HL Deb 28 June 2000 vol 614 cc1015-27

(" .—(1) Where a person is found guilty of an offence under section 49 this fact shall be recorded on a register which the Secretary of State shall establish and maintain in such manner as will afford convenient and rapid access to anyone with a material interest in knowing whether or not a person has been found guilty of an offence under section 49.

(2) Pursuant to subsection (1) the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament within three months of Royal Assent to this Act his directions as to how the register shall be established and maintained, and the circumstances in which, and by whom, it may be accessed and at what cost.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to establish a register of offenders convicted for not handing over their encryption key or clear text. It has the support of all the UK's major children's charities: NCH Action for Children; the NSPCC; Barnardo's; Childline; the Children's Society; the National Children's Bureau; and the National Council for Voluntary Child Care Organisations. That is an indication of the seriousness with which those organisations regard this issue, which was also raised in another place.

The purpose of the amendment is to establish a register of anyone and everyone who is convicted for refusing to hand over their key so that prospective employers, on discovering that a job applicant has such a conviction, can at least ask the person concerned to explain the circumstances which led to the conviction. It does not mean that anyone convicted will necessarily be assumed to be a child pornographer, a paedophile, or anything else for that matter; but an employer would at least be alerted to the fact that the person dabbled with or used encryption software and refused to assist the police when asked, even to the point of receiving a conviction for the refusal.

This provision is particularly important for the children's charities (and many educational institutions), which routinely refer to List 99 and the Sex Offenders Register for many categories of jobs that they advertise. The amendment would establish one more register that it would be essential for them to refer to. The extra administrative burden for them would be tiny in comparison with the comfort that they would obtain from having done this check.

If someone was convicted for refusing to hand over the key and escaped going on one of the existing registers, they could then in theory secure a job working with children. Who wants to take the responsibility for the tragic consequences for a child or children if that happened?

Someone who has evidence of serious offences encrypted and installed on their machines would be sorely tempted not to hand over the key and risk conviction for the lesser offence, carrying a maximum sentence of two years. The Guardian and other newspapers have lamented the existence of that obvious escape route, but I see no immediate or clear way around it.

I make no apology for reminding the Committee of the case of Mr. Gary Glitter, who, had he encrypted the images on his PC, would probably never have been arrested in the first place. But if he had been, and had refused to hand over his key, he would never have been convicted of the offence of possessing child pornography and would never have suffered the opprobrium that went with it. He would also have escaped being on the sex offenders' register, and at least in theory, although it might be unlikely in his case, would then have been free to apply for work in a residential children's' home.

There is clearly a real need for the Government to address this issue. I am encouraged by my observation that my noble friend the Minister has heeded the justified concerns of the industry and civil liberties organisations. I hope that he will give similar consideration to the organisations that have expressed their concerns about the matter. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I regret to say that I must oppose the amendment. I appreciate the way in which it was put forward. I understand the reasons for it and have every sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said about the children's charities that she mentioned. I suppose that I should declare an interest and say that I act for some of them.

The way in which the amendment is drafted does not confine it to children; it gives anyone with a material interest in knowing previous convictions a right to have access to the register. It blows a hole in the fundamental principle of British justice that convictions are not public knowledge, willy-nilly, and that anybody tried for an offence is not to have, as I put it earlier, a label round their neck saying "Previous convictions: 1,2,3,4,5". If the proposal came anywhere near satisfying the basic, traditional protection of people in civil society, it would have to be much more narrowly drafted. Therefore, I must oppose it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I find myself, not in great difficulty, but in sympathy with the spirit of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Thornton and somewhat perplexed that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, does not think that its subject matter is an issue in the way in which it has been set out. He probably recognises that there is an issue but does not believe that it should be pressed in this way.

The amendment offers a fairly imaginative way around some of the problems that we have identified in the past. It is welcome that the child-caring charities, those concerned with the issue, have lent a measure of support to my noble friend in bringing the amendment forward. However, I have one or two concerns and questions about it, not least because we have to contemplate the circumstances in which individuals are convicted of offences. At its heart, the amendment suggests that offenders be placed on a register. I have no great difficulty with that principle, but I question the use to which the register might be put. I suppose that it could be asked whether it would be available for those who would employ people who cared for children. If so, there must be a variety of possibilities as to why people might offend under Clause 49. Not all such cases may arise from the possession of paedophile or similar material. That is perhaps one of the deficiencies of the clause as drafted.

