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Mr. Maclean: There is no doubt that, with this Bill as with others, there will be lawyers who will try to find loopholes. We must hope that there are sufficient men and women of principle left to plug those loopholes.
The Government's mistaken drafting perhaps made it inevitable that some in industry and financial institutions would overstate their case and panic at the thought of having to release their keys. The Government's mistake was probably inevitable because of the amount of legislation being pushed through in such a short time, and the burdens on parliamentary draftsmen. Part III was drafted the wrong way round. The Government had a fetish with and concentration on getting the keys--why? They wanted the keys to get the information. Sensibly,
Concern was inevitable because all movement in the industry has been towards encryption and keys. All those concerned with developing the internet, internet banking and so on, are excited by secure systems into which no one can hack. Encryption and double encryption is the trend in America, then along came the British Government to say, "Ah, but we want you to hand over the keys." I grant that such a perception was unfair. The Minister did his best in Committee to explain that the Government were really after plain text, for which they needed such powers.
Now, late in the day, but properly in accordance with our parliamentary procedures, we have the right drafting. That will help the Minister to reassure industry about the Government's intentions. He can embark on a propaganda drive with our financial institutions and the computer- internet world, with all its whiz-kids, geeks and other things--whatever they are called--who run the industry. More and more they are the driving force behind our economy. They are not just anoraks; they are incredibly sensible and powerful, and a good driving force.
The Minister now needs to take to such people the message that we have struck the right balance and that their keys are safe. The Government are no longer giving the impression that they want the encrypted keys to everyone's e-mail and internet systems. Instead, the emphasis is on plain text. I congratulate the Minister on achieving that, with the help of the Lords, and producing a better Bill.
Mr. Charles Clarke: I genuinely thank the right hon. Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and for Penrith and The Border (Mr, Maclean) and the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) for emphasising in this brief debate the points about drafting. I accept that the drafting has been fundamentally and positively changed, for the reasons stated by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, in order to make it clear that it is the information, rather than the key, that we are after. That is important in reassuring people.
I am grateful to all three right hon. and hon. Members--particularly the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed--for emphasising the purposes of the Bill as well. We need the information in the areas described for very good and important public interest reasons. We are contesting very highly effective crime, which may now be organised world wide. That is part of globalisation. We see the impact of such crime--trafficking in drugs and in people, paedophilia and so on--in so many areas of our lives, and we must maximise our defences against it. It is a requirement in defending the liberties of our citizens that we do so.
We know that, as technology develops, we will take a hit and find it difficult to be as effective in tackling such crime. We have a duty to do what we can to protect our citizens from such an organised international threat.
I sense that some of the debate--not today's, but generally--has missed that key purpose of the Bill, so I am genuinely grateful to the three right hon. and hon. Gentlemen for re-emphasising that. No one who has
If financial institutions are penetrated by money launderers of various descriptions, that will undermine those institutions. If internet companies are undermined by paedophiles using their organisation to get material to others who use it, that undermines the future prospects of the industry. That is the fundamental argument that should, to a greater extent than it has, inform the debate on the future relationship between the industry and the Government. We have a strong mutual interest in ensuring that the Bill works properly. The Government recognise that, and I am grateful for the acknowledgement that the redrafting of the first part of part III, with its emphasis on plain text and information rather than keys, provides the required assurance.
The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire is the one who raised the issue of plain text and keys. The changes in amendments Nos. 52, 54 to 57, 64, 66 to 68 and 76 are positive and all relate to the redrafting on which speakers have, rightly, focused. He was right also to focus on amendments Nos. 58 to 62, which provide further stipulations, in addition to those set out in clause 46(4), about the form that a disclosure notice must take. They stipulate, for example, that a notice must contain details of the person who gave permission for it to be served, and that the time set for complying with the notice must be reasonable in the circumstances.
The initial draft code of practice that we have published for part III sets out our first stab at drawing up a disclosure notice. The main purpose of the notice is to provide certainty about what everyone is being asked to do, and I shall be interested in the industry's response to our draft. It is possible that we shall be able to improve it, so that it better achieves that purpose, although the amendments have already moved us closer to that goal.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned authorisation, which is covered in amendments Nos. 69 and 71. Amendment No. 69 raises the authorisation level for access to keys to chief officer or its equivalent, which represents a significant increase. Amendment No. 71 provides additional safeguards by requiring that any directions for the disclosure of keys be notified to either the intelligence services commissioner or the chief surveillance commissioner, as appropriate, with the possibility of onward referral remaining open. Taken together, the two amendments should provide all the assurance needed.
I am grateful for the positive remarks made in the debate. I take seriously the points made about propaganda by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, who is a past master of propaganda, as evidenced by his promotion of Scotland and the drinks industry. After the Bill receives Royal Assent, we shall work with the industry--and the Opposition, if they are willing--to promote it both in this country and internationally. Given the comments made in the overseas media, we must explain clearly what the Bill is and is not, and why we do not believe it poses a threat to e-commerce in Britain; on the contrary, it will help to achieve the Government's aim of a strong and secure e-commerce economy, to which we are all committed.
Propaganda is needed, and I hope that the whole House will help to promote the interests of this country's businesses when the time comes. In the meantime, I have no hesitation in commending the Lords amendments to the House.
Lords amendment: No. 77, in page 54, line 19, leave out from first ("the") to ("or") in line 20 and insert ("Intelligence Services Commissioner").
Jane Kennedy: It is appropriate that I give due credit to Opposition Members, who raised the issue of the number of commissioners on Second Reading and pursued it in Committee. Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 and related amendments respond directly to those concerns.
The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) will remember that in Committee we discovered that the security service commissioner and the intelligence services commissioner were in practice roles performed by the same person. Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 formalise that arrangement by having one commissioner carrying out both functions, together with the additional functions required of him under the Bill. The streamlining of the number of commissioners has required a slight change to the title of the Bill, and I refer the House to amendment No. 163.
Amendments Nos. 78, 97, 101, 114, 117, 134 and 153 result from the earlier decision to remove from the Bill, when the provision was last before the House, the post of a covert investigations commissioner. The role of that commissioner was amalgamated with that of the chief surveillance commissioner under the Police Act 1997. However, in making these changes, we set the chief surveillance commissioner a wide-ranging and onerous task. We must therefore provide the commissioner with further assistance to ensure that he is able to be effective. We believe that he cannot act alone and we anticipate that he will need some form of inspectorate to assist him.
We think also that it is important that he should be provided with some judicial support for this function. The amendments will achieve that by allowing the Prime Minister, after consultation with the chief surveillance commissioner, to appoint serving or former circuit or Crown court judges to assist in the monitoring process. By this means, we will ensure independent judicial scrutiny of authorisations by all public authorities.
Amendment No. 86 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to provide the interception of communications commissioner with such technical facilities and staff as are sufficient to enable him properly to carry out his functions. Amendment No. 87 is designed to remove any
Having made such good progress in streamlining the numbers of commissioners, it is somewhat ruefully that I turn to amendments Nos. 90, 93, 100, 113 and 119, where we introduce a new commissioner. I seek to reassure the House that the new commissioner has a role that is clearly circumscribed in three different ways. First, it is limited to Northern Ireland. Secondly, it is limited to actions under part II of the Bill--to directed surveillance and covert sources. Finally, the role of this commissioner is limited to the actions of public authorities, the responsibility for which is transferred to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.