Committee (3rd Day)
Relevant documents: 10th Report from the Constitution Committee, 20th and 21st Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 5th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights
Clause 28: Offences under Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007
Amendment 63A
Moved by
63A: Clause 28, page 21, line 14, at end insert—
“6 Paragraph 5 does not apply in relation to an alleged offence under section 44, 45 or 46 that relates to conduct involving—(a) the intentional unlawful killing of a person,(b) torture or inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment, or(c) the violation of a person’s sexual integrity.7 Paragraph 6 does not prevent a decision not to prosecute in the public interest.”Member’s explanatory statement
This probing amendment would ensure that the immunity provided to Ministers and officials who assist or encourage crimes under the Serious Crime Act 2007 does not cover torture, murder or sexual offences.
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, this debate concerns the intelligence agencies and what the appropriate procedures are within the rule of law where they authorise, are aware of, encourage or assist in the commissioning of an offence or are engaged, either at home or abroad, in relations with other agencies or bodies where the risk of breaches of the law arises. The Government’s intent seems to be to seek total immunity from any prospect of prosecution for actions at home or abroad; to widen the authorisation powers of the SIS and GCHQ under the Intelligence Services Act 1994; and to provide brand-new immunity to MI5 and all UK Armed Forces, thereby expanding the current practice to actions at home, which, up to now, have had no immunity.

At Second Reading in the Commons, the Government failed to make a convincing case. We continue to be concerned about such widespread immunity; this view is supported by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the ISC. At Second Reading in this House, the Minister said:

“Section 7 ISA authorisations are not available in all the circumstances in which the SCA”—

Serious Crime Act—

“risks arise. Those authorisations primarily apply to overseas activities, meaning that Section 7 could not generally be used to protect officers when carrying out activities in the UK. Section 7 authorisations may be sought only by SIS and GCHQ, and not by MI5 or the MoD.”

He also said:

“The Government believe that UKIC and the Armed Forces should have a targeted protection that provides far greater clarity and certainty”.—[Official Report, 6/12/22; col. 155.]

However, he did not say why class authorisations that exist under the ISA would not cover these areas. We know that there have been considerable discussions, both in the ISA and elsewhere, about class authorisations rather than those that are specific. If the Minister could state why class authorisations for the SIS are not working, I would be grateful, because this is a major change.

For domestic activities, for example for MI5, there are the Security Service’s Guidelines on the Use of Agents Who Participate in Criminality and the authorisations issued in accordance with them. The terms of the guidance were made public in a redacted form in March 2021 during a successful appeal by the Government in the Court of Appeal, where a case arguing—unsuccessfully—that there was de facto immunity for the Security Service’s activities was heard. I quote the guidance, which said that

“it may sometimes be necessary and proportionate for agents to participate in criminality to secure or maintain access to intelligence that can be used to save life or disrupt more serious criminality, or to ensure the agent’s continued safety, security and ability to pass such intelligence.”

It goes on to say that an officer is “empowered” under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Paragraph 9 of the guidance is clear:

“An authorisation of the use of a participating agent has no legal effect and does not confer on either the agent or those involved in the authorisation process any immunity from prosecution. Rather, the authorisation will be the Service’s explanation and justification of its decisions should the criminal activity of the agent come under scrutiny by an external body, e.g. the police or prosecuting authorities.”

That is the current situation. The guidance goes on:

“In particular, the authorisation process and associated records may form the basis of representations by the Service to the prosecuting authorities that prosecution is not in the public interest.”

This is a scheme that up until March 2021 the Government said had been operating well. They have not made the case for why that needs to change significantly. The judgment also highlighted that the Security Service works under a memorandum of understanding between it, the police and the counterterrorism division of the Crown Prosecution Service. The judgment went on to tell us that there were corresponding protocols in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Clause 28 of this Bill now allows otherwise criminal actions here in the UK which encourage or assist crimes overseas to be carried out, setting aside previous guidance. This is extremely broad and changes dramatically the practice and the operation of that current guidance, with little justification. I went into a little detail about the domestic situation because it illustrates how a process operates which allows proper intelligence work to be carried out while retaining no immunity from the rule of law. This will now be abolished with Clause 28. For the UK and abroad, as I have indicated and as we discussed at Second Reading, the SAS has powers under the ISA and, as I indicated, there can be class authorisations as well as individually targeted authorisations.

In the Government’s response to the ISC’s report on privacy and security, they went into a little more detail about class authorisations, but it was very clear that such authorisations are under the statutory oversight of the Intelligence Services Commissioner. Under Clause 28, there would be no equivalent of this oversight, and that is a considerable diminution of the ability for there to be oversight of the operations of SIS and GCHQ.

One of the highlights of the Government’s annual human rights reports, the most recent of which was published in early December 2021, is the stress that they put on the human rights guidance on overseas security and justice assistance, or OSJA. It states that when the UK is working with other countries, primarily with their justice and security systems, on addressing threats such as terrorism, serious organised crime or conflict, a risk assessment process must be carried out prior to providing justice or security sector assistance. The institutions are relevant in this context, where the UK Armed Forces intelligence agencies are working with foreign bodies and their armed forces and the police, primarily their gendarmerie, paramilitary forces, presidential guards, intelligence and security services, coastguards and border guards—the list is fairly extensive.

The OSJA guidance sits alongside the Cabinet Office’s Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees. Under OSJA guidance, before any work is undertaken with one of the foreign bodies, a risk identification process must be carried out on human rights concerns, specifically on whether assistance or co-operation might directly or significantly contribute to the use of the death penalty, unlawful or arbitrary arrest or detention, torture, unlawful killing, enforced disappearance, unfair trial, or denial of justice and unlawful interference with democratic rights. The checklist also states that there must be a risk system on violations of the right of the child, human trafficking, and persecution of an identifiable group. All these areas will now be swept away with a risk assessment process, because of this blanket immunity. If it is high-risk, Ministers must be consulted unless ministerial approval has already been given for the specific activity. This will include, for SIS, a 1994 authorisation, and under current law, Ministers must operate under the terms of the Serious Crime Act.

However, this guidance is now redundant, with the Bill removing a major component of the UK’s promotion of human rights by providing wide immunity to our Armed Forces. The Minister in the Commons, in making the case for this clause, stated that the current process created too much delay. He said:

“The impact of that approach is that vital and otherwise legal intelligence opportunities are currently being delayed or missed as the SCA risks are worked through”.—[Official Report, Commons, National Security Bill Committee, 14/7/22; col. 181.]

He promised to provide examples to the ISC. I would be grateful if the Minister can confirm whether those examples have been provided and if I can be briefed on those examples as the Front-Bench spokesman of my party. I have not seen any examples, demonstrating that there has been considerable delay.

The consolidated guidance for intelligence agencies exists because they do not have the powers of detention, either in the UK or overseas, that the Armed Forces may have. There has been considerable concern about the wide extension of this clause to all of the Armed Forces. Paragraph 7 of the guidance states:

“When we work with countries whose practice raises questions about their compliance with international legal obligations, we ensure that our co-operation accords with our own international and domestic obligations.”

This is now being changed dramatically.

Paragraph 8 of the guidance makes clear that, in carrying out their work, UK personnel retain “personal liability”, but it also states that
“the circumstances covered by this guidance may engage the responsibility of the UK—with the potential for damage to its international reputation.”
This, again, is being dramatically altered.
In 2019, the Government published The Principles Relating to the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas and the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees. There is equivalent Ministry of Defence policy as well. This guidance also covers staff of SO15 in the Metropolitan Police Service and officers of the National Crime Agency. Clause 28 refers only to
“the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service or GCHQ”
and the Armed Forces. It specifically does not relate to SO15, the Metropolitan Police or the NCA, and it does not mention employees of the Ministry of the Defence. Why is that? If it is to prevent the vulnerability of individual officers who would fall under the scope of the SCA, why are the Government being partial in this Bill and not being consistent with the existing Cabinet Office principles and the guidance?
Finally, I will refer to Amendment 64. I understand the case that will be made—I am sure it will be made extremely well—by the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile. I would be grateful for clarification on my reading of Amendment 64. I have also read that, for the SIS and GCHQ, Section 7(4) of the Intelligence Services Act would cover Schedule 4 to the SCA 2007. I would be interested to know whether that reading of Section 7(4) is incorrect. I understand that Amendment 64 would reduce the scope from the Armed Forces and MI5, and therefore it is probably preferable, but it would retain the expansion for the SIS of immunity for domestic activities that support or potentially assist criminal activity abroad. It would therefore extend the current approach.
The Minister needs to make it clear why the expansions in Clause 28 are justified. The Minister in the House of Commons said:
“The clause means that … where an individual has operated in good faith and in compliance with proper processes they would not face the risk of liability for the offences under the SCA.”—[Official Report, Commons, National Security Bill Committee, 14/7/22; col. 182.]
But there is no way of knowing whether the individual has operated in bad faith and does not comply with proper processes, because all the guidance I referred to, setting out the proper processes, will be swept away. It is a general carve-out. If an individual working in good faith and in compliance would not face the risk of liability, is the Government’s position that, if they do not act in good faith and do not follow proper processes, the individual is still liable? There is no oversight by the independent commissioner and there would be no reporting requirements, so no one would ever know and there would be no duty on any of the agencies to make this clear.
I hope that the Minister, in responding to this debate, will be clearer than at Second Reading. I think that the justification the Government have provided is not strong enough. The expansions are far too strong. There are concerns that this would provide immunity, and there is a lack of risk assessment, for some of the serious crimes that I indicated. The preference would be for the whole clause to be taken out—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on our contention that the clause should not stand part—or at the very least for the Government to be very clear with regard to the interaction on the very serious offences outlined in my amendment. I beg to move.
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven Portrait Lord Macdonald of River Glaven (CB)
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Before the noble Lord sits down, I just wonder whether he considers that there may be a difference between intentional killing, on the one hand, which may or may not be wrong, depending on the circumstances and context, and torture and sexual violation on the other, in respect of which it is very difficult to conceive that they could ever be right. Does he think that there may be a distinction?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I understand the case. The Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel does not make the distinction. It does make the distinction that there is a lack of clarity when it comes to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. Our definitions of that may differ from those of some of our allies, or of others we are working with. For the other two areas, there is no distinction as provided for under the consolidated guidance. Indeed, the risk assessment criteria that all officers currently have to operate under—the checklist that exists within the guidance that they have to go through before entering into any of the security work with agencies—include all of these areas, including where senior personnel and legal advisers conclude that there is risk of torture or CIDT, and also lawful killing. This is in addition to what authorisations under the ISA may bring about.

Lord Evans of Weardale Portrait Lord Evans of Weardale (CB)
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My Lords, I listened with great interest to the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed. I wonder whether I could ask the Minister, when he replies, to clarify the way in which the liabilities and immunities under this clause might impact, separately, the members of the intelligence services and the Armed Forces on the one hand, and, on the other hand, covert human intelligence sources, sometimes known as “agents” of the intelligence services, whose activities are authorised, I believe, under separate legislation. It does seem to me that it is very important that we should understand those two separate categories of action, and the way in which the proposed legislation would impact on those, because we are talking there about different legal regimes—although I speak as a lawyer and therefore I am willing to be corrected.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
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My Lords, that sounds right to me. Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 abolished the common-law offence of incitement and substituted three specific offences of encouraging and assisting serious crime. Schedule 4 expands the reach of Part 2 to the encouragement and assistance of crimes which are committed, or intended to be committed, abroad. Its provisions have been described by the Court of Appeal as “tortuous”. Professor David Ormerod, the former Law Commissioner, has written of its “incoherence” and “excessive breadth of liability”. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, probably has a full and comprehensive understanding of it, but few lawyers and judges do, and even fewer can explain it to juries. It has, accordingly, rarely been used.

