Investigatory Powers Bill – Bishop of Chester speaks on amendment on bulk retention of internet connection records

On 19th October 2016 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Investigatory Powers Bill at its Report Stage. The Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during debate on a Liberal Democrat amendment. Introducing the amendment Lord Paddick said “it seeks to remove internet connection records from the type of communications data that can be acquired in bulk.” 

14.03 Bishop of ChesterThe Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I am sure we do not want to prolong this debate. As I said on Monday, I was a member of the pre-legislative scrutiny group. You might wonder why a Bishop was invited to be part of that exercise, but I think it was because of this point—the ethics of interference with privacy. I am sorry that the discussion so far has almost become too polarised, because the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is making a serious point, which I demonstrate by quoting David Anderson in his evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. He said:

“I think there is a human rights issue in relation to this Bill that dwarfs all the others, and it is the question of the compatibility of bulk collection and retention of data with Article 8 of the European convention”.

The noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Oates, make a serious point and we should acknowledge it, even if we come down on the side of the noble Lord, Lord King—as I do—that these powers are necessary and proportionate. The argument is about the safeguards—namely, that the warrant has to be personally signed by the Secretary of State, lapses after six months if it is not renewed, and is subject to the judicial commissioners. The real argument is about that. I do not think internet connection records are in principle different from other things that might be intercepted. However, I acknowledge the serious ethical point that the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Oates, raised, even if I come down on the side of the Government and the noble Lord, Lord King, in opposing the amendment.


Lord Paddick (extract): I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester for saying that we are making a fundamental point here. The difference between today’s debate and Monday’s debate is that requiring individuals’ internet connection records has to be based on reasonable suspicion. Thanks to the intervention of the Labour Front Bench, the level of the seriousness of the crime that needs to be suspected before those records can be handed over is higher than the Government first suggested. However, this power would allow everybody’s internet connection records to be acquired in bulk by the security agencies with no reasonable suspicion at all.

The amendment was rejected in a vote by 321 to 82. The Bishop of Chester voted against the amendment.

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