Previous Section Home Page

Column 266

Conversely, what happens if the home-owner murders the MI5 man? Will he be quietly bumped off or will he be taken to court? The Government are making a new law with all those implications. They are not hypothetical questions. What is the position in law? The Government should tell us.

11 pm

Mr. John Patten : What an interesting debate this has been. It started quietly when my hon. Friend the Member for

Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) opened the batting for himself and his hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken). I appreciate their concern for democracy and for the individual, but they can be met in a number of different ways and in the end one has to judge which is the best.

First, let me deal with judicial intervention in the warrant-making process, which is where my hon. Friend the Member for

Aldridge-Brownhills began. Then I shall deal with the interesting and important points raised by the hon. Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South on the meaning of the words "Secretary of State" in the authorisation of warrants. Last but not least, I shall deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), which he also made on Second reading at column 1174 of Hansard, to which I was unable to respond due to pressure of time.

The proposals on the role of the judiciary in the warrant-making process are not practicable in the context of Britain. It is always as well to begin with one's own country rather than some theoretical situation. The amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills propose a two-stage procedure involving approval by the Solicitor-General and a submission in writing to a High Court judge. Let us remember that in Britain the terrorist threat may be rather different from that in many other countries, as hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise. Matters may be extremely urgent. Terrorists do not wait for legal procedures to be completed before they act. We all recognise that.

Therefore, it is essential to be able to deal with applications for warrants as quickly as possible. If we adopted some scheme for judicial intervention such as that put forward by my hon. Friends, argument would be on the basis of written papers. The judge might have no previous understanding of or experience in Security Service issues. He will have to make a first judgment on issues that have never been before him. [ Hon. Members :-- "So will the Secretary of State."] But Secretaries of State will at least--it is an important at least--have had considerable briefing on the Security Service and how it works. The judge will have had no previous experience in the consideration of Security Service work, or knowledge of the policy or background to the work. It is then up to the learned judge, according to my hon. Friends' amendment, to authorise individuals to obtain information and to do anything listed in subsection (3) of amendment No. 59. Moreover, the judge becomes involved in operational issues. I do not know whether that is my hon. Friend's design. He may set such terms and conditions as he considers advisable in the public interest.

Column 267

What is the director-general to do if he finds that the warrant has allowed an operation to take place in theory but that it has been frustrated in practice because of the way in which judicial intervention has worked, because of pre-conditions laid down by the learned judge, or because of the value judgments made by the judge that some members of the service might have been placed at considerable personal risk? Those are important considerations.

Mr. Richard Shepherd : I am charmed by my hon. Friend's hypotheses, but surely that is all that they can be. He has not produced any evidence to suggest that his hypotheses have any bearing in fact. For some time now, some of us have contended that our proposals are based on the statutory provisions of a country that shares our concepts of the rule of law, parliamentary democracy and ministerial responsibility and a judicial system not unlike our own. The Canadians have not had the hypothetical difficulties that my hon. Friend mentioned. The Canadians have to deal with terrorism too. They have had to deal with separatists--although the terrorist problem may not have been of the same dimension as ours--and they are part of the international community. An Air India aircraft originating from Canada was lost through terrorist activity.

We are trying to bring to the Minister's attention the fact that there is substantial evidence to show that the Canadian system works. He may go off on a detour about hypotheses and say that people in this country are too foolish and that our situation is so special that such matters cannot be understood. The Home Secretary said that cloth that is woven anywhere other than in Whitehall is not relevant.

Mr. Patten : I make no apology for speaking hypothetically, any more than my hon. Friend has. We are both speaking hypothetically about the possible adoption by this Government, or some other, of the proposals in amendment No. 56.

Mr. Menzies Campbell rose --

Mr. Patten : May I address myself first to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills before I give way? We have to deal with what may happen, so we are both speaking hypothetically. I had not, especially, wanted to discuss the Canadian system because I intend my remarks to be informed by the British experience. However, unfortunately from our point of view, it seems that in Canada--and I have looked into this too--it can take up to two days to achieve a judicial warrant. On some occasions, two days would not matter, but on others, when there was a serious terrorist threat, two days would matter.

Mr. Menzies Campbell : I apologise if, through an excess of zeal, I appeared to be interrupting the Minister when he was answering another hon. Member.

