied that there are enough safeguards to ensure those stories are not repeated?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

Clearly, I do think the safeguards in the Bill have been significantly improved, which is one reason why I am content to support it. Obviously that is not to say there might not be legal challenges to aspects of the Bill in due course—there may well be—but I am pleased and content with many of the improvements that have been made. Throughout my time in this role I have tried to work consensually with the Minister, as has been the case with this Bill and others, and that will continue in the years ahead.

I join the Minister in thanking the Bill team. I have spoken to different members of the team over the course of the Bill’s passage. People did not necessarily expect the Bill to end up in this place when it began as a non-consensual Bill in the House of Lords. I also thank their lordships, the Minister and all the members of the Committee who contributed to the Bill. The time has come to move forward and to try to put in place this mechanism to speed up the exchange of information, with appropriate safeguards for keeping our citizens safe.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands - Parliament Live - Hansard
30 Jan 2019, 4:29 p.m.

Every hon. Member would accept that the current wait times in the MLAT process are unsustainable. Notwithstanding the arguments made on Report and at earlier stages, we welcome the Bill and believe that investigations and proceedings relating to serious offences in Scotland will benefit from the use of overseas production orders as a quicker, more streamlined process for obtaining that data.

I am, of course, disappointed that we were unsuccessful in securing full death penalty and journalistic protections. The death penalty protection, at least, may come back to us. Despite the Minister’s tone at the start of the debate, I thank him for his approach to this Bill and to the other Bills on which the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) and I have worked.

I thank the hon. Members for Torfaen and for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin). It has been a somewhat easier and more enjoyable—if that can be the word—experience for having worked together so well. I also thank the Clerks in the Public Bill Office and the various organisations that have provided briefings for Members.

The Minister was right—and he reiterated it—when he said that this was an important but essentially boring Bill. The Minister, the shadow Minister and I find ourselves in a lot of Committees considering Bills that could easily be described as boring, and I am sure that after last night’s vote that may well be the case again very soon. So I shall see them soon, I imagine.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.

Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting) Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office
Legislation Page: Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019

Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: House of Commons)
Nick Thomas-Symonds Excerpts
Tuesday 18th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 9:28 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 20, leave out subsections (5) and (6).

This amendment removes subsections (5) and (6) from Clause 1 of the Bill. These subsections concern the designation of international agreements under section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship today, Mrs Moon. I thank hon. Members for having listened in a consensual manner on Second Reading. This should not be a controversial piece of legislation. As people know, the Bill is designed as a docking station to give power to our law enforcement agencies to go to our courts to seek orders for the production of data overseas. It is about removing bureaucratic barriers to our law enforcement and allowing investigations to be concluded in a timely manner—often very quickly, compared with the delays of up to two years that can sometimes be experienced abroad. Fundamentally, it is a piece of legislation about UK law enforcement’s request for inward-coming data, so that our law enforcement can seek from the courts data from overseas. I ask hon. Members to bear that in mind.

At the moment, the majority of communications service providers, such as Facebook and Google, hold their data in the United States. It is therefore obvious that one of the countries we will seek to sign a treaty with so that it recognises these court orders is the United States. No doubt there will be one with the European Union at a future date. More than 90% of the data resides in the United States, so when our law enforcement tracks paedophiles, terrorists or organised crime, it is very important that we have timely access to it. At the moment, we go from the United Kingdom to the US Department of Justice to a US court to a CSP, and then it goes back down the line. In some cases, that can take up to two years and, regretfully, some cases have been abandoned as a result of that delay, while all the time offenders are abusing.

I have tabled an amendment today to remove from clause 1 the additional sections added by the House of Lords on international agreements. Subsections (5) and (6) of clause 1, which were added in the Lords, will prevent the Government and all future Governments from designating international agreements under section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 with a country that retains capital punishment, unless assurances have been received.

I understand the strength of feeling on this issue and am grateful to Members of both Houses for their contributions. I have listened carefully to their arguments, including those made in the House of Lords. I want us to work together to reach a position that we can all support ahead of Report. However, if the Lords amendments stand, they will put at risk the Bill itself and any future treaty with the United States or, potentially, any other country. Live international negotiations do not work where the host Government—this Government or any future Government—can have their hands tied in this manner. It would prevent our making a negotiation and could effectively disqualify us from getting where we are trying to get to with the United States.

The Bill is about producing the power for a court to make an order in the United Kingdom. Subsequent scrutiny of any international treaty that we seek to make will be done through the normal processes of Parliament. We would table any international treaty for ratification in both Houses, providing 21 working days for scrutiny. Anyone in the House can object to the treaty as formed. If they do not like the terms of the international treaty, that is how they can register their objections or stop it going ahead.

The Bill is agnostic about the countries that we might make a treaty with. That is for the treaty itself. While I understand what is at stake here and what the Lords amendments try to achieve, the principle would be absolutely the same with a Labour Government, as it has been in the past, or any other Government. We should resist attempts in primary legislation to bind our position in negotiations that have not yet concluded and have not come to the House. I believe that would be upheld by any sitting Government.

When it comes to death penalty assurances, it is a fact that under the last three Governments over the past two decades, there have been very rare occasions—two occasions—when a Government have felt that there have been exceptional circumstances and either a death penalty assurance has not been sought when exchanging evidence or one been sought but not been achieved, and the exchange of evidence has nevertheless progressed. That has happened incredibly rarely, but it did happen under the Labour Government in the early 2000s and under the coalition Government when Liberal Democrats Member were in the Department. A legal case is currently outstanding about an occasion when it happened under this Government.

It is not that this or any other Government have wantonly done it with enthusiasm, but there may be occasions when something so egregious has happened to a friend and ally that we make a decision that it is not for us to dictate such stringent terms to that ally in our decision to help keep us all secure or to balance the needs of security with the needs of human rights. I could give an example, but the terms of the confidentiality involved mean that we are unable to do so.

Suffice it to say that a fictional example could be that someone in this country has launched a biological weapon—or, at least, a horrendous weapon—that has caused death and destruction to thousands of people in the United States. That person manages to make it back here and the United States seeks evidence from us about that individual. If there is no evidence in this country to charge him or her with an offence, the Government would have to decide whether evidence about the individual should be shared with the United States authorities. There may be occasions when the US authorities say, “Look, we cannot guarantee that what you do with that evidence will not lead to a death sentence, either indirectly or directly. We cannot do that.” This Government or a future Government might realise that the individual poses a real threat—we do not want him residing here any more than anyone else would want him residing anywhere else—and in that position there would be very strong reasons why, if a death penalty assurance was not received, we should share the evidence.

That would be sharing evidence with a country such as the United States or the European Union that has due process, fair trials, independent defence and an independent judiciary, and therefore meets all our values and matches our view of the rule of law, so this is not about making an agreement with a country that does not have the rule of law. It is a very difficult choice, but ultimately the duty of Government is to keep us safe and that is why the Lords amendment puts at risk not only this Bill but the treaties that we could potentially sign and the ability to keep people safe in the United Kingdom.

Let me be very clear that if the Bill was not able to proceed, that would mean that in the 99.9% of cases that are not attached to a death penalty at all—indeed, I have said that there have only been three occasions in 20 years where Governments have been involved in cases where there is a potential death penalty, and interestingly enough in two cases there was not one—offenders such as the people I referred to on Second Reading, who had serially abused children for the most horrendous crimes, will be able to continue to abuse with a longer timetable for being caught. At the heart of my mission is to catch those people as soon as possible.

That is the choice that right hon. and hon. Members are making with this legislation. We can stand on a totally purist principle of absolute opposition, irrespective of strong reasons or exceptional reasons, or we can decide that we have to balance the security needs of our constituents and our national security with the Government’s duty towards human rights and to observe the European convention on human rights. It is not an easy balance and it is sometimes tested in the extremes, but I cannot look right hon. and hon. Members in the face and say, “This consideration is so necessary that I would be willing to put at risk the cases that I have seen, as Security Minister, of child abuse, where the data is stored in America.” I do not think any hon. Member in this House, of whatever party, would be able to say to their constituents that they would put that at risk.

I am happy to provide the Committee with example after example after example of seriously dangerous people’s behaviour towards our children and our friends, and also of terrorists plotting mass-casualty events, where this Bill will help incredibly our law enforcement agencies to get the evidence they need.

The example that I used on Second Reading was of a man—Matthew Falder—so egregious in his abuse that he abused hundreds of people across the world using highly specialised encryption. He was an academic. He persuaded people to commit suicide, or to abuse themselves. He set up chatrooms that people were only qualified to enter by bringing their own images of abuse of children to that chatroom, where they could then share those images among themselves.

When our law enforcement agencies come across these chatrooms or follow the leads, people do not use their real names. Sometimes, one sees things from outside the chatroom and all one sees is a jumble of numbers. We might hear them speaking. We might see, as I have done, some of the footage. Therefore, getting the data from the CSPs, 90% of which is in the United States, is vital for us to do our job and to bring those people to justice. In fact, the first efforts are to stop them abusing, and then to bring them to justice.