Intelligence officials—from what they have told the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and me—share in the general bafflement. They cite the risk that they will be prosecuted for acts which are judged, in retrospect, to have been capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence by a foreign intelligence partner. They take only limited comfort from the defence of acting reasonably in Section 50, and from the public interest test applied by prosecutors. The uncertainty, they say, prompts them to act with caution so significant as to have an operational impact.

Clause 28 proposes to address the situation by granting immunity from prosecution, in transnational cases, to those who are behaving in a way that is necessary to

“the proper exercise of any function”

of MI5, MI6 or GCHQ. No clue is given in the Bill as to how this test is to be applied. Compliance with the principles relating to the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees, to which reference has just been made, would doubtless provide the answer in many cases but, as has also been said, there will be others that fall outside their scope.

The same broad immunity would be granted to members of the Armed Forces, not only for activities in support of the intelligence agencies but for any activities which constitute a “proper exercise” of the functions of the Armed Forces—whatever that means. No one has so far explained to me why such a broad immunity for the Armed Forces is necessary, even in circumstances with no intelligence connection. I hope the Minister will be in a position to do so.

I understand that the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has been invited to scrutinise the justification for the claimed special treatment. I expect that it will have been shown operational examples that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I, during our relatively short visit, were not. I hope that, before the Bill advances further, the committee will tell us what, if anything, it has concluded and whether those conclusions are confined to the agencies or whether they extend to the Armed Forces as well. For my part, I have general sympathy with the concerns expressed to me by agency lawyers—who are, in my experience, highly conscientious people—but, like the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, I would feel happier if I knew that an independent person or body, such as the Intelligence and Security Committee or the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, had examined the secret materials and pronounced confidently on whether the concerns expressed to us are justified across the full range of circumstances in which they are being advanced.

However, let us assume, at least for the purposes of this debate, that there is a real problem of unquantifiable legal risk translating into excessive caution and reduced operational efficiency. Is the solution to place the agencies and the Armed Forces above the law? The question surely needs only to be asked for the answer to be apparent. We admire our intelligence and military personnel, with very good reason, but, be they never so high, the law in a democracy must always be above them. Modern intelligence co-operation means dealing with a wide range of international partners, some of them less scrupulous than others. Let there be no doubt that the crimes that some of them are capable of committing include some of the most serious of all: torture and unlawful killing. To remove all legal accountability for assisting and encouraging such acts, in particular by the sharing of intelligence, would send an unfortunate message to any person who might be tempted to cross the line. It would also send an appalling signal to the rest of the world.

Fortunately, two off-the-shelf solutions are available, each of them more palatable than Clause 28. The first is my Amendment 64, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. This would add activities caught by Part 2 to the scheme established by Section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994—sometimes known as the “James Bond clause”, which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, described, although it is certainly no simple immunity. Subject to further study of what he said, I do not think it does the trick without our amendment. Section 7 provides that those operating abroad, and in limited circumstances within the United Kingdom, are not liable for what would otherwise be crimes under UK law, but only if the commission of such crimes falls within the scope of an authorisation issued by the Secretary of State on tightly defined statutory grounds. Those authorisations, and the agencies’ compliance with them, are carefully scrutinised by the senior judges of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office—the successors of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Judge and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood—with the help of their skilled investigative teams. IPCO publishes its conclusions in its annual report, which demonstrates its exacting approach. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Brian Leveson, would no doubt notify the Director of Public Prosecutions were it to find any illegality worthy of further investigation.

In this way, the requirements of the rule of law are maintained, and with three other advantages. First, and of some importance, IPCO scrutiny makes it more likely that any wrongdoing will actually come to light. Secondly, the agencies would not be exposed to police or prosecutorial investigations, unless, of course, they go beyond the scope of their authorisations. Thirdly, for any act within the scope of the authorisation the agencies have political cover from the Secretary of State, who would be unable to hang them out to dry. There would be some value in each of those matters, I would have thought, for the agencies themselves.

Like the existing Section 7, my solution would also apply to the Armed Forces to the extent that their actions are necessary for the proper discharge of a function of the security and intelligence agencies. Perhaps that limited application is all that the Armed Forces actually require, and I await the Minister’s comments on that.

The second off-the-shelf solution was sketched out by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, at Second Reading: a statutory defence, additional to the defence of acting reasonably in Section 50, for acts which are necessary to fulfil the statutory functions of the intelligence agencies. Those functions would be defined in arrangements for which the head of each agency would be responsible. As the noble Lord said, that solution also has a precedent, although not one that includes the Armed Forces, in Section 13 of the Bribery Act 2010. I wondered whether the Government would pick up that invitation, but they have not done so—at least not yet. That is a shame; it would have been useful to be able to debate the merits of these two possible solutions with each of them on the table.
The dangers of Clause 28 were rightly and strongly flagged in the Commons, and either of these solutions would be a great improvement. What happens on Report will, of course, depend on the options that are before us, and I hope that before we have to select an option of our own the Minister will be able to give the debate some direction; first, by telling us when the security-cleared ISC or independent reviewer will be able to advise us of the extent of the problem in relation to the Armed Forces as well as the intelligence agencies; and, secondly, by indicating which way he proposes to go in response to that problem.
Lord Hacking Portrait Lord Hacking (Lab)
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My Lords, I follow on from the early comments from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, about the confusion and difficulties of interpretation of the provisions before us and similar provisions that have created certain headaches, which he referred to, for those who have a responsibility to enforce our laws. I have already complained about the length of this Bill, which has 65 pages and schedules of double that length. Once again, we are not having any thoughts about the users of the Bill, those who have to enforce the provisions of our legislation. I refer to members of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ, police officers, lawyers—perhaps we have no compassion for their difficulties in interpretation, although I do as I am a lawyer—right up to the judiciary. I am sorry if I am bleating again about this problem, but it continues in our legislation and here is another bad example.

Since I am standing up, I shall make a few comments about the provisions in Clause 28. There must be extreme worry that they give Ministers and officials effective immunity from crimes such as targeted killing and torture. Clause 28 blocks accountability for Whitehall involvement in war on terror crimes and, to take a broader view, Clause 28 undermines the UK’s centuries of legal prohibition of torture-related crimes and the UK’s position when criticising other Governments for their crimes. One thinks of the example of the awful murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Indeed, looking broadly at these provisions, one is reminded of President Bush’s tenure of office in the United States of America, when certain members of the Justice Department issued papers justifying torture, such as waterboarding and so forth, and saying that it fell within the constitution of the United States. This Bill brings out many of those unhappy memories.

As for the alternatives, we have had the alternative of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, who said towards the end of his speech that he agreed with my noble friend Lord Vernon, and of course he is quite right about that. Oh, sorry; Coaker is his surname—I am referring to my noble friend Lord Coaker with extreme familiarity, and to his application to remove Clause 28 altogether.

I have not been able to study this in detail, but I am told that the provision proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson—I mentioned this to him outside in the Lobby, just before we came in—does not go far enough to disable sanctuary to Ministers of State and so forth. We are not saying that they are going to commit these crimes, but our law should not permit those down the line to do so. It is all right for the top members of the intelligence services to behave themselves, but then you may not get the same dicipline down the junior line and there is misbehaviour that should be punishable and for which there should not be immunity.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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My Lords, the provisions of this clause and its defects have been set out very well by my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed, and there has been some really helpful analysis from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson.

I will just make a preliminary point. The inclusion of the Armed Forces in this provision is wholly inappropriate, simply on the basis that it is the wrong place to deal with what is a much wider problem and raises many other issues—battlefield situations; civilian situations such as we experienced in Northern Ireland, where we have had difficult court cases to deal with; and issues around the proper defence that veterans might wish to advance when involved in contentious matters. To push this into a provision about intelligence services does not seem the right way to deal with it.

One qualification that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, made was that there may be a case for including actions of the Armed Forces in direct support of the intelligence services, but that is as far as I think it reasonable to go on an issue of wide importance that affects the international reputation of this country. I would rather we were simply dealing with the issue of how we provide the appropriate cover for intelligence services when they have reason to act outside the law. What an easier world it would be if we never asked intelligence services to act outside the law, but that is not possible. The range of things that intelligence organisations can become involved in if they are acting outside the law includes things that, on discussion and explanation, most people would find understandable and acceptable, right through to things that are utterly unacceptable—and which have happened. We think particularly of torture and rendition to torture, which has been our worst recent example. Many people would understand that, if you are dealing with a covert human intelligence source engaged with a terrorist group or some other group of people, at some point you will inevitably get into a situation in which both that source and the officer running that source have questions about what is permissible. You need a mechanism that can handle those things, and we thought we had one.

The provisions we have had until now have worked in a wide range of cases, and the ultimate recourse in difficulty is the decision of the Attorney-General on whether a prosecution is in the public interest. On the face of it, it perhaps looks too limited in some ways but, as I say, for the most part it has worked. There is a case being made now that in some situations it is not sufficient, but to move from that to a general immunity, not restricted in the kinds of illegality it can cover, is worrying and dangerous. To do so by way of a system that does not embody authorisation at its heart is a really serious mistake, and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, touched on this.

It cannot be acceptable for an intelligence agency to be able to act in a way which goes outside the law, without having had to make reference to some democratic authority before doing it, whether by way of a class provision or because of the serious nature of the specific incident or action that is involved. Were we to allow that to happen, which will be the case if this provision goes through unamended, Ministers could then always say “I knew nothing about it—it’s not part of my job to know. I just tell them to get on with it and let me know when they’ve finished”. That situation is not acceptable for either Ministers or the agencies, which then of course take all the blame and have to make political decisions—for example, on whether taking such action is going to cause massive international complications. Should an intelligence agency decide that, or should it be decided at the highest political level? Of course, it leaves accountability out of the system altogether.

The accountability is inevitably limited by the nature of what we are talking about. It may depend almost entirely on the judicial forms of accountability which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, helpfully described—the commissioners and the tribunal, supported also by the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which should be told more about the kinds of operation that have to take place. There are mechanisms to have that accountability, which will only rarely be able to be exercised on the Floor of this Chamber or that of the Commons because of the nature of what is being done, but there should be a process of authorisation.

What I fear out of all this is either Ministers being able to say, “This is all very regrettable, but I knew nothing about it”—when it is not something that Ministers would be consulted about—or a situation in which the service says, “We’d better not tell the Minister because it would be very difficult for him to authorise this”. These are great dangers, and we must not pass legislation which fails to address them.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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My Lords, as is his wont, the noble Lord, Lord Beith, started with a very cogent and important point. The issue about the Armed Forces is both legally and politically distinct. It hardly needs explanation in this Committee as to what those distinctions are, for they are evident to us every time one of those cases is considered.

It is also a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, whose return to your Lordships’ House is very welcome to us. He brings a richness of experience on issues which include the quality of the jurisdiction within which we live. Great attention should be paid to the point he made about the way in which our jurisdiction should retain its fundamental values.

In the provisions suggested by the Government in the Bill, I am afraid that I see the words “double standards” above the mirror every time one looks at them. Immunity is inimical to our system of law—full stop. Take the Khashoggi case as an example. I am not suggesting for one moment that we in this country would do anything quite as bad as that murder, nevertheless there could be other outrages committed. If we look at the Khashoggi case and the way that the country that committed that outrage has brushed it under the carpet of immunity, we see how dangerous it is to go down this slippery slope. I will not say a great deal more, but it is a particular pleasure for me to be able to take, as it were, the role of junior counsel to my noble friend Lord Anderson. He opened these amendments with superb and supreme clarity, in my view, and I would only muddy the waters if I said too much more.

I want to make a couple of other points, though. It seems to me that the existing involvement of the Secretary of State in at least some of the decisions to which we are referring does much more than give cover or protection to the individuals who might commit the acts complained of. It shows that political responsibility is taken for those acts, and it is real political responsibility because that Secretary of State is almost always accountable to the other place and will have been elected to it. Misleading actions on the part of, heaven forfend, any Secretary of State could have very serious repercussions in our democratic polity.

