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(1A) The Director-General shall be appointed to hold office for a term not exceeding five years ; but a previous appointment shall not affect a person's eligibility for a second term of office provided that no person shall hold office for more than ten years in aggregate.'.
Mr. Shepherd : This is a short and not very important amendment, except in one respect. The amendment affects the terms of employment in a sense of the director-general. In the translation of the amendments from upstairs or in their transfer to the amendment sheet we appear to have
Column 239lost the word "strictly" but that is not very important in view of the Government's spirit in these matters. Clause 2(2)(a) says : "that there are arrangements for securing that no information is obtained by the Service except so far as necessary for the proper discharge of its functions or disclosed by it except so far as necessary for that purpose or for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime ; and".
Amendment No. 49 is purely a business amendment to ensure that a director- general of the Security Service shall not be so immersed in his work that he is in the job for ever. The best example of that is the head of the FBI. Mr. Hoover was in office for so many years that many people thought he was dictating the course of American internal security. No one ever dared to challenge what he did on the basis that he knew too much about people.
The more important of the two amendments would ensure that no information was obtained or retained. When one is engaged in extremely intrusive necessary investigation, such as phone tapping, one will obtain additional information that has no bearing on unrefined, unrestricted national security--to use the Home Secretary's words. It seems wholly appropriate that material that has no bearing on the defence of what we call liberal democracy should not be retained. Our amendment is a protective addition to the clause. 9.15 pm
Mr. John Patten : My answer to the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) for amendment No. 49 is that, given the seniority of the appointment, it is unlikely in practice that we would have service by one individual for more than a total of 10 years. But I suppose it is not inconceivable that an individual might be appointed relatively early in his or her career and was then found eminently suitable to exercise continued and consistent responsibility for the work of the service over a period of years that might stretch for somewhat longer than 10 years. What is the merit of a statutory limitation on the term of an appointment? I suppose it is not inconceivable that just when the director- general was bumping up against, say, a 10-year statutory limit, there might be some possible state of war or emergency, when it would be a millstone round the neck of the national interest to have to move the person, who knew what was in the interest of the service at that time and who had the experience to deal with the problem. I do not believe there is a particularly strong case for taking such a step.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills said that he put more store by amendment No. 50 on the retaining of information. We do not believe the amendment would help intelligence work in this country, although I assure my hon. Friend that we appreciate the concerns of individuals, and I shall come later to the question of information about individuals. The amendment would create an unnecessary requirement on the
Column 240service and could under certain circumstances leave the service shorn of parts of its memory which could be vital to the conduct of operations at a later date.
One safeguard in the Bill is that the service can obtain information only that is relevant to its functions. That is a considerable safeguard. A second safeguard is that it can disclose it only for the purposes of those functions or for the additional function of detecting serious crime, and hon. Members will approve of that. Those safeguards go to the nub of the question, which is how and why the service acquires information and what it will do with it once it has it. Different considerations come into play in deciding the grounds for continuing to retain information.
A person now reviewing a piece of information properly obtained some time ago may conclude that it does not meet the strict criteria of the amendment. It is then disposed of, perhaps shredded, only for it to be discovered at a later date that the key part of some complex jigsaw--and some intelligence sagas last for many years--has, alas, been thrown away. That could act against the national interest. So statutory safeguards are built into the Bill in relation to why information is obtained.
There is also a statutory safeguard for the aggrieved individual, and we do not take such concerns lightly. If an individual were to feel aggrieved that the Security Service was wrong to continue to hold on to information about him, he could make a complaint to the tribunal. That is an important safeguard. Even if the tribunal found out at that stage and informed the alleged complainant or complainants that it thought the Security Service had been reasonable in initiating the complaint against the individual or individuals, it could still refer the issue of the need to retain the information to the commissioner who could investigate the matter. He would be able to consider the intelligence arguments and come to a view that he could then report to my right hon. Friend.