That is the difficult choice that we have to make in Government. It is the Government’s responsibility. The last Labour Government recognised that choice, because their internal advice on such events was that in exceptional circumstances they did not need to seek or require death penalty assurances. The coalition Government went further and, for the first time, published something called OSJA—overseas security and justice assistance—guidance. It is a publicly available document with a very clear guideline about what we need to do to uphold our human rights obligations. However, under paragraph 9(b), where there are strong reasons not to seek assurances, we can proceed without them.

That was a public document—never published by any previous Government—that was published under the coalition Government, via the Foreign Office. It was a landmark and it truly opened up the whole process of risk and balance that people go through. I was not the Security Minister at the time, but none of us received any objections. No political party in this House made an issue of it. I did not hear any objections from the Scottish National party, the Labour party or the Liberal Democrats, who were part of the Government at the time, and it stood as a serious piece of work, and still does.

All we seek in the Bill is to reflect that. I therefore hope that hon. Members will support our efforts to get the legislation through the House and to make a treaty with the United States, and other countries as required, in a way that allows us to uphold our values, but recognises that the Government have to balance that with their duty, which is often not easy but is necessary, to keep us safe. That is why we will remove the amendment made in the Lords and progress the Bill, which I do not believe is controversial. I also do not believe that the amendment tabled in the Lords has anything to do with the legislation, which is about empowering a court order. If the Lords want to object to the treaty that we make with the United States, they can do that through the ratification process that takes place in this House and in the House of Lords when, hopefully, it arrives at a later date.

I am afraid that there are high stakes. I wish that I could tell the United States what to do and bind its hands, but I simply cannot. The reality of international negotiations is that none of us holds all the cards. We all have to negotiate, just as I negotiate with Her Majesty’s official Opposition, and just as I negotiate with the Scottish National party. That is what we do. I cannot speak for the Scottish National party any more than the Scottish National party can speak for me. [Interruption.] The tartan Tories! Similarly, I cannot speak for international communities.

I therefore commend our amendment to remove the additions that were made in the House of Lords, so that we can get on with the important job of protecting our constituents, while having the highest regard for our obligations under the European convention on human rights.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Hansard

It is a pleasure to serve with you as Chair this morning, Mrs Moon. The Opposition oppose the attempt to remove the amendment that was inserted into the Bill in the other place. Indeed, I am grateful to my Labour colleagues in the other place, where the Bill started, for their persistence and success in securing the amendment. On Report in the other place, Lord Rosser outlined the Opposition’s concerns and, indeed, Labour’s position on the death penalty. However, I point out that the amendment in the House of Lords proceeded on a multi-party basis, with support from other political parties.

Prior to its amendment, the Bill allowed for electronic data to be shared with another country when requested. I totally accept that the existing MLAT—mutual legal assistance treaty—system is slower than that which would be allowed under the Bill. The Minister is quite right to set out the efforts that are being made to deal with the despicable crime of child sexual abuse. He referred to the case of Dr Matthew Falder, to which he previously referred on Second Reading. He can have no doubt that the Opposition fully support an efficient, quick method of sharing data to ensure that such people are brought to justice.

Break in Debate

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con) - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 9:50 a.m.

I agree with many of the hon. Gentleman’s arguments, but change that he is seeking will drive a coach and horses through this Bill, which will protect the vulnerable. Is he not using the wrong vehicle for that?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

No, I am not using the wrong vehicle. This plug-in mechanism will have an impact on many other treaties. My answer to the hon. Gentleman is a rhetorical one: if we do not make a stand here, where will we make a stand? The idea that this huge amount of data and information relating to cases that do not carry the death penalty will be put at risk for a small number of cases—three in 20 years, as the Minister said—is, to my mind, not the most credible position.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 9:52 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman fails to recognise that there is no equality of arms here. Because of the creation and development of the internet, 90%-plus of the data we need is held in the United States. If it were 50:50 or 60:40, it would be different. The United States has been absolutely categorical with us that, should we adopt the principle of effectively telling it how to conduct its justice system, it will not proceed with the treaty. That is the choice in the real world that I, as the Minister with responsibility for this, have to make. Do I like it? No. Do I have to make the decision? Yes—that is a fact. There is no conjecture about whether the United States will or will not: it will not. In addition, it holds 90% of the data. If the hon. Gentleman would like to like to come here so we can change the law together on how we store data, I would be delighted to do that, but that is a fact. That is the reality that I have to live with. Therefore, if he knows that the United States will not do that, does he recognise that the implication of supporting the amendment made in the Lords is that the Bill will fall over?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

I do not for a minute question the Minister’s perspective, but let me just say this. We are talking about the United States which, as he rightly points out, at this moment in time holds the substantial majority of CSP data. That is the treaty that is being negotiated. This Bill could be used for treaty plug-ins for many other countries. What if in eight, nine or 10 years down the line, it is not the United States that still holds the majority of CSP data? What if it is another country that does not have a particularly attractive human rights record? Will the Minister say the same thing—that it does not matter?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 9:53 a.m.

We can debate that when we make the country-by-country treaty. That is the difference between this Bill and the treaty. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will have plenty of time to scrutinise the international treaties as they come before this House and the Lords under the process that has been well established. That is the time to scrutinise the decisions we have come to, and whether we agree or disagree to make the case at that time. It is perfectly possible to refuse to ratify the treaty.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 9:54 a.m.

It seems to me that the Minister is saying that there are circumstances in which he would make a different judgment. His judgment to me is that now is not the time to make a stand. Respectfully, I have to disagree with him. I believe that now is the moment to make a stand. The Opposition oppose the removal of the amendment.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 9:54 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. The hon. Gentleman has set out the opposition to the Government amendment with commendable detail and clarity. I do not seek to repeat too much of that, but I will make a brief statement setting out the Scottish National party position.

The Minister spoke of principles and of tying the hands of Governments. I have a different set of principles: the SNP has not been a member of a Government who have passed on information without seeking or receiving assurances about the death penalty. The Minister also spoke about a compromise potentially before Report. That is largely a matter for the Government and the Labour party, although we would be more than happy to engage in that process.

To be crystal clear, the SNP will only support a compromise where the default position of Parliament would be not to provide data where assurances on the death penalty have not been received or sought and where it would be for the Government to argue otherwise in exceptional circumstances. At the end of the day, article 2 and protocol 139 obligations should be met and our shared principles across the United Kingdom on capital punishment should be protected.

Break in Debate

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:04 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 7, in clause 1, page 2, line 10, leave out “or prosecution”.

This amendment would refine the definition of international agreement which could serve as the basis for an order.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 8, in clause 4, page 5, line 24, leave out “proceedings or”.

This amendment would mean that a judge would need to be satisfied that the data sought is likely to be of substantial value during the period of the investigation: an application could not be granted solely because the data might be of value during any proceedings in relation to the alleged offence.

Amendment 9, in clause 4, page 5, line 30, leave out “proceedings or”.

This amendment would mean that a judge would need to be satisfied that, before granting an order, there is likely to be a benefit in the public interest during the period of the investigation: an application could not be granted solely because the data might be of value during any proceedings in relation to the alleged offence.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

I will deal with these three amendments quite quickly because, in essence, they would all do the same thing: bring the provisions in line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Specifically, they would limit the use of the information to an investigation, rather than investigation and proceedings. That is the position set out in the 1984 Act.

To be clear, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act outlines that material may be used when it is likely to be of substantial value to an investigation. It does not use the term “prosecution”. Paragraphs 2 and 14 of schedule 1 to the Act detail that applications can be made of material if they benefit the investigation. For overseas production orders, however, the clause also details the term “prosecution”. Our simple position is that, in so far as is possible, the provisions should be in line with those of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, rather than those of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, given the nature of the cases that the Bill will deal with.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:06 a.m.

I understand that the Bill is not the most exciting piece of legislation, but after the first vote the Labour party lost three of its Committee members, who have gone off to do something else. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West, for example, has done a bunk—I shall go through the others as we proceed. [Interruption.] The Scottish National party is present in all its yellow glory. The Bill might not be exciting, but I do not think that Members should turn up for the controversial vote and then do a bunk. We should recognise that this legislation is incredibly important to our law enforcement community and our constituents.

I understand that the hon. Member for Torfaen is concerned about the additional proceedings in relation to serving an overseas production order while PACE refers only to the investigation. However, I believe that PACE has been misread in this regard. Nothing in law says that an investigation ceases once proceedings have been brought to court. Indeed, PACE does not state anywhere—I do not believe it infers this either—that orders may be used only up until someone is charged.

The operational partners we work closely with have made it clear that, in the context of applying for production orders under PACE, they do not consider an investigation to have come to an end until convictions have been secured. It is common for new evidence to come to light and to be obtained throughout the criminal process after charge. Evidence gathering is not limited to the investigation. I believe that it is highly unlikely that a court would construe PACE so narrowly that the police could lose access to investigative tools once the person has been charged.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:08 a.m.

The Minister seems to be making the case that there is little practical difference between the two, but my point is that PACE does not include the word “prosecution.” Where has the wording for the Bill come from, because it does not mirror PACE?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:08 a.m.

I understand. I suspect that the wording just comes from the parliamentary draftsmen. Given no significant difference, as I am explaining, the wording was simply put in that way.