Retaining the role of the Secretary of State is therefore very important; it is one part of those standards which we should be upholding. It is important to remember always that we do not have a written constitution. When we are considering the constitutional implications of proposals made in Parliament, we therefore must look for bits and pieces of our unwritten constitution to find the assurance that we are acting and legislating in a proper way. That is what we are here for in your Lordships’ House, and the involvement of the Secretary of State is significant. I do not want to repeat what I said about Section 13 of the Bribery Act on a previous occasion; it has already been referred to by my noble friend Lord Anderson.
Finally, I will refer to the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and I apologise for repeating something I have said before. Whatever the evidence, facts and national security elements, when there is a proposal that there should be a prosecution, even if there is evidence that might realistically lead to a conviction, the second part of the Crown Prosecution Service code test requires that the Director of Public Prosecutions should consider whether it is in the national interest to prosecute. Of course, there will be cases in which there may be evidence of criminality but it may not be in the national interest to prosecute; for example, where there was some unrevealable and key national security information that could not be disclosed in a court, thereby meaning that there could not be a fair trial, or where the individual concerned was faced with an impossible decision at very short notice, possibly with only seconds to decide—maybe the seconds it takes for the brain to send a message to the finger that is literally on a trigger. That seems to be a constitutional protection which is well provided for in the set-up and architecture we have. If we allow immunity, as the Government are asking, we will damage the quality of our law and our reputation among our allies in the world, and that is why I support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Anderson, to which I have added my name.
Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB)
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My Lords, I apologise for not being present at Second Reading; I was doing other business in the House. I feel particularly humbled, because if my noble friend Lord Carlile thinks that he was the junior to my noble friend Lord Anderson and therefore was short, I have reverted to something I have not been since 1964: a pupil. Pupils are allowed to take notes, but they are not allowed to say anything, and, if they do say anything, that marks the end of their pupillage—they are not wanted any longer. I hope noble Lords will forgive this pupil if I say just a few words in support of my noble friends.

Just look at Clause 28 and what it means. It means that we are creating an immunity from prosecution before any facts are known, before any inquiry has been made and before a crime has been committed. We are, in effect, rubber-stamping the possibility that a crime may be committed with no further investigation in public. We all understand that there must be cases of immunity: sometimes because the facts require it and sometimes because, to get at the facts, people are offered immunity if they tell the truth so that the worst features of a case can be grasped. We also recognise authorisations; that is an ordinary, elementary part of the system.

However, what if we say to a special individual or a special group of individuals, “Ah, you will not be prosecuted, whatever you do in any circumstances, because you are immune”? I hate to keep using this phrase in this Chamber, as I do from time to time, because your Lordships all understand it, but what is left of the rule of law if some of our citizens are entitled to break it with immunity and commit crimes with immunity? There is a perfectly good defence in the current Act, as the law stands, and there may be better defences. Indeed, I agree with and support the amendment proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile. But what does Section 50 provide? It provides that an individual may, in circumstances that would otherwise be an offence, put forward that it was reasonable. That is a very good start. He may want the reasonableness of his behaviour—he will always want the reasonableness of his behaviour, if he really wants to prove that it is reasonable—to require an examination of all the facts. What happened? What was the situation? But that would be a defence, not an immunity, and there is a huge difference.

We all recognise, for example, that if someone is charged with an offence of violence, murder or serious bodily harm, of course he or she may say that they were acting in reasonable self-defence. They may ask for the circumstances to be looked at as they were. “Do not demand perfection”—as we do not—“in the face of an upturned knife or a gun, or a mob coming at me. Make sure that it is reasonable.” If the prosecution fails to demonstrate that it was not reasonable self-defence, there has never been a crime at all. It is decriminalised, but that is not immunity.

When I looked at this, I asked myself whether the House of Commons Library statement on it was correct. It says:

“The provision therefore appears to be intended to extend immunity from criminal prosecution to actions which could not be proved to have been reasonable.”

I agree with that analysis, and I would like the Minister to refute it if he can. But that is rather shocking, is it not? You can argue that maybe the burden of proof in Section 50 should be amended so that the burden is not on the defendant to prove that he acted reasonably, and it is for the prosecution to prove that he acted unreasonably. You might do that—and you might, as I said earlier, create different defences. You might create specific defences for different parts of those covered by Clause 28, such as the Armed Forces and, if I can call it so compendiously, the Secret Service.

Can the Minister then ask himself what the difference is between acting reasonably in Section 50 as it stands and acting in the proper exercise of the particular function, as is proposed here? Are we really going to legislate that an unreasonable exercise of function must always be treated by previous decision as a proper one, for which there can be no consequences? If so, there is no difference. What are we doing? Is it consistent with the rule of law to grant anyone, or any group of people, immunity from prosecution for serious crime before any facts have been examined? While we are about the rule of law, where does that leave the unfortunate victim of the crime? It leaves them with nothing.

If it is felt that we need to amend any part of the law, as is proposed here, we need to amend Section 50 as I have suggested and we need to use the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, proposed. We must create a specific defence that recognises that there are particular circumstances where criminal liability will not follow. We must create a reasonable self-defence issue for those who carry out these duties for us.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, I think we need to remind ourselves that the United Kingdom is a party to the torture convention. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, raised a red flag in my mind because, when I saw the word “torture” and the implication in his amendment that Clause 28 as it stands could extend to granting immunity for acts of torture, that seemed to me plainly contrary to our obligations under the torture convention.

It is worth remembering two things about that convention. The first is that all states parties to it are prohibited from authorising torture in any circumstance. It is also an unusual convention because it creates a universal jurisdiction; in other words, any state party which finds somebody who has committed torture within its jurisdiction, wherever he comes from, can prosecute that individual for the act of torture. The idea of granting immunity from acts of torture, which is what this clause seems to do, is a false idea because you certainly cannot do that with regard to other states parties to the torture convention.

It seems to me that Clause 28 is fraught with danger for that reason. Therefore, I very much support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, may I add one footnote to the powerful speeches by my noble friends on these Benches? To confer blanket immunity may well have a counterproductive consequence, which is that the alleged victim may well be able to provoke the procedures of the International Criminal Court to be applied against persons in this jurisdiction. That would be extremely unfortunate.

Baroness Manningham-Buller Portrait Baroness Manningham-Buller (CB)
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My Lords, I had not intended to say anything on this part of the Bill, not least because all these lawyers at various levels of leading counsel, pupil-master and so on do so much better than me. It seems to me that it is wrong in principle for members of the security and intelligence services to have immunity from the law.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis—the Minister may deal with this in his summing up—has confused the authorisations that are approved for CHIS activity involving criminality with what this part of the Bill seeks to do. I hope that in his reply the Minister will acknowledge the wide concern within the Committee, including from people such as me who have spent a career in the Security Service, and will consider an amendment to address some of these problems.

I quite comprehend that it is not necessarily easy to explain what the problem is that we are trying to address without revealing secrets but, again, I endorse the view that it would be helpful to hear what the ISC has thought on these matters. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, at an earlier stage, that he and the ISC recognised that there was a problem that needed addressing. For my part, I am unable to support this as a solution.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness and of course defer to her very considerable expertise in this area. The point I am seeking to make is that, from my understanding of the CHIS authorisations under the 1994 legislation, some of those will now no longer be necessary because of the blanket immunity under this clause. In fact, many of them will not be, because the authorisations for SIS to act abroad will now be expanded by this clause, with SIS being able to act here for supporting acts that are unlawful abroad as well as officers operating abroad, which is unlawful. The point that I was trying to make is that this clause brings the two together.

Baroness Manningham-Buller Portrait Baroness Manningham-Buller (CB)
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I will have a short word with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, afterwards in the dinner break, if he does not mind.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Terrifying—please, no.

Baroness Manningham-Buller Portrait Baroness Manningham-Buller (CB)
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The noble Lord may have confused covert intelligence sources as agents—I am sorry; this is terminology—and agents are not full members of the security and intelligence services. The Minister will answer this better than I can anyway; I am sorry to intrude again.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I start by saying that if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, is a pupil barrister, I do not know what on earth that makes me. We shall see.

I start with a comment that I know will be supported by all members of the Committee: if the story on the front page of the Sun is accurate, it reminds us of the debt of gratitude that we owe to the security services. They seem to have foiled a plot to import uranium at Heathrow this morning. If that is accurate, it is something that we in this Committee should note, because I know that the security services and those who work on our behalf in all these areas read our proceedings, and they should not mistake or confuse the very real debate that is going on here about the best way for us to go forward, and the best legislative context for us to have for our Armed Forces and our intelligence services, with any sense in which we underestimate or do not respect them fully for the work they do across the world in our interests.

I have objected to Clause 28 standing part of the Bill, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for his support, because, as it stands, the clause is unacceptable. The Government themselves have said in the other place and in previous debates that they are considering whether the clause needs amending and, if so, how. We all wait with bated breath to see where that has got to. The ISC has said it needs to change, and we know that even with the further closed briefings from the intelligence services to the ISC, it still believes that the clause needs amendment.

Amendment 63A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and Amendment 64 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, are welcome and important statements of how the Government may deal with the many concerns raised in both Houses. The excellent contributions we had in support of them challenged the Government to say, if they are not the way forward, what is. The Minister’s response to these amendments will be very important and it will be interesting for all of us to know whether the Government are actually listening. Are these amendments to be accepted by the Government and, if not, why not? If they are not, can we expect a government amendment in good time for us to consider it before Report?

Questions that arise for the Minister if the Government do not accept these amendments are clear. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, as he explained,

“would ensure that the immunity provided to Ministers and officials who assist or encourage crimes under the Serious Crime Act 2007 does not cover torture, murder or sexual offences.”

Indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, mentioned the issue of torture. If this is not to be accepted by the Government, can the Minister clearly and without any qualification say that none of this behaviour would ever be allowed if the clause were to be passed unamended? Remember, we are referring to murder, unlawful killing, torture or sexual offences. A clear and categoric ministerial statement, on the record, with no qualification or prevarication, would help the Committee enormously with respect to that amendment.

Amendment 64 would ensure—as I read it, and the explanatory statement confirms this—that high-level ministerial authority is fundamentally important. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made the excellent point that high-level ministerial authority must be maintained for the authorisation of the doing of such acts, rather than the weakening or even, as most of us believe, the exclusion of such authority, as Clause 28, as drafted, allows. Is that not the case? Why would the Government object to the maintenance of such ministerial authority, ensuring, in a democracy proud of its traditions, the importance of proper political accountability for decisions that are made? Again, this is a point that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, made. Just as important, if not even more so, is that such ministerial authorisations would be under the supervision of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office—IPCO. This, under Clause 28, now seems not to be the case, whereas independent oversight and accountability seem to me, and I am sure to most of us in the Committee, to be an essential part of such a process.

We know the phrase in the clause as it stands,

“the proper exercise of any function”,

has also caused concern. What does it mean? Who decides whether it is proper or the breadth and potential scope of the phrase? If there is no independent oversight, as required by Amendment 64, who provides it and how? Something as sensitive and crucial as this cannot be left to a few individuals in a closed meeting in an office away from any public gaze or scrutiny. That is unacceptable in a democracy. As it stands, the clause is not acceptable and these amendments seek to improve it. As I and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, have said, we will have to come back to this on Report, either to push an amendment or to agree or disagree a government amendment.

Very serious concerns have been raised about Clause 28 that cannot and should not be ignored by the Government. The ISC has said that the clause needs amending because it is unacceptably broad. Will the Government listen to it, if no one else? Even with the additional briefings, as I have said, it does not believe that Clause 28 is the way forward, even if it accepts that there is a problem that needs fixing.

