National Security Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 72 seeks to narrow the definition of foreign power threat activity by removing the conduct of those who give support or assistance to individuals, as has been noted.

The definition of foreign power threat activity is a vital part of the Bill, ensuring that the police have the powers they need in support of investigations into state threats offences. It is important that foreign power threat activity has sufficient breadth to allow our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to act where a threat is posed to the safety of the United Kingdom.

There will inevitably be overlap between facilitating on the one hand and assisting or supporting individuals on the other to carry out certain harmful activity under the Bill. However, it is important to retain both elements as they serve distinct purposes. We do not wish to create a gap in the legislation that prevents us being able to act against persons who assist individuals involved in harmful activity, and therefore we cannot accept this amendment.

Both noble Lords implied that it is casting the net too broadly to say that it is not necessary to identify a specific offence or act. However, given the harm that can arise from state threats activity, it is right that the Government can act to disrupt individuals during the early stages of their conduct. Therefore, it will not always be possible to determine the end goal of their conduct. Indeed, in some cases an individual may not have even decided the precise outcome they seek to bring about but, none the less, they have an intention to engage in state threats activity. We therefore want to ensure that the provisions are robust enough to catch criminals in these cases. Waiting until we have a full picture of the act they wish to commit could mean that we have to wait until the act itself is committed.

Additionally, I reassure the House that the reference to

“conduct which gives support or assistance”

under Clause 31(1)(c) relates specifically to conduct falling under Clause 31(1)(a), as is made explicit through the reference to paragraph (a). The Government’s view is that it is implicit that the conduct in question must be support in relation to acts or threats under Clause 31(1)(a), rather than support in relation to any unrelated activity. Thus, the provision does not risk bringing activity wholly unrelated to state threats activity into scope.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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Can the Minister explain that? That is the only thing I can see that is covered by paragraph (c) which is not covered by paragraph (b)—the provision of support or assistance in matters which are nothing to do with the likelihood of the individual being involved in conduct falling within paragraph (a). The Minister has stated that paragraph (c) does not have the effect of proscribing conduct which has nothing to do with the provisions in paragraphs (a) and (b), but I do not know on what he bases that confidence.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I base that confidence on the explicit reference to Clause 31(1)(a) in Clause 31(1)(c). With that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.