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The noble Lord said: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, explained, the practical effect of the amendment is to give the Government an opportunity to delete Clause 3 from the Bill without having to come back with further primary legislation. Having listened to everything the Minister said today, I think that the Government will need that power. They have deliberately left a lacuna in the Bill. A request from the police for keys must be authorised at the level of chief officer of police and notified to the commissioner. If the police ask for plain text and are refused the protected information, they are therefore entitled to ask for keys. I agree that that should be the case, but if they go about obtaining keys in that way, the authorisation is at a lower level and there is no notification to the commissioner.
That is such a hole in the Bill that I do not believe that it will command confidence to any significant extent among major companies when making decisions about where to locate their business. I do not see how, in 12 months' time, the Government can but wish that they had not passed such legislation. My
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. In doing so, I believe that it is only right that I spend a few moments reflecting on the progress that has been made with this important piece of government legislation and to offer my thanks and congratulations to all Members of your Lordships' House who have participated and played an important and, I believe, significant role in improving the quality of the Bill. Much has been said today about the role of the House in that regard, and I believe that a good deal of it is absolutely true. Many amendments have been moved, and many have been accepted--if not in absolute "plain text", then certainly in spirit. I have been most grateful for the constructive way in which noble Lords have responded.
We said that we would respond to industry representations and we have done so. There will be further opportunities for that to happen during the course of the discussions, debates and deliberations that will need to take place with regard to the code of practice. I believe that that will contribute significantly to ensuring that the legislation is workable.
An important section of the Bill that we did not debate at great length was Part II. I predict that Part II will be seen unashamedly as good news. It is not an area about which there has been great fuss or controversy, but it is important legislation that will put on a statutory footing the use made by law enforcement agencies of surveillance and covert intelligence sources. I believe that it will provide considerable reassurance to the public and will ensure compliance with the Human Rights Act, which comes into force later this year.
Noble Lords have conducted themselves well. We have had an interesting series of debates and I pay tribute to all who have taken part. I have been most grateful for the advice and guidance that we have received, particularly from time to time from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan. I have also been grateful to my noble friend Lord Bach who has been extremely helpful and supportive in seeing through the debates. I also pay tribute to the good humour and sense of purpose exercised by all who have participated.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, as the Minister said, we are sending back to another place a very different and much better Bill than we received. I believe that your Lordships' House can claim the credit for that. The Minister acknowledged again today the constructive approach adopted all round--from this Front Bench, from the adjacent Front Bench, if I may describe it as such, from my noble friends behind me and from all parts of the House.
The Minister, his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and his officials and advisers have also been most helpful and constructive in trying to improve the Bill, encouraged no doubt from time to time by the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms.
The reason that I believe your Lordships' House can take particular credit for the large number of improvements is not least because, when asked what amendments were likely to be made in the Lords, the Minister of State in another place replied that he considered that only minor and technical amendments would be required. In contrast, we have re-written large sections of the Bill: we have redefined traffic data; we have provided for a technical advisory board to look after the technical difficulties of black boxes; and we have tightened up the provisions for the Government to pay for those black boxes. This afternoon an extremely significant statement was made with regard to the fact that in most cases ISPs, which provide services only for financial organisations, would not require black boxes.
The vital Part III of the Bill concerning key disclosure has been turned round completely so that, instead of keys being demanded and plain text being accepted in lieu, the normal process will be that plain text is demanded and keys asked for only in rare cases. The various safeguards have been tightened up in several respects, notably, that no key is supposed to be demanded unless the chief constable or equivalent asks for it. He then becomes subject to judicial oversight of a kind in having to report to the commissioner. I say "supposed to" because the difficulty, to which my noble friend Lord Lucas drew attention, remains of the possibility of keys being demanded without those safeguards.
We have made various other changes to the Bill, all in all, I believe, leading to an important set of improvements. At the same time, the question remains as to how much damage may be done by Part III in particular to our aim, including that of the Government, that the United Kingdom should be at the forefront of e-commerce and that our companies should be able to use the web and the Internet as much as anyone else. I have no doubt that collectively your Lordships have done a great deal to mitigate that damage. However, at the same time, that possibility remains.
Lord McNally: My Lords, it has been mentioned on a number of occasions that the Bill, which, rightly, we have put through stiff tests, improves and strengthens civil liberties in this country. It brings within statute and within parliamentary control activities which previously were covered only vaguely. Although we have been determined that the Bill should be given the stiffest of examinations, there is, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, said, a good deal of satisfaction at the role that this House has played.
Many people have asked what kind of House the reformed House of Lords will be. I believe that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill provides a good example of an advisory and revisory House doing its job properly. We have tried to put the Bill on three firm legs. With regard to the section on e-commerce, I remember in particular the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, as being powerful and influential in relation to civil liberties. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, has acted as a Buddha, watching over us and occasionally intervening on the matter. From their different perspectives the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and my noble friend Lady Harris have reminded us of the important issues to be considered in relation to police powers.
It would be remiss of these, and I suspect other, Benches if I did not place on record our thanks to Charles Lindsey, Caspar Bowden and Richard Clayton, who have given us useful advice as the Bill has unfolded. If I may make a plug for lobbying, this has been a useful example of how external experts and outside bodies can and should influence legislation. This House is particularly adept at using such advice well to improve legislation.
I, too, support the Motion that the Bill do now pass. I offer my sincere congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, who has carried a heavy burden, well supported by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, who, like a good second, has sponged him down whenever he looked like flagging and sent him back in the ring.