In justifying Clause 28 as it stands, can the Minister answer some of the following questions? There are currently safeguards, such as ministerial authorisation, the reasonableness test so eloquently outlined for us by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, under Section 50 of the Serious Crime Act and the fact that the DPP must be satisfied that a prosecution is in the public interest, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, properly reminds us time after time. I am grateful that he does so, because that point is lost; it is about not only whether a conviction can be secured but whether it is in the national or public interest for such a prosecution to be pursued. I have faith in the system. I believe that in most cases, if it is not in the public interest, it will not be pursued. That is an open decision that we can question to see whether we agree with it. Why have these safeguards been swept away with respect to such behaviour conducted abroad?

Can the Minister clarify what it means in Clause 28 for something to be necessary for the proper function of the UKIC or the Armed Forces, with no proportionality required? Why have the Government diminished the role and accountability of Ministers in the decision-making structure? As the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Beith, asked, why does Clause 28 extend this immunity to the Armed Forces? If I have read it right, the Armed Forces have protection under Section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act. Have I got that wrong? Can the Minister clarify why Clause 28, as drafted, appears to extend these immunities to the Armed Forces? As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked, will he give an example of conduct that is the proper exercise of any function of the services but is currently subject to the chilling effect of the 2007 Act and would therefore now be allowed under this Bill? Why can it not be authorised under Section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 as it stands?

This is an incredibly serious debate, as we have heard from the many contributions from noble Lords. We also know that a huge cross-section of Members of Parliament in the other place expressed their concerns, many with great personal experience. Dan Jarvis MP, Kevan Jones MP, Maria Eagle MP and David Davis MP made excellent speeches asking why the change is necessary and, if it is, why we cannot have something that deals with the perceived problem and commands support, including from our parliamentary oversight committee, the ISC. The ISC was set up specifically to be allowed closed briefings, so that it could advise us on what was appropriate for these difficult matters. How on earth can the Government command the respect and support of this Chamber if the ISC, the committee we set up to have oversight on these matters, does not agree with Clause 28? Why do the Government set themselves against what the ISC is saying and then wonder why we have doubts?

The excellent House of Lords briefing highlights the many comments expressing doubts, particularly the belief that immunity from prosecution for serious crimes committed abroad would be made much more likely and possible under this clause. As Jeremy Wright MP asked, can the Minister explain the difference between acting reasonably under Section 50—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, made this point—and acting in the proper exercise of a function, as this clause requires?

We are rightly proud of the work of our intelligence services and Armed Forces, but we also have a responsibility as a democracy to set a legislative framework that sets, and is seen to set, high standards. Openness, transparency and accountability are part of the price of our democracy. As drafted, Clause 28 undermines these principles and needs at the very least to be seriously amended.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to a fascinating and wide-ranging debate. If the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is not sure where it leaves him if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, is a pupil, I am under absolutely no illusions where I am left.

I turn to Clause 28, the Serious Crime Act 2007 amendment. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his advance notice of interest in this measure and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for our discussions to date on this Bill. I also very much thank the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile, who provided advance notice of their intention to table this amendment and have generously shared their time and expertise with me and the team on this measure, as the critical friends to the national security world that the Committee knows them to be.

I will speak to the purpose of the SCA amendment and the amendments tabled by noble Lords. Respectively, they seek to remove the SCA amendment in Clause 28 from the Bill and replace it with an amendment to Section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994, or ISA, and to add to Clause 28 to ensure that exemption from liability for individual Ministers and officials who assist or encourage crimes under the SCA would not cover torture, murder or sexual offences. However, before I come to that, it is right to express our thanks to those who work tirelessly to keep us safe, as the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Coaker, did, while recognising that we should carefully examine any changes to the law which might regulate or enable their activities.

I will briefly tell noble Lords why Clause 28 is in the Bill and why the amendment to the SCA is necessary. In essence, it is vital that we solve an unintended consequence of the SCA which currently exposes those acting for our intelligence and security agencies—MI6, MI5, GCHQ: the UK intelligence community, which I will henceforth call UKIC—and our Armed Forces to potential legal jeopardy and limits their operational agility. This can limit their ability to keep the UK safe, including through our international collaboration with trusted partners, which is vital in the modern world.

The SCA creates offences when an act is done which is capable of “encouraging or assisting” an offence and the person intends or believes their act may encourage or assist an offence. These offences are complex and were predominantly introduced to ensure the police could tackle those directing serious organised crime—for example, capturing those who knowingly directed violence or the importation of drugs but distanced themselves from criminal conduct. There is no minimum level of contribution to the offence which may be encouraged or assisted; the contribution can be small and indirect and there is no need for an offence to be ultimately committed. I will come back to the noble Lords’ amendment, but say here that these are obviously not circumstances that always lend themselves well to pre-authorisation.

Clause 28 focuses on this very specific area of criminal law which is having an operational impact to the detriment of the UK’s security. It is not a general immunity and it would not change the application of all other criminal law offences. It does not make it legal to encourage or enable torture or rendition or solicit murder and does not limit the offence of misconduct in public office. In addition, Clause 28 does not remove civil liability or change either the UK’s international law obligations or UKIC’s or the Armed Forces’ rigid adherence to these obligations. I will come back to that in a moment.

At present, UKIC and the Armed Forces are required to carefully apply the provisions of the offences, sometimes at fast pace and in critical scenarios, as has been noted, and some of which may have life or death consequences—all while they work with our international partners to help protect the UK. We are talking, for example, about sharing intelligence to combat terrorist attack plots. Delays and limits on activity arise solely due to SCA risks when otherwise seniors are clear that there is no wrongdoing and that the activity represents a proper function of the organisation. The offences in the SCA are therefore creating a “chilling effect”, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, referred to, across UKIC and the Armed Forces in the delivery of their mission, and impacting on their ability to keep our country safe.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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The Minister has repeated several times his reference to the Armed Forces, but, up to now, always in the context of support for intelligence organisations’ activities. It would be helpful if he could clarify—he is nodding; I think he is indicating that he might do so—whether the inclusion of the Armed Forces is intended to confer the immunity on their general range of activity or is intended to be confined to their support for the intelligence agencies.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord has pre-empted me by about a second. A number of noble Lords have asked why the Armed Forces are included, including the noble Lords, Lord Purvis, Lord Anderson, Lord Beith, Lord Carlile and Lord Coaker. The Ministry of Defence collaborates with a diverse array of allies and partners, with intelligence sharing often forming a key part of such efforts. The Armed Forces also work closely with the UK intelligence and security community, helping to protect the UK from myriad threats overseas. The protection provided for in Clause 28 seeks to ensure that where our Armed Forces collaborate and provide authorised operational support with international partners, as with UKIC, support can continue without exposing individual staff or officers to personal risk of criminal liability. I hope that answers the question to the noble Lord’s satisfaction.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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It would answer the question if the clause was so defined as to limit the extent of the immunity to acting in support of the intelligence agencies. However, as I read it, it does not do that.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I will continue, but I will come back to that, if I may.

I want to return to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, seeing as we are talking about the application of this, and also to the point on torture. There will be no change to the UK’s other domestic and international legal obligations, including those under the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and international obligations on assisting an unlawful act, which is Article 16 of the International Law Commission’s articles on state responsibility for internationally wrongful acts. I hope that is unequivocal enough.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. Before he moves on, could he give us two figures which I am sure he must know or could be given very quickly? First, in relation to the security services, how many cases have there been in the past 10 years of the kind we are discussing in which the Director of Public Prosecutions has had to make a decision as to whether a prosecution should take place? Secondly, how many events have been affected adversely over that period by the existing state of the law?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am afraid that I do not have those figures to hand. I am not sure that I will be able to get them, but I will do my very best to find out and come back to the noble Lord on that question.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, and I look forward to that reply when it comes in writing. If I have this right, the Minister said that it makes no difference—there is no change—to the approach on unlawful killing, torture or cruel or inhuman treatment. Is he saying that this clause does not provide immunity in offering assistance to others who would be committing unlawful killing, torture or cruel or inhuman treatment?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As I said earlier, I think this is confined very much to the intelligence support by the Armed Forces—is that what the noble Lord is referring to?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful. No, it is not. The Minister said that there was no change to the approach on unlawful killing and torture. My reading of this clause is that there would now be immunity for offering assistance to others to carry out unlawful killing or torture.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I do not believe that there is immunity for that, but I will clarify that if I am incorrect.

Moving on, caution when considering the legality of support to our partners is of course correct and will continue. However, the current impact of the SCA offences means that vital intelligence-sharing opportunities have been delayed or missed, even when UKIC and the Armed Forces are fully compliant with other legal and policy requirements, such as the Fulford principles and the overseas security and justice assistance guidance, which ensure, for example, that support to international partners is in line with our human rights obligations. I have the principles and guidance to hand. If anybody would like me to go through them in detail, I will, but they are long so it will delay proceedings. I will await an intervention, if any noble Lord wishes me to do that.

UKIC’s and the Armed Forces’ adherence to and compliance with the principles are monitored by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office—IPCO—via regular inspections, and they are also routinely scrutinised by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Ministers are directly accountable for the work of the agencies and the legality of their operations. When things go wrong, it is entirely right that there is scrutiny of and accountability for the organisations’ activities, and I commend the important work that the ISC and IPCO undertake in this space. Meanwhile, any individual found to be working beyond the proper functions of the security and intelligence agencies or the Armed Forces will remain personally liable for those actions. This is right and fair.

However, I have heard the views of the House about this clause. The Government are in close consultation with the Intelligence and Security Committee, UKIC and the Armed Forces, and we are carefully reflecting on the views expressed and considering whether a change in approach is appropriate. It is important to note that those who have seen the very sensitive information which is relevant to this issue have agreed that there is a problem to solve—including the ISC, which has seen specific examples—and I am committed to us reaching a consensus on this matter.

Turning directly to the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile, Section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act allows the Secretary of State to give authorisations for acts outside the British Isles, provided that the acts are done as necessary for the proper function of SIS or GCHQ—though not MI5 or the Armed Forces—and that the nature and consequence of the acts will be reasonable. These authorisations are clearly not currently available in all the circumstances in which SCA risks arise. I understand that this amendment seeks to address that gap and provide a solution to the application of the SCA offences. It also seeks to utilise an existing power for ministerial authorisation which is overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. These are obviously legitimate and valuable objectives. Section 7 authorisations provide a carefully used route by which the agencies can seek ministerial approval in advance of planned activities. They require Ministers to consider, in relation to specific acts, whether they are necessary and whether the consequences are reasonable. Once authorised, they can remove criminal and civil liability for those acts.

There will invariably be instances where the SCA risk does not manifest itself initially and becomes apparent only much later. Where a risk is not identified in advance, a Section 7 authorisation would not be sought to cover it. In these cases, those acting for UKIC or the Armed Forces would not be adequately protected should concerns about SCA offences arise later. Further, this scenario could lead to an unintended consequence of seeking to use Section 7 authorisations for hypothetical risks, creating an unhealthy reality in which more conduct is approved than would be otherwise without providing meaningful consideration of those risks. I am sure the House shares our desire to find a targeted solution to that problem. It would be a perverse outcome indeed if this well-intended amendment were to lead to less consideration of the SCA risks rather than more. Whether it is a class authorisation or a targeted one, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, the reasons why Section 7 authorisations are inappropriate remain the same.

In short, the Government do not believe that Section 7 authorisation is the best solution to the specific operational issue and do not believe it would improve the clarity of the application of the SCA offences to all the complex operational scenarios that arise in ongoing, carefully considered but agile international collaboration. It is more desirable to remove this risk in a targeted way as per Clause 28, avoiding the burden of potentially missing, and/or the overuse of, Section 7 authorisations for SCA risks.

The noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Beith, talked about criminal conduct and authorisation of this for covert human intelligence sources. I think they may have conflated this with the issue at hand. No amendment is being proposed to the criminal conduct authorisation regime which governs the action of agents. We are concerned here with support for our international partners’ activities, so I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, who articulated this point very well.