There is a possibility that a register brands others who have offended, perhaps through a misplaced notion of civil liberties, by intentionally withholding information when served with a Clause 46 notice. I do not think that the amendment does the job, and it may be a dangerous path to follow. There is some light on the issue. As I understand it, registers are already in existence which provide a measure of comfort. The DfEE runs a register called List 99. I do not fully understand what it means, but that is its title. That register is compiled under the Education Reform Act 1988, Section 218(6) of which gives the Secretary of State power to give a personal direction that an individual be prohibited from employment which also involves access to children.

In relation to this debate, a person need not necessarily have a conviction for a sex offence for the Secretary of State to give such a direction. It may appear to be a draconian power, but I believe that it is equal to the problem. However, sufficient grounds must be provided about the position of the individual so that his name can be added to the register. Of course, that relies on good intelligence about the person's involvement in paedophile behaviour which cannot go before a court. The Department of Health also has a list based on similar principles.

While I fully understand the motives behind the amendment—I appreciate the ingenuity of my noble friend in moving it—in all likelihood the best way forward at this stage is to have continuing dialogue on the subject to see whether we can be helpful. The case of Gary Glitter is a lesson to us all. I do not quite see the problem to which my noble friend refers, but perhaps we need to devote further time to it. I give an undertaking to keep the situation under review. It may serve us all if further discussions take place between noble Lords with an interest in this matter and officials who have responsibility for this area of policy. With that, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Lucas

It may be of interest to look at some of the circumstances that surround this particular cause. Anyone who finds himself on the register as a result of the amendment must first have had a key required of him. The Minister assures us that that will arise only in exceptional circumstances and on only a very few occasions. Presumably, therefore, the individual will be one against whom there is a good deal of prima facie evidence of involvement in activities which the Government seek to prove against him. In those circumstances, surely it is possible to put such an individual on List 99, if nothing else.

The situation would be improved if the Government changed their opinion on the inclusion of Clauses 16 and 17. In those circumstances, if there is a good deal of prima facie evidence it is more than likely that it will be based on the interception of communications which at present cannot be produced in court. That must be the reason why the Government are so desperate to obtain additional evidence of wrongdoing.

As I understand it, on the sole occasion when a difficulty arose as a result of a paedophile encrypting data on a hard disk there was sufficient evidence in clear to obtain a conviction, so at least that individual ended up on the register. One hopes that in most cases, given the very narrow circumstances in which people end up with a conviction under this part of the Bill, there will be sufficient evidence available either to convict them or at least to put them on List 99. Perhaps in that way the problem will not arise. However, the inability to catch paedophiles because of their use of encryption is to be laid at the door of Clauses 16 and 17 of the Bill, not this part of it.

Baroness Thornton

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for his support. I know that he and I share an interest in this matter. I also thank my noble friend for his remarks, from which I take some comfort. We are talking about serious crimes about which the children's charities are enormously concerned. As with other serious crimes, new technology is being used. We shall take up the offer to continue the discussions. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 50 [Tipping-off]:

[Amendment No. 169B not moved.]

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 170: Page 52, leave out lines 42 and 43 and insert— ("during the period within which the notice is in effect, to keep secret from any specified person, or class of persons, the giving of the notice, its contents and the things done in pursuance of it, and to inform any other person who is made aware of any of those things of the requirements of the said provision").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 172 to 174. These amendments relate to the new offence of tipping-off. It is one of the few phrases in the Bill about which one can feel friendly. It is a new offence. It has no parallel in British law. The amendments are put forward in a probing spirit, in the hope that other Members of the Committee will lend their wisdom to this debate.

