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I was opposed to the 2000 Act, and I had concerns about the 2014 Act. If our starting point is whether changes would make things easier or harder for some hypothetical despotic regime, both Acts clearly shifted the powers of the state and gave the security services significant new powers without providing corresponding safeguards to protect the rights and freedoms of the individual. However, with three independent reviews, three parliamentary Committees during the pre-legislative scrutiny stage and Ministers who have clearly been prepared to listen and to make changes, this Bill is far better than any previous ones.
I still have concerns about shifting the balance between individuals and the state, but I am satisfied that the proposals will introduce powers that are proportionate to the risks faced. They will bring greater transparency to the system and the process. The powers will be controlled by more effective authorisation mechanisms and independent oversight. The proposals are proportionate because, as is widely recognised, the future is increasingly digital, and we have a responsibility to respond as such.
The internet is a fantastic opportunity and it opens incredible doors—even though I think as myself as tech savvy, I find it dispiriting to see that my five-year-old son can use my iPad better than I can—but it also, of course, opens doors for those who would do us harm in relation to both national security and some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
We often hear about the precautionary principle: the idea that where there is even a small risk of great harm, it is appropriate to take whatever action might avoid it. In this case, the risk is not small or hypothetical—unfortunately, with paedophilia and child sexual exploitation, we see the risk week after week—and the Bill could help to tackle that risk. We know not just that the risk of international terrorism is significant, but that if the security services do not have the powers to tackle those threats, it is absolutely certain that we will be victims. That is why I will support the Bill this evening.