I now turn to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, which aims to table provisions which explicitly state that Clause 28 does not cover torture, murder or sexual offences. Again, it is a legitimate attempt to clarify Clause 28. However, it is one which the Government deem unnecessary for reasons that I have partly outlined already but will continue to set out.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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Coming back to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, gives me the opportunity to return to an earlier comment from the Minister. Did he say in answer to the question from the noble Lord that he did not think we could assist others if they were conducting operations which involved torture, et cetera—that we could not support that activity? Was he going to clarify that and write to us, or clarify it later on the Floor of this Chamber?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am going to do it right now: there is no immunity for inciting or assisting others to kill or torture.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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Could the Minister give a little more information as to why there is no immunity?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord does not want there to be immunity.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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No. Why, under this clause, would there continue to be no immunity?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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Perhaps I could get to the end and then clarify this. As I said earlier in relation to the SCA, I can confirm that the examples that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked about have been provided to the ISC. As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, pointed out, it has agreed that this is a problem that requires a solution.

It is vital to acknowledge that Clause 28 will not create blanket criminal law immunity or change the application of all other criminal law offences, including those criminalising torture anywhere in the world, as I have said a number of times. The UK remains committed and subject to international legal obligations, including under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and international obligations on assisting an unlawful act under Article 16 of the International Law Commission’s articles on state responsibility for internationally wrongful acts. The amendment to the SCA offences applies only when persons acting for UKIC or the Armed Forces are acting within the proper exercise of their functions. We do not consider that the activities that are of concern and the focus of this amendment would amount to the proper exercise of those functions. I hope that is clear.

I want to be clear that any individual found to be working outside the proper functions of the intelligence agencies or Armed Forces will remain personally liable for those actions under the SCA offences, as well as other applicable laws. Meanwhile, it will still be possible for legal challenges to be brought against the intelligence agencies and Armed Forces in relation to allegations of unlawful behaviour, whether in the form of judicial review, civil damages claims or through a referral to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. That is exactly as it should be.

In response to the point from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, I say that the Government’s position is that this amendment is not intended to, nor would it have the effect of, removing the role of the relevant Secretary of State from the oversight of the intelligence and security services.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, spoke about the current reasonableness defence and effectively why it is not enough. There is an existing reasonableness defence in Section 50 of the SCA, as has been noted, which was included in recognition that there may be occasions when it could be shown that an individual’s actions were justified in the circumstances.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again. He said that this would not remove the oversight of the Secretary of State and I absolutely accept that. Of course the Secretary of State will have oversight, but does the noble Lord accept that authorisation by the Secretary of State, at least in some cases, will no longer be a requirement?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I see where the noble Lord is coming from and, yes, I accept that.

I return to the reasonableness defence in Section 50. While we consider that properly authorised activity to protect national security should be interpreted as being reasonable, the application of the reasonableness defence to UKIC’s activity is untested.

I come back to one of the earlier points from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I am not aware of any prosecutions, but he will know that I cannot comment on operational matters.

I also come back to the questions about the CPS. The fact that the CPS would not be obliged to prosecute offers little comfort to those carrying out legitimate work on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, who may still be subject to criminal investigation for carrying out authorised activities in the interests of national security. The Government consider that we should be able to offer legal reassurance to individuals carrying out vital work to support those interests.

I finish by reiterating that I am committed to continuing to work with the experts in this House, particularly the noble Lords who have tabled the amendments we have debated, and those in the other place to reach consensus on Clause 28. I thank all noble Lords for their patience as we move towards that shared objective.

I have noted the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on timeliness but, at the moment, the Government cannot support these amendments and I therefore respectfully ask noble Lords not to press them.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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Before the noble Lord sits down, could I see whether I have understood him correctly? Is he saying that an act of torture or sexual offences committed in support of another country’s services could not be a proper exercise of the functions of the Security Service—the SIS—or GCHQ? If he is, would it not be better to have that on the face of the Bill rather than simply as a statement from the Minister?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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That is what I am saying. I will come back to whether it should be on the face of the Bill in due course.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am very grateful for that last interaction between the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the Minister. I am also grateful for the Minister continuing to have a degree of open-mindedness. I do not know where I sit on the cascade of legal hierarchy, but I think it is lower order. I do not know if it is just me, but a frisson of nervousness went through my spine when the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, asked for a quick word outside. If I could avoid that, it would be better.

I am well aware of the distinction between SIS officers working under a CHIS authorisation and what is covered under the ISA. I am also well aware of MI5 officers running agents who carry out criminal activity. The point I was trying to make is that there are clear distinctions and that we have procedures with regard to MI5 officers running agents who carry out criminal activity, but there is no immunity for them to do so. The point I made in my opening remarks is that the processes that MI5 has are effectively the defence. The concern with the breadth of this immunity is that those processes will no longer be the case.

I am also well aware of our international obligations, but it is under domestic law that we would realise what those natures are. Because of the extraterritorial nature of the schedule in the SCA, I am still not convinced in the reading of it that our intelligence services and Armed Forces would be able to operate under domestic law in offering assistance to others carrying out criminal acts. Those criminal acts may well also be breaches of international law. I am grateful for what the Minister said, but I am also grateful for his willingness to engage further on that.

I hope the Minister took on board the consensus with regard to concerns about the Armed Forces. The point I made at the start of this debate is that, unique among the SIS and GCHQ included within this, the Armed Forces have powers of detention. Therefore, the processes under way under the MoD doctrine for risk assessments on torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, extraordinary rendition or rendition, and unacceptable standards of arrest and detention are all areas of considerable concern, if there is immunity for our Armed Forces when working with others.

Of course, the guidance that exists also includes the receiving of unsolicited information or providing or sharing information on collaboration. These risk assessment processes are in place—they are in published principles and guidelines—and the considerable concern is that they will be washed away by the extent of the immunity.

I am grateful to the Minister for being open. I still think that he has not sufficiently addressed all the areas of concern, not least that there would be a considerable diminution of independent oversight in the operation of this. I will withdraw my amendment at this stage. I accept the Minister’s word that he will engage fully before Report, and I hope he will be able to put in writing responses to all the issues that have been raised on this so that we can study it carefully before Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 63A withdrawn.
Amendment 64 not moved.
Clause 28 agreed.
Clause 29: The foreign power condition
Amendments 65 and 66 not moved.
Amendment 66A
Moved by
66A: Clause 29, page 21, line 33, at end insert “but, where the conduct or course of conduct is for the purposes of journalism or civil society activity, subsections (1)(a) and (2) may be satisfied only if the conduct or course of conduct is instigated by or under the direction and control of a foreign power within the meaning of subsection (2)(a) or (b).”
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I do not get frightened easily, but we have talked a lot about nerves here, and walking into your Lordships’ Chamber earlier and seeing a dozen KCs, former judges and members of the intelligence community was slightly unnerving—thank goodness, they are leaving; that relaxes me enormously. I declare an interest as the mother of a journalist, although not one who works in this sort of area. A lot of journalists and organisations have contacted me to express serious concern about this National Security Bill, because things are not clear.

As it stands, there is a huge risk to whistleblowing and public interest journalism, and these legitimate activities—in fact, one could call them absolutely crucial activities for our democracy—could now put journalists at risk of serious criminal consequences. The so-called foreign power condition does not even distinguish between our allies and our adversaries. This will mean that journalists and NGOs will have to be careful when receiving information from any Government, even an innocuous press release from, for example, the United States Government or a local authority in France. Any information received from foreign sources which might reflect badly on the UK Government could put journalists at risk of prosecution under this law; worse, the journalist would commit an offence just by receiving the information, without even publishing it. That is utterly illogical. Journalists have a right to inform the public and the public have a right to know. The Bill is therefore potentially very damaging for the freedom of the press. We rely on journalists to report on corruption of all kinds, so we must amend the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, I too did not speak at Second Reading. Unlike the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who is no longer in his place, it was not because I was doing other things in the Lords but because I had not read the Bill. The fact that I have now looked at it brings me to the Committee today. Before I speak, I declare an interest both as a board member of the ABI, although that is not relevant to this amendment, and as a member of the Labour Party. The reason is that I speak to Amendment 68, to which I have added my name.

We will come to Part 3 later but the definition of “foreign power” in respect of Part 3, as spelled out in Clause 81(1), is in Clause 30. Clause 30(1)(e) covers political parties in government, or members of political parties that are in government. Schedule 14 exempts these, or at least the political parties in government, from the Clause 69 requirement to register. However, on a reading of it, it sounds as though that covers only foreign parties in government and not others. Therefore, I am not certain whether the Clause 14 exemption covers political parties in opposition. If it does not, political parties in opposition in other countries are covered as foreign powers.

I confess that some of the noble and learned Lords who have just left have been extremely helpful in giving me advice on this; in case your Lordships think that these are all my own words, I have had the benefit of extremely good advice on this. It sounds as though the exemption in Schedule 14 is only for the governing parties themselves and not necessarily for individuals of those parties or for those acting on behalf of political parties. It also appears that the exemption covers only registration and influencing, and probably not the activities of overseas political parties, even those from friendly states, such as Five Eyes states, with which of course we do a lot of business. So I think that those parties come under Clauses 65 and 66, according to the definition.

I hope the Minister will have enormous clarity when he spells this out in his reply, and I also hope that either the noble Lord, Lord Marks, or the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, will speak on this and can clarify it more than I can. It is interesting whether, if an overseas party—the US Democrats, for example—organised a dinner here, perhaps at Labour Party conference, that would need to be reported, and indeed with the threat of criminal proceedings if it was not. Would any of those political parties coming over here and having meetings with any of us count as activities and would they have to be reported within 10 days, and so on?

We also do a lot of joint working, in our case with the German SPD; we work on environment and trade, and a lot of other issues, and sometimes we buy them lunch—occasionally they buy us lunch. Is that covered by what would have to be declared? Similarly, would we have to report meetings, perhaps with MEPs from across the European Union when they were over here, or is it only those from non-governing parties? Therefore, if we have a mixed group of MEPs coming here, would those from governing parties be exempt but not those in opposition?

If the Minister thinks he is fairly junior down the pecking order, I think I am the tea lady who brings in the tea to barristers, so I hope he will be able to clarify all of this and that it is just me who is confused. However, as my noble friend Lord Hacking said earlier, this legislation should be easy to read. It does not just have to be right in what we want it to say; it is incredibly important that anyone who could be affected by it can pick it up. I am not a lawyer but I am pretty involved in politics, and if I can read it and not understand a word of it—I may be at the stupid end —I doubt that anyone else will be able to.

Part of the reason for the next issue is that there has not been any pre-legislative scrutiny on this Bill, which would have clarified some of this; nor has there been any consultation on these issues. If there are going to be a lot of reports, particularly on political parties in opposition coming over here, we risk having such an enormous number of reports that they become meaningless. If all these activities get reported, the actual dodgy ones, if you like, may be hidden in plain sight.

I know that, either in giving evidence somewhere or in writing, Edward Lucas looked at the case of anti-money laundering. He showed that there are 3,000 reports of anti-money laundering a day; quite a lot of them probably come from your Lordships’ House since we are all PEPs and must be reported on. However, it means that, if you start getting that number of reports, they are meaningless because you cannot see the wood for the trees.

