Security of Ministers’ Offices and Communications

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, in the first part of her question, the noble Baroness followed on slightly from earlier questions. There are issues of clarity, and Ministers should understand what is being done. My view is that the Government Security Group is obviously responsible for existing departments in securing Ministers’ security across Whitehall, and that work continues. As for the use of private machines for emails, I have referred to that, and they are subject to FoI.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I make no comment on Matthew Hancock, but what happened to him raises questions. Is the recent filming of the Secretary of State for Health in his office part of a systematic intrusion into ministerial offices? Is it appropriate to have cameras in the offices of a Secretary of State or, indeed, any other Minister? It is quite possible that highly classified documents might be photographed. What happens to the recordings? Are they erased? If they are, what method of security is there to ensure that they are erased? The recent sale to the Sun is evidence that not all is as it should be for the security of these recordings. Are there bugging devices as well as cameras located in ministerial offices? Could that explain why there are so many leaks from all sorts of government departments—senior, junior or wherever? Might that indicate that there are a lot of recording devices all over the place? The mind boggles about where all this could end up.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: Border Controls

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Thursday 4th February 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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I certainly undertake to do that. The noble Lord has asked a number of detailed points and I will write to him, but while I am on my feet, I will say that I believe that the Irish/UK strand is an important one that might help in assisting to resolve some of these problems.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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Is the recent imposition by the EU of a land border between southern and Northern Ireland, for however brief a period, by invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol and without even informing the parties to the agreement, including the Irish Prime Minister, a serious violation of the spirit of the Good Friday agreement, to which the EU claimed to attach so much importance during the withdrawal negotiations?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I believe that it is highly regrettable, and this point was made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister yesterday. We should all attach importance to the Good Friday agreement and I hope that the Commission will now give lasting attention to that point.

House of Lords Appointments Commission

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Tuesday 5th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the Prime Minister of the day is the monarch’s principal adviser on the exercise of patronage, which is part of the royal prerogative.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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Does my noble friend agree that the opposition of this House to the clearly expressed view of the British people on leaving the European Union means that there is a danger that if the House of Lords Appointments Commission—drawn largely from the same pool—has statutory powers, it could lead to appointments that divorce this House even further from the population of this country?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I would not follow my noble friend entirely in the course of his question. It is certainly true that the reputation of this House rests not on who might come here soon but on those of us who are here and how we have conducted ourselves. In that, I agree with my noble friend.

Future Relationship with the EU

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Monday 14th December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the aspiration of the Government has been and remains to get a free trade deal with our friends and former partners in Europe. As the noble Baroness said—and I agree—an enormous number of areas of ground in the negotiations have been carried positively. But specific and deep differences remain on the well-known points that have been discussed, including the so-called level playing field and fisheries. Those are matters of intensive negotiations. The chief negotiators began to negotiate again at 10 am this morning. I will not prejudge what might be going on in those negotiations, but I can assure the House that the intention of the Government is positive. As the Prime Minister said, while there is life, there is hope.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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Does my noble friend the Minister agree that there is a strong element of Alice in Wonderland permeating our negotiations with the European Union? Normally, when two parties negotiate a transaction from which both sides will benefit, the side with the most to gain customarily makes the concessions and is the party making the greatest effort to achieve a satisfactory conclusion. The EU is making a £90 billion profit each year from trading with the United Kingdom. Does the Minister agree that the posturing of the EU and its treatment of the United Kingdom as a colony is out of place? An example of this is Monsieur Macron acting as if France has a God-given right of access to British fish in British waters. Does he further agree that the superb work done by the noble Lord, Lord Frost, and his assistant, Oliver Lewis, to try to make the EU understand that Great Britain is not a colony of the European Union but a free and sovereign state is to be applauded?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I can certainly agree that my noble friend Lord Frost and his colleague, Mr Lewis, are doing their duty to the very greatest extent. Of course, that is not helped by the injection of new material into the negotiations at a late stage. As I have said before at this Dispatch Box, I do not go into criticising the Governments of other nations. All I would say is that we are going to try as hard as we can and to be as creative as we possibly can in taking this on. However, what we cannot do is compromise on the fundamental nature of what Brexit is all about. It is about being able to control all our laws and to have control of our fisheries.

Ministerial Code

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Tuesday 24th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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My Lords, just as Ministers take responsibility for their department, good or bad, so civil servants do not publicly criticise their Ministers. Does the Minister agree that Sir Philip Rutnam behaved disgracefully badly when he crossed that boundary by rubbishing a Secretary of State? He brought even further disgrace on our superb Civil Service by appearing on television. Does the Minister agree that in future snowflakes should be barred from being Permanent Secretaries or, indeed, holding any other senior position in the Civil Service?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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Well, my Lords, my noble friend always asks his questions in a direct manner. I will not comment on any individual case, but it is certainly true that being at the top of a major department is a challenging role for Ministers and senior civil servants alike—and, frankly, I have not known many snowflakes in either of those capacities.

Intelligence and Security Committee: Russia Report

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Wednesday 22nd July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, Ministers have not dragged their feet, and issues of electoral integrity are very much under consideration, as the noble Lord knows. Action will be taken in the course of this Parliament. On his central question, we have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU referendum.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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Does the Minister agree that no one should be permitted to interfere in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom? For example, Jean-Claude Juncker had to be restrained by David Cameron from interfering in the 2016 referendum. As for Russian interference in the referendum, was the Minister influenced by a Russian, or did he manage to make up his own mind?

