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Mr. John Hughes accordingly presented a Bill to require the provision of essential fuel and energy to each home ; to guarantee appliances ; to prevent the entry to premises without prior recorded legally authorised notice ; to prevent the unauthorised removal of fuel measuring devices ; to abolish standing charges ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 3 February and to be printed. [Bill 42.]
Security Service Bill
Considered in Committee [Progress 16 January]
to protect against threats to national security'.
No. 75, in page 1, line 10, after actions', insert
which threaten the safety or well-being of the state and which are'.
No. 76, in page 1, line 10, leave out from actions' to end of line 11 and insert
which would overthrow or contemplate overthrow of government by unlawful means'.
No. 77, in page 1, line 10, leave out from actions' to end of line 11 and insert
which are calculated to overthrow parliamentary democracy'. No. 81, in page 1, line 10, leave out or undermine'.
No. 39, in page 1, line 11, leave out industrial'.
No. 90, in page 1, line 11, after industrial', insert chemical'. No 47, in page 1, line 11, at end insert--
(2A) "Threats to national security" means--
(a) espionage or sabotage that is against the United Kingdom or is detrimental to the interests of the United Kingdom or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage ; (
(b) the activities of agents of foreign powers that are detrimental to the interests of the United Kingdom and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person ;
(c) activities within or relating to the United Kingdom directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political objective within the United Kingdom or a foreign state ; and (
(d) activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of parliamentary democracy,
but does not include lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, unless carried on in conjunction with any of the activities referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) above ;'.
No. 78, in page 1, line 12, leave out subsection (3).
No. 40, in page 1, line 14, at end insert--
(4) All members of the Service shall take an oath to the maintenance of parliamentary democracy.'.
No. 82, in Clause 2, page 1, line 25, at end insert
any individual, any company or any organisation'.
New clause 4-- Right of protest, advocacy or dissent--
Nothing shall be done under this Act which undermines the right of protest, advocacy or dissent.'.
Mr. Shepherd : Amendments Nos. 46 and 47, read together, deal with the definition of national security. Clause 1(2) of the Bill defines the function of the service. Amendment No. 46 should be read in conjunction with amendment No. 47 which defines the threats to national security. In defining national security, the Government
Column 181have given the essential elements of the matters that worry us all. New clause 4 attempts to make those matters more specific. The mandate to the service should be as clear as possible. We recognise the difficulty involved in that because there are sometimes fine lines of judgment as to whether certain elements fall within the remit of the Security Service. There are also concerns about the intrusiveness that could be a feature of the service if it is not properly defined. These amendments link up with those of other hon. Members and I shall try to explain their purpose.
The first category of threats to national security involves espionage and sabotage and is defined in paragraph (a) of amendment No. 47. It is in line with what the Government propose. It refers to "espionage or sabotage that is against the United Kingdom or is detrimental to the interests of the United Kingdom or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage". That is a fairly conventional understanding of what is meant by treason.
The second category is defined in paragraph (b) as
"the activities of agents of foreign powers that are detrimental to the interests of the United Kingdom and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person".
That means any foreign interference in our democratic processes which is calculated to affect those processes. It also means that any foreign interference may prejudice the conclusions we may reach during our discussion on such matters.
The third category is defined in paragraph (c) as
"activities within or relating to the United Kingdom directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political objective within the United Kingdom or a foreign state".
We link this with paragraph (d). We hope that our amendments are helpful to the Government in their definition of threats to national security.
Terrorism is a blight. It is a way in which politically motivated individuals try to subvert our normal democratic processes in an attempt to bring about a result that cannot be brought about through argument or through our normal electoral process. Espionage and sabotage are not the only forms of foreign activities that should be monitored and investigated. Foreign Governments and political organisations may, in a clandestine way, try to interfere in British political life. The Russians call that "active measures" and the Americans call it "covert action". The common link is that deception is an essential feature.
The Australians have defined foreign interference in the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. The definition is : "clandestine or deceptive action taken by or on behalf of a foreign power to promote the interests of that power."
Hon. Members supporting the amendments believe that it is appropriate for the intelligence services to give us advance warning so as to place the Government of the day in a position to counter such activities.
Our democratic process requires political objectives to be pursued through public discussion, parliamentary debate and lawful representation. That process is jeopardised when groups attempt to gain their political objectives by threatening or carrying out acts of violence or terrorism. That would be a perversion of our democratic process and control of such activities is a vital part of the remit of the Security Service.
