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Column 740Wilson, Brian
Wise, Mrs Audrey
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Ken Eastham and
Mr. Frank Haynes.
Question accordingly agreed to.
That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill :
Committee 1. (1) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on 24th January 1989. (2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 24th January may continue until Eleven p.m., whether or not the House is adjourned before that time, and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 25th January.
Report and Third Reading 2. (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock ; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of that day as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.
(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House its Resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than 27th January 1989. (3) The Resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 80 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in subparagraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.
(4) The Resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.
Procedure in Standing Committee 3. (1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
(2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.
4. No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are taken in the Standing Committee but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in that order.
Conclusion of proceedings in Committee 5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question. Dilatory Motions 6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith. Private business 7. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.
Column 741Conclusion of proceedings 8.--(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)-- ((a) any Question already proposed from the Chair ;
(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill) ;
(c) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment is moved or Motion is made by a member of the Government.
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded ;
and on a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
(3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock-- (
(a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time ;
(b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.
(4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion. Supplemental orders 9.--(1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or
Column 742supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted Business) shall apply to the proceedings.
(2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
Saving 10. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall--
(a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution ; or
(b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
Recommittal 11.--(1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, recommittal.
(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.
Interpretation 12. In this Order--
"allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day ;
"the Bill" means the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill ;
"Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee ; "Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
Security Service Bill
Order for Third Reading read.
This Bill provides a firm framework for the work of the service without putting at risk the efficient and careful conduct of its task. That is our main aim in producing the legislation, and it is what the House will have achieved if it sends the Bill to another place.
The debates on the Bill on the Floor of the House have been strongly argued, serious and sincere, and have revealed, as one would expect, some major and significant differences of view. I should like to deal once more, briefly, with the two main issues that took up most of the Committee's time: first, accountability, and secondly, the definition of the Security Services's role.
Ministers spent many months studying both these issues when no one was expecting them to produce a reform--but we were hard at work on it. On neither were we persuaded by discussion in Committee that change was necessary, but it was natural that the House spent several hours debating them both.
There was a difference between the two issues. On accountability, we were being urged in a direction which, in our view, was risky. On the other, the definition of the role of the Security Service, we knew and tried to explain that the Bill as drafted excluded the sort of dangers of which our critics were afraid. It is not surprising that the House spent the first day entirely--I think--on
accountability. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitkin) would have been a little surprised if we had been persuaded during that day to make such a dramatic change of direction as accepting their schemes would have entailed. Our view, as I have tried to explain, was that neither of the two structures on offer as an alternative to ours was practicable or necessary.
This is not to attack the probity or patriotism of the people who might have served on the suggested bodies. It is merely to say that we would have put them in an impossible possition. We should not create structures that force those who operate them to make impossible choices, such as judging without all the facts or, knowing all the facts, staying silent and failing to satisfy the public or Parliament. Another choice would have been to speak out and damage the nation's security. People should not be put in a position of having to do either one or the other. That has been our continued and firm view since I first expounded it to the House in December 1986. Differing views were fully ventilated during the first day of the Committee stage. Re-reading Hansard and recalling the debate, it is interesting to note that those who advanced the two differing structures recognised the flaws in the schemes of others. That was evident in the analysis by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook of the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook called it a halfway house and perceived one point that not
Column 744all commentators have spotted. It derived from the fact that my hon. Friend borrowed so closely from the Canadian experience, and it was that his proposal might not really be a form of parliamentary oversight. As he explained to us, persons of substance, who could be mostly, if not entirely, from outside Parliament, would be made Privy Councillors to get them inside the barrier of secrecy. There is nothing essentially parliamentary about that. Indeed, it could be regarded- -although not, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldrige-Brownhills --as an extension or expansion of our proposals for a commissioner and a complaints tribunal, which are already in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) was possibly one of the most trenchant critics of the alternative of a purely parliamentary Select Committee, which was the Opposition's proposal. He described that as not entirely suitable for the supervision of the Security Service, and he described its advocacy by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook as unrealistic, because it is unrealistic to imagine a Select Committee taking the Security Service out of party political controversy-- quite the reverse.