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, I was not influenced by any Russians. My noble friend touches on something which I beg your Lordships—and have done before—to hold in their mind. The decision to leave Europe was taken by millions upon millions of our fellow countrymen—twice. The result was not hatched in some dacha in Moscow.

EU Exit: End of Transition Period

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Wednesday 15th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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Can the Minister confirm that the sums referred to by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are sufficient to ensure the free flow of goods through UK customs? If not, perhaps they could be increased. I also ask my noble friend to urge Mr David Frost to insist to Mr Barnier that the EU pays at least 50% of all the UK’s costs in setting up these customs facilities. These arrangements are only for the convenience of the EU; after all, the rest of the world already has adequate arrangements. The EU has a £90 billion surplus in traded goods with the UK; it should contribute to the cost of setting up something so advantageous to itself.

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My noble friend has been an indefatigable fighter for the independence of the United Kingdom from the European Union, so I fully understand the direction from which he is coming. He makes an interesting point. Whether, if I sent him into bat as our negotiator, it would improve the temper of Monsieur Barnier, I am not sure, but I am grateful for his comments.

David Frost

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Tuesday 30th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, the noble Lord slightly lost my sympathy in the last few words of his question. I welcome his endorsement of Mr Frost’s qualities—I cannot judge how many he learned from the noble Lord—but assure him that anybody in public service, even a Minister, has the duty to speak truth to power. I am sure Mr Frost will be mindful of that.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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Could the Minister confirm that, when David Frost is elevated to the peerage, he will, at the very least, be given an earldom or possibly be made a Marquis, in recognition of his brilliant letter of 19 May of this year to Michel Barnier and his superb negotiating with the EU? That led to the EU understanding that it cannot continue to treat this country as a colony of an empire run from Brussels.

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, I am glad to have that endorsement of Mr Frost from the other side of the river to the previous noble Lord. Her Majesty is the fount of all honour, but I fear that if my noble friend’s suggestion were followed, Mr Frost might find himself on the expulsion list of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. Perhaps we should be satisfied by a simple life peerage.

UK-EU Negotiations

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Thursday 18th June 2020

(3 years, 12 months ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, I am not good at figures but I think that the Australian Government have about 29 different arrangements with the European Union. With regard to the phrase “oven ready”, I am afraid that I like cooking—something that I have enjoyed particularly during the lockdown. Turning to the central core of the noble Lord’s question, the Government are preparing for every eventuality. There is an intense amount of planning on a wide range of fronts, and I assure him that that process is continuing.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am glad to see that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the other place said in his Statement that our new relationship with the EU

“must fully reflect our regained sovereignty, independence and autonomy”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/6/20; col. 685.]

Will the Minister confirm that unnecessary compromises will not be made by Her Majesty’s Government and that they will not be deluded into thinking that, because the EU has moved from a totally unreasonable position to a half-unreasonable position, it is a fair compromise? Going half way is no sensible compromise if you start from a completely idiotic position.

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, I can give my noble friend some assurance. The EU has begun to show some recognition, including of some of the United Kingdom’s positions. The Prime Minister stated at the high-level meeting—I believe that I have his words this time—“I have to be clear that I will never agree to a treaty in which we accept new constraints from the EU on our ability to set our own rules in our own way. The British Parliament and people are the best and strongest guarantees of our standards.” I can also assure my noble friend that the Prime Minister again made it clear that there can be no role for the Court of Justice in any part of any agreement between us.

EU: Trade and Security Partnership

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True [V]
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My Lords, we are in a negotiation. The Government remain committed to a successful outcome. We believe it would still be straightforward to agree a suite of arrangements with an FTA at its core. Our position needs to be understood: we will not agree to any of the EU’s demands for us to give up our rights as an independent state.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con) [V]
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Could the Minister say when reporting progress whether the attitude of European Union negotiators has created such difficulties during discussions that the possibilities or chances of finding common ground in many areas, such as the level playing field or fishing, have become virtually impossible? The inability of European Union negotiators to recognise that the United Kingdom is a sovereign and independent nation and to treat Great Britain as such is making compromises impossible, and will continue to do so until such time as European Union negotiators understand that Great Britain is not a colony of the European Union.

Lord True Portrait Lord True [V]
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My Lords, I will not criticise the negotiators on either side; they have their mandates and both have said that they find the discussions professional and appropriate. However, my noble friend is quite right to say that on certain matters, as I think Mr Frost said, the EU must evolve an understanding that the United Kingdom is not prepared to accept the so-called level playing field or, indeed, to accept that we cannot be an independent coastal state regarding fisheries.

EU: Future Relationship

Debate between Lord Howard of Rising and Lord True
Wednesday 20th May 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, I certainly reject the last part of the noble Baroness’s question. I noted that today the Liberal Democrats introduced in another place a Bill to extend the transition period for two years until January 2024—a Bill, by the way, that comes without a financial memorandum. I just wonder when the party opposite is going to clock the decision made by the British people. The British Government are negotiating in good faith with ambition, hope and a constructive state of mind to reach a free trade agreement with the EU. We are confident that that is possible.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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How is it possible to negotiate with the EU when Monsieur Barnier’s starting point is to deal with the UK as if it were a colony rather than an independent sovereign nation, with which the EU has a large trade surplus?

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, I am not chasing either my noble friend or the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, into descriptions of other people’s positions with epithets. Mr Barnier is an excellent negotiator, but my noble friend is right that the EU mandate is perhaps somewhat less viable than that of Monsieur le Duc de Talleyrand. It is a pity that those mandating the EU negotiations have not noticed that 23 June 2016, 12 December 2019 and 31 January 2020 have changed much in this country, and it does not serve in these circumstances to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.