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Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I shall take the orders in turn. Many points have been raised; I shall try to deal with what seem to be the main points raised in opposition to the orders. If there is a point or a question that I do not address, I shall seek to do that later. No doubt noble Lords who consider that it is necessary for the purposes of the debate to ask questions will do so, but I am very conscious of the time and the other business of the House.
I shall start with the intrusive surveillance order. If my memory and my notes are right, the only questions in relation to that order were those asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. First, how will that now relate the system in Northern Ireland to that in England, Wales and Scotland? Secondly, why cannot the Northern Ireland police deal with the matter?
As the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said, this will bring Northern Ireland into line with England and Wales. It will mean that the Northern Ireland Prison Service will be able to do what the Prison Service in England and Wales can do. Rather than creating a different system, it will be brought into line.
In answer to the question why the police cannot deal with it, it is for the prison services to manage their estate, not for the police to do so. Just as in the case of England and Wales, if there were any concerns that a mutiny or a hostage situation in a prison might arise,
Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I apologise for having intervened at an inappropriate moment but I, too, asked a question about the prison service for Northern Ireland.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right; I was just about to come to that. He asked whether the Northern Ireland Assembly can be told about intrusive surveillance conducted by the Northern Ireland Prison Service. The answer is no, but the Chief Surveillance Commissioner reports on the exercise of powers under Part II of RIPA, and that report will be published by Parliament. So the information will be made available in that form, certainly to the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, no report as such is made to the Northern Ireland Assembly. I hope that I have given a reasonable assurance.
As regards the first order on intrusive surveillance, the only objection raised about it, if objection it was, was the question: why cannot the police deal with it? The answer is that it is simply not appropriate to tell the Prison Service that, while it is responsible for managing the estate, it must look to someone else for this. We do not expect that to happen in England and Wales and we should not expect it in Northern Ireland. I hope that, at least so far as concerns that issue, the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.
I turn now to the second order covering directed surveillance and covert human intelligence sources. I did not note any specific objection made to that order. Thenoble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked a question about the definition of a "service manager". Perhaps I may deal with that.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, yes, but it is the second order that I dealt with earlier; I addressed them in a different order. However, the noble Baroness is quite right. Perhaps I may continue to deal with the orders in the same way that I addressed them in my opening remarks.
The only point I noted in relation to this order was a concern expressed about the description of a "service manager". I took that reference in the order to be the identification of prescribed officers for local authorities. The description does not arise in relation to any other body, but I want to refer to a comment made by the noble Baroness about the Environment Agency. The order states that the prescribed officer for local authorities is an assistant chief officer, assistant head of service, service manager or equivalent.
The simple point is this: to find titles for different local authorities which represent the same level of seniority requires the use of a number of terms, reflecting how they are used in different local authorities. I am told by the local authorities and by the commissioners that it will be well understood that to describe someone as a "service manager or equivalent" is to describe someone who is second or third in the chain of command, similar to an assistant chief officer or an assistant head of service. I can assure the noble Baroness that the term does not cover a catering services manager.
The noble Baroness raised this point in relation to the Environment Agency, as I recall, to ask whether it could be someone who is simply a team manager. I may have misunderstood her, and if so I apologise unreservedly.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the order does not refer to a "team member", it refers to an "area management team member". Being a member of an area management team is not the same as being simply a team member. With respect, that point is not a reason for opposing the order.
I turn to the communications data order, listed second on the Order Paper and probably the one on which most time was spent in debate. I start by addressing a question that was touched on by many noble Lords: why does it matter to pass this order? Two things will happen if noble Lords do not accept the order. First, by voting it down, noble Lords will be voting to strip away the safeguards which are contained in the Act and the order. It will mean that there will be no purpose limitation on access by individual agencies; there will be no limitation on the type of data that they can access; there will be no limitation on the level of person who has to authorise; there will be no independent oversight; and there will be no report to Parliament.
The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I rise to correct the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General. Under the existing powers on which we would have to fall back, all those protections are already in place. Further, under the Data Protection Act 1998, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner is at present referring material to the information commissioner in order to protect the individual. I agree that, under a proper RIPA, the position would be better, but we now need the safeguards to be properly in place.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, in a moment, I shall outline the present position as regards the way that particular agencies access information. However, there can be no doubt about the safeguards which are set out in the order, requiring that data can be gathered only for particular purposes, only for certain types of data and authorised only by particular persons, and
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General. Does he agree that that catastrophic consequence would arise only if the orders were not replaced by new orders that contained more effective safeguards? There is nothing to stop the Government coming back to the House with fresh orders containing more effective safeguards.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, we are now bringing to the House orders containing effective safeguards. To reject the orders would mean that the safeguards that we are seeking to put forward, safeguards that the industry wants, will not be put in place. With respect, it is perverse to say, "We are not prepared to accept an order containing safeguards because we are concerned about those safeguards". If we want to build on the safeguards which are set out in the order, there are ways to deal with those concerns.
I do not doubt for a moment the importance and sincerity of the questions that have been raised. The Government have made it clear that they accept entirely that the question of privacy is extremely important. Last year the Home Secretary accepted that we had got it wrong. A consultation document was put out that was well received, and I hope that noble Lords will have had the opportunity to look at it.
Let me identify some of what will happen in the future if this order goes through. We will be able to look at the commissioner's annual report. Some of the questions raised by noble Lords were based on the assumption that either there is or there might be abuse. The commissioner's report, enabled by this order, would allow us to look at what the commissioner finds. If the commissioner finds general abuse and the need for more safeguards, then that would be a matter for consideration. AlternativelyI suggest to noble Lords that this would be very importantif the commissioner finds that a particular authority is using the powers in inappropriate ways, he can recommend to the Home Secretary that such a person should be taken off the list. That safeguard would not be introduced if the order is voted down.
We will be able to look at the commissioner's resources. The question has been put to the commissioner as regards what resources he will need in order to take on these new responsibilities. He has not yet come back to the Home Secretary with his response. However, what resources he needs will be made available to him.
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