Later on—probably in the next day of Committee—we will come on to how all this will affect business, academics and investors. My concentration today is on friendly political parties from friendly states and the possible attempt to criminalise any work that they do on influencing decision-makers. If I have read it correctly, the Bill refers not simply to decision-makers in government but to their ability to try to influence a political party. In the case of the Labour Party—I am sure that other parties can speak for themselves—we are a member of international party groupings; for example, we are a member of the Party of European Socialists. Needless to say, when we have elections for a new president or general secretary, we are lobbied by overseas parties about who we should vote for. I hope the Minister is going to clarify that there is no way in which that attempt to influence a political party could possibly be covered, because my reading of the Bill is that it is close to it.
If the Government’s intention in all this is to get at the Chinese Communist Party, would it not be easier for them either to say that or to put in “political parties identified by government under a statutory instrument”? This would capture political parties, be they the French Socialists, the American Democrats or whatever the equivalents of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party are. There is also an underlying problem behind this. It seems to me that the Bill implies that all foreign political parties, which I believe are essential to democracy, are somehow suspect. The tone of the way in which that part of the Bill is written is dangerous and unedifying.
Can the Minister clarify what exactly the Government’s position is? If governing parties are foreign parties as defined in Clause 30(1)(e) but are exempt from both the requirements to register under Schedule 14 and the prohibition on carrying out unregistered political influence activities, does that exemption apply to individual party members—including committees and sub-committees of parties—or entities associated with the party? We could have coming here a policy group that is associated with a party that could be active here. Since the obligation to register applies not to the foreign principal but to the person directed by them, are the exemptions sufficient to cover them?
Then there is the issue of parties that are not in government. On good advice from somebody who is present in the House at the moment, they seem to be in a worse position because they are foreign principals under Clause 67 and are not exempted under the foreign powers exemption. It therefore looks as if any communication that they direct to an MP, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, a Member of the Welsh Assembly or a Peer for the purpose of influencing them would have to be registered—again, possibly on pain of criminal prosecution. Can the Minister make a distinction on whether overseas parties in opposition may be caught by this measure? How would he define them? At the moment, is America a Democrat country or a Republican country? The Republicans control the House, but there is a Democrat in the White House. Which one counts as a governing party if, as we read it, parties in government are exempted but those in opposition are not? Who runs America at the moment? Is this really what the Government want to do?
Also, could an individual be required under Clause 72(2) to provide to the Government information about any arrangements made? What safeguards against political abuse are there for provisions relating to providing confidential communication? It seems to me that this clause on political parties—indeed, trying to cover them in an important Bill about national security—is completely out of line with what I think is the Bill’s intention.
Lord Black of Brentwood Portrait Lord Black of Brentwood (Con)
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My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 66A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. This really important amendment gives us a chance to look at the Bill’s potential impact on investigative reporting. At the heart of that is Clause 29. I declare my interest as deputy chairman of the Telegraph Media Group, which is a member of the News Media Association, and note my other media interests.

I support this Bill, which rightly tackles the grave threats to the security of our country; I am sorry that I, too, was unable to speak to that effect at Second Reading. I support this probing amendment because it highlights a substantive issue arising from the Bill that relates to public interest and investigative journalism. Although more could be done—I will mention a couple of points in a moment—this is a limited, practical, technical amendment that does not in any way impact on the Bill’s vital central mission but deals with a serious threat to media freedom.

I do not for a minute believe that this Bill’s provisions will be used regularly to prosecute journalists but, crucially, I do believe that there are circumstances where it could be deployed to stop a major piece of investigative reporting—I will explain why—because of the subsequent chilling impact on investigative journalism, not least because of the rightly high, heavy sentences involved. I also think that there are major issues of press freedom globally on this point because the way in which we legislate in the UK, especially on issues of national security, tends to be copied in a much more dramatic fashion in far less democratic countries; this issue was powerfully raised in a letter from international press freedom organisations that was published today in the Times and which I co-signed as chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union.

I want to make one general comment before I come on to the specifics of this amendment. For more than 25 years, I have been involved in one way or another in major pieces of legislation that are not intended to have any impact on the media. However, unforeseen consequences often become apparent as they are scrutinised and the potential risk becomes clear. On almost every occasion, Governments of every persuasion have acted to amend a Bill to protect the legitimate interests of media freedom. I believe that this is one such occasion when the Government or this House should act when problems become evident. Where public interest journalism is concerned, we must always act with the utmost caution.

Let me explain the crux of the problem. Modern public interest journalism in a digitally connected world inevitably straddles national boundaries. It involves a combination of civil society and media organisations working together to report on leaked documents from the public and private sectors, the publication of which is genuinely in the public interest. It often relies on whistleblowers, who expose themselves to serious risk, and those who provide information that substantiates the truth of claims. The Panama papers and the Uber files are two such investigations, but this point also applies to straightforward reporting, such as that by the Daily Telegraph on Chinese influence in the UK and British citizens being placed on a Chinese watch-list; the reporting of the Daily Mail on the horrific experiences of female submariners on-board nuclear submarines; and the BBC’s story last year about a spy who used his status to terrorise his partner before moving abroad to continue intelligence work while under investigation. You can see how arguments might be made about any of these reports potentially being of use to a foreign intelligence service.

The problem arises because of the wide definitions used in Clauses 1 and 3 and particularly at the foreign power condition in Clause 29. Together, they could potentially criminalise one of the core functions of journalism: reporting on leaks of information about Governments, organisations and companies. They could cause problems for civil society organisations that work legitimately with journalists on investigations if those organisations are funded by foreign Governments, many of whom, like the United States, are of course sympathetic to the UK. They could cause serious problems for sources, who might reveal restricted information such as trade secrets when disclosing information clearly in the public interest to organisations that accept financial assistance from foreign states. They could cause serious problems for those collaborating with UK and international organisations which receive funding from foreign Governments. The admirable Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, to take one such case, receives donations from the US Department of State and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. As we have heard, there is no distinction in the Bill between hostile and friendly sources of funding which would provide protection for such collaboration.

These might all be theoretical issues, as I am sure that my noble friend will say. When it comes to media freedom, history shows us that we must take the utmost care with problems of theory. However, one issue is most certainly not theoretical: the chilling impact that results from the combination of all these pitfalls and from this clause. When the potential sanctions under the Bill are so grave, would whistleblowers really want to take the risk? Would those involved in an investigation who might be needed to corroborate information be willing to take the chance? Would journalists want to put themselves and their editors and publishers in jeopardy? Would civil society organisations affected be prepared to do so? I suspect that the answer to all those questions is no, which would have significant repercussions for investigative reporting, particularly on international matters, something that the Bill never intended to do. The key point is this: journalists and whistleblowers may fall within the scope simply because they ought to have known a story about how a Government might assist another country. That is an incredibly low bar and cannot possibly be right.

The Bill does not need major surgery to deal with these issues. Instead, it needs the tightening up of the foreign power condition and the wording in Clauses 1 and 3. Ideally, as well as looking at this amendment, the Government will think again about Amendments 65 and 66 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, which have already been debated. Sadly, I was unable to contribute to that debate. Further technical amendments and tweaks to language will be needed in relation to the search powers in Schedule 2. Amendment 75 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, which I support, would also be helpful.

There must be a holistic approach to the problems of journalism arising from this Bill. I would be grateful if my noble friend could look again at that issue in the light of this debate and consider two points, both of which arise from the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. First, “ought reasonably to know” in this clause is a low bar when the Bill is aimed at those who absolutely know what they are doing because they are involved in espionage. Let us raise the bar and not potentially criminalise whistleblowers—who already put themselves in serious danger—civil society organisations and journalists by taking that criterion out.

Similarly, we should ensure that the Bill’s provisions are aimed at those deliberately carrying out something which they know prejudices or is intended to prejudice the safety, security or defence of our country, not those who stumble into the purview of criminal sanctions while doing their job in the public interest. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for tabling Amendment 66A, as it deals with a serious problem in a technical and proportionate way that in no way undermines the vital purpose of the Bill.

I very much hope that my noble friend is able to respond positively to this debate, either by bringing back an appropriate government amendment protecting media freedom on Report or, at the very least, giving a powerful signal from the Dispatch Box that the Bill is not aimed at journalism and those who work with journalists, or at hampering investigative reporting.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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My Lords, as the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, have explained, this group concerns the definition of “foreign power”, both for the application of the foreign power condition and for the Clauses 3 and 15 offences concerned with assisting a foreign intelligence service and obtaining benefits from so doing.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, also raised a number of further and very interesting points in relation to political parties affected by the Clause 30 definition of “foreign power”, not only in relation to the offences but because, by Clause 81, the definition in Clause 30 of “foreign power” is incorporated into Part 3, on “Foreign activities and foreign influence registration scheme”. I will be interested to hear the Minister’s reply to the detailed questions that she posed. Interestingly, there is no reference to foreign powers in the definition of the prohibited places offences under Clauses 4 and 5. I invite the Minister also to explain why that is, so that we can consider his explanation before Report.

My noble friends Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Wallace of Saltaire and I have tabled Amendments 67 to 71, with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town. As we have said before, we are concerned that the move to defining national security by reference to the activities of foreign powers, whether hostile, indifferent or friendly, threatens unintended and undesirable consequences. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, outlined the risks to journalism or civil society activity from the Bill’s definition of “foreign power”, and they were right to do so. However, more than journalism and legitimate campaigning may be threatened. Citizens’ legitimate co-operation with foreign Governments or their agencies may be criminalised—Governments who, while friendly, may not share all the political, diplomatic or strategic aims of the United Kingdom Government.
Our concern stems partly from the breadth of the expression,
“prejudicial to the… interests of the United Kingdom”,
interpreted, as we have heard, in line with the 1964 decision in Chandler v DPP, as meaning contrary to what the Government of the day perceive those interests to be. A citizen could fall foul of these provisions on issues as disparate as environmental policy, energy policy, immigration or asylum policy, or aspects of economic policy. Even opposing views on the right way to handle industrial relations, a topical issue, might lead to some campaigning co-operation with a foreign Government being classified as seriously criminal behaviour.
Relevant conduct may also arise on occasions where the British Government or their military or commercial agencies are guilty of misconduct. On the second day in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, with a minor prompt from the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, mentioned the case of Clive Ponting, in the context of juries declining to convict those who expose wrongdoing even where, as in that case, the judge had directed the jury that Mr Ponting’s defence offered him no defence in law. Your Lordships will remember that the case arose from the sinking of the “Belgrano” during the Falklands War, and concerned his disclosure of the falsity of government information about the position of the vessel and her direction of travel at the time that she was sunk.
I raise the case not only to reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that this was a result we would all wish to avoid but to point out that Governments do commit wrongs and that it can be grossly unjust to criminalise behaviour exposing such wrongdoing. Such behaviour may well involve co-operation with agencies of a foreign power. It may be inimical to the interests of the UK Government of the day but, equally, such co-operation may be necessary to expose our own Government’s wrongdoing or change their behaviour.
We seek to amend the definition of foreign power to mitigate these risks. Amendments 67, 68 and 71 would remove altogether governing political parties of a foreign power from the definition. We believe that casting the net so wide as to encompass all governing political parties is unnecessary and wrong in principle. I say that entirely taking on board the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, about the difficulty of defining a governing party, where different governing parties hold different positions in different parts of a country—as in the United States. It may not be so obvious in relation to the national Government here; we have a single party in government and a doctrine of collective responsibility. But, even here, political parties do not simply ape the views of Governments of their persuasion, as many former Ministers of all persuasions might attest; nor do they speak with one amorphous voice. However, where you have Governments who are coalitions of parties, often loose ones, including all governing political parties within the definition of a foreign power becomes ridiculous. Many European and other nations are in just that position.
Amendment 70 would remove NATO members from the definition of a foreign power and would give the Secretary of State power to remove other nations from the definition by regulation. This legislation should be directed strictly to our national security and to the defence and security of the United Kingdom. We regard it as wrong in principle to define as a threat to national security those friendly nations to which we are bound by a treaty of shared defence and mutual support. The NATO treaty has been the bedrock of our national security since 1949. The Bill is simply wrong to define NATO members as foreign powers, so that for our citizens to co-operate with them risks their being criminalised as threatening our national security. We also suggest that there may be other friendly nations which the Government would accept should not be classified as foreign powers for this purpose. Our amendment allows for that.
Amendment 69 represents a move in the other direction from that which we have pursued elsewhere in the Bill, by widening the Bill’s ambit to define a foreign power to include
“a corporation or other economic or political entity that is in practice working on behalf of a foreign government, whether pursuant to contract or otherwise.”
The present definition excludes bodies which are in fact doing a foreign Government’s bidding and are not within the category of an agency or authority or part of a foreign Government, within the meaning of Clause 30(1)(c). Such a body may be an entirely independent private or public sector corporation or an unincorporated organisation, possibly employed under contract, or a loosely aligned body which is not a formal agency of government. The ties may nevertheless be so close as to be obvious, yet such bodies are excluded from the Bill’s present definition. I would appreciate a response to that point when the Minister replies.
This is a very difficult area for those of us who support the overall aims of the Bill but nevertheless wish to see it drawn sufficiently tightly to achieve those aims without going further to the detriment of personal liberty. The Bill needs tightening, with careful thought being given to this definition.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Communications and Digital Select Committee. It was because I was chairing a meeting of that committee that I was unable to speak at Second Reading.