As I was saying, that interpretation would be perverse, and it would have an impact not only on the prosecution but on the defence, given the duty on the police to exhaust avenues of inquiry even if they point away from the defendant’s guilt. The COPO Bill therefore deliberately references “proceedings” to make it clear that orders are available for all stages of the investigation. That was influenced by language used in section 7 of the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003, which deals with a request for assistance when obtaining evidence from abroad.

I reiterate that, despite the difference in the language used, the Government do not intend any difference in effect between the Bill and PACE in that regard. We do not consider that the use of the word “proceedings” in the Bill increases the likelihood of “criminal proceedings” in PACE being interpreted unduly narrowly. PACE will continue to be available to law enforcement agencies once proceedings have begun for use up to charge and beyond.

The hon. Member for Torfaen has suggested that once a trial begins the investigation is often handed over from law enforcement agencies to the Crown Prosecution Service, but it is still possible that—this happens a lot—the law enforcement agencies that were investigating the crime will then come across new evidence, which of course they would share with the prosecuting authorities. I therefore ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

I do not disagree with anything the Minister has said in that interpretation. The point I was trying to probe was the difference in the wording. On the basis of the Minister’s assurances that the wording comes from somewhere else but that he does not expect there to be a substantial difference, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:14 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 15, in clause 1, page 2, line 11, at end insert—

“(7A) The Secretary of State may only make regulations designating an international agreement under subsection (7) where that agreement—

(a) provides for safeguards and special procedures in respect of applications by competent authorities of a country or territory other than the United Kingdom for orders in respect of journalistic data and confidential journalistic data that are equivalent to those in this Act, and

(b) provides for at least as much protection for freedom of expression and the protection of journalists’ sources as Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.”

This amendment would seek to ensure that the terms on which other states may access electronic data held in the UK mirror the UK’s own safeguards for press freedom.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 18, in clause 1, page 2, line 11, at end insert—

“(7A) The Secretary of State may only make regulations designating a treaty for the purposes of this section if that treaty provides as least as much protection for freedom of expression and the protection of journalist’s sources as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.”

This amendment would mean that a treaty could be designated an international co-operation arrangement for the purposes of this Act only if it provided as much protection for freedom of expression and the protection of journalistic sources as that provided in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:11 a.m.

The amendment deals with the concern over what has been described as a free pass for overseas authorities to access data in the UK. Again, the issue is a fairly discrete one, on which I hope the Minster will be able to comment and give some reassurance. In its current form, the Bill allows the Government to enter into agreements with foreign Governments to enable reciprocal access to data stored in the United Kingdom. The concern is that there are no appropriate safeguards to compel the position in other countries with regard to freedom of the press, mirroring those that we have in the United Kingdom. From comments that the Minister made in a different context in a previous discussion, it may be that that is something we take into account before a particular country is considered for negotiation for such a treaty, but I would appreciate it if that was set out.

The concern is that we create a back door for overseas Governments to bypass procedures and protections laid out in the United Kingdom. Put simply, we could have a situation whereby a country that does not have our standards of press freedom is able to access something that has been obtained by journalists in this country. What assurances can the Minister give on the considerations that would be taken into account on that issue before any treaty was entered into with another country?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:13 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, and I recognise the slight difference between this amendment and amendments 13 and 14, in which he deals with confidentiality. First, as I pointed out earlier, hon. Members are talking about incoming requests for UK-held data, but the Bill relates only to the UK’s outgoing requests for electronic data held overseas. I completely accept the point that the Bill cannot work without a reciprocal international agreement in place, but amendments 15 and 18 are directly related to the international agreement, as opposed to what our Bill provides for.

The Bill is simply not the right place to mandate what is, I agree, a right and laudable protection for journalists and their data. We cannot impose these conditions in advance of negotiations on an international agreement. In my view, this goes back to the principle of allowing the Government of the day to have those negotiations without necessarily having their hands tied. Of course, the UK would never agree to share data with a country that had insufficient safeguards—not as long as I am the Minister and this is our Government. I do not think that it is necessary or helpful to mandate this in the Bill.

The amendments, which seek to control the Government’s negotiating position before they have begun considering future international agreements, would not prove desirable to any Government. However, I remind hon. Members that they will get ample opportunity to scrutinise any international agreement, both when the agreement is designated and again, ahead of ratification, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The Government already amended the Bill in the other place to provide that extra level of scrutiny of all international agreements.

The first, most immediate and most important international agreement will be, I hope, with the United States. As hon. Members know, the US has an even higher regard for protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press than the UK has, as set out in the first amendment to its constitution. In addition, the US-UK agreement has been drafted to be fully compliant with EU law. If hon. Members want to know how strong the US holds the first amendment to be, I tell them that when they lobby me about neo-Nazi websites hosted in the United States—as they often do—and we seek to have them taken down because of the vile extremism that they spout, our challenge is that under the first amendment it is extremely hard, even domestically, for the US to do that.

To some extent, we would not have the same problem—well, let us hope not—but the US definitely has that problem. That is an example of how these international agreements will be between like-minded countries with similar values and rights, the rule of law and so on. In this case, on the journalistic issue, the US has a stronger protection than we currently have in the European Union. That is why we have done this in the way we have.

I understand what the hon. Gentleman is rightly trying to get at. Of course, I have been open throughout to anything that protects and better qualifies journalistic data. However, we should remember that under the Bill, which is about our requests out, law enforcement agencies will have to make their case not to me but to a judge, who will have to decide whether the application is proportionate, necessary and in the national interest. It cannot be a fishing exercise. Only if the judge is satisfied that it is obviously relevant to the investigation and protects the rights of the journalist will the application be granted. The journalist will be notified, so it is not as if they will be unaware. We will be able to protect their material where that is appropriate, but if there is material that is important to an investigation—and remember that no journalist, no Member of Parliament and no one else is above the law.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:16 a.m.

I do not disagree with much of what the Minister says, and I take his point about the scope of the Bill. The point I was driving at is that if we had a treaty with a country that did not have the same laws about freedom of the press, that would obviously create a concern. I think the Minister is saying, in effect, that that would be taken into account before a treaty was finalised in any event. Is that correct?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:17 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman is right on that. I cannot speak for the next Government, but the Bill is about our requests to our courts, and this Government would not enter into an agreement with a Government that went around oppressing the press and the media. Despite the fake news, this Government believe that journalism and the press are vital to exposing the truth, corruption and everything else, and we absolutely would do all we could to protect that, both in domestic proceedings and with any international treaties. That is why the Bill is drafted so it is both compliant with European law and has high regard to the first amendment.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:20 a.m.

First of all, the Bill is simply the docking station from here to there. It is not about international treaties—when we sign our treaties, we can dock them into the Bill. The principle of allowing a Government to negotiate without their hands narrowly tied about what they can discuss is important.

Secondly, remember that—this probably comes down to how we would draft such a provision—for the purposes of security and so on we sometimes share information with countries that do not have the same high standards as us. If we had a credible threat against aeroplanes with British tourists taking off from third countries, we would not say, “We’re not going to tell you,” and let British tourists get blown out of the sky. Of course we share information with countries, but this is about journalistic information as it applies to investigations, criminal proceedings and so on.

We can do more to provide assurances about journalistic material, notification and journalists in court here, and I can give the Committee the assurance that we would enter into international agreements only where we felt there was high regard for the protection of journalists, but I do not think that safeguard needs to be in the Bill. There would be a challenge about how exactly to draft it. It would also go against the principle of letting the Government of the day be free to hold a negotiation in a way that would achieve the same things, but could address all the different issues. Every country will have things that we have issues with, and I bet that not one country will tick all our boxes across the board. What is my highest priority? Protection of the ECHR, the right to life, journalistic protections—those things will be right up there at the very top, which I think is the best way to do it.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:20 a.m.

On the basis of the Minister’s reassurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:21 a.m.

Clause 1 is the meaty part of the Bill, and the Government have removed the amendment made in the Lords. I do not need to reiterate the importance of the Bill progressing in the way that we have tried to take it through. I have offered concessions throughout, as I have done elsewhere, and concessions are still on offer to Opposition Members, and indeed to Conservative Back Benchers. However, I cannot say that I will put the Bill in jeopardy, because I believe that fundamentally that would make our constituents less safe. That is why we have removed the amendment, and why I believe clause 1 should stand part of the Bill.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

The Minister knows that I am always willing to speak to him about concessions, and that remains the case. However, I hope that he understands the real strength of feeling about death penalty assurances, which was reflected in my speech and the vote this morning. Of course we will consider the issue in further discussions, and we will revisit it on Report.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Meaning of “electronic data” and “excepted electronic data”

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:40 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 11, in clause 3, page 3, line 46, at end insert:

“but shall not include bulk data”.

This amendment would prevent applications for bulk data under the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 21, in clause 3, page 3, line 46, at end insert:

“but does not include bulk data”.

This amendment would exclude bulk data from the electronic material which can be made subject to an overseas production order.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:25 a.m.

Amendment 11 is about safeguards on bulk data. Baroness Williams of Trafford spoke on this issue in Grand Committee on 5 September and explained why she felt that an amendment excluding bulk data was unnecessary:

“The Bill has been drafted to require appropriate officers to consider carefully what data they are targeting—which, of course, is not the case with bulk data—and where the information is stored, in order to help with the investigation and prosecution of serious crime, in addition to demonstrating that the data will be of substantial value to the investigation and in the public interest. It feels to me that there are sufficient safeguards in place,”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 5 September 2018; Vol. 792, c. GC150.]