The Bill properly reflects the necessary intelligence requirement, but it also ensures that any points of concern can be investigated and reported. With that reassurance, I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his amendments to a vote.
(3A)--(a) Subject to paragraph (b) below and in so far as it is strictly necessary for the proper discharge of the service's functions, the Service may enter into arrangements with
(i) a Government Department ;
(ii) a police force
for help and assistance in carrying out the service's duties and functions save that no arrangement which relates to or includes entry on or interference with property shall be lawful unless it is authorised by a warrant issued under section 3 of this Act. (
(b) Any such arrangement mentioned in (a) above shall only be made with the approval of the Solicitor General.
(c) A copy of written arrangements mentioned in (a) above shall be sent to the Inspector General and the Review Committee.
Delegation of powers to other security services
Nothing in this Act shall impower the security service to act as empowered by warrant in this Act through the agency of or by delegation of their powers to the security services of any other country.'.
Delegation of powers to police force
Nothing in this Act shall impower the security service to act as empowered by warrant in this Act through the agency of or by delegation of their powers to any police force.'.
Mr. Shepherd : The Security Service uses its foot soldiers, special branch, for this purpose. As this is a statutory arrangement by which we legalise the necessary entry to premises, which was traditionally called burglary and bugging, it is appropriate that the status of the operation should come under the remit of the Home Secretary in respect of warrants issued under clause 3 of the Bill. The purpose of the amendment is to provide power for the Security Service to enter into such arrangements with special branch or with a Government Department and to ensure that the service does not bypass the arrangement. We believe that we would have set the measure in a statutory framework if there had been the necessary checks and balances, an independent review and a definition of the functions of the service, other than in respect of blanket national security, and the inclusion of the necessary elements to make the measure acceptable to the European Court. The Security Service could not then seek to bypass the requirement of receiving a warrant for entry into premises by going to friends in special branch, for example, who are under the supervision of the chief constables of the counties and may obtain the necessary information by other means. Some Conservative and Opposition Members are trying to obtain a balanced Bill through a series of balances and checks.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : I support the amendment of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), although new clauses 6 and 7 press in the opposite direction--seeking to probe the Government and obtain clarification about the relationship between our Security Service and the security services of other countries.
I do not like the idea that the security services of other countries operate in the United Kingdom, but I accept that if we wish to stop international terrorism there may be occasions when another friendly country is taking the lead in trying to shadow a terrorist group and find out what it is doing, and it may be logical and necessary for that country to carry out some activities in this country to collect information that will be shared between us. If another organisation operates in this country, it is essential that it should operate by our laws. Will the Minister make it clear that if illegal activity is deemed necessary it will be carried out under the provisions for a warrant rather than simply by some foreign agent acting off his own bat?
My second point concerns the delegation and use of special branch. Hon. Members have discussed how much the Security Service uses the special branch of individual police forces. My impression is that it varies from police force to police force depending on the capability and size of the special branch concerned.
I hope that the Minister will state clearly the relationship between the warrants required under this
Column 242legislation, the position of special branch within individual police forces and the operations carried out by friendly Governments who share a common interest in collecting intelligence about terrorist activities.
"Nothing in this Act shall impower the security services to act as empowered by warrant in this Act through the agency of or by delegation of their powers to the security services of any other country."
Tonight I had the pleasure of listening to Mr. John Stockwell, an ex-member of the Central Intelligence Agency, who was speaking in a Meeting Room in the House. He has written a good book about the CIA. That agency has bombed, bugged, assassinated, tortured and pillaged its way around most of the developing nations of the world in the interests of supporting American imperialism. It has done so without the consent of Congress. Mr. Stockwell resigned from the CIA because he knew that an operation in Angola 10 years ago was being carried out against the decision of Congress. He felt that that was not democratic. He also pointed out that the CIA, wherever it operated, developed a drugs ring, a golden triangle, in which it used CIA facilities to hand over drugs to various people, including the Mafia, in order to further its interests. I do not want our security services becoming involved with the CIA because it has a miserable and dirty record.