I will speak briefly about the potential effect and unintended consequences of this important legislation on investigative journalism. Before I go any further, I should say that I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for the opportunity to debate this matter. As my noble friend Lord Black already explained, comprehensively and very powerfully, the potential chilling effect on legitimate journalism is of particular concern. That is real and we must find a way of avoiding it, without diluting the intentions and objectives of this Bill, which I, like other noble Lords, support.

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for meeting me and others, with some of his officials, in December to discuss our concerns. I look to him for reassurance that the Government remain alive to this problem and open to discussion. I am not sure whether Amendment 66A from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is the answer to the problem; it may need to be combined with Amendments 65 and 66, which have already been debated. As my noble friend Lord Black already said, what we need here is a holistic approach to the point in question, which is around making sure that important investigative journalism is able to continue.

As a result of this very important legislation, I would not want, for example, deficiencies in military equipment that cost the lives of our Armed Forces not to be exposed. That example was put to me by some of the media organisations that have been in touch. They reminded me that that particular piece of journalism led to a change in the then Government’s commitment to defence expenditure and, subsequently, a ministerial apology—albeit several years later in a public inquiry. I do not want us to legislate in a way that risks journalists not exposing these important matters, if they fear that doing so would lead to them committing a crime that would attract serious penalties. I support the arguments that my noble friend Lord Black has put forward, and I look forward to my noble friend the Minister’s response and, as I have already said, to our continuing discussions on this matter.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
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My Lords, my name is on Amendment 70 and I want to speak to Amendments 68 and 71. I stress that, in getting this Bill right, we need to make sure that it does not lead to a level of overreporting that swamps the Home Office, with a great deal of cynicism and a negative reaction from those who are asked to do the reporting. In the last week, I have received a dozen representations, not just from media and academic sources—the liberal metropolitan elite, whom the Minister may regard as not terribly important—but from the City and commercial enterprises, which are as worried about the negative impact that the Bill could have on their international activities as those in universities are.

I admire the speed with which the Minister talks when he responds to our questions, but I hope that he is carefully considering the reasoned and sometimes expert criticisms that we have of this Bill, that he is more concerned to get the Bill right than to get it through and that, between Committee and Report, we will have some long, further conversations on particular aspects of the Bill about which the House has been concerned.

To expand on that a little, I thought the Minister was a little flippant about my suggestion that there were non-state threats from the right in a number of countries, including the United States. He may have been following the attempted coup in Brazil. The reports of it that I read suggested that the Conservative Political Action Coalition in the United States was actively tweeting in support of Bolsonaro and may well have provided funds, and that Steve Bannon and his organisation were also actively in support of Bolsonaro. These things should worry us as much as terrorist and state threats, and this is another dimension that we need to think about in this Bill.

We know that foreign money has come into this country, that there have been some very odd things, such as the Conservative Friends of Russia element, in which the right has appeared to work with what we regard as the foreign left. Those sorts of things need considering. I look forward to the letter that the Minister will be sending me shortly—I hope—on the question of spiritual injury, which the discussion last week suggested is unenforceable and almost undefinable, and therefore should not be in the Bill. I also hope that we will have further discussions on the impact on diaspora communities and dual nationals, because the extent to which our diaspora communities have relations with parties in the other countries to which they have links, and with the Governments of those foreign countries—be it Pakistan, Israel or wherever—is going to be complicated further by the Bill. We need to get to the end with an Act which commands public acceptance and public consent. Incidentally, it is likely to come into effect just before the next election, and if there was an adverse reaction to its implementation, the Government are likely to suffer.

Some of us have seen the letter that Kevin Rudd sent to the Australian Government in response to their scheme some years ago, in which he lists the 35 foreign powers with which he was involved in 23 different capacities. I was thinking last night that perhaps I ought to try this for myself: I have been active in Liberal International. I am sorry that the Conservative Party withdrew from the European People’s Party, and has many fewer international links, except with the Republican Party in the United States, than the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats, but part of the life of someone concerned with international issues in the Liberal Democrats is to meet liberals in government, or not in government, in a range of other countries.
I used to chair the UK-Netherlands forum, to regularly attend the Brussels Forum, and was for 10 years the research director of the Transatlantic Policy Forum, in the course of which I became very friendly with a number of Congressmen, Senators and others; one of my closest friends from that period is now Deputy Secretary of State. That is not dealing with a hostile country, nor is talking to US Senators. My colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, is a member of the North Atlantic Assembly; he does that on a regular basis. We need to be very careful not to get into positions where people start thinking: “Should I report this? Do I need to report this?”
What about the occasions on which I have spoken to meetings of former students of the London School of Economics or St Antony’s College, Oxford, in Berlin, Brussels and Helsinki? At one point, I found myself in the sauna of the president of the Finnish central bank, chatting about British politics and Europe. I should probably report that, and say what I was wearing at the time.
Britain declares itself to be a global country—global Britain—a science superpower, a world financial centre, and a leading democracy and open society. The Bill needs to be compatible with those objectives, not getting in the way of them. If we say that this applies every time one meets someone in authority in Washington, Paris or Berlin, that is absurd and contradictory to our principles. At the very least, we need to think about which countries we care about and which countries we are relaxed about. We have friendly countries, democratic countries; we should not intend to treat them as if they were China, Russia or Iran. Those are the purposes of these amendments, and we should have further dialogue on that. I would say that, having taught students from foreign countries on many occasions—my wife and I, between us, have taught two Prime Ministers, a President of the European Commission and various others—we meet them occasionally; that is not unusual. There are many others involved in politics in Britain who have similar international links. How does this cope with the sorts of informal conversations on shared approaches to the international order which we all have on those occasions?
I think that this is too complicated and far too bureaucratic, and we need to think carefully how we tighten and narrow it, in order to win and hold public consent and produce an Act which will last for 10 to 20 years, and not just until the next Government come in.
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I will not be disclosing quite as much as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, did, but I will disclose that I am the chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, and it is in that context that I want to add a few remarks. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for her amendment giving those of us who are concerned—I am sure that I speak for the whole Committee—about the potential effect, no doubt unintended, that the Bill might have on press freedom. I do not want to rehearse all that has been very well set out by the noble Lord, Lord Black, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell. What is vital, of course, is to think what potential chilling effect this might have on journalism, particularly public interest journalism.

One point that is perhaps worth emphasising is how expensive public interest journalism is, how heavy it is on resources and how easy it is for editors to say: “Look, this is far too difficult; you may not get what you want, it is expensive, and what is more it may be unlawful.” If you look at Clause 3(2) of the Bill, and are thinking about running a story to do with armaments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, said—I think that she was probably referring to the Snatch Land Rover issue; she confirms that that was the case—then you might well say to yourself that this is highly risky, because we are going to run a story about something which would be of interest to a foreign power with which we might be in conflict. It is just that sort of thing which this, in the absence of some sort of tailored amendment to the Bill, would have the unintended consequence of not just putting a journalist at risk but of somebody simply saying that they are not going to do the story or spend money on this.

So I hope that the Minister, who is otherwise preoccupied at the moment, may be able to consider these matters carefully, knowing how important public interest journalism is. I should say that I received some briefing from the Guardian. Although IPSO regulates 97% of those publications that we receive, it does not regulate the Guardian, so this does not in any way influence the job that I have.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, I share the concerns which have been expressed in this debate about the breadth of Clauses 29 and 30, particularly in relation to public interest journalism, as expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Black and Lord Faulks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell.

One of the problems is that Clause 29(2)(c) ensures that the foreign power condition applies merely because there is

“other assistance provided by a foreign power”.

That is an incredibly broad definition. The provision of information would potentially fall within the scope of that definition. There is also the concern, which has been explained by the noble Lords, Lord Marks and Lord Wallace, that the foreign power definition in Clause 30(1)(e) extends to a political party—not just to political parties generally but, as Clause 30(2) makes clear, to any party which has any member of the Government in a coalition. So it extends very broadly, particularly in Europe, to any number of political parties.

The noble Lord, Lord Marks, made the point that one of the mischiefs here is that there is no attempt to exclude governing parties in our allies—NATO countries, Australia, New Zealand and Five Eyes countries—which is quite extraordinary. The anomaly is even greater, because if the Committee looks at Clause 30(3)(a) there is a specific exclusion for any political party which is

“a governing political party of the government of the Republic of Ireland”.

I would be very grateful if the Minister could explain why there is that specific exclusion —not that I have anything against the Irish—but not for any political party that operates in our other allies, particularly NATO allies. The anomaly is even greater, because it is not beyond the realms of possibility that, in the next few years, Sinn Féin may be a political party that is part of the Government of the Republic of Ireland, possibly in a coalition.

None of this makes any sense. Could the Minister please clarify, explain and reflect on whether this is really a sensible way to proceed?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I wish very briefly to follow that excellent point, because the Government have not been clear in ironing out the anomalies in the definitions. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and others are absolutely right in agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, who raised this point.

The reality is that a junior party in a coalition Government, which might be under some form of political arrangement that is different from ours and which could be one of our sister parties, could be considered to meet the “foreign power condition” in the Bill. A person’s conduct could then fall foul of Clause 29(5) if that person

“intends the conduct in question to benefit a foreign power.”

I would like to benefit my liberal sister parties’ prospects in other countries by working with them on a philosophical basis, and vice versa. That is why we exist as political parties. The Bill would consider that conduct to be intending to benefit a foreign power. That surely cannot be right for an open democracy when we want to encourage political parties.

Not only that: before the aid cuts, we were spending considerable sums of money through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to develop political party links. So we have on the one hand the Government funding the WFD, encouraging and in fact paying and providing support to parliamentarians to work with sister parties, and on the other saying under the Bill, “By carrying out the work that we’re funding, you’re also aiding a foreign power”, which is nonsense. At the same time, there is a concern that, under the definition in Clause 30(1)(c), a foreign public sector broadcaster, for example, could be considered a foreign power under the Bill, so any journalists working with, say, CBC in Canada would fall foul of the Bill because that would be an “authority” of a foreign power, unless specific changes are made.

There is also the point that my noble friend Lord Marks made. Part of the anomaly is that the Bill creates too many difficulties for journalists of state broadcasters to operate and potentially has a chilling effect on sister party collaboration, which the Government themselves seem to promote and support, but at the same time it does not include private sector enterprises that, although they are not formally an agency or authority of a foreign Government and a foreign Government is not responsible for their affairs, could include a private sector sovereign wealth fund of a state, which might or might not be listed on a stock exchange and which may or may not, in effect, be a private sector arm of the interests of a foreign power. So any interaction we have through the strategic interests of a wealth fund of a Gulf state, or of a private sector enterprise that may or may not be established and fully operational in the private sector but which our intelligence agencies say is, in effect, an arm of or has some interaction with the Communist Party of China, is not covered.