Put simply, there is a worry that under current safeguards it could be argued that bulk data was of substantial value to any criminal investigation and was in the public interest. This is a simple but discrete point regarding reassurances that bulk data will not be accessed by the powers in the Bill. The Government’s position, as set out in the other place, is that the safeguards there are sufficient to ensure that as the Bill stands, but I am hoping that the Minister will be able to set out and expand in greater detail on the reassurance given in the other place.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:25 a.m.

The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Torfaen is probably more grammatically correct than mine—my high school English teacher would not be surprised by that—but the principle is exactly the same. Rigorous safeguards are required to ensure that overseas production orders are not open to abuse in terms of requesting access to bulk data.

As someone who suffered—served—on the Investigatory Powers Bill Committee, I used to read the excerpts on the levels of oversight on the various elements of bulk data collection and interception to help to put me to sleep at night; if this is a dry Bill, then the Investigatory Powers Bill, although incredibly important, was even drier. The Scottish National party held out strong opposition to bulk data collection, and it is important to explain why we tabled this amendment: to remind the Minister that we believe that surveillance should be targeted by means of warrants that are focused, specific and based on reasonable suspicion.

Although the Government produced an operational case for bulk powers in between the draft Bill and the Bill as scrutinised in Committee, it was inadequate because it was largely anecdotal. We still firmly believe that such powers do not pass the legal tests of necessity and proportionality, and the additional test that the same results could not be achieved using more proportionate and less intrusive means. Two American Committees that asked to look at these Bills concluded that the same information could be obtained using more proportionate and less intrusive means.

Amendment 21 in my name is straightforward; the hon. Gentleman has already outlined many of the arguments and quoted Baroness Williams, but we agree that applications for bulk data lack a careful consideration of specifically which data is to be targeted. However, the Bill does not contain any express provision requiring orders to be targeted in the manner the Government describe. It is perfectly possible for officers to argue to the Government’s satisfaction that bulk data will be of substantial value to criminal investigations and in the public interest, given that the Government already regularly make arguments about why bulk powers are required in a wide variety of circumstances.

That assumption on the Government’s part does not amount to an adequate safeguard against the potential for bulk data to be requested under an OPO. Any access to routine daily surveillance of communications en masse should be expressly prohibited, and that is what the SNP amendment and the hon. Gentleman’s amendment are both intended to do. I urge the Minister to accept our amendment.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard

Certainly not through this process. Any use or acquisition of bulk data is guided by the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, and those conditions are set out. Someone could not use the Bill to go along to court and say, “Google, can I have data on everyone in Scunthorpe who uses the internet?” That would be a bulk dataset. However, they could go along to the court and say, “I’m investigating somebody called Gavin Newlands, and I would like to see the comms data record and some of his content.” They would make the request to the judge, possibly for more than one set of data—browsing history and mobile phone text history, perhaps. That would be two sets, but they would be specifically targeted at an individual, and would therefore not be a bulk dataset. That is the difference.

Bulk datasets are required under the 2016 Act by our intelligence service and so on, and they are overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office and the warrantry system, which now has the double lock in many cases. They can also be overseen by Ministers, and to some extent by the Intelligence and Security Committee when investigating operations and how that data was used. I do not know when it will be published—it might be about to be published, or have been published—but the latest annual report by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner is out. Lord Justice Fulford’s report is a detailed analysis, and highlights where mistakes have been made or the law has not been applied.

That is how bulk data is regulated and acquired. The Bill does not apply to that, and none of those requests could involve bulk data applications.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

I have some other issues to press later about journalistic material; however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

I beg to move amendment 13, in clause 3, page 4, line 3, at end insert

“, or

(c) confidential journalistic data (within the meaning of section 12(4)).”

This amendment would bring confidential journalistic data within the definition of “excepted electronic data”.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 14, in clause 12, page 10, line 27, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

“(4) ‘Confidential journalistic data’ means data—

(a) that a journalist holds that is subject to such an undertaking, restriction or obligation; and

(b) that has been continuously held (by one or more persons) subject to such an undertaking, restriction or obligation since it was first acquired or created for the purposes of journalism.”

This amendment would redefine confidential journalistic data for the purposes of the Bill.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:35 a.m.

Again, the amendment relates to a theme of my amendments, regarding provisions of the overseas production orders being in line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. I will refer to the excluded material under the Bill, because there is a set of conditions different from those that need to be met under the 1984 Act.

Under the 1984 Act, the definition of excluded material means that in most cases confidential journalistic material is simply out of the police’s reach. That protection helps to ensure the anonymity of those who approach journalists with information that is in the public interest. If journalists cannot ensure that their sources’ identities will be protected, people will not come forward with information exposing crime, corruption and other wrongdoings in society.

Clause 3 does outline that excepted electronic data cannot be targeted by applications by orders. That includes data subject to legal privilege, and any personal record that is confidential. However, there is a further concern with regard to protection for excluded material or journalistic material that is held subject to a duty of confidence. Under the 1984 Act, excluded material has a different set of conditions that need to be met. My question to the Minister is why that should be different in the Bill.

I appreciate that on Second Reading the Minister set out that the Bill had been worded in such a way that it is in line with the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. However, particularly in relation to POCA, one would usually have an application—a POCA application—at the conclusion of a trial. Obviously, in that situation the crime would already have been proven and the authorities would go after any ill-gotten gains as a consequence. It is not necessarily the best place to mirror provisions from in this context.

The concern is that, as the Bill stands and as excluded material is defined, we are running the risk of potentially sensitive material contained in confidential records being applied for and that there is not that explicit protection with regard to confidential journalistic sources. Journalists play a fundamental role in our society in holding those in power to account; I am sure that the Minister shares my concern that we do not want this legislation to suppress in any way investigative journalism and the exposure of matters in the public interest. I hope that he will be able to set out his position on that issue and provide reassurances to the members of the Committee.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:36 a.m.

The amendment would make confidential journalistic data an excepted category for material for an overseas production order, meaning it cannot be sought using the powers in the Bill. The amendment goes further than what is currently in place under PACE. While confidential journalistic material is excluded material in PACE, it is accessible if certain access conditions are met.

Under PACE, a constable may obtain access to excluded material for the purposes of a criminal investigation by making an application under schedule 1. Excluded material can be applied for only if there is a statute that would have authorised obtaining material in question under warrant before PACE was introduced.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

I accept that the conditions are different. The point is this: why is it not in the same place?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:37 a.m.

While the Bill was based on some of the provisions in PACE, its powers extend to further offences, such as terrorism investigations. In the Terrorism Act 2000—the legislation that law enforcement agencies currently use for terrorism investigations—confidential journalistic material is not excepted data. The Bill creates a new power to obtain an overseas production order, drawing on existing powers available to law enforcement domestically for the acquisition of content data overseas, to help to prevent unnecessary delays in tackling serious crime.

It is sensible to ensure that we do not have significantly different legal tests in the Bill. The existence of different court procedures for different sorts of court orders leads to unnecessary confusion, avoidable litigation and further delays in investigations.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:39 a.m.

I hear my hon. Friend’s point. The whole point of the Bill is to increase the speed of the process and smooth it. What we will come on to later is obviously that in this process there is notification for journalists; other people do not get notification. Journalists are brought into the process early on, so that they are able to make representations to a judge in a way that does not apply to the rest of the public. Indeed, it does not apply to Members of Parliament; if MPs are under investigation, they will not get a chance to make representations to the judge. But a journalist will get that chance.

Our view is that the terrorism law is domestic law, and that judgment has been in existence since the last Labour Government. What is important is that the judge uses his or her discretion, guided by the fact that any judgment needs to be proportionate, necessary, in the public interest, targeted at an individual and in line with the range of domestic laws. So, yes, there is POCA, PACE and the Terrorism Act 2000. However, all of those laws are established UK pieces of legislation.

If we add the notification to the judge’s discretion—the point of it has to be proportionate and necessary—and to the fact that the laws are already established, I believe that journalists will have the protection that they need. I am happy to look at the issue, which we will come to in later amendments, about effectively improving the definition of journalistic material to make sure that it is not broad and spread wide.

In this case, we must remember that the appropriate officer will need to provide evidence against each of the access conditions, and the judge will scrutinise them carefully. It is almost inevitable that in any situation where the police attempt to obtain journalistic material, there will be understandable resistance from the journalist or media organisation that holds it. Both are well versed in the process of making representations to court, and it is rare that access to confidential material is granted through PACE.

It is the Government’s intention that journalists’ interactions with their sources should be protected, but that does not mean that journalists should receive blanket protection from legitimate investigation, simply because of their chosen profession. The Bill takes a reasoned balanced approach, so I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw amendment 13.

Amendment 14 seeks to redefine “confidential journalistic data”. The definition in the Bill is taken from the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which the Government feel is sufficient protection for source material.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:41 a.m.

I have already referred to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. I am not saying that there is a blanket protection, but there is a stringent set of tests. Before the Minister concludes, will he say how satisfied he is about how stringent the tests are in the Bill?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:42 a.m.

