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(8) Where any individual reports to the police any event which appear to be criminal, and where the police are satisfied prima facie evidence of a crime exists, they shall inform the individual if no crime has been committed because the events were permitted under a warrant issued under this act by the Secretary of State ; and shall inform the individual of his rights to have the matter investigated by a tribunal as specified in Schedule 1 to this Act.'
When speaking to the last group of amendments, my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) referred to a situation that I want the Minister to address-- [Interruption.]
The Second Deputy Chairman : Order. I shall be grateful if right hon. and hon. Members leaving the Chamber will do so quietly, so that the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) can be heard.
Mr. Bennett : In the previous debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton referred to a problem that amendment No. 84 is designed to overcome, where something goes wrong with the activities of the Security Service. Clearly, the main purpose of warrants will be to
Column 278undertake burglary or bugging, in such a way that the individual whose property is burgled or whose telephones are tapped will not know of it.
If such activities are successfully undertaken, the individual is unlikely to know of them and to be in a position to complain. However, if something goes wrong, the individual will be left in considerable doubt as to what has happened. The purpose of amendment No. 84 is to ensure that the individual is given a clear statement that what he believed to be a criminal offence was not criminal but something authorised by the Home Secretary--and that as a result, he has a right, under schedule 1 to the Act, to appeal to the tribunal for redress.-- [Interruption.]
The Second Deputy Chairman : Order. It is very difficult for the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish to be heard. If right hon. and hon. Members at the Bar wish to continue their conversations, I shall appreciate it if they will do so on the other side of the swing doors, so that those of us who are involved in the Committee can hear the proceedings.
If a security operation goes wrong and the individual concerned discovers that his property has been burgled or bugged and makes a complaint to the police, they should be able quickly to establish that it was done under the Home Secretary's warrant. In those circumstances, the police should inform the individual accordingly. If a person returns to his property and discovers an intruder whom he then detains or arrests and hands over to the police, it will be most unsatisfactory if the police allow that intruder to go free without giving the victim an explanation and the information that the intruder is a member of the Security Service.
I hope that the Minister will make it clear that, where an individual discovers that his property has been burgled or bugged and complains, he will be informed of the warrant and of his right to complain to the tribunal.
Mr. John Patten : Sadly, the amendment would provide a ready means for anyone who suspected that the Security Service had discovered his or her activities to check, through the police, whether a property warrant existed in respect of any property in which he or she had an interest. I rather doubt that the hon. Gentleman meant that to be the effect of the amendment, but that would be its effect in practice. For example, a spy or terrorist would have a ready-made route to finding out as promptly as possible whether he was under surveillance. The Bill, however, contains a ready-made route for a citizen who feels aggrieved to go through a complaints mechanism. As with the Interception of Communications Act 1985, leaflets will be made widely available to anyone who wants them in such places as police stations, public libraries and citizens advice bureaux, making clear the avenues of complaint.
I do not think that the matter can be dealt with on a case-by case basis in the light of a particular warrant operation, as the amendment proposes. I appreciate the point about individual liberty with which the hon. Gentleman is trying to deal, but whatever the purpose of the amendment its net effect would be to provide an open door for anyone engaged in illicit activity to damage the security of the state.
Mr. Buchan : The Government have said, "We quite agree that individual liberty will be expended, but it is important that we retain the provision." That is nonsense. There is no question of a spate of individuals setting in train the demolition, stealing or removal of business papers or other material from their own homes--in such a way that the police accept that a prima facie case has been established--to try to investigate whether they are being bugged by MI5. Some of us have suspected that in the past, but by no stretch of the imagination would we have created an apparent crime that would convince the police that prima facie evidence of a crime existed. When civil liberties are weighed against a minor problem facing the Security Service, the House should always come down on the side of individual liberty. The Government are a disgrace to parliamentary democracy and the liberty of this country.
Mr. Tony Banks : The Minister always responds to perfectly reasonable suggestions by claiming that the amendment, if carried, would give aid and succour to a terrorist or spy. I can understand that : I do not particularly want to end up dead in my bed having been killed by a terrorist, and if I thought that the Bill would protect me from such a sad eventuality I should be a little more enthusiastic about it.
What concerns me about the amendment, which is perfectly reasonable, is how individuals who feel that they have suffered from criminal activity-- because their houses have been broken into--know that they have grounds of complaint to the tribunal. Will the police officer be able to tell them, "Don't worry about it, Jimmy. It was not an ordinary burglar ; it was someone who had managed to get a warrant from the Transport Office at the House of Commons"? It has been suggested that that might be the most convenient way of obtaining one.