The anomalies in the “foreign power condition” need to be ironed out. These amendments will help in that way. I hope the Government will be able to provide greater clarification.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, we of course support the overall aim of the Bill. We also support the overall aims of the part of the Bill these amendments seek to address. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, introduced this group, for which I am grateful. She said that she is the mother of a journalist; I am the father of a journalist.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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No; I cannot respond to that gallantly, can I? I will plough on.

Interestingly, my son recently completed a master’s in journalism at City, University of London. He told me that the public interest part of the journalism course was the least attended, partly because there are fewer jobs in it, which I thought was interesting and worth reflecting on. It is a very important part of any journalist’s work, but it is not where the majority of students choose to study. I thought that was an interesting observation.

The amendments in this group relate to defining a foreign power for the purposes of its activity in the UK. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, moved her Amendment 66A, which would ensure that journalists and civil society are not wrongly included. This debate could have spread over to the group we will discuss on Monday on the foreign influence registration scheme and how that affects businesses, universities and political parties. In a sense, we will revisit a lot of these issues. Nevertheless, noble Lords have made points that will bear repeating, because they can be repeated in that context.

The noble Lord, Lord Marks, tabled similar amendments to create exclusions in certain instances. Amendments 67 and 69 would expand the definition to include corporations working on the behalf of foreign Governments. It is worth reflecting on the Government’s previous inconsistent approach to Huawei in 5G networks, and their lack of understanding of the risks. I believe that this underlines a need for a more coherent strategy. Serious questions remain following the 2020 announcement that Huawei would be removed from UK 5G networks, which we believe was long overdue, about why it was given the go-ahead in the first place. The Huawei case was sadly illustrative of how, in the past decade, the Government have allowed our national security to become an afterthought, creating risks to it. We on this side of the House believe that the Government need to invest in homegrown alternatives to end our national dependence on high-risk vendors.

My noble friend Lady Hayter made a number of very interesting points about political parties, which were picked up by other noble Lords in the debate. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s answer to the points she raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Black, referred to the letter in the Times today to which he was a co-signatory. The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, also spoke about the potential chilling effect of the Bill’s provisions as they are currently drafted. They both spoke about the importance of a public interest journalism.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, made a point that I think will be repeated on Monday but is well worth repeating. It is the problem of overreporting. That is a theme that has run through all the briefings which I have received and that I am sure all noble Lord have received. It a fear in the university sector, the business sector and political parties, and literally hundreds of NGOs are also concerned about this matter—but that is something that can be talked about on Monday, as I have just mentioned.

When the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, summed up, he put his finger on the main problem with this section of the Bill, which is defining the anomalies of political parties, whether they are in government or not, or are part of coalitions or are opposition parties, and the many sorts of relationships which all political parties have internationally and how that works with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Black, about the importance of public interest journalism, and how that is a very international approach, often dealing with leaked information and illegal information, and how journalists are to be protected in pursuing that valuable work. So this is a complex area. I am sure the Minister will, as usual, be very careful in his answer, but I hope he retains an open mind, as he did on the previous group when we were considering issues raised in this Committee.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I again thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate. Amendment 66A seeks to exclude journalism and civil society activity from the foreign power condition unless the conduct is instigated by or is under the direction or control of a foreign power. I acknowledge the intention of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, to protect legitimate activity from being criminalised under the Bill with this amendment. However, the Government do not believe that the Bill criminalises legitimate activity and, as such, it is our view that this amendment is unnecessary.

The Committee will be aware that the foreign power condition provides a single and consistent means by which a link between a person’s activities and a foreign state can be drawn. Meeting the foreign power condition is not in itself wrong. It becomes relevant when the other elements of the offences to which it applies are met. As such, the Government do not believe there is a risk to those who engage in legitimate acts, such as journalism or forms of civil society activity.

Turning to the specifics of the amendment, we know that those with hostile intent seek to hide their activities under the appearance of legitimacy, and this amendment could therefore create a gap in our ability to prosecute such individuals. This amendment would mean that an activity carried out with the financial or other assistance of, in collaboration with, or with the agreement of a foreign power would not meet the requirements of the foreign power condition. As a consequence, where a state threat actor posing as a journalist has been engaged in harmful activity which is an offence under the Bill, they would not commit an offence even if we could show that they were receiving specific funding in relation to that activity from a foreign power. This would produce an unwelcome effect whereby those seeking to cause harm to the UK could pose as journalists or members of civil society groups or operate through proxies in order to make it more difficult to be prosecuted.

The Government understand that journalists and those conducting civil society activity can be acting wholly legitimately when receiving funding from a foreign power or working in collaboration with it. However, the other requirements for offences to be committed mean that those legitimate acts would not be captured. In answer to my noble friend Lord Black, I can be clear that this Bill targets wrongful activity from states, not whistleblowing —but we will be coming back to whistleblowing later in today’s session. I also hope that those comments reassure my noble friends Lord Black and Lady Stowell and, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks.

I now turn to Amendments 67 to 71 on the meaning of foreign power, which were tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Marks of Henley on Thames and Lord Purvis of Tweed. The noble Lords have tabled an amendment to remove from the definition a political party which is the governing political party of foreign Government. The inclusion of governing political parties addresses situations where there is a dominant political party or parties within a country to such an extent that it may be difficult to disentangle whether harmful activities are being carried out on the direction of the ruling party or the Government. We know all too well that states seeking to exert their influence or cause harm to the United Kingdom will do so through a number of different vectors, and we do not wish to create a gap in our legislation which state actors could exploit.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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How then, if you seek to attack political parties that are effectively Governments, do you correspondingly exclude political parties that are not in any sense responsible for the activities of the Government, even though they may form a small part of such a Government? The point we made about coalitions is in point and illustrates one of the points we are concerned with, which is that, in a desire to encompass everything that ought to be encompassed, you pull into the net all kinds of fish that ought never to have been caught.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I of course understand where the noble Lord is coming from, but the point is that this relates to the activities of these political parties and those who are working for them. Therefore, I am not entirely convinced that it would be appropriate to exclude the smaller parties in, say, a coalition.

I was going to go on to explain why certain governing political parties in the Republic of Ireland have been carved out, in answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. A political party that is both the governing political party in the Republic of Ireland and a political party registered in Great Britain or Northern Ireland is excluded from the definition of a foreign power, as noted. This exclusion is included in recognition of the fact that there are political parties that contest elections in the Republic of Ireland and in the United Kingdom to ensure that the provisions in the Bill do not inadvertently impact cross-border politics.

A further amendment has been tabled seeking to add corporate or other entities.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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Is the Minister moving off political parties? If so, he has not answered any of the questions that I posed, and I hope he is going to do so before he moves off political parties. The idea is that we are going to call in political parties—and only governing parties, although under Schedule 4 they are the ones that are excluded, not opposition ones—but other countries do not necessarily have a definition of political parties in the way that we do. In fact, until PPERA, in 1998 or whenever it was, I cannot remember, we did not have a definition of political parties or a register of them. So, in other countries that do not have them, how on earth are you going to know who is a political party?

Apart from that, there is the question I put about whether they are in opposition or in government, and what the answer is on America. If one is trying to get at agents acting on behalf of a Government, all you have to do—I used to be general-secretary of the Fabian Society—is call yourself a think tank rather than a political party, and then presumably you can do the activity. So, if this is a way of try to get at organisations that work on behalf of Governments, only calling them political parties, of which in many countries there are no definitions anyway, is, I have to say, somewhat the wrong approach. Will the Minister give me answers to the questions I posed in my contribution?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that. She will forgive me if I do not get involved in what is the correct, or legitimate, Government of the United States. I do not think that is for me to opine.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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It will be for the noble Lord or his successor to opine, because it is in the Bill. There is no secondary legislation attached to it about what the definition will be. This is Pepper v Hart. What is going to be taken is the Minister’s words at the Dispatch Box. If the Minister is saying that he cannot define which is the governing party in America, how do we know who we can meet and who we have to register?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As regards the registering point, the noble Baroness is—as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, suggested—perhaps straying into the FIRS situation, which we will discuss at considerable length on Monday. I think that will deal with a number of the questions the noble Baroness has posed with regard to registration and so on. Can we come back to that on Monday, please?

As regards opining as to the Government of the United States, I choose not to do so purely because it would potentially be a political can of worms, but I acknowledge the fact that obviously there is a President who comes from a different party from the majority party in one of the two Houses.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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So there will be meetings that we can have now, and if—God forbid—Mr Trump wins, suddenly the parties with which we are allowed to talk will change because it is Mr Trump rather than Mr Biden. Is that really what the Minister is saying?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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No, I do not believe that is particularly what I am saying. I suspect we will have to come back to this for precise definition purposes, and I am happy to commit to do so.

A further amendment has been tabled, seeking to add corporate or other entities to the foreign power definition. We believe this is unnecessary as it is already covered in the foreign power condition provision, which covers indirect links, under Clause 29(3). This explicitly provides that a person’s conduct could meet the foreign power condition if there is

“an indirect relationship through one or more companies”.

The legislation therefore covers cases where a person is receiving tasking through a company that is under the ownership, control or direction of a foreign power. It is vital that states are not able to circumvent the measures in the Bill by working through proxies to deliver harmful effects.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked specifically about state-owned companies and Huawei in particular. We have not included state-owned companies in the definition of a foreign power as these companies often have their own non-state objectives. Instead, the legislation captures circumstances where a person acts directly or indirectly

“for or on behalf of a foreign power”.

That includes cases where a person knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the activity they are conducting for a state-linked company is being carried out for or on behalf of the foreign power, or where they intend to benefit a foreign power. Offences may be committed by bodies corporate, including those established in other jurisdictions. In addition, the legislation provides that where an offence is committed by a company

“with the consent or connivance … or … due to any neglect”

of an officer of the company, that officer of the company may be guilty of the offence.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, I have just mentioned that a number of the questions she raised and subjects she covered are more appropriately dealt with under the FIRS discussion we will have on Monday. That also applies to a number of the things raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. As noble Lords know, that part of the Bill—Clauses 65 and 66 —was introduced late into the House of Commons, to which the noble Lord referred. I am sorry if the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, thinks I was frivolous as to the potential for right-wing threats to our national security. Just for the record, I am completely agnostic about from which end of the political spectrum threats are made to our national security.

Finally, noble Lords have tabled an amendment to exclude members of NATO and other nations, via regulations, from the definition of a foreign power. It is important to note that the National Security Bill focuses on harmful conduct undertaken by a person, not the foreign power they seek to benefit. Actively excluding certain states could create an unwelcome gap in the legislation, particularly given that we know that states sometimes look to act through proxies. These amendments, therefore, could lead to us being unable to take necessary and appropriate action against harmful activities. Noble Lords will wish to note the case of Daniel Houghton, the dual British-Dutch national who attempted to sell sensitive information to the Dutch intelligence services in 2010. Were NATO states to be excluded from the definition of a foreign power, cases like Daniel Houghton’s would not be captured by the offences and measures in the Bill.

For those reasons, the Government cannot accept these amendments and I ask noble Lords not to press them.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I am afraid I do not accept the Minister’s idea that these things cannot be criminalised, so I will bring my amendment back on Report. I thank noble Lords for contributing to my amendment, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Black, with his expertise—which goes way beyond mine. I ask the Minister for a meeting to discuss this, because it is quite a fundamental point and bears further discussion. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
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My Lords, we need to come back to the question of a definition of a foreign power. The idea of a potential threat from Canada, Australia or the Netherlands, let alone the United States—which already has military forces in bases in this country—appears to be entirely disproportionate. We know there are serious threats from a number of hostile countries. That is what the Bill needs to focus on. If it spends a huge amount of time and demands a huge amount of effort from all those affected by it, reporting on the conversations they have had in Paris, Copenhagen, The Hague, et cetera, it will be less able to work out what is happening with Afghanistan and others—the real threats. That seems to be part of what is mistaken in the design of the Bill, and we need to come back to that before Report.

Amendment 66A withdrawn.
Clause 29 agreed.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.20 pm.