I am satisfied, and the court rules will also expand on that. I am satisfied that judges, who regularly come down not on the Government’s side, will take the Bill and scrutinise the requests properly. We have to go to a judge, so our law enforcement agencies cannot examine the information without going via the judiciary; it goes via the judiciary in this case. I have every faith that they will be able to uphold those important principles.

On amendment 14, the term “confidential journalistic data” reflects the reality whereby journalistic material can be hosted on servers where the data would technically belong to the communications service provider, rather than the journalist. To ensure that source material has proportionate protections, the term “confidential journalistic data” has been borrowed from the 2016 Act. I am happy to discuss that further with hon. Members before Report. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Requirements for making of order

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:43 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 5, in clause 4, page 5, line 1, leave out “(6)” and insert “(6A)”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 4.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 4, in clause 4, page 5, line 34, at end insert—

“(6A) Where an application for an order includes or consists of journalistic data, the judge must also be satisfied—

(a) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the specified data is likely to be relevant evidence;

(b) that accessing the data is in the public interest, having regard—

(i) to the benefit likely to accrue to the investigation if the data is obtained; and

(ii) to the circumstances under which the person is possession of the data holds it,

(c) that other methods of obtaining the data have been tried without success or have not been tried because it appeared that they were bound to fail.”

This amendment would require a judge to be satisfied that journalistic data which is the subject of an application for an order constitutes relevant evidence.

Amendment 6, in clause 4, page 6, line 16, after “section” insert—

““relevant evidence”, in relation to an offence, means anything that would be admissible in evidence at a trial for the offence.”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 4.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:44 a.m.

This group of amendments consists of amendment 4 and two consequential amendments. Again, the amendments refer to the read-over to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Under that Act, the warrant can be made for journalistic material only if the judge is satisfied that a series of conditions have been met, including that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an indictable offence has been committed, that the materials sought would be of substantial value to the investigation, that all other avenues of procuring the evidence have been exhausted or would be bound to fail, and that the evidence sought is relevant to the investigation. The amendments probe that relevance test.

Although the Bill offers a public interest test and a substantial value test, it does not include a relevant evidence test. Nor does it speak about a requirement that all other means of obtaining the information have been exhausted. I am pushing the Minister on the relevance test. Adopting a threshold for what data are relevant to an investigation is necessary and proportionate. It enables clarity and constituency in all cases, and is in line with our human rights obligations. As the Minister pointed out, the judges who will be considering these applications will be familiar with the application of a relevance test. It is a recognised legal standard, and it would be a simple, sensible safeguard that would bring these provisions in line with those under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. I ask the Minister to consider carefully the inclusion of a relevance test.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:50 a.m.

Amendments 4, 5 and 6 seek to include in the Bill an additional test of relevant evidence, which the judge must be satisfied has been met before granting an overseas production order for journalistic data, and the additional requirement that all other avenues for obtaining the data have been exhausted before applying for an overseas production order. On the relevant evidence test, under schedule 1 to PACE, there are certain conditions that must be satisfied before the judge can order the production of special procedure material. Under these conditions, first, there must be reasonable grounds for believing that the material is likely to be of substantial value to the investigation in connection with which the application is made. Secondly, there must be reasonable grounds for believing that the material is likely to be relevant evidence, which means, in relation to an offence, anything that is admissible in trial for that offence. Thirdly, it must be in the public interest, having regard to certain matters, for the material to be produced.

Only the public interest and substantial value conditions are included in the Bill. That was deliberate drafting to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to gain access to material that could help further investigation, even if that material is not necessarily admissible as evidence in court. Although the intent of the powers is to allow for data gathered to be used as evidence in court, we do not intend admissibility as evidence to be a barrier to obtaining material that has been identified as being of substantial value to an investigation. My officials have worked closely with operational partners to understand the need for this. Investigators from law enforcement agencies advise that there are often cases in which access to data is fundamental in discovering certain leads in an investigation, although they will not necessarily be used as evidence in court. For example, if someone is being investigated for storing inappropriate images of young children, an overseas production order could reveal further references to other platforms where inappropriate content was being stored. While the images themselves would be used as evidence in court, the lead to the platforms on which they were stored might not be.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:50 a.m.

The Minister is talking about admissibility, not relevance. Why on earth would anyone want to investigate something that is irrelevant?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:51 a.m.

I do not think that is what I am saying. I am saying that some material would be used as evidence and some would be used as a lead through which to access or potentially find evidence. This is not about anyone going to the court and asking for irrelevant material. It is about asking for material that is substantial and meets the test of the judges.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:51 a.m.

I do not see how a relevance test would prevent that from taking place.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:52 a.m.

I will give another reason. Unlike PACE, the Bill allows for the investigation of terrorist offences. It has been drafted to mirror the relevant parts of the Terrorism Act and POCA, neither of which has a requirement for relevant evidence tests to be met.

The concept of relevant evidence works only if an application is made in relation to a particular offence. That is why it does not exist in the Terrorism Act, under which an application does not have to be made in respect of one particular offence, but only for a terrorist investigation. Given that an overseas production order made under the Bill could be served in support of a terrorist investigation, we cannot simply import a relevant evidence test into the Bill, as in PACE. I do not believe that introducing a markedly different legal test depending on the investigation is helpful.

I reiterate that the Bill deliberately brings different police powers under one piece of legislation. The intention is to create a single set of test criteria, which the Government believe provides appropriate safeguards to accessing content data.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:53 a.m.

We are in the process of trying to balance the safeguards. Let us remember that the Bill effectively covers a relationship between the law enforcement agencies, the courts and the CSPs—not the journalists or the person under investigation or anybody else. Journalists will be notified effectively to make a representation to a court about why, for example, half of their address book is irrelevant. They have an opportunity to make that point to the judge. Nobody else does. That provides a different type of safeguard from what my hon. Friend is looking for.

The point is well made about an investigation. Many of these investigations are about discovery and are very fast moving; starting with one mobile telephone number or one individual, it very quickly becomes a plot in a terrorist case. It is therefore about giving our law enforcement agencies the ability to pursue an investigation. However, when the investigation comes across journalistic material, the journalist will be given a notification that they are allowed to make a case for why it is irrelevant and effectively influence the parameters of that request. I venture that a judge would take that very seriously.

Some 99.9% of journalists do not have anything to fear from this process. The ones who do have something to fear are those who call themselves journalists at the Dabiq or Inspire magazines from Al-Qaeda and IS and so on, who pump out propaganda and journalism, as they see it, around the world. They have something to fear because this Bill will help us catch those people much quicker. I do not call them journalists, however; I call them first-class terrorists. Ultimately, they are the ones who would love to see bureaucracy slow down the investigation. I do not think our journalists—mainstream journalists, law-abiding journalists, and not even mainstream journalists—have anything to fear from this.

Another point was made about exhausting all avenues of accessing journalists’ data before an overseas production order is granted. First, if the amendment were incorporated in the Bill, that could have the adverse effect of compelling a judge to ensure law enforcement agencies have tried the mutual legal assistance route, which is the route we are currently trying to fix because that can take up to two years before an overseas production order can be granted. That would defeat the point of our creating this new process to prevent up to two years of delays via MLA. The caveat the hon. Member for Torfaen has added to his amendment with the phrase,

“tried without success or have not been tried because it appeared that they were bound to fail”,

would not mitigate this risk either. We are not worried about MLA failing, but about the length of time it takes to gain access to vital evidence.

It is worth noting that, in practice, law enforcement agencies would have exhausted less coercive methods of obtaining data, if they exist. Agencies will only go through the process of applying to court for potential evidence as a last resort in the investigation, for example, should suspects refuse to release or unlock access to their phones and so on. I therefore urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:56 a.m.

I am not minded to divide the Committee on this, and I am willing to withdraw the amendment. I just say to the Minister that I am not sure the relevance test has quite the impact he thinks it does. I urge him to look again, because its inclusion would provide greater safeguards and reassurance without doing the damage he thinks. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands - Hansard

I beg to move amendment 16, in clause 4, page 5, line 16, at end insert—

“(3A) In any case which —

(a) falls within subsection (3)(a), and

(b) relates to data which comprises or includes excluded material (as defined by section 11 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) or special procedure material (as defined by section 14 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984)

the judge may only make an order if satisfied that the relevant set of access conditions in Paragraphs 2 or 3 of Schedule 1 to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 would be fulfilled if the application had been brought under that Schedule.”

This amendment would that, in the case of excluded or special procedure material, a judge could only make an order if the relevant provisions on access conditions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 were complied with.

Break in Debate

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:57 a.m.

Many of the arguments relating to these amendments have largely been made in the previous set of amendments about PACE. To clarify, from our point of view, journalists are currently given notice under PACE, which allows them to negotiate changes to their application in most cases. These amendments simply replicates what already exists and works well under PACE for the measures in the Bill. They would ensure that the evidential value test mirrors the current law on both terrorism and non-terrorism cases, in reference to the point made by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle. They would also ensure that confidential journalistic material is protected as under the current law for domestic applications. As has been said already, the Bill strips out the requirement that the information sought is likely to be relevant evidence and that other means of obtaining it have at least been considered. In a free, democratic society, seizing journalistic material should be a last resort.

