Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

Mark made the following contributions to the debate on Clause 3 — Grounds for issuing warrants and obtaining data, of emergency legislation being passed to allow the security services greater access to data.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

I am grateful. I will keep my contribution as short as possible, because other Members want to get on to some of the more important amendments to clause 6 and it is clear that there is no appetite to divide the Committee on this matter.

As Sir Alan Beith said, it is worrying that, all too often, the “economic well-being” head has been drawn so widely that many aspects of it could be seen as part and parcel of something that could fall within the ambit ofRIPA and this Bill. One need only look at the controversy around the alleged bugging of the GermanChancellor, Angela Merkel, by the National Security Agency, if the Snowden reports are to be believed. On the grounds, presumably, of economic well-being, there was an opportunity to listen to particular conversations. That is not a healthy state of affairs.

Many of the public concerns about the Bill that are close to all our hearts reflect an understanding and an appreciation from many of our constituents that certain intelligence needs to be picked up, but the process needs to be necessary and proportionate. Therefore, trying to draw a narrow view—not an overly restrictive view, but as narrow a view as possible—will command more public confidence.

“Economic well-being” is one of the various heads that come under the auspices of RIPA—the 2000 Act that controls most of the surveillance that is dealt with in the Bill. Rather worryingly, permissible purposes under the Bill, as under RIPA, will include

“any purpose (not falling within paragraphs (a) to (g)) which is specified for the purposes of this subsection by an order made by the Secretary of State.”

That is almost a Henry VIII-type provision that relates to the issue of public confidence that is close to all our hearts.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Knowsley that we should be trying to define the terms more narrowly. Perhaps now is not exactly the right time to do it, but I hope we will be able to do so in the months and years ahead when it comes to having a fully-fledged Bill on these very important matters.

I agree that we have to look at economic well-being as focusing on the security of the critical national infrastructure, defence contracts and—something close to my own heart—the stability of the UK currency, banking and financial systems, particularly with the ongoing and likely to become more acute issue of cybercrime, and cyber-security issues that will come as part and parcel of that.

I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer. It is important that we put some of these concerns in place. As I say, they have a more general bearing on the idea that if we are to get a sense of public confidence about this sort of legislation, we need to try to define it as narrowly as possible rather than having broad definitions in place. I think that that is what the right hon. Gentleman had in mind in tabling the amendment and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

The debate has been worth while. I have some sympathy for Katy Clark, who made a legitimate point. Equally, however, it is quite right that the Minister cannot give a categorical assurance along the lines that she ideally wants. Clause 3 tries to ensure that economic well-being must be underlined by national security. I hope that it goes some way to giving confidence not just to the Members in Committee, but to our many constituents who feel very strongly about this matter—trying to narrow the scope of the Bill and therefore of the power of the state.

James Brokenshire (Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration); Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative)
My hon. Friend makes his customary point about ensuring that there is such clarity. I am sure that we will return to this issue, but for the reasons I have outlined, I hope that the right hon. Member for Knowsley is minded to withdraw his amendment and that the clause will stand part of the Bill.