Will the Minister leave aside the hypotheses for a moment and address himself to the principle, about which hon. Members feel most strongly? Does he accept that, as the security services are an arm of the Executive, it is only right and proper, if they are to be authorised to commit what would otherwise be illegal acts, that the authorisation should come from the judiciary and not from the Executive?

Column 268

Mr. Patten : I do not accept that. In the context of the threats that we face in this country and the long-established roles of the judiciary and the Executive, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman, with his considerable experience in the law--albeit north of the border--has referred--[ Hon. Members-- : "There is nothing wrong with that."] I agree that there is nothing wrong with that. I did not realise that I had touched a raw nerve. The judiciary should not become involved in the day-to -day operational decisions of the Security Service. When one considers the threats that this country faces, one realises that to take decisions about warrants requires an appreciation of the overall objectives of the Security Service and the considerations relating to the well-being and security of this country.

The judiciary could not reasonably be expected to assume such major operational responsibilities. It has been the theme of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and myself that such responsibilities are, properly, for Ministers. The system that is proposed in the Bill, with the additional protections given by the tribunal and the commissioner, is, I would point out to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), an effective way to protect the interests of the nation as a whole.

I shall now deal with the interesting point, which was raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South and referred to by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland and my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South, about the system for signing warrants.

Our present system is a very good one. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department is assiduous in his duties. He is not normally unobtainable, and I can tell the House--as a matter of the free dissemination of information--that neither falconry nor camping will be part of my hon. Friend's programme during his forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.

All these points stem from the constitutional doctrine that any Secretary of State can carry out the functions conferred upon a Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland put his finger on it ; he was quite right. It is nevertheless fanciful to suggest that the appointment of the director-general or the oversight of the service will be carried out by anyone other than my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South raised some important points, but I can confirm that the judgment of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland was right. Let me explain what would happen in the process. If my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is fully informed while he is away from the office of the reasons why a warrant should be granted, he can give a civil servant of grade 3 or above the authority to sign the warrant. He can do that by his own direct personal authority. But that signature remains valid only for two days and the warrant can be renewed only over the hand of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Incidentally, I share the view of the hon. Member for Bradford, South, who said that he deplored the new description "grade 3". I rather liked the old phrase "under-secretary". Perhaps they will all be given numbers shortly. I have described what will happen when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is available. It is quite clear that another Secretary of State could authorise a warrant under the Bill--the point raised by the hon. Member for

Column 269

Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan)--but it is nonsense to suggest that a Secretary of State will be authorised to sign warrants without any background knowledge. It will not surprise the Committee to learn that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is closely involved in these matters, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is also involved. I remind the House that the language used in the Bill is exactly the same as that used in the Interception of Communications Act 1985. There is no change.

Mr. Maclennan : May we clarify the procedure? Suppose that the Home Secretary is in Saudi Arabia--not indulging in falconry but nevertheless unavailable to receive the intelligence from the Security Service that a particular matter requires the issue of a warrant. The Security Service will then have to convey that information to another Secretary of State ; perhaps the Secretary of State for the Environment will be the only one available. As I understand the clause, an official of above grade 3 at the Department of the Environment would have to issue the warrant in the absence of the Home Secretary. I do not regard that rather bizarre set of circumstances as entirely fanciful. It is perfectly clear that from time to time the Ministers who are in touch with these matters and aware of the background are simply not available.

Mr. Patten : The hon. Gentleman is not usually known in the House for his flights of fancy, although he is known for many other things. Before his lengthy intervention, which turned into a speech, I said that that it was the other Secretaries of State concerned with security issues-- for example, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland--who would properly have an interest in these matters from time to time.

I come to the points raised by the hon. Member for Leyton. Although I think that I can give him a clear assurance, if he does not mind I shall not refer to the case of Hilda Murrell because I am not aware of it, and in any event I should not wish to comment on a past case. However, I can give the hon. Gentleman a cast-iron assurance that only activities that are legal and properly authorised will be carried out by the service. All that a warrant can authorise is action in respect of a named property, and both the action and the name of the property must be on the warrant. In no circumstances can a warrant authorise any attack on or interference with a person--that is no part of the service's task. So if, in the purely hypothetical case that was put to me by the hon. Member for Leyton, the owner resisted, he or she would be in exactly the same position as anyone else if he or she reasonably believed that the person entering was an intruder acting unlawfully.