Column 182Clause 1(2) defines activities directed or intended ultimately to lead to the overthrow or destruction of parliamentary democracy. I accept that there are difficulties, but I am concerned about the Government's definition in the Bill. Perhaps the Secretary of State will mention it. Clause 1(2) states that we should protect national security from
"the activities of agents of foreign powers and from actions intended to overthrow or undermine democracy by political means." What do the Government mean by their drafting of that clause?
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : The hon. Gentleman has again put his finger on the problems involved because the Bill is highly subjective. If a Socialist Government elected by parliamentary means wanted to introduce widespread Socialism, root and branch, throughout the society, thereby overturning capitalism, would that come within the parameters of clause 1(2)?
"the destruction or overthrow of parliamentary democracy" and adds the important caveat which we consider should be included in the legislative framework that the definition
"does not include lawful advocacy".
If, for example, a political party were advocating through the House of Commons a Socialist system, I would oppose it, but it would be within the framework of our parliamentary democracy. Our caveat is that the definition
"does not include lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, unless carried on in conjunction with any of the activities referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) above".
The definition is important because it provides a marker. When people are commissioned to do a job, greater clarity of their remit is obviously to their advantage, and to their advantage, and to the advantage of the Ministers responsible for directing the services, in that the benchmark is as clear as possible. The legislatures of Australia, New Zealand and Canada have considered that concept. Our definition covers the word "subversion" which is not used in the Bill. We are trying to make the difficult decision as to what constitutes subversion. That problem exercises the mind because there is such a narrow line. If a party such as the Communist party advocates the dictatorship of the proletariat and a non-parliamentary system, because the dictatorship of the proletariat is directed by the vanguard, one has the dilemma that the Communist party is dedicated to the overthrow of parliamentary democracy.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : I should like to correct the hon. Gentleman. The Communist party in Britain and in most countries has not advocated the dictatorship of the proletariat for a long time. Indeed, it no longer accepts that concept.
Mr. Heffer : My right hon. Friend is quite right. The Communist party is in favour of an electoral pact. If one reads the documents which argue for the dictatorship of the proletariat, first by Marx and later by Lenin--never
Column 183mind Stalin, who created a dictatorship over the proletariat--it is clear that they were arguing for a greater extension of democracy by the mass of workers, which they regarded as a dictatorship of the majority over the minority. I am arguing about what we mean by philosophical argument. Lord Hailsham talks about the parliamentary dictatorship of the majority, but no one would suggest that Lord Hailsham wants to overthrow parliamentary democracy. He simply has a rather funny view of it. Those who argue for the dictatorship of the proletariat have an equally funny view of it, but those arguments do not mean that parliamentary democracy is being undermined. Such people may be wrong, but it does not follow that they are subversive simply because they put forward such arguments.
Mr. Shepherd : I am not sure what to make of that intervention. My memories are seared by Lenin's captivating little book entitled, "What is to be done?" If one views that as a treatise of democratic persuasion in the context of a liberal democracy, one has to reject the hon. Gentleman's argument.
Mr. Shepherd : Nor does it argue for a liberal democracy. I mentioned the Communist party to show that there is a difficult area in defining what is supportive of a liberal democracy. Under our constitutional arrangements, we can change the political process through the House of Commons accountable to the electorate through a definable democratic process. I consider that the fundamental purpose of the Security Service is to defend our liberal democracy. It exists so that we shall not be gainsaid by terrorists exploding bombs and we shall not change public policy in this country determined by the electorate because agents of a foreign power are trying to subvert our democratic processes. We are trying to make those definitions which we accept are difficult and would create difficulties for any Government.
The purpose of the amendment and the caveat is to reflect on the approach of other countries. A comparative approach can serve us well in examining why such matters cause anxiety in Britain and in other countries. Because Security Service agents have gone on the record or gone public on television, all hon. Members are aware that the Security Service has tapped telephones, I assume with a warrant. We have learnt that they have tapped the telephones of trade union leaders and members of CND. In all our constituencies, perfectly loyal fellow citizens are members of trade unions and members of CND. Whether one agrees with their particular objectives or not, we do not doubt--and I am sure that the security services do not doubt --that they are genuine, legitimate political activities.
Column 184enabled Security Service officials to interpret their duties or responsibilities to a liberal democracy as being to interfere with the privacy of perfectly loyal citizens?