The previous Labour Government found that our security services were working with the CIA to the extent that when it wanted Agee and Hosenball expelled from this country they, to my everlasting regret, carried out its instructions and requests. No doubt our security services, working with their sister organisation, briefed the then Home Secretary on the dangers of Philip Agee, telling him that Agee was giving away information about the American security service and therefore should be excluded from our nation. Philip Agee was revealing secrets about the CIA such as those that I have just mentioned. It is essential that our Security Service should be excluded from working with the CIA.
The CIA is courteous--it does not carry out operations in our country without notifying MI5 and obtaining its agreement. Mr. Stockwell said that during an operation in Katanga of which he was in charge the CIA obtained the support of our Security Service to ensure the transit of mercenaries to be used against the Government that the CIA wished to usurp. The mercenaries went through Heathrow without any scrutiny or checks as a result of the involvement of our security services.
If that had become public knowledge, I dare say that there would have been a hue and cry because our citizens, quite properly, do not like such things. They do not like our security services becoming involved in illegal operations conducted by foreign powers, whether friendly or otherwise. Therefore, the Minister has a duty to accept new clause 6 in particular, to assure our citizens that the secret services are not involved in destabilising operations working against democracy and leading to serious situations and loss of life by linking our facilities to foreign operations in Britain or abroad.
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Whether the warrants would be issued to facilitate criminal or illegal activities, it is quite extraordinary that we are debating in the House of Commons the way in which Ministers can permit people to carry out what ordinarily would be criminal activities which we strongly criticise in a secret service. Although some people within those secret organisations may start off with the best intentions, because they are not accountable their enormous power can be abused. If that is done in conjunction with other people or organisations which have lied to Congress and got away with murder, sometimes literally, when it is revealed--not in Britain which is far too secretive, but in the United States which is much more open--our name would be dragged in and our personnel would be revealed as having been involved, perhaps even in deceiving the Minister about the purpose of the warrant and not revealing any intercontinental connection that might exist.
I should have thought that new clause 6 was very straightforward. It seeks simply to make sure that the Minister exercises his powers solely within the United Kingdom, that he could not be subject to any abuse and would therefore be accountable to the House which is passing the legislation. Unless some amendments are made, when the legislation is passed there will be no link of accountability enabling us to have future debates of this nature. The subject will be closed. The warrants will be issued behind the closed doors of Whitehall and in secrecy. The reports will be presented in private, and members of the Security Service will be cuddling up to the Minister and explaining how everything is justified. The director-general will be presenting a very pleasing picture of the important work of the Security Service, and we shall be unable to make a judgment on the matter. Therefore, it is important that the Minister should say, "Some of you do not like the legislation"--that will include me--"but we think that it is necessary and in the operation of the legislation we shall ensure that the warrants are issued only for operations within the United Kingdom and there will be no connection with any security services from any other nations".
Mr. John Patten : I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) said in his brief introduction, and to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). I recall that the hon. Gentleman raised the same issues on Second Reading and that I tried in my speech to reply to at least one of the points on that occasion.
I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge- Brownhills and the hon. Members for Denton and Reddish--and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who appears to have come from quite an interesting meeting--that new clause 6 is not necessary, and I hope that I can do so briefly. I believe that the new clauses and amendment No. 44 are not necessary.
They could impair the service's effectiveness, and they overlook the fact that the commissioner, whose role and functions are set down in the Bill, will be all the time at my right hon. Friend's elbow and looking over his shoulder. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish acknowledges that, from time to time, the Security Service must necessarily maintain contacts with foreign security and intelligence agencies. Such contact is vitally important in
Column 244defeating, for example, IRA terrorism--as the recent seizure of shiploads of arms has shown. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman indicates assent.