With that reassurance, I hope that the hon. Member for Leyton, other hon. Gentlemen and some of my hon. Friends will not seek to press their points in the Lobbies.

11.15 pm

Mr. Cryer : An amendment that was designed simply to ensure greater ministerial accountability has developed a little. From subsection 3(3) it now appears that any Secretary of State can authorise a warrant. The hon. Gentlemen who pointed that out were quite right because the particular Secretary of State is not defined. Moreover, any Secretary of State can not only authorise a warrant ; he can authorise a warrant over the telephone to an official

Column 270

above grade 3. The official then takes down a message, saying that the Secretary of State, or rather in this case the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, authorises a warrant for entering an intervention store. Under paragraph 3(3) (b) the note by the official accompanies the issue of the warrant.

It may turn out that the Secretary of State did not make that authorisation, but that the official misheard what he said over the telephone. That sort of arrangement is permissible and authorised under the Bill. Therefore, under the Bill the Secretary of State does not have to write anything for a warrant to be issued--an official can simply take down a note.

The Minister said that issuing a warrant involves a Secretary of State who is concerned with security issues

Mr. John Patten : It could.

Mr. Cryer : Yes, it could, but the Minister actually said "concerned with security issues". That would be in the ordinary run of the mill, but that is not what the Bill states. It states "the Secretary of State". Curiously, paragraph 3(3) (b) does not state "where a Secretary of State has expressly authorised its issue", it states

"where the Secretary of State has expressly authorised its issue". I suspect that those who drafted the Bill were not too sure about the position and drafted it in a general and sloppy way so that they could invoke anybody, if they so chose, without any criticism being directed at them.

I have used the example of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If any hon. Member tables a question about the intervention stores in this country, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will not reveal where they are because it is a secret. Therefore, it could be legitimately argued that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is concerned with security issues because his Department has to hide all the locations of the cereal intervention stores. If somebody finds out that inside one of the intervention stores there are supposed to be cereals, but that instead it contains rotten apples, and if the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food needs to find out that information--

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : Order. The hon. Gentleman is very amusing, but he is straying from the amendment.

Mr. Cryer : My amendment No. 95 in fact requires a junior Minister to issue a warrant, and would exclude an official having anything to do with it.

The Second Deputy Chairman : The hon. Gentleman must keep to the point of the issue of the warrant.

Mr. Cryer : I am absolutely with it. The point I am making is that the reasons that could be advanced for the issue of a warrant from a Department, which seem on the face of it highly unlikely, are actually a possibility in reality, because of the curious way in which we keep those intervention boards secret. Therefore, the Minister might argue that it is necessary to obtain a warrant and evidence that the secret of an intervention store is coming out.

Mr. Buchan : Can I draw my hon. Friend's attention to clause 1(3), because we have been mystified up to now

The Second Deputy Chairman : Order. The Committee has disposed of clause 1.

Column 271

Mr. Buchan : It is completely relevant to this.

The Second Deputy Chairman : It may be relevant, but the Committee has dealt with clause 1, with respect, and I must remind the hon. Gentleman --

Mr. Buchan : Can I--

The Second Deputy Chairman : Order. I want to be reasonable about this, but the Committee has dealt with clause 1--that has gone.

Mr. Buchan : It is precisely because we have dealt with it that it becomes relevant to this section. Clause 1(3) refers to problems posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands, which is precisely the point that my hon. Friend is making about intervention stocks in this country, because they could have come from Belgium, Holland or France and they could be on the fiddle.

The Second Deputy Chairman : Order. The amendment deals strictly with the warrant and not with any intervention stores. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) had come back to the point of the amendment, and perhaps he would now pursue that.

Mr. Cryer : My hon. Friend is saying that the issue of a warrant could be justified under clause 1(3), and it is the issue of the warrant about which we are concerned. I entirely accept, Miss Boothroyd, your injunction to keep to the point of the warrant, but the issue of the warrant is so vague. If it was an issue for a warrant to pop on a box of chocolates to say that it was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or whatever, we would not be too concerned, but we are talking about a warrant that authorises burglary. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) said, it is a warrant that authorises burglary with the possible consequence of people being injured. We believe that Hilda Murrell was killed by the security services. She was frightened, they were probably frightened, too, and something went terribly awry and she finished up dead.