Mr. Banks : The fact that they do not have the same liberal instincts and values as the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Gentleman were in charge of the Security Service, the Opposition would be a damned sight more satisfied than we are at present. That is the problem. Clause 1 is all about subjective judgments and party political prejudices. That is why it is so dangerous.
Mr. Shepherd : That is why we have moved an amendment which tries to define the appropriate mandate which best expresses the will of the House as appropriate to or consonant with democratic behaviour. Despite what I read, in my experience the Security Service is essentially benign. But in all large organisations there will be rogue elephants. I accept the observation from within and without the Security Service that some officials suffer from sensory deprivation and over a period of time they lose sight of the objectives of their job. That is why the amendments seek to make the objectives as clear as possible. That is just one link in the chain. Oversight, which we discussed yesterday, is another link in the chain, but the mandate is clear. It allows for legitimate dissent so that any security officer or director-general preparing a warrant, for example, is aware that the warrant has to comply with the mandate, and every time there is reference to his lines of responsibility he comes upon the concept in statute. That is the requirement in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, but it does not cover lawful advocacy, protest and dissent unless carried on in conjuction with the criminal activities of terrorists and so on.
I put in the caveat because of that anxious definition. I raised the objectives of the Communist party as I understood them--but I stand corrected--because the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat does not encompass what I understand to be the role of this Chamber and our ability every four years to change the Government and elect a government of our own choice. That was the purpose of the amendment.
My concern is that we have a court looking over our shoulders. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has already trawled through some of this landscape in the important case of Leander v. Sweden in 1987 in which the court's decision stated that to justify any interference with a person's right of privacy on the grounds of national security it was necessary to give
"an adequate indication of the scope and manner of the exercise of the discretion conferred on the responsible authorities to collect, record and release information".
It continued :
"The law has to be sufficiently clear in its terms to give ordinary citizens an adequate indication as to the circumstances in which and the conditions on which the public authorities are empowered to resort to secret and potentially dangerous interference with private life."
The anxiety felt by several supporters of the amendments is that the clause as drafted is subject to broader interpretation than is appropriate and that it will bring us before the European Court of Human Rights. I am always nervous of that risk because it may be thought that that legislation embodies our perception of what is appropriate and honourable.
I do not wish to be entirely negative, but the Government's proposals do not accord even with the old Maxwell Fyfe definitions and limiting clauses, and are not
Column 185as broad. The Maxwell Fyfe provisions are better directed, and it would have been better if the Government had chosen to incorporate them. In New Zealand, provision is conditional. The Maxwell Fyfe directive imposes limitations in paragraph 3. Paragraph 4 states : "It is essential that the Security Service should be kept absolutely free from any political bias or influence, and nothing should be done that might lend colour to any suggestion that it is concerned with the interests of any particular section of the community, or with any other matter than the Defence of the Realm as a whole."
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said, "And a lot of good that did us--the Government can write whatever mandates, directions or instructions they like, but they have been circumvented." One is cautious on that point, but if one is chasing a fox, sometimes one gets carried away. I make no more of the point than that.
We are trying to construct a framework which, in association with other amendments concerning oversight, reviews, and the issuing of warrants, will provide proper direction to, and control over, the Security Service, and will give confidence to the public that the Security Service is working in the interests of us all, and to Ministers that the beast that they are riding is a kind and gentle one in its attitude to democracy and is not subversive.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : I and my hon. Friends support the amendments described by the hon. Member for Aldridge- Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), and I shall address several others dealing with cognate points, but which are different in their emphasis and drafting, and in some cases deal with other matters entirely.
I recognise that a number of the amendments tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) concern problems that are dealt with also in the amendments of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills, but in a different way--perhaps being closer to the language of the Bill. Our amendments are offered as an alternative. The exercise in which we are engaged this afternoon is essentially constructive, and we are trying to ensure that the Security Service's mandate is clearly defined in a way that meets the concern that it shall not be engaged in supervising political activities that do not constitute a threat to the state.
As to amendment No. 46, which the hon. Member for
Aldridge-Brownhills particularly addressed, I agree with the reasoning behind it, which is based on good foreign
experience--particularly that of Australia. Amendment No. 74 is designed to probe why the Government have used in clause 1(2) the words "in particular" and gives examples of the circumstances in which the Security Service can operate. By its use of the words "in particular", the subsection suggests that the service's function shall be protection of national security in ways other than those that it subsequently specifies. One questions whether inclusion of the words "in particular" broadens the scope of the service's functions so wide as to damage the confinement of the subsequent definitions. I am not clear why the subsequent definitions are given if the scope of the service is intended to be as wide as it will be if they are excluded. I trust that I make myself obscure.