Threats of terrorism and espionage are international. They can be identified only if like-minded agencies deal with them together. In the same way--this point interests the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish--the Security Service must work closely with the police from time to time, where the service's functions and the responsibilities of the police coincide. I again cite terrorism as a classic example where such co-operation is right.
Where others undertake work that is relevant to the service's functions and objectives, they will do so on the basis of their own powers and responsibilities. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge- Brownhills that that is the context in which the Committee needs to consider the amendments. There are powerful and effective safeguards in the warrant procedure provided by clause 3, which we have not yet reached. I do not believe that the amendments will add significantly to them. A warrant application must be made by the Security Service, and it can be granted only if the Secretary of State is personally satisfied that the action is necessary to the functions of the Security Service--not to those of anyone else. The action must be to obtain information likely to be of substantial value in respect of the service's functions and which cannot be reasonably obtained by any other means. The warrant must specify both the action and the property. Furthermore, the commissioner is there to ensure that there is adherence to those criteria.
Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : I have been greatly assured by my hon. Friend's comments about the commissioner. May we know whether the commissioner has any powers to undertake supervision of the operations of other security services operating in this country at the request of our own service?
Mr. Patten : I was about to give an assurance to my hon. Friend and to the Committee that the Security Service is the only security and intelligence agency responsible for undertaking operations involving actions of the kind that will be authorised under the Bill. That was to be my closing note. With that assurance, I hope that my hon. Friend and Opposition Members will not press the amendment or the new clauses.
and shall make such sections of his report public as he sees fit'.
No. 55, in page 2, line 9, at end add
and shall cause the Inspector General to be given a copy of each such report'.
No. 93, in page 2, line 9, at end add--
(5) The Director-General shall make an annual report to Parliament'.
No. 87, in page 3, line 6, at end insert
and the person to whom the information relates shall be informed of the Secretary of State's approval and the reasons for which the approval was given when information is disclosed in accordance with this subsection.'.
No. 85, in clause 3, page 3, line 4, at end add--
(8) 10 years after the commencement of this Act and each year thereafter the Secretary of State shall review all warrants issued 10 years previously and shall compile a report to
Column 245Parliament revealing as much information as he feels appropriate about the nature and the extent of warrants issued 10 years previously.'.
No. 12, in clause 4, page 3, line 19, after Prime Minister', insert
and such report shall include :
(i) the number of telephone intercept warrants granted ; (
(ii) the number of other listening devices utilized ;
(iii) the number of warrants to interfere with property granted ; (
(iv) the number of disciplinary proceedings taken ;
(v) the number of complaints referred to the tribunal ; (
(vi) the number of Positive Vetting referrals handled ; (
(vii) an account of Security Service opinion on current threats ad priorities ;
(viii) a case history relevant to the Service's work in the preceding year from each Security Service Branch ; and
(ix) a statement from the Director-General relating to any significant changes in practice.'.
f divn list Mr. Bennett : Amendment No. 83 suggests that part of the director-general's report could, in certain circumstances, be made public. Clearly it is intended that the report will be given to the Home Secretary and to the Prime Minister. One of the reasons for the Bill is considerable public disquiet about the way in which the Security Service has appeared to operate in recent years. The Government's hope is that by putting the service on a statutory basis public concern will be allayed. However, the unsatisfactory way in which much of the Bill is drafted, which was highlighted in our earlier debate, will not allay that fear, and there will continue to be pressure for more and more information.
I believe that it will not be long before people in the Security Service realise that unless they are prepared to be more forthcoming about the way in which they operate, and particularly to assure the public that they do not engage in activities that have caused concern to Opposition Members, the system will fall further into disrepute. The amendment merely provides that if the director-general of the Security Service feels that it would be appropriate for parts of his report to be made public, they can be made public, but on his decision alone.
Amendment No. 85 deals with a much more complicated business--the general belief that a large number of burglaries and buggings are being carried out by the Security Service. I do not believe that the number is all that large, but from now on we shall have the opportunity for them to be recorded by warrants. There will, however, be no mechanism enabling the general public to know how many warrants are issued per year and how the process takes place. The amendment suggests that after 10 years there should be an opportunity for the number and extent of warrants to be made public.
