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Counter Terrorism and Security Bill

December 9, 2014

Mark made the following contributions to the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill. 

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): The hon. Lady referred to journalists, but how broadly would she or her colleagues define “journalists”? We are living in a world of bloggers and of a whole range of individuals who would consider themselves to be part of the media overall, but presumably she would not necessarily want each and every one of those self-professed journalists and bloggers to be caught by these potentially restricting and constricting provisions, essentially watering down elements of RIPA?

Diana Johnson: I have the disadvantage of speaking first on this group of amendments, and obviously, this is not my amendment, so I am very much looking forward to hearing what the proposers feel would happen. However, the hon. Gentleman raises an important point, because we are not only talking about a limited group of people who describe themselves as journalists and who, in the past, we would have been able to identify clearly. Perhaps the proposers of the amendment would be able to address that when they speak to it.

 

 

Mark Field: The right hon. Gentleman is making a perfectly valid point. In the midst of the more hyperbolic phrases that get used, such as “snooper’s charter”, does he recognise that legislation such as this—and further legislation, which will inevitably be required whoever is in government in the years to come—should also be designed to protect the individual? It is not just about the state getting more powers; it is about codifying the rules and protections for the individual. It is very important that we have that in mind when looking at any new legislation that comes into play.

Sir Alan Beith: I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s observation, which points to part of the purpose of the process, of which this is only a part. The clauses we are talking about in RIPA—or DRIPA, as it has become known—are the subject of a sunset provision, because significant further review is to take place and new legislation will be required on the outcome of that review. So those who think that detailed discussion of matters that often feel technically beyond us is just an occasional thing in this House will have to recognise that we are going to be coming back to this issue. That does not apply to me, because I do not anticipate being a Member in the next Parliament, having announced that I am going to retire, but Members in the next Parliament will certainly be engaging with these issues.

 

 

Mark Field: Does the right hon. Gentleman also accept that the increased knowledge of the general public and—dare I say it—of individuals who would do us harm about the techniques adopted by the security services and others have also helped to ensure that there is now much more sophisticated encryption in place, which also plays an important part in further reducing our capacity to know precisely what is happening on the internet?

Mr Howarth: The hon. Gentleman is quite right and he, like me, is a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. We have good reason to believe that there are any number of encryption packages that can be bought quite openly on the internet. It is a matter not just of the communications service providers encrypting communications that take place but of individuals buying packages that enable them to do that themselves, which makes the situation even more difficult.

Mark Field: Is the right hon. Gentleman happy for me to put it on the record that it is also the case that many CSPs do a very good job of co-operating with the police and law enforcement agencies? Part of the difficulty has been that the revelations of the past 14 or 15 months have exposed what some would call an over-cosy relationship between those service providers and the state. I am talking about not so much here in the UK, but in mainland Europe and the United States of America, and it has been commercially damaging to many of those providers.

Mr Howarth: As always, the hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Sometimes the difficulty is that the amount of data and communications that providers store means that they are unable to know what is there. Very often, controls are triggered electronically, and so human eyes might not necessarily see the communication that relates to a terrorist plot, organised crime or even, in a hidden corner of it all, some kind of child abuse.

 

 

Mark Field: I very much agree that we should be proud of the traditions of a free press in this country. The hon. Gentleman has not yet answered on the extent of journalism. I accept that new clause 1(6) is not exhaustive, but he has not mentioned religious counsellors, whom many would consider to have a similar duty of care. Does the hon. Gentleman have any thoughts on that, though I accept that he has not made an exhaustive list at this stage?

[Interruption.]

John McDonnell: My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley says that my local parish priest rather optimistically describes me as a lapsed Catholic. The secrets of the confessional need to be included; otherwise, there might be an excommunication.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) makes a good point about journalism. I would like the definition to be membership of the NUJ, but there you are. These days, I would have the widest interpretation, but if it is to be contested, I would like to see a court make the decision on the basis of the evidence before it.

 

 

Mark Field: Without giving a preview of anything in the Committee report, I think it is important, for the benefit of the House and those Members who take the matter very seriously, that we should remember that privacy and security are not a zero sum game. Although my hon. Friend uses the word “balance”, as many of us do from time to time, there is also a sense that these are important safeguards individually and in their own right. One of the broader recommendations that we make from the evidence we took from a wide range of people is that the notion that there is a balance and a zero sum game should be dispelled.

James Brokenshire: I appreciate the comments of my hon. Friend. As a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, he will recognise the challenges. He is right to underline the significance and to reiterate what I said on Second Reading—that security and liberty should be mutually reinforcing. His point about it not being a zero sum game is well made.

 

 

Mark Field: Does my hon. Friend accept that another issue, which was skilfully outlined by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), is arbitrage, in the sense of authorities being able to choose one piece of legislation rather than another—for example, as he said, RIPA rather than PACE? Given the complications arising from there being more and more legislation in this area, is it not almost essential to move towards a consolidation to ensure that we entirely understand our rights and responsibilities?

James Brokenshire: I am sure that that issue will be presented in representations made to David Anderson as part of his examination. Clearly, none of us will wish in any way to prejudge the way in which that evidence is presented. He intends to report back by May. That is the right timing to ensure that the new Parliament after the next general election has the benefit of seeing his report, which will have examined these issues in close and careful detail.