Although there is a public interest test in clause 4, it sets a lower threshold than in PACE. Instead of the judge being required to determine whether granting access to information would be in the public interest, as in PACE, the judge must merely be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that it would be in the public interest. Separately, the police and security services have covert powers, primarily under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. These powers are exercised through the issuing of a warrant by the Secretary of State and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. Exceptionally, these powers have been used by the police to identify a source. Most infamously, the police used a journalist’s phone number to identify the police source who had leaked the “plebgate” story to The Sun. As a result of concern from the press about this, some safeguards have been added. However, neither the journalists nor the CSP is given notice of an application for an IPA warrant.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 10:59 a.m.

I support what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and there is a later amendment for a notice. Is not the essential issue here that, as the Bill stands, the notice provision is not there for material that might not be confidential but is none the less extremely sensitive? It would be sensible to have the notice provision for that journalistic material as well.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands - Hansard

I could not agree more. The Investigatory Powers Act—I thought I left it behind a couple of years ago but I am on it again—provides for communications to be intercepted in the course of transmission; for communications data, but not content, to be produced to the police; and for the bulk surveillance of communications, with access to the content of specific communications that are highlighted in this process. Other than that, there is not a general right under the Act to apply for the content of stored communications, so there is no general ability under domestic law to obtain the content of journalistic communications other than through applying for a domestic production order.

Break in Debate

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands - Hansard

We are talking about PACE, not POCA—I think that the Minister meant that, so I will answer accordingly. What he outlined is not before us today. If he introduces another Bill to make such changes to legislation, then perhaps on considering it we would argue the same points. That is for another day, but I take his point.

If the Government do not table appropriate amendments to provide protections, I suspect that we shall revisit the matter on Report, but for now I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 5 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8

Inclusion of non-disclosure requirement in order

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:08 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 12, in clause 8, page 8, line 42, at end insert—

“(3A) A judge shall only include a non-disclosure requirement for a period which, in the judge’s opinion, is necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances.”

This amendment would require a judge to include a non-disclosure requirement to cover a period which was only as long as he or she deemed necessary and proportionate.

This is another quite discrete point. Clause 8 empowers a judge making an overseas production order to include a non-disclosure requirement. Subsection (3) provides:

“An overseas production order that includes a non-disclosure requirement must specify or describe when the requirement is to expire.”

However, the clause does not include a necessity and proportionality test. Of course, it is essential that a non-disclosure requirement should not run for longer than reasonably necessary. Whereas under subsection (3) an order with a non-disclosure requirement would certainly have to specify or describe when it would expire, the judge would not be asked to consider the necessity for and proportionality of the order and its duration.

The purpose of the amendment is simply to probe the Minister for an indication of why there is no necessity and proportionality test, and whether he thinks any reassurance can be provided that those factors would be borne in mind in any non-disclosure order, which he will appreciate is a powerful order to make. It has quite profound consequences in these circumstances.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:10 a.m.

As the hon. Gentleman outlined, the clause allows for a judge making an overseas production order to include a non-disclosure requirement. Such a requirement would be imposed on the person against whom the order is made. It would prevent that person disclosing the making of the order or its contents to any person, unless with the leave of the judge or the written permission of the appropriate officer who applied for the order.

In deciding whether to include a non-disclosure requirement, judges are under a general obligation to make a reasonable decision and to take into account all relevant factors when making that decision. Furthermore, as a public authority, the court is under an obligation to act compatibly with convention rights. I hope that hon. Members are reassured that a decision to include a non-disclosure requirement will not be taken arbitrarily.

There might be circumstances in which it is appropriate for non-disclosure requirements to remain in place once the order has been complied with, or on revocation of it, for example when it could prejudice an ongoing investigation. In such instances we would expect a judge to include such a requirement as he or she would consider reasonable in the circumstances.

If the person subject to the non-disclosure requirement wants to disclose either the contents or the making of the order, the Bill already contains provisions under which the non-disclosure requirements may be challenged, including that of duration. First, when the person against whom the order is made wishes to oppose that requirement, the duration of the non-disclosure can be amended on application. In an individual case, the person against whom the order is made could seek leave of the judge, under subsection (2)(a), or written permission of the appropriate officer, under subsection (2)(b),

“to disclose the making of the order or its contents to any person”.

A mechanism therefore exists by which a person against whom the order is made can seek permission to disclose information relating to the order.

Secondly, the non-disclosure requirement will form part of the overseas production order itself. Clause 7 confers a right to apply for the variation of an order. An application for a variation can be made by the appropriate officer, any person affected by the order, the Secretary of State, or the Lord Advocate in Scotland. That could include varying the order to remove the non-disclosure requirement entirely, or to alter its duration to a period that the applicant feels is reasonable.

As hon. Members know and respect, our judges and courts are under an obligation to act reasonably. There is therefore no need to amend the Bill as is proposed. When a person subject to a non-disclosure requirement believes that it is not reasonable to remain subject to the requirement, provision already exists in the Bill for an application to the court to amend the order accordingly. The amendment is therefore unnecessary and the Government cannot support it.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:13 a.m.

I think that there is still a case for having the necessary and proportionate test in the Bill, and that would not necessarily undermine the Minister’s argument. In the circumstances, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 9 to 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 12

Notice of application for order: confidential journalistic data

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

I beg to move amendment 3, in clause 12, page 10, line 18, leave out “that is confidential journalistic data”.

This amendment would require notice to be given of an application for an overseas production order for electronic data which is believed to contain any journalistic data, not just confidential journalistic data.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 10, in clause 12, page 10, line 19, at end insert—

“(1A) Where an application is for journalistic data, the court must not determine such an application in the absence of the journalist affected, unless—

(a) the journalist has had at least two business days in which to make representations; or

(b) the court is satisfied that—

(i) the applicant cannot identify or contact the journalist,

(ii) it would prejudice the investigation if the journalist were present,

(iii) it would prejudice the investigation to adjourn or postpone the application so as to allow the journalist to attend, or

(iv) the journalist has waived the opportunity to attend.”

This amendment would give a journalist opportunities to make representations in relation to any application for data which he or she may hold.

Amendment 20, in clause 12, page 10, line 27, leave out subsection (4).

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:17 a.m.

Clause 12 states:

“An application for an overseas production order must be made on notice if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the electronic data specified or described in the application consists of or includes journalistic data that is confidential journalistic data.”

Amendment 3 is designed to broaden that notice requirement to include material that might not be counted as strictly confidential but is nevertheless sensitive. When there is an application for journalistic data, amendment 10 would mean that the court must not determine that application in the absence of the journalist affected, unless the journalist has had at least two business days to make representations, or the court is satisfied that that would not be appropriate on a number of other counts. These two matters are important, and I urge the Minister to consider them carefully.

The notice requirement often enables a negotiation to take place between the media organisation to which the journalist belongs, or the journalist themselves, regarding what data it is appropriate to provide. It would also enable the media organisation or journalist formally to oppose the application if necessary. We believe that those are important safeguards. The notice requirement is helpful for the overall protection of journalistic material that we have discussed during our deliberations on a number of different clauses, and it is a fundamental aspect of fairness in such situations. It is not that there is a blanket exception to material becoming available in appropriate circumstances, but the amendment would introduce an appropriate balance that allows the journalist or media organisation to put forward their concerns and try to ensure that we protect our free press and investigative journalism—something I am sure all members of the Committee wish to do.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:19 a.m.

I will be brief because the hon. Gentleman said much of what I wish to say, but I wish to endorse it. The amendment would make the clause consistent with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and apply it to all journalistic information, rather than just confidential information. I would be pleased if the Minister considered such a provision.

The point has been made—perhaps I can extend it—that such a measure would also save a lot of time and administration. If journalists are given an opportunity to negotiate with more notice, we will not find that matters reach the stage where it is too late. I am led to believe that the procedure works very much on a negotiation basis. On that basis, I think this measure is fair and consistent with domestic matters, and that it will also make for more administrative justice through our court process. I therefore support the sentiments behind the amendment, and I hope that the Minister will consider it.

I say gently to Opposition Members that, to a certain extent, and judging by what the Minister said earlier, we could perhaps have flexibility in this area and make the Bill work better if they do not seek to drive a coach and horses through the Bill with an amendment that is completely outside its scope and could potentially take it to pieces. I make those gentle points to those on both Front Benches.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard

The Minister shook himself. Amendments 3, 10 and 20 would provide that when journalistic data is sought as part of an overseas production order, the journalist is put on notice of application. Clause 12(1) of the Bill requires that when confidential journalistic data is sought as part of an overseas production order, the respondent is put on notice. The respondent in this context would be the communication service provider from which law enforcement agencies or prosecutors are seeking content data.

The Government intended to ensure that where an application for an overseas production order was made there was a presumption that any person affected by the order, which would include the journalist themselves, was also put on notice. That was to be included in the relevant court rules, as is the case with domestic production orders, including those made under PACE, the Terrorism Act and POCA.

I am pleased to see that the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Torfaen recognise that, should all journalists be put on notice when an overseas production order is served in respect of an application that relates to their data, certain exemptions must be in place. It is important that the requirement to provide notice for an overseas production order is not absolute. The difference between the Bill and PACE is that PACE production orders are served directly on the respondent themselves—that is, the journalist. Where PACE requires notice to be given to the respondent, notice has been given to someone who will of course be made aware of the order when it is served, as they are the person who will be required to comply with it. In practice, that will be the person handing over the data to law enforcement agencies.