We are talking about something that is extremely important, yet here we have a set of circumstances laid down in this Bill. At the end of the day, whatever the Minister says, it will not be a question of what is contained in Hansard . The words of the Bill will define the procedure to be undertaken. We are saying that this procedure is sloppy and that it has no adequate definition. If the Minister says that it has been done in the interception of communications legislation, I was not in the House at that time--no doubt missed greatly for the scrutiny that I can apply. This is new legislation on something which this House has never done before--the right physically to enter other people's property and to carry out what in every other case would be a serious criminal offence, with a possible penalty of several years' imprisonment.

I believe that the Minister should reconsider this, because it is a serious set of circumstances when any Secretary of State can authorise a warrant. It is no good the Minister saying that, of course, in practice it would not be any other Minister ;, the fact is that under this legislation it apparently can be any other Secretary of State. The Minister is, in effect, saying that we are giving powers to every Secretary of State of every Department to issue warrants. That Minister will not be there all the time. We could have more nefarious, unscrupulous or ignorant

Column 272

Ministers--[ Hon. Members :-- "Or Labour Ministers."] Labour will get rid of this licence for Ministers to authorise burglary and bugging. It is outrageous.

The Bill does not depend on assurances from the Minister that its remit will be confined. Once the Bill is passed the power is handed over to be applied by any Minister who happens to be appointed at the time. Although the Minister of State may give us genuine, fond assurances that that power will be concerned for paltry accountability, and all the other platitudes that Ministers tumble out from time to time, we are worried about the law that is laid down in the Bill.

As we understand it, any Secretary of State can authorise a warrant for burglary under the Bill. Consequently, a Secretary of State does not have to write anything to issue a warrant. He simply must say to someone, either directly, over the telephone or by other means, "Yes, I authorise you to issue a warrant." It could be that the Secretary of State's intention is distorted by a bleep in the electronic communications. The official may write down that the warrant is issued, whereas the Secretary of State said "The warrant is not issued." The official, in good faith, writes down that that warrant is authorised and it is then issued. It is absolutely incredible that such legislation is being pursued in the House.

Do the Government have the same standards when issuing regulations for social security benefits? No, they do not. When the Government are dealing with social security benefit legislation they lay down page after page of careful drafting. There are regulations on every detail and schedules to ensure that the poor and wretched do not get a penny more than they are authorised to receive.

If the Minister is doing something serious that authorises potentially criminal activity, he should, at least, be as careful in the primary legislation, as the Government are in other legislation on social security and other activities. That is not the case with the Bill. The Government are guilty of shoddiness because, once the Bill is passed, it will not come back to Parliament. It is true that there will be a parliamentary report from the commissioner, but there are no guarantees that it will be debated.

Behind closed doors there will be lots of telephoning and mistaken messages will be recorded. All that will be covered up. Officials may be told that MAFF authorised a warrant, but that it did not mean to and that it wants that warrant to be returned. The reply to the Ministry may well be, "Sorry, we have done the burglary." The outcome will be "Hard lines. It is just one of those things."

Nothing will be brought back to Parliament. That is not good enough and the Minister should be decent enough to issue a statement tonight to the effect that the Government will have another look at this matter and clarify the Bill to ensure that there is no mistake. Given that important and potentially dangerous powers are to be authorised, we should, at least, have some sort of clarity in the legislation. If the Minister is unable to obtain such clarification from the Home Department, he should go to the Department of Social Security, because it has had lots of practice at issuing clear legislation to stop the poorest in the land getting an extra penny. The Minister should bring such scrutiny to bear on the Bill.

Mr. Maclennan : As the debate has progressed, the case for the judicial issue of the warrants has become stronger.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) asked the Minister whether he

Column 273

accepted the principle of judicial warrants. The Minister said that he did not because he believed that the person who issued the warrant should have some understanding of the background to the Security Service and the matters in hand. It has become clear from the debate that the Bill does not provide for that. It is clear that any Secretary of State may issue a warrant, not just the Secretary of State with responsibility for the Security Service. Worse, in an emergency the Secretary of State in question may not even be consulted. If the service judges that there is an emergency which requires the issue of a warrant, the Bill entitles it to shop around for a Secretary of State who is favourable to issuing one. It can then be issued by an under-secretary. That is not fanciful--it is farcical. It is an unacceptable intrusion on fundamental rights and freedoms, and the Bill entitles the Security Service to make that intrusion.