There is serious unease about whether the provision will create more problems than it solves. I argue that on the ground of the barbaric complexity of the arrangements governing tipping-off. I believe that it could prove more of a stumbling block and a source of angst to operators in the e-commerce world than any other provision in the Bill. I can imagine the managing director of any one of a thousand companies writing to his or her solicitors asking, "Would you kindly advise us on our risk vis-à-vis Clause 50?" As a practising solicitor, I assure the Committee that he or she would receive a 20 or 30 page letter—solicitors guard their backs carefully these days—raising spectres that the Minister would scarcely contemplate, let alone think were within the ambit of the clause. The provision is extraordinarily wide and loose. Amendment No. 170 seeks to contain the extent and reach of the clause by requiring the notice to specify the person or class of person to whom it relates. I shall be grateful if the Minister will tell me whether the amendment is superfluous. At the end of Clause 50(3) there appear the words, to keep secret from a particular person". Should one infer from that subsection that all Clause 46 notices must specify the person or persons in relation to whom the secret must be kept?

The consequences of passing information to others may be extremely difficult to contain and control. Within an organisation many people may have access to keys or protected information. They may be unaware of the consequences of passing on that information to others. It is vital that the knowledge of a Clause 46 notice can be passed from the person upon whom it is served to others within the same organisation.

I move the amendment in the hope that others will contribute to this extremely difficult issue. The Police Act 1964, as amended, provides that, any person who obstructs a constable in the execution of his duty shall be guilty of an offence". That extends to tipping-off offences. The case of Regina v. Green and Moore, which was heard in the High Court in October 1981, established that quite specifically. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, was acting for the prosecution in that case when they secured a conviction for tipping-off.

It may help if I refer to a particular case mentioned in that judgment; the case of Regina v. Westlie, a Canadian case. A plain clothes officer was patrolling the streets of one of the less salubrious parts of Vancouver in order to see whether any of the citizens were begging or committing other offences. Mr Westlie frustrated his efforts by walking alongside him and explaining to all who were interested that he was an "under-cover pig" or an "under-cover fuzz". The police brought a prosecution under an equivalent of the old English provision of obstructing a constable in the course of his duty, and obtained a conviction.

My question is whether we need to go through the agony of this long and tortuous new clause. Why can we not rely on the old obstruction of justice provision, which appears to catch tipping-off cases in any event? I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Viscount Astor

I have to admit that I find Clause 50 rather mystifying. I, of course, am not a lawyer, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Phillips.

An important point was raised in relation to subsection (5)(b), where the idea is given that it might specify a person. Subsection (1)(b) requires, every other person who becomes aware of it or of its contents, to keep secret the giving of the notice, its contents and the things done in pursuance of it". The subsection seems to be extraordinarily wide in its ambit. Does it, for example, prevent someone who has been given a notice discussing it with his solicitor? I do not know. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, is a solicitor and he may be able to tell us. Does it mean that anybody who has received a notice cannot write to his MP? From whom must he keep it secret?

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

As the noble Viscount asks that question direct, I will answer. There is a provision allowing disclosure to a professional legal adviser, but not to one's bookmaker or barber.

Viscount Astor

What about a Member of Parliament? If someone wanted to complain to his MP or, indeed, write to one of your Lordships, that seems to be disbarred by the Bill. I wonder whether the Minister could confirm how that works. It does appear that the clause goes beyond laws that are in existence and which relate to other others. The Minister will have to justify the powers in the Bill for your Lordships to be reassured by Clause 50.

Viscount Goschen

I, too, am mystified by the provision. The practicalities of the Bill would seem to be extraordinarily complex and perhaps when a notice is served a copy of Clause 50 could be sent along also and the person told to work out for himself who can or cannot be told. The practicalities are very real.

It would appear that the possibility of committing an offence by mistake would be serious. May one discuss it with one's secretary or one's board colleagues, or, if one is working for a subsidiary of an American company, is one not allowed to tell the principal? I imagine there could be a duty upon a director to his board and shareholders that could be contravened by not making any statement. It seems almost inconceivable that this could not be dealt with in a much more straightforward and brief manner. The notice served could specify who could and who could not be told, rather than having to work it out from a very long section of the Bill.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I had hoped to be brief, but perhaps it is worth spending a little time on the amendment. The major issue is that of secrecy and it might help if I explain the purpose of the offence.