Amendment No. 75 is offered as an alternative to amendment No. 46, and inserts in clause 1(2), after the word "actions",
Column 186"which threaten the safety or well-being of the state and which are."
Its purpose is to deal specifically with concerns already expressed in speeches and in interventions that the Security Service could, as the clause is drafted, involve itself with actions that are "intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political means."
That aspect was squarely addressed by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which drew attention to the definition of subversion of Lord Harris of Greenwich in February 1975, and accepted its
appropriateness, arguing that it is essential
"that both limbs of the definition shall apply before an activity can properly be regarded as subversive. Both limbs refer to activities that are defined in the guidelines as threatening the safety or well-being of the state and which are intended to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy."
Clause 1(2) as drafted leaves us without both limbs being encompassed in the clause. The Home Secretary may hold another view, but it is a matter of drafting and I hope his intention is to ensure that both limbs are incorporated. As I construe the clause, there is an invitation to the Security Service to supervise or investigate by means authorised by warrant
"actions intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political means",
which is unacceptable.
Mr. Tony Banks : The hon. Gentleman supports a point that I made in an earlier intervention. The argument becomes clearer if we substitute the word "capitalism" for the term "parliamentary democracy". I do not believe that the majority of Conservative Members believe in parliamentary democracy. They go along with it for just as long as it supports capitalism. If we substitute "capitalism", we shall really know what the clause means to achieve. I am one of those who wants to undermine capitalism by political means. That is why I am a Labour Member of Parliament.
The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills also dealt with all the "legs" of amendment No. 47, which sets out the definitions of circumstances in which it is right for the Security Service to exercise its functions. I agree particularly with what he called the caveat clause at the end, which I consider essential.
I regard amendment No. 78 as, to some extent, a probe, but it is an important amendment none the less. I am glad of the support that it has received from some Labour Members. The amendment seeks to delete subsection (3), which, rather oddly, provides that
"It shall also be the function of the Service to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom against threats posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands." That is a very wide provision, and it is not at all clear what is meant by
"the economic well-being of the United Kingdom".
The subsection seems to allow the Security Service to be involved in the oversight of many matters that have certainly not been in its purview before, and to open the door very wide for its intervention in matters that do not threaten the security of the state. I should like to hear from the Home Secretary why the subsection has been included, what kind of activities he has it in mind for the service to
Column 187consider and why it should be involved. No doubt the House will wish to consider what he says before reaching a further view, and no doubt consideration will also have to be given in the other place.
Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : I am pleased to support the amendments so ably spoken to in the first instance by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). I also support--with one or two queries and qualifications--those tabled by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). We are talking here about the definitions of the functions of the Security Service. I think that it is common ground that we need as clear as possible a definition in the interests of a strong and effective Security Service, and also in the interests of building public trust in that service. On the face of it, the definitions in clause 1 look reasonably convincing. I think that they can be improved, but the notion that we need a Security Service to protect national security from espionage, terrorism, sabotage and the overthrow of parliamentary democracy is, at the very least, not a bad shot at defining the functions that our citizens expect a Security Service to carry out.
Is my right hon. Friend entirely confident, however, that those definitions are true and accurate? I can point to at least three instances in which the Security Service has, in the recent past, seemed to operate in areas of activity beyond those defined in the clause. For example, it is common knowledge that the service is from time to time engaged in what are known as "leak investigation procedures", when awkward pieces of information are leaked to journalists and others in the form of documents.
I remember being involved nearly 20 years ago in a court case which had nothing whatever to do with national security, let alone espionage, sabotage or terrorism. Nevertheless, not only were MI5 officers involved ; when the editor of the Sunday Telegraph came to be tried at the Old Bailey it was reported in the press that the director-general of the Security Service sat in court for two or three days listening to the evidence and the barristers' arguments. There was no question of any of the functions covered by the Bill being involved in that case. It is, I think, possible to point to a good many subsequent journalistic cases in which MI5 has been involved in leak procedure investigations which have been way beyond the scope of the Bill. Is my right hon. Friend confident that the Bill will stop the previous activity of MI5?