11.30 pm

The emergency provisions in clause 3(3), which amendment No. 59 seeks to tackle more satisfactorily, are not acceptable. The implication that a court cannot move with the rapidity of a Minister is not sustainable either. The courts are accustomed to keeping duty judges sitting for just such eventualities, and it is perfectly possible to ensure that duty judges --High Court judges, or judges of equivalent status in Scotland--are on hand at all times. It would be easier to do that than to ensure that a Minister of the appropriate level was always on hand. In the nature of things, Secretaries of State are called to perform many duties, and it is highly improbable that there will always be a Minister familiar with the workings of the Security Service at this level when one is needed.

I hope that the Minister will eschew his position to the proposals on the grounds of practicality. Not only is it practical to operate a system of judicial warrants in this country, but such a system has been successfully operated in Canada and no one has ever suggested that it put the Canadian security service at risk or rendered its operations less effective.

Ms. Abbott : Clause 3 is subtitled "Warrants". It should be titled, in the immortal words of Peter Wright, "Bugging and Burgling." It is about the conditions under which the Security Service can break the law. It is because it is about the power and capacity of the Security Service to break the law and intervene in the lives of ordinary people that I support the amendments.

I listened with great attention to the Minister's explanation of why the amendments should not be accepted. It is always a pleasure to hear him lecture us on the facts of political life with his usual confidence, verve, elan and panache, but I suggest in all timidity that he did not quite meet the case. The Minister made three points with which my hon. Friends and I might differ. He accused the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) of making a hypothetical case, but the case was based on Canadian experience and was thus grounded in fact. It was the Minister's case that was hypothetical. He claimed that the problem with the Canadian system was that it might take up to two days. We do not accept that. We are quite sure that in urgent cases the judiciary could move more quickly than that. There are plenty of examples of judges being whipped from their beds to issue warrants.

The Minister claimed that the considered, careful and precise drafting of the amendment was not necessary

Column 274

because there would be a tribunal and a commissioner. The Minister has missed the point. The tribunal and the commissioner can come into play only after the bugging and burglary have taken place. The amendment seeks to make sure that before any elaborate illegality takes place the matter has gone through the due judicial process. Given the power and the capacity of the security services to break the law, intervention by the judiciary is not only necessary but appropriate. Even at this late stage, I hope that the Minister can be prevailed upon to change his opinion of the reasonable amendments that have been tabled.

Mr. Aitken : I intervene to press my hon. Friend the Minister for a more convincing explanation of the procedure on the warrants as it affects the Secretary of State. I maintained in an earlier intervention that clause 3(3) is clearly directed at the Secretary of State, meaning the Home Secretary only. After a great deal of scribbling and passing of notes backwards and forwards between the Minister and his advisers and a little help from the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) who is so learned in the law, it emerged that "Secretary of State" can mean any Secretary of State. So be it : we must respect the views of constitutional and legal experts.

If that is the case, why on earth has the drafter of the Bill put in paragraph (b)? There is now an elaborate procedure for urgent cases by which grade 3 civil servants can have telephone instructions and can get two-day endorsements. Why is paragraph (b) necessary if any old Secretary of State can sign the warrant? My hon. Friend's position does not make too much sense if the Bill was drafted as correctly and as perfectly as he would have us believe. If "Secretary of State" means any Secretary of State, the procedure is simple and a warrant can be signed in many places in Whitehall. If that is the case we do not need the complex machinery of endorsements lasting two days made by grade 3 officials. Either that is the case or, as I suspected all along, the clause, like many others in the Bill, has been badly drafted. I press my hon. Friend for a better explanation than the one that he has given.

Mr. John Patten : The explanation that I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) will be in Hansard for him to read. Tomorrow, when he gets the chance to reflect upon it, he will recognise that the system provides for complete overall supervision by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Bill provides that in an emergency another Secretary of State, normally as I explained the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or the Secretary of State for Scotland, would have a hand in this. In addition, an under- secretary of state or deputy under-secretary of state who might take instructions by telephone about these issues on the personal authorisation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, would be a Home Department official.

Mr. Aitken : My hon. Friend cannot be allowed to get away with this so easily. Perhaps I could use a cricketing analogy. We have heard about a wicket keeper, a deputy wicket keeper and a long stop. We have never heard of a Bill in which 11 long stops are easily obtainable. Not only can the warrants be signed by all Secretaries of State, but by many civil servants. Will my hon. Friend accept that this should be tidied up in another place?