The offence is not a new invention. Perhaps Members of the Committee opposite will be more familiar with it than I because it is based on precedents in Section 93D of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and Section 53 of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994. We believe that the provision is needed to preserve the covert nature of an investigation and to deter deliberate and intentional behaviour designed to frustrate statutory procedures and assist others to evade detection. That is reflected in the construction of the clause.

It is important to remember that the secrecy requirement will not apply in all cases—a fact which must be understood, but has been overlooked by a number of critics. As with other parts of the Bill, some ludicrous scenarios have been painted about the perceived effect of the tipping off offence.

I shall attempt to clarify the issue. Clause 59(3) limits the occasions when such a provision may be imposed. There is simply no need for secrecy in all cases, which the Bill recognises. By definition, it need not apply when a person is asked for the key to his own data. But were another party has access to a relevant key, we believe it reasonable in certain circumstances to require him to keep quiet about being served with a notice in order to prevent a suspect, for example, discovering that he is the subject of an investigation. That is analogous to interception where, under Clause 18, a service provider is required to keep quiet—

Viscount Astor

Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question on that point. Does that mean that it must be kept secret from the person involved in that interception or must it be kept secret from everyone? The Minister was not clear about that.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I believe the answer is that it must be kept secret from everyone.

Some of the concerns about the offence appear to come from business which is concerned, perhaps mistakenly, that the decryption notices would perhaps be served on junior employees in an organisation who would not be permitted, because of a secrecy provision, from telling anyone senior. That was behind some of the recent criticism of the Government in seeking to act as some kind of "shadow director".

I believe that those concerns should have been allayed by the amendments we proposed to Clause 46 concerning the serving of notices on directors. However, I recognise that there may be some lingering doubts about Clause 50.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, asked a fundamental question about this offence. He asked why it was necessary and why we could not rely on the general interfering-with-the-course-of-justice-type provision which has existed in the past. We decided that, on balance, we would be right to have the offence in the Bill, which is why Clause 53 sets down limits as to when a secrecy requirement might be imposed because of its seriousness. We carefully considered whether an offence such as interfering with the course of justice might be more appropriate. It has also been suggested that we could have relied on contempt of court to achieve what we want by way of deterrent. However, we do not believe that that would cover everything, particularly where the Secretary of State authorised interception warrants.

We therefore believe that the provision is essential. It is contained in existing statutes and for those strong reasons it is important that we pursue it. However, I understand the strength of feeling raised by Members of the Committee who have opposed it. However, we have gone through the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and we do not believe that the offence is defined too broadly. The Bill restricts the situations in which a secrecy provision can be imposed. I believe that there may be difficulties with the approach suggested by the noble Lord. Lord Phillips. Therefore, with those comments and with the undertaking that I have given, I ask Members of the Committee who have moved amendments on this issue to withdraw them.

The Earl of Northesk

I gain the impression from what the Minister said that statutory precedents exist for the tipping-off offence as drafted on the face of the Bill. Perhaps it would assist the Committee if we were told what those precedents are.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I did quote them and I am happy to quote them again. If the noble Earl wishes me to do so, I shall be happy to send him a copy of the particular clauses to which I have referred.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may also ask a brief question. In my opening remarks, I asked what was the extent of the provision in Clause 50(3) in so far as it refers to the words, keep secret from a particular person". Perhaps the Minister will write to me to let me know how that requirement works with the remainder of the clause. It may be that our amendment is unnecessary if that is implicit in the requirements of a proper Section 46 notice.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I should be happier to correspond with the noble Lord on that matter, then both he and I shall understand it more clearly.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 171: Page 52, line 46, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert ("the consent of an ordinary Surveillance Commissioner has been obtained").

The noble Lord said: First, I bring the Committee some good news: we are now half-way through the Marshalled List. I have no intention of calling a Division until about half-past one in the morning, just to make sure that the Chief Whip is doing his job.