I should like to know the mechanisms, just in case I happen to be on the receiving end of a burglary and happen to catch the individual. I get in touch with Forest Gate police station ; the police come and take the individual away. When I go along to find out whether I can press charges, will the police then say, "There is nothing to worry about ; it was done through a warrant"? If the individual has the right of redress through the tribunal, what information will be given that will enable him to lodge a complaint? If no such information is given, what is the point?
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Supposing someone detains someone in his property and takes him down to the police station, what do the police do? Do they just let that individual walk away and give no explanation at all, leaving one to assume that it is not incompetence on the part of the police but the fact that they know a warrant existed?
I am very disappointed with the Minister's reply because I did take the trouble in this amendment to make it clear that there had to be prime facie evidence that some criminal activity had actually occurred. As far as I can see, anybody who is likely to be involved in terrorist or other activities who finds someone has broken into or bugged his property is going to know perfectly well that the Security Service was involved, or at least he will jump to that conclusion. What we are describing in this amendment is
Column 280the protection for the individual whose civil liberties have actually been infringed, and wrongly infringed, so that they can have some clear evidence to take to the tribunal.
I also suggest to the Minister that there is a practical problem. There is a great deal of disquiet in this country at the moment that often the police do not take investigations in burglaries sufficiently seriously. Is the Minister suggesting that every time an individual that feels his property has been burgled and the police have not pursued it with sufficient diligence he should refer it to the security tribunal to try and find out whether it is merely that the police have not shown much enthusiasm for his complaint or whether no crime had been committed because a warrant had been issued?
Surely the Minister does not want to get thousands of cases being referred to the tribunal. He wants to make sure that those people who have a legitimate complaint have their cases investigated, and to avoid a huge number of complaints coming in. It does seem to me that there ought to be a clear process by which people can be told, if it has become obvious to them that their property is being interfered with, that it was done under the due process of a warrant. Amendment negatived.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Tony Banks : I am not going to detain the Committee long. The point that I want to make is that this Committee seems to be inordinately relaxed about the way civil liberties are disappearing. There seems to be no real scrutiny of this clause or previous clauses. This is a Committee stage. If the Minister wants to reduce the whole thing to low farce, we should, by all means, continue in the way that we are going on.
I ask legitimate questions. I do not want to keep myself out of my own bed tonight. I am not finding it particularly enjoyable to be here, and I am sure that is true of right hon. and hon. Members. Those of us who are taking part in this Committee stage are here because we want to assure ourselves about certain rather disturbing aspects of this Bill. Up to now we have been gravely disappointed, and we shall go away far more worried about this Bill than we were when we arrived here for the Committee stage.
I ask that Ministers at least answer some of the questions directed specifically towards the clause stand part debate by me. I want to know how the procedure works. Is it unreasonable, even at eight minutes past midnight, to ask some specific questions in what is supposed to be the Committee stage of a Bill, when we can ask Ministers questions, and Ministers can respond? The rules of debate that apply to a Second Reading and other stages do not apply here. This is where we are supposed to be giving scrutiny to this Bill, and up to now we most certainly have not done that. We have been derelict in our duty, because the Minister has refused to treat this measure seriously.
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
two Commissioners for the purpose of this Act.'
No. 60, in page 3, line 5, leave out a Commissioner' and insert an Inspector General'.
No. 2, in page 3, line 8, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 68, in page 3, line 8, leave out Commissioner' and insert Inspector General'.
No. 3, in page 3, line 9, leave out
his appointment and there shall be paid to him'
their appointment and there shall be paid to them'.
Clause 4, page 3, line 11, leave out subsection (3) and insert-- (3) In addition to his functions under the subsequent provisions of this Act, the Inspector General shall be under a duty-- (
(a) to monitor the compliance by the Service with its operational policies ;
(b) to review the operational activities of the Service ; and (
(c) to submit certificates pursuant to subsection (4A) below ; and (
(d) to keep under review applications made and warrants issued under section 3 and, in particular, the execution of such warrants'. No. 4, page 3, line 11, leave out his' and insert their'. No. 5, in page 3, line 12, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 6, in page 3, line 13, leave out his' and insert their'. No. 79, in page 3, line 13, leave out section 3 above' and insert this Act'.
No. 7, in page 3, line 16, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 8, in page 3, line 16, leave out from as' to end of line 17 and insert
they may require for the purpose of enabling them to discharge their functions'.
No. 9, in page 3, line 18, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 64, in page 3, line 18, leave out Commissioner' and insert Inspector General'.
No. 10, in page 3, line 19, leave out his' and insert their'. No. 11, in page 3, line 19, leave out
him on any matter relating to his'
them on any matter relating to their'.
No. 13, in page 3, line 22, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 65, in page 3, line 22, leave out Commissioner' and insert Inspector General'.
No. 14, in page 3, line 26, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 70, in page 3, line 26, leave out Commissioner' and insert Inspector General'.