Column 275

Mr. Allason : The Minister has made the extraordinary claim that any Secretary of State can sign one of these warrants. In the past these warrants have been signed, for example, in Scotland by the Secretary of State for Scotland and in Northern Ireland by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The procedure is detailed in the interception of communications legislation, on which this provision is clearly based. But the idea that in an emergency another Secretary of State could examine the detailed submissions that must be made before a warrant is granted is absolutely bizarre and I hope my hon. Friend will take this opportunity to correct himself.

Ms. Abbott : The Minister said that there could not be judicial intervention in the signing of warrants because the judiciary would not have the expertise and briefing available to the Home Secretary. We are now being told that any Secretary of State--be he responsible for taxi cabs, agriculture and fisheries or whatever--will do. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that that contradicts his earlier statement that only the Home Secretary or a Minister in the Home Office with expertise could perform this task.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : I am surprised that the debate on this issue has gone on for so long without the Minister really answering the point that has been adduced. I understand this to be simply a drafting matter. Whereas, in the past, in legislation specific Ministers were named, a point came when the Prime Minister wished to reallocate responsibilities and problems arose. So it has become a convention in recent legislation to refer to the Secretary of State and for the duties of a particular Secretary of State to be authorised from time to time by the Prime Minister. It seems that this legislation is simply following that convention. The Minister might have told us that at a much earlier stage.

Mr. Tony Banks : Having been absent from the Committee for only a short while this evening, I return to find the Mad Hatter's tea party in progress. Will the Minister explain whether there are any parallels in legislation that would explain the situation that is giving rise to so much concern in the Committee?

Mr. Maclennan : The mystery of the Minister's reluctance to answer the questions that have been put to him can be explained by recognising that he is endeavouring to retain the absolutely unfettered freedom of the Security Service to obtain warrants and to be in no way trammelled by the non-availability of a Minister. We recognise that urgency is an important factor, but the Minister cannot at the same time argue for urgency and for experts being available. Ministers with knowledge and background will not always be available. The Security Service will have to seek warrants from time to time without being able to adduce arguments with the support of a Minister with such expertise. The Minister has, by his reluctance to address this point, shot down his earlier argument that this had to be done by people with expertise and could not be done by a judge.

Mr. Aitken : I have a final suggestion, it having now been revealed that a complex safeguarding of civil rights procedure is not involved in the issuing of warrants. Indeed, warrants can be instantly available. In this building there is an efficient organisation which, among other things, issues rail warrants. It is called the Fees

Column 276

Office. Would it not be simpler to put the Fees Office in charge of issuing these warrants on behalf of the Security Service, thereby solving the problem?

Question put, That the amendment be made :

The Committee divided : Ayes 50, Noes 180.

Division No. 36] [11.44 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Aitken, Jonathan

Alton, David

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Beith, A. J.

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Boateng, Paul

Bradley, Keith

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Buchan, Norman

Buckley, George J.

Cohen, Harry

Cryer, Bob

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Douglas, Dick

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fyfe, Maria

Gordon, Mildred

Hardy, Peter

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Kennedy, Charles

Kirkwood, Archy

Leadbitter, Ted

Livsey, Richard

McAvoy, Thomas

Macdonald, Calum A.

McFall, John

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

McTaggart, Bob

Mahon, Mrs Alice

Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)

Martlew, Eric

Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)

Moonie, Dr Lewis

Morley, Elliott

Nellist, Dave

Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)

Skinner, Dennis

Spearing, Nigel

Steel, Rt Hon David

Strang, Gavin

Taylor, Matthew (Truro)

Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)

Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)

Winnick, David

Wray, Jimmy

Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. Robert Maclennan and

Mr. Menzies Campbell.


Allason, Rupert

Arbuthnot, James

Beggs, Roy

Boswell, Tim

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Burns, Simon

Butcher, John

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Cash, William

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Churchill, Mr

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Durant, Tony

Evennett, David

Favell, Tony

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Fishburn, John Dudley

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Forth, Eric

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Fry, Peter

Gale, Roger

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Goodhart, Sir Philip

Goodlad, Alastair

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Gow, Ian

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Hanley, Jeremy

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Hayes, Jerry

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heddle, John

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hill, James

Hind, Kenneth

Holt, Richard

Howard, Michael

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)

Next Section

  Home Page