Amendment No. 171 is simple. It seems to me that offences in the area of tipping-off cause industry a good deal of concern. I refer in particular to the scenario mentioned earlier of a relatively junior employee—say, the systems manager of the computer department—being the person on whom the notice is served. Particular concern may arise if a notice is served in conjunction with the opening up of keys to continuing data traffic so that the security of a significant firm is breached. I can imagine a situation where that might occur; for example, if we had another BCCI on our hands. It may be clear that the board of directors is corrupt but they may well be employing honest people lower down.

However, it seems to me that, in order to give comfort to industry in general, people must be sure that there are adequate safeguards on the occasions when the tipping-off offence is put into place, otherwise there will be a temptation to put it there in every case. That is simply my suggestion as to what one such safeguard might be. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I understand the noble Lord's concern. However, this matter comes down to a question of practicalities. As the clause is drafted, we do not believe that Amendment No. 171 would add any extra safeguards. For that reason, we shall resist the amendment. I can understand the reasoning behind it and I have a degree of sympathy for it. However, I believe that, if the noble Lord reflects on the way in which we have recast our clauses under Part III, he will appreciate that this amendment is unnecessary and probably would be disproportionate in all the circumstances. For those reasons, I invite him to withdraw his amendment this evening.

Lord Lucas

I shall certainly look at the Bill as it appears after Committee stage and I hope that the noble Lord will have convinced me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 171A: Page 53, line 6, leave out ("the key to which it relates is a key to protected information which") and insert ("the protected information to which it relates").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 172 to 174 not moved.]

10.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 175: Page 53, line 26, leave out ("software") and insert ("systems").

The noble Lord said: I merely wonder why the word "software" is used when hardware might be involved instead of or as well as software. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I presume that the noble Lord is concerned about futureproofing. We, too, have sought to ensure that the Bill is futureproofed.

Subsection (5) has been included because the industry requested it to ensure that specific software that has been designed to give an automatic warning that a key has been compromised will not fall foul of the tipping-off offence. There are sensible security reasons for that design option.

The subsection provides a statutory defence when disclosure occurs as a result of the action of the software and the person concerned was not reasonably able to stop that from happening after being served with a notice. There is clearly a need for the provision.

We have had no little discussion within the Government about the drafting of the clause. Its present construction reflects counsel's attempt to provide something accurate and workable. Your Lordships will note that the subsection is the same as Clause 13(3) of the draft Electronic Communications Bill, which was published for consultation last summer. We have used the term "software" advisedly. It is our understanding that the defence provided in the subsection is needed to cover a design feature of particular software that triggers the disclosure.

I hope that that gives some contextual background and that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment. I appreciate that it was tabled in an attempt to be helpful.

Lord Lucas

I entirely understand what the Minister says. However, the pattern is for what is written in software this year to migrate into hardware in a couple of years, so in a couple of years the subsection will not work if the Government leave it as it is. However, if that is how they wish it, I see no reason to argue further. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 176: Page 53, line 32, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: I tabled this amendment because I do not understand how subsection (6) works. It provides a defence that, the disclosure was made by or to a professional legal adviser in connection with the giving, by the adviser to any client of his, of advice about the effect of the provisions of this Part".

If I am served with a notice, presumably I toddle off to the company's legal adviser, who is then free to tell anyone else in the company. That seems to get round the intention of this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I am sure that the noble Lord does not really want to delete subsection (6) and that this is a probing amendment. That subsection serves a particular purpose. It seems to us right that a person served with a Section 46 notice that contains a secrecy requirement because of particular circumstances should nevertheless be permitted to approach a legal professional for advice about the effect of the notice without being penalised under the tipping-off offence. It would be unfair if they were not able to do that.

I trust that that clarification helps the noble Lord and that he will now feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I point out to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas that, under subsection (8), the protection given to a legal adviser under subsection (6) does not apply if the legal adviser lets the information out in the course of furthering a criminal purpose. Doing so to enable somebody to escape the net would be a criminal act.

Lord Lucas

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 176ZA: Page 53, line 46, at end insert— ("( ) Nothing in this section shall prevent any person described in subsection (1)(a) or (b) taking such action as may be necessary to preserve the confidentiality of any communication (other than that concerning the protected information described in section 46(1)) unless such action is expressly forbidden in the section 46 notice.").