In the vast majority of cases, what posed a security threat 10 years earlier will not continue to do so, and it would therefore be perfectly reasonable to provide some information about the extent of Security Service operations then. Clearly some operations will still be going on, and to divulge information about them would cause problems. I have therefore inserted the safeguard that, at the second date, it would be the Home Secretary who would decide whether it was appropriate to make the information public. Thus the original Home Secretary would give permission for a warrant to be issued, and 10 years later the information would become public unless the
Column 246then Home Secretary believed that, in the interests of the Security Service and of the nation's security, it should not be made public. I tabled the amendment largely to probe the Government's intention. I understand that in many security instances the 30 -year rule does not operate and information is withheld from the public for even longer. I do not feel that the totality of operations should be kept from the public for as long as 30 years. This seems to me an issue on which Parliament has a right of scrutiny.
"The Director-General shall make an annual report to Parliament". Curiously, I have more faith in Parliament than perhaps it deserves, and I believe that when we talk about democracy we ought to practise it. I do not think that we should have double standards and be anti-democratic while preaching democracy. The Government claim that they support democracy, and here is an opportunity for them to put their claim into practice.
Many benefits flow from a requirement for the director-general to make an annual report to Parliament. It does not lay down what he must include : it does not provide, for example, that he must include the number of warrants issued. The director-general would be able to make the report at his discretion, and he would no doubt omit any matters that he deemed sensitive. That, after all, is the sort of job to which we appoint him.
The requirement for the director-general to make the report, however, would also push this place into a debate. We know that when what are termed sensitive areas develop the Government go through the usual channels and say, "We cannot deal with that just now", or "We shall follow the business with two Scottish orders so that the trouble-makers on the Front Bench below the Gangway do not keep the subject going for too long. We want to get rid of it--to sweep it under the carpet and out of the way."
So I think it is very useful for an obligation to be clearly put on the director-general to provide a report, because it does not say that it has to be debated but, having provided a report and put it in the House of Commons Library, there would be an opportunity to exert pressure for a debate, and then there can be that measure of accountability, as I say, without any details that the
director-general regards as sensitive. The Minister would have to be briefed and answer questions on the debate, and that would provide some element of security in the minds of the citizenry that this secret organisation would be less likely to abuse its power and position.
It is always a salutary thought in all our minds that we are accountable to somebody. When we speak and vote here we are accountable to the electorates in our constituencies. We record our votes so that we cannot say one thing in our constituencies and vote the other way here, and it helps us to clarify our minds. When I go through the Lobby--and I go through the Lobby on a number of occasions on various issues--I always try to make up my mind so that, if somebody in Bradford, South questions me about what I have done, I can provide an answer. That is a degree of accountability.
Column 2479.45 pm
Therefore, when the burgling and bugging is taking place, in addition to having to justify matters to the Minister or to senior civil servants-- because in the Bill as drafted the Minister is not the only one who can authorise the warrants, and we shall come to that very shortly--they will have to think, "Our director-general is going to have to put a report before Parliament. There is going to be a debate." It may be a bit of a nuisance that Members of Parliament discuss their affairs, and that is no doubt the view they will have. Nonetheless, we shall have that opportunity.
If we do not, what will happen? What has happened in the past? Several years ago there was an Adjournment debate on the security services. The various boxes were full of eminent people. The Home Secretary appeared for an Adjournment debate because it was deemed to be so unusual, so electrifying that the security services should actually be debated, and all the "big guns" turned out. That debate lasted just half an hour. It was not Government time ; it was private Members' time and, of course, devices like the Consolidated Fund can be used. But I remind the House that, because of a consensus agreement between the parties, the Consolidated Fund is no longer a Consolidated Fund debate ; it is a structured debate, fixed by Mr. Speaker ; it is a series of Adjournment debates, and the ability of Back Benchers to scrutinise has thereby been diminished.