No. 15, in page 3, line 31, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 71, in page 3, line 31, leave out Commissioner' and insert Inspector General'.
No. 16, in page 3, line 32, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
Column 282No. 72, in page 3, line 32, leave out Commissioner' and insert Inspector General'.
No. 17, in page 3, line 33, leave out his' and insert their'. No. 18, in clause 5, page 3, line 39, leave out
Commissioner shall have the functions conferred on him' and insert
Commissioners shall have the functions conferred on them'. No. 19, in page 3, line 42, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
New Clause 1--Duty of Commissioners to attend meetings of Security Service Directorate--
It shall be the duty of the Commissioners appointed under this Act to attend all meetings of the Security Service Directorate unless the Commissioners decide that the discharge of their functions does not require such attendance.'.
New Clause 8-- The Security Service Commission --
(1) The Prime Minister shall appoint a Commission consisting of not more than three persons for the purpose of scrutinising the efficiency and effectiveness of the Security Service.
(2) Members of the Commission shall hold office in accordance with the terms of their appointment and there shall be paid to them by the Secretary of State such allowances as the Treasury may determine. (3) It shall be the duty of every member of the Service to disclose or give to the Commission such documents or information as they may require for the purpose of enabling them to discharge their functions.
(4) The Commission shall make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the Secretary of State and may at any time report to him on the discharge of their functions.
(5) The Secretary of State shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of each annual report made by the Commissions under subsection (4) above together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of subsection (6) below.
(6) If it appears to the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Commission, that publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Service the Secretary of State may exclude that matter for the copy of the report as laid before each House of Parliament.
(7) The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the Commission and with the approval of the Treasury as to numbers, provide the Commission with such staff as the Secretary of State thinks necessary for the discharge of its functions.
No. 20, in schedule 1, page 5, line 36, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 21, in page 5, line 37, leave out he finds' and insert they find'.
No. 22, in page 5, line 38, leave out he' and insert they'. No. 23, in page 5, line 41, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 24, in page 5, line 41, leave out
his conclusion on any complaint so far as referred to him' and insert
their conclusion on any complaint so far as referred to them'. No. 25, in page 5, line 50, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 26, in page 6, line 2, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 27, in page 6, line 4, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 28, in page 6, line 19, leave out Commissioner' has and insert Commissioners' have.
No. 29, in page 6, line 20, leave out he considers' and insert they consider'.
No. 30, in page 6, line 21, leave out Commissioner considers' and insert Commissioners consider'.
Column 283No. 31, in page 6, line 23, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 32, in page 6, line 28, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 33, in page 6, line 37, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 34, in page 6, line 38, leave out
Commissioner may report any matter referred to him'
Commissioners may report any matter referred to them'.
No. 35, in schedule 2, page 7, line 40, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 36, in title, line 4, leave out a Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
No. 37, in title, line 6, leave out Commissioner' and insert Commissioners'.
Mr. Allason : I shall not detain the Committee long. I fear that the late hour has in considerable part been caused by the Minister's performance. I take no pleasure in saying that. The Bill and the amendments are about checks and balances. My hon. Friend has consistently pushed aside the initiatives that have been taken. He has pushed aside the Canadian precedent by talking about the so-called British experience. He was blithely dismissive of a series of constructive proposals and he has rubbished useful initiatives. That is odd, bearing in mind that earlier my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State took a much more positive line and was helpful. Indeed, he conceded that there have been problems in the past with supervision and control of the Security Service which it would be incorrect to ignore.
Is there any matter of greater importance than the security of the nation? The amendments seek once again, probably in vain, to impose checks and balances. They seek to double the number of commissioners. Canada has no fewer than five members of the security and intelligence review committee. I am not going that far, but I urge the Government to consider two commissioners.
The Minister has persuaded Government Members this evening--I am as guilty as everybody else--to go through the Lobbies and authorise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment and the Secretary of State for Energy to issue warrants to burgle homes. That is utterly bizarre. At the same time, he tells us that everything is safe in the hands of the Home Secretary.
Let me give a couple of examples of where the Minister's confidence appears to have gone a little adrift. He rubbished the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) that there be a limit on the service of a director-general of 10 years. He said that it was unlikely to be longer than that. He clearly was not aware that the first director-general of the Security Service remained in that post for no fewer than 31 years. There was an attempt last night to impose some kind of parliamentary oversight. That was rejected. So too was the proposal to have some kind of arrangement with Privy Councillors. Again, that was a reasonable attempt to share the burdens of the Secretary of State. That too was cast aside. We have now had a ridiculous performance over judicial warrants. The last Division took place because the Minister, for reasons that are still not clear to me, seemed determined to give authority for burglary and telephone