The noble Lord said: We touched briefly on this issue earlier but I seek further clarification. It seems to me that where confidentiality has been breached, under most circumstances a company should have the right to repair that breach. The Minister said he would touch on that matter again when we discussed tipping-off and I now give him that opportunity. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

The noble Lord has caught me out. It will take me some time to find the information that he requires. I shall have to write to the noble Lord. I apologise to the Committee.

Lord Lucas

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 176A: Page 54, line 19, leave out from first ("the") to ("or") in line 20 and insert ("Intelligence Services Commissioner").

The noble Lord said: This is a long group of government amendments, the effect of which abolishes the posts of Intelligence Services Commissioner and Security Service Commissioner and replaces them with a single intelligence services commissioner. These amendments respond to the concern expressed in another place about the number of commissioners.

The post of Security Service Commissioner was introduced in the 1989 Security Service Act. The post of Intelligence Services Commissioner was introduced in the Intelligence Services Act 1994. The Security Service Commissioner has responsibility for the oversight of functions in connection with the Security Service and the Intelligence Services Commissioner carries out similar functions in relation to GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service. In practice, both roles have since been held by the same person, as most Members of the Committee will know. These amendments formalise that arrangement by having a single commissioner carrying out both functions, together with the additional functions required of him under the Bill.

The new commissioner will be responsible for reviewing: the Secretary of State's exercise of powers under Sections 5 to 7 of the Intelligence Services Act—warrants for interference with property or wireless telegraphy; the Secretary of State's exercise of powers in relation to the intelligence services and in relation to MoD/Armed Forces other than in Northern Ireland under Parts II and III of the RIP Bill; and the exercise and performance of functions by all three intelligence services and by MoD/Armed Forces, other than in Northern Ireland, under Parts II and III of the Bill.

Government Amendment No. 231 amends the title of the Bill to include the establishment of the new commissioner posts. I am sure that slim-lining the number of commissioners in this way will be welcomed by the Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 177: Page 54, line 20, at end insert ("or Assistant Surveillance Commissioner").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group. We are aware that concern has been raised about the proliferation of different commissioners with oversight of the various intrusive investigative techniques and we have responded by removing from the Bill the covert investigations commissioner and amalgamating that oversight function with that of the chief surveillance commissioner.

However, by doing so we have set the chief surveillance commissioner a wide-ranging and onerous task. He already has responsibility for oversight of all authorisations given under Part III of the Police Act 1997. This Bill gives him added responsibility for oversight of authorisations for covert surveillance and the use of covert sources, not only by law enforcement departments but by a large number of government departments, with offices spread across the length and breadth of the country.

In his current responsibilities relating to authorisations for interference with property, he is supported by five surveillance commissioners, who are serving or retired High Court judges. As a measure of the seriousness with which this function is taken, every authorisation given under Part III of the Police Act is scrutinised by a surveillance commissioner and, indeed, the prior approval of a surveillance commissioner is required for certain categories of authorisation. In practice, the Bill will add to these responsibilities the scrutiny and decision whether or not to give prior approval for every authorisation given for intrusive surveillance by the law enforcement agencies. That, together with their current work, will keep them fully employed.

Therefore, we must provide the chief surveillance commissioner with further assistance in order to ensure that he is able effectively to scrutinise other forms of covert surveillance and the use of covert sources by law enforcement and other public authorities. For the police alone, we expect that to involve in excess of 150,000 authorisations each year. He cannot do that alone and we anticipate that he will want to set up some form of inspectorate to assist him.

However, we also believe that it is important that the chief surveillance commissioner should be provided with some judicial support for this function. That could be done by increasing the present numbers of surveillance commissioners but there are simply not enough serving or retired high court judges out there. Instead, therefore, we propose to increase the pool of potential commissioners. These 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 that means, we shall ensure independent judicial scrutiny of authorisations by all public authorities. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 51 [General duties of specified authorities]:

[Amendments Nos. 178 and 179 not moved.]

Clause 51 agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 179A:

After Clause 51, insert the following new clause—