The Minister will resist putting this in the Bill, because Governments do not like too much scrutiny of anything. They prefer to stay in their offices in Whitehall and have a few jolly half-day debates in here, when they can get a few cheers from their Back Benchers, and limit it to that. However, we are concerned here with accountability over a very serious section of our Government forces, and it seems to me not unreasonable therefore that we should be able to hold them to account by having a debate and impose an obligation on the director-general to provide an annual report to Parliament. I hope that there will be an opportunity to vote on this, because I would be interested to see those who are actually prepared to say that this House should be accountable and not just a place where a few empty words echo, nothing is done, and at 10 o'clock the Government bring out their troops and destroy what improvements might have been made to a piece of legislation. I shall be surprised if the Minister accepts the amendment but, if he has the concept of parliamentary democracy at heart, I would have thought it does no "damage" in his terms, because the director- general has the responsibility of providing the report ; he can be selective. However, it does provide an opportunity for some sort of accountability to this House, so that those Members of Parliament who are interested can have that opportunity and exercise it. That is a reasonable request.
Mr. Allason : I am grateful for the opportunity to draw the Committee's attention to amendment No. 12. In view of the loss last night of any chance of parliamentary oversight, that amendment is extremely important. Some hon. Members have mentioned how important it is to have a report and the Government are to be congratulated on requiring the Security Service commissioner to offer up an annual report. That is important, but the Bill has one
Column 248fundamental flaw in that it omits any detail about what should be considered by the commissioner in his report. That is vital. Last night we accepted--some of us reluctantly--my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's view that everything was safe in his hands. We lost the opportunity to have any parliamentary oversight. In effect, my right hon. Friend said that he and his successors would be able to cope with controlling all the other responsibilities that they have in the Home Office and be able to manage the affairs of the Security Service, and that any problems that there might have been in the past had now been put behind the Security Service.
The difficulty is that there is no suggestion about what should go into the report. In other words, the commissioner has total discretion and if he feels like it he can say virtually nothing of any relevance or interest. A vital opportunity has been lost. I draw the Committee's attention to the Canadian experience. In Canada an annual report is published by the security intelligence review committee with 10 important chapters. They are not just for voyeurs of the intelligence community, but represent a public relations exercise as well as an educational exercise. Let me explain briefly what I mean.
We have heard that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is prepared to bear the burden of supervising the Security Service without any assistance. The report that will be provided by the commissioner will go to him and the Prime Minister. But how are they to educate themselves? How are they to be well informed on the function, role and day-to-day activities of the Security Service? That surely is at the heart of accountability. Unless those two people have a firm grasp of the Security Service we shall put ourselves back in the position that we have experienced in the past when there have been mishaps--for example, when the director-general of the Security Service, Sir Percy Sillitoe, deliberately misled Attlee, and, on subsequent occasions, with Burgess and Maclean and so on.
If we can draw up some parameters for topics that should be included in the report, that would be worthwhile. That would not conflict with clause 4(7) which allows the Prime Minister to decide whether a document is of such a sensitive nature that parts of it should not be disclosed in public or to the House of Commons. That can be retained.
But is it not important, for example, to establish the number of warrants that have been issued under the Bill? The first example I list in the amendment is the number of telephone intercept warrants granted in any one year. Many of us believed that, with the Interception of Communications Act 1985, there would be greater public accountability and public knowledge about the way in which warrants were authorised and the number that were authorised each year. Our expectations have turned out to be wrong and the amount of information that is supplied by the judge who reports annually on the interception of communications is less now than was previously available.
What about the other items that should be scrutinised, such as the number of warrants to interfere with property issued by the Home Secretary each year? That is a euphemism for burglary and it is a proper topic on which the commissioner should report to the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister. Let us not forget that the Prime Minister will not be privy to that particular information unless the Home Secretary decides to import it.