However, in the Bill the orders are served directly on the CSP that owns and controls the data. Giving notice to a third party—the journalist, who is not required to act on the order—should not stand in the way of issuing an overseas production order where there are good reasons for notice not to be given. I believe that the judge is well placed to determine whether the journalist should be notified, and the circumstances in which it will not be appropriate for that to be the case.

The exemptions set out in amendment 10 are that

“the applicant cannot identify or contact the journalist…it would prejudice the investigation if the journalist were present…it would prejudice the investigation to adjourn or postpone the application so as to allow the journalist to attend, or…the journalist has waived the opportunity to attend.”

Those exemptions mirror what is currently in place in court rules for domestic production orders through PACE, and they seem a sensible approach. For example, we do not want to oblige law enforcement agencies into notifying an ISIS blogger or journalist when clearly that could prejudice the investigation. Those exemptions are fundamental to retaining a robust and sensible approach to evidence.

I thank Members for their detailed arguments, and for the time that they have taken to consider the protection of journalists. I reiterate that both the notice requirements and the important exceptions that underpin them will be provided for, as they are currently, in court rules. However, I am happy to consider whether they can be provided for in the Bill. I am happy to discuss that with hon. Members as we proceed to Report, if they will withdraw the amendment.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

On the basis of that continuing discussion, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:24 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 2, in clause 12, page 10, line 39, at end insert—

“(6) In determining for the purposes of subsection (5) whether or not a purpose is a criminal purpose, crime is to be taken to mean conduct which—

(a) constitutes one or more criminal offences under the law of a part of the United Kingdom, or

(b) is, or corresponds to, conduct which, if it all took place in a particular part of the United Kingdom, would constitute one or more criminal offences under the law of that part of the United Kingdom.”

This amendment clarifies what is meant in Clause 12(5)(a) of the Bill by the reference to creating or acquiring electronic data with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose. What is criminal is to be judged by reference to what is, or would be, a criminal offence under the law of a part of the United Kingdom.

Clause 12(5) provides that electronic data is not to be regarded as having been created or acquired for the purpose of journalism if it was created or acquired with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose, and that electronic data that a person intends to use to further such a purpose is not to be regarded as intended to be used for the purpose of journalism. As drafted, the Bill does not explicitly define what is meant by a criminal purpose in that context. Without a definition of criminal purpose or a crime in the Bill, there is a risk that the provision could be interpreted inconsistently within UK law. Our intention is that a criminal purpose is criminal only if the conduct constituting a related crime is an offence under UK law, regardless of whether it is a crime in the place where the relevant data was created or acquired, or where it was intended to be used.

For example, if a person located in another country was creating an extremist blog that encouraged others to join a terrorist organisation that is proscribed in the UK, such as ISIS, that person should not benefit from any protections afforded to journalistic data under the Bill. That could be the case even when that country does not criminalise the same conduct. That reflects the principle that the criminal purpose must be recognised as criminal under UK law.

To flip the example the other way, if a legitimate British journalist based abroad is writing an article about political corruption, which the country that they are in deems illegal, we should absolutely ensure that they are given the right protection under the Bill, given that their conduct is perfectly acceptable under British law. Without something that links criminal purpose to conduct that is criminal in the UK, or to conduct that would be criminal had it occurred here, there is a risk that the term will be interpreted by reference to the criminal law of the place where the person who created or acquired the data is located. I therefore propose amending the Bill to include a definition of what is meant by “criminal purpose”. I hope that hon. Members will support the need for this clarifying amendment.

Break in Debate

The Chair deferred adjourning the Committee (Standing Order No. 88).

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:27 a.m.

I support the sensible amendment. As subsection (5) is drafted, it is clearly the case that we should not regard electronic data

“as having been created or acquired for the purposes of journalism if it was created or acquired with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose”.

The difficulty comes when we have investigative journalistic work in another country that would not be regarded as a criminal act under UK law but could be illegal in that country, if it had particularly stringent or harsh laws. The sensible way to deal with that problem is the Government’s amendment, which defines criminal purpose in relation to UK law. That achieves the purpose of subsection (5) without endangering investigative journalistic activity abroad, which we all want to see.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 13 to 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:29 a.m.

Thank you, Mrs Moon, for your swift and efficient chairmanship. I am glad that something is functioning in Parliament and Government, and it is this small corner of the United Kingdom. I thank hon. Members for their contributions. I thank the hon. Member for Torfaen, who has contributed throughout, and the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, who has also contributed in as consensual a way as possible. It is regretful that we disagree on one important part.

The Bill will allow our citizens to be kept safer than they are now. As unexciting as its title is—I designed it that way—the Bill is an incredibly important piece of legislation. I hope that it progresses to Report soon and then returns to the House of Lords. I thank hon. Members for their attendance. The speed of our consideration does not reflect the seriousness of the Bill.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Dec 2018, 11:30 a.m.

Thank you, Mrs Moon, for the way you have chaired proceedings. I also thank all the officials, the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, the Minister and all hon. Members who have contributed. As the Minister said, the speed of our proceedings is due to the fact that the vast bulk of the Bill is uncontroversial; it does not detract from the serious nature of the matters we are considering. I look forward to hearing further from the Minister on Report about the concerns I have expressed.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, accordingly to be reported.

Committee rose.

Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Nick Thomas-Symonds Excerpts
Monday 3rd December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 7:17 p.m.

As I have said, some of them have gone on for years. Some cases are still sitting in courts overseas. It is predominantly a matter of months and years at present, and we want to reduce that to days and weeks. Every day on which we cannot access content in this area—and let us remember that it is the court, not me, that must be satisfied that a request from the police is valid—is a day on which, in many cases, the offenders are still offending. That is why we think the Bill is so important. It reflects the changes in how offending is happening, and the fact that it is now happening online. For many months, Members on both sides of the House have asked what more the Government can do about not only online radicalisation but online offending. This is a concrete step to ensure that we can do more to counter it.

The MLA process will continue to exist. It remains critical to other types of evidence that are not within the scope of the Bill, and to any electronic evidence that may not be provided for by the relevant international agreement. However, one of the biggest pitfalls of the current system is the long wait to secure electronic data that, by its nature, can be shared very quickly. The Bill provides the solution in the form of an additional, streamlined alternative: the overseas production order.

I do not doubt that Members will support the crucial purpose of the Bill, which is to provide a significantly faster mechanism for obtaining vital electronic data that is held by overseas providers in order to prosecute the most serious offenders, and to safeguard vulnerable people in our society from further unnecessary harm. I commend it to the House.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 7:18 p.m.

The Minister began by saying that he was grateful for the contribution of lawyers during the previous two and a half hours. Alas, I have not had a chance to leave yet, but hopefully that contribution will continue.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 7:18 p.m.

Put the rates up.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 7:18 p.m.

I doubt that even I could match the rates of the Attorney General.

As the Minister has explained, the purpose of the Bill is to permit a court in this country to require a person or company located overseas, such as an overseas service provider, to produce stored electronic information, as a court could if the information were located or controlled in the United Kingdom. That will be done via the overseas production order for which clause 1 provides. An order can be operative only if the UK signs a treaty enabling it to be exercised. UK law enforcement authorities will be able to apply for an order that requires the production of electronic evidence for the purpose of investigating or prosecuting crimes such as terrorism offences. At present, if UK law enforcement requires electronic data from another country, it must go via a mutual legal assistance treaty, but that process can be slow to complete.

I very much appreciate and accept that electronic information is crucially important for the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, and indeed is gaining in importance. The Minister set out the case of Dr Matthew Falder and some of the horrific child sex abuse images found on various websites, and it is clear that having a smooth, fast, efficient process to obtain this information is important, which is why the Opposition support the aim of this Bill; we do need a faster system.

I should also point out that I recognise the particular importance of the United States, first because this is the country where so much of the data is held and so many communication services providers—CSPs—are based, and, secondly, because the UK has been negotiating a bilateral data-sharing agreement with the United States since 2015.

The Minister knows that the Opposition are always happy to work with him in trying to reach consensus on matters, but there are aspects of this Bill about which I and my colleagues in the other place have concerns. First, I say to the Minister that we will be looking to pursue issues such as bulk data, confidential personal records and non-disclosure requirements in Committee.

There are also two other specific points of controversy in terms of this Bill that I will draw to the Minister’s attention now. The first of them is with regard to assurances on the use of the death penalty in cases where this country hands over data. The Bill is reciprocal, which allows countries with which a treaty is negotiated to seek a court order for electronic data stored in the UK to be transferred to another country. The current treaty is being negotiated with the US, and US law enforcement could apply via its courts for electronic data in the UK to be used as evidence in a particular case. There are currently 30 states in America that retain the death penalty.

I appreciate the Minister’s efforts to make this a more transparent process than has previously been the case, when Home Secretaries could, in private, make decisions in individual cases that are capital cases about handing over information. My right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary asked an urgent question on one issue in this House in July, which was due to a leaked letter from the Home Secretary to the then US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. In the letter the Home Secretary stated:

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought.”

The Minister responding to my right hon. Friend stated at the Dispatch Box:

“I can reassure the House that our long-standing position on the use of the death penalty has not changed.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 24 July 2018; Vol. 792, c. 1612.]

While I accept that the Government cannot control whether another Government provide assurances that are asked for, they can control, where assurances are not forthcoming, whether information will be handed over, and that includes information which could lead to evidence being gathered for use in a court, as well as evidence itself.

My noble Labour colleagues in the other place tabled a strong amendment in this regard which passed by 208 votes to 185 and was added to the Bill. The effect of it is to prevent such handing over of information unless there are assurances that the death penalty will not be imposed. This is important for those of us on these Benches who oppose the death penalty in all its forms and are passionate about human rights here and around the world. Furthermore, while we are, quite rightly, focused on the United States for the reasons I have set out, this Bill could be used, alongside a treaty, as the basis for reciprocal information exchange with other countries around the world where the rule of law is not respected by the regimes in power there, making the need for safeguards in this Bill even more pressing.

Secondly, there is a concern regarding the protection of journalists’ confidential information.

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 7:24 p.m.

I agree very much with what the hon. Gentleman has said on the death penalty reassurance point. He will note that the Minister said in his speech that the amendment was somehow defective. Does he agree that if that is so the Minister needs to make his case in detail and put forward another amendment so he can ensure that these death penalty assurances can be given?

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard

The right hon. Gentleman puts his finger on a crucial point. The amendment passed the other place with a comfortable majority, and if it is to be argued that there is, perhaps, a technicality that renders it defective, the Minister must identify it in Committee so the House can on Report at least take a firm view on it.

On the protection of journalists’ confidential information, while the Government have argued that provisions in the Bill match those of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, there are specific instances where it does not quite match PACE, and I will give a few examples, which no doubt can be explored in Committee.

Under PACE, notice is required in all applications for journalistic material, and there are two types: confidential or “excluded material” and non-confidential or “special procedure material”. However, under clause 12(1) of the Bill, provision is made to notify organisations only when the material is confidential journalistic material:

“An application for an overseas production order must be made on notice if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the electronic data specified or described in the application consists of or includes journalistic data that is confidential journalistic data.”

An application for non-confidential material—for example, where a journalist made a documentary and had some notes—often facilitates a negotiation process about what data is appropriate to provide to the authorities and offers the right of the media organisation concerned to oppose it formally. The Bill’s failure to make provision for a notification to request non-confidential journalistic material is a concern.

Conditions must be met for the court to grant a production order for special procedure material under PACE, including the following: there are reasonable grounds for believing the material is likely to be of substantial value to the investigation; disclosure is in the public interest; and there are reasonable grounds for believing that the material is likely to be relevant evidence. While clause 4(5) and (6) include both public interest and “substantial value” tests, they do not include a “relevant evidence” test. That is again a matter we will look to pursue in Committee.

Adopting a threshold of what data is “relevant” to an investigation is both necessary and proportionate; as well as helping to enable clarity and consistency in cases, it is in line with human rights principles. Judges considering these applications will be familiar with the application of these recognised legal standards, and it would be a simple and sensible safeguard to bring these provisions in line with those under PACE.

Under PACE, tests are only limited to “investigations”, while the Bill is worded in such a way that the tests could be applied to include investigations and proceedings. It is not clear why this should be required right up to trial.

There is a further concern with regard to protection for “excluded material”, or journalistic material that is held subject to a duty of confidence. Under PACE, “excluded material” has a different set of conditions that need to be met. Why should that be different in this Bill?

Journalists play a fundamental role in holding those in power to account, and we must ensure that this legislation does not in any way suppress investigative journalism or the exposure of public interest matters. Thus while the Opposition do not oppose the Bill’s purpose and welcome measures for the speedy exchange of electronic data, we will be looking to put safeguards into the Bill on handing over information, to protect the clear will of the other place with regard to the death penalty assurances and to protect the long-cherished principle of confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

Dr Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 7:30 p.m.

The way in which we communicate with one another has changed dramatically as a result of the digital age. The rapid growth of social media platforms has led to a sea change in how information is shared, conveyed and consumed. Indeed, the use of these platforms is ubiquitous in this House, and not a day goes by without Members’ WhatsApp messages being conveniently “leaked”. However, the convenience, accessibility and anonymity of these platforms has not been lost on those with more nefarious intentions, from terrorist groups looking to spread their hateful propaganda to child abuse rings sharing horrific images, and they are enthusiastically embracing this technology. As those who intend to cause harm change their methods of communication, so must our laws change to counteract that. The Bill will help us to keep pace with the increasing use of global electronic communications by criminals.

The current regime of mutual legal assistance is too slow and bureaucratic to make an effective contribution to an investigation. An MLA request to the United States can typically take nine months to produce what is being sought. This results in delayed or abandoned investigations and can delay people from being eliminated from criminal investigations. It is clear that when dealing with fast-moving dynamic criminal threats, this system is not fit for purpose. A nine-month wait for crucial information can be nine months too long. Overseas production orders, as provided by the Bill, will make the process far faster and more reliable, as they will get the information directly from companies. Rather than waiting for another country to consider whether it can comply with a request, then issue a court order or warrant and serve it, a judge in the UK will be able to go straight to a foreign company and get the information required in days, rather than months.

The new system that the Bill provides for will help us to tackle one of the most heinous crimes: child abuse. As the Minister outlined, there has been an exponential increase in the reports of child sexual abuse. As a paediatric consultant, I have treated far too many children who have fallen victim to this crime, sometimes with horrific physical injuries resulting from the abuse and with the mental health consequences that can occur at the time and later. The National Crime Agency estimates that a minimum of 66,000 to 80,000 individuals in the UK present some kind of threat to children. Each child is an individual, and each family can be badly affected. Any measure that helps to prevent one more child from suffering this fate deserves our full support. The Bill will ensure that child sexual abusers will see swift justice for their actions, and I welcome it.

Break in Debate

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 7:50 p.m.

What the Opposition parties are saying very clearly to the Minister is that he has to make that case in Committee, just as the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), the Labour party’s Front-Bench spokesman, made clear when I intervened on this very point. The Minister should make the case, but he should also explain how the Government will deal with the problem, which has arisen because of the actions of the Home Secretary not because of the actions of the Opposition.

We are concerned about the potential for this Bill to undermine protections for the freedom of the press. To be generous to the Government, what I think has happened is that, in pursuing a laudable aim that we all support, they went to the statute book and said, “Which statutes can we copy and paste to enable us to meet our objectives?” Rather than looking carefully at how, in domestic law, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 has carefully nuanced the use of the Terrorism Act 2000, Home Office officials, possibly because of the culture in the Home Office, just cut and pasted mainly from the Terrorism Act. That may have been a mistake, and there may have been no deliberate intention for it to have the consequences that now appear before us, so I gently say that I hope the Minister will go away and think about this. I invite him to meet hon. and right hon. Opposition Members, as well as representatives of the media to hear in detail the genuine concerns not just of BBC lawyers but of lawyers representing other media organisations.

We have heard from other Members about the issue of the relevant evidence test, which is in our domestic law and has been carefully developed over a period of years, but that test will not be applied to protect journalists with respect to material that comes from their investigations abroad. That is quite worrying if one looks at the practical examples. Take the case of Mark Duggan, for example. He was shot by the police in Tottenham in 2011, and the BBC obtained mobile phone footage of the aftermath from a witness. The BBC was ordered to turn over the footage and, because it was relevant evidence, the footage was handed over. Then an application was made for information that would reveal the identity of the source of that footage. The person who had shot the footage was understandably concerned for their safety, and the BBC successfully opposed the application by pointing to the relevant evidence test in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. That test is not in the Bill, so there is a clear example that, by not being as subtle in this legislation as we are in our domestic legislation, there is a danger that journalistic freedom, as exercised abroad, will be curtailed.

The point about the notices is relevant, and it should worry the Minister because the way that notices work under domestic legislation is very helpful not just to journalists but to the police. Sometimes when the police put a notice to a journalistic organisation, that organisation will go back to the police and say, “You are asking for a huge amount, and we don’t really think it is necessary for your investigation. Let us enter a dialogue with you to narrow down your search so you can get information that will really help you, and therefore you will not have to waste so much time.” The notice actually turns out to be helpful in speeding up investigations. Given that that is the whole purpose of this Bill, the Minister should go away and look at that.

Moreover, it is not just about thinking of the police’s point of view in speeding things up; it is also about making sure the police know whether the evidence exists. The way some notices work at the moment is that the police go on a fishing trip. There is the example from Durham police, which applied to the BBC without notice. Durham police was eventually told that it could not do that and that, if it had submitted a notice, it would have learned that the material no longer existed. Again, the BBC was trying to save police time.

Some of the carefully constructed domestic law needs to be put into this internationally applying legislation in order to help the police and security services, not just journalists. I am sure this is just an unintended consequence, and I am sure there is no malice, so I hope this is the sort of issue that can be settled by a few meetings and a few amendments that garner support from both sides of the House. That is how scrutiny should operate in this Parliament, and I hope the Minister, with his usual generosity, will be open-minded to that approach.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Parliament Live -