I shall not repeat the argument that I used on that occasion except to say that I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South who, towards the end of the day, argued eloquently that he believed that that path was inevitable. It is rash to say "never" in politics but he was going considerably too far in saying that it was "inevitable". I shall add only that either of the structures that were offered as an alternative to our proposal would have carried serious risks of danger and confusion.
It sometimes seemed that the strongest argument on which some of the critics rested was that similar structures were in operation abroad. I do not think that by training or instinct I am one of the most insular Members of the House. Indeed, from time to time I have been criticised in the opposite direction. I agree that one of the faults of our system of government--perhaps occasionally one of the faults of this House--is that we are still too slow to find out about practice and experience abroad. But, if ignorance is one fault, copying is another. It would be a strange principle of legislation--I do not know of any other area in which this argument is used--to say that our main duty is to find out what others are doing and then to do it. That is a strange principle on which to argue a case. There may be strong arguments for trying to fit the experiences of others into our system, but one of those arguments should not be simply that it happens in another country, so it should happen here.
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South) : Surely the problem is not that people were seeking to copy other systems, but that there was no acceptance whatsoever that elected Members--as happens in other systems--should have any part in the supervision. That is the thing ; it is not a copy of any system, but saying that the Government
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Order. We are now rehearsing arguments that have already been deployed at other stages of our proceedings on the Bill. This is very much outside the scope of what would be proper on Third Reading. I hope that the Secretary of State will have regard to that also.
Column 745Home Secretary. If I was replying to or asking questions about it, he must have been at fault first. As he was allowed to continue, I thought that I might have been allowed to continue with my question.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite right: I was at fault in allowing a latitude to the Secretary of State which, properly, he should not have taken or have been allowed. I very much hope that when responding to what has been said, the Secretary of State will take account of what I have said and that other Ministers will also have regard to what is proper on Third Reading.
I hope that I have established my general point. I do not believe that the Canadian security intelligence service--this is a new point, which was not raised before--which has a high reputation, faces the same kind of terrorist threat which makes necessary so many of the activities for which the Bill provides.
Our debates have shown once again the deep and damaging divisions that still exist in the House on such matters and on questions of principle, about which Opposition Members feel strongly. That would put into a difficult position anyone entrusted with the kind of task that they would have had under the Opposition's proposal.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) : Was not one of our difficulties in Committee, which we are now encountering on Third Reading and which is in the very proposals of the Bill, that all this is being done in a vacuum and in the absence of an authority that could look at this issue more generally? Such an authority would be a Royal Commission, which could try to weigh up the arguments, some of which are clearly behind the barrier of secrecy, and give guidance to the House on fundamental principles such as the rule of law, citizens' rights and the needs of the Security Service. The absence of a Royal Commission has caused the House difficulty when weighing the Government's contentions.
Mr. Hurd : I understand my hon. Friend's point. However, if a Royal Commission were appointed, it would come up against exactly the same difficulties that I have been trying to analyse in reference to proposals for parliamentary oversight--even of the kind proposed by my hon. Friend, which was not necessarily or strictly parliamentary. The conclusion must be that we need to work out structures and arrangements that can grow out of and fit our own system and our own requirements, and that is what we are doing in the Bill.
Without getting out of order again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall now turn to the question of functions. Having considered all the points that have been made, we believe that the definition of functions in the Bill needs to be one that would enable the Security Service to make any contribution to the protection of the nation's security which is clearly necessary. It would be a mistake to try to draft the Bill in a way that creates a rigidity inconsistent with the need to ensure that the Security Service can properly defend the nation's security from threats. An answer has not been produced to that argument.
Column 746I refer now to national security. It is correct to say that much turns on the phrase "national security", but the term is well recognised and well understood in our legislation. It has been used as an understood and accepted reason for entering reservations on the provisions and safeguards provided by statute. There have been some 29 separate pieces of legislation in the past 20 years which have made such references.
The Bill follows closely the Interception of Communications Act 1985, in which Parliament agreed that an interception warrant could be issued by the Secretary of State on the grounds of national security. But under this Bill, as under the 1985 Act, the Secretary of State cannot act without fear of challenge. There is an independent judicial commissioner, able to form his own view, if he so decides, on each and every warrant issued.
One flaw in the discussions outside the House on this matter has been the virtual ignoring of that point. It has been said that under the Bill "national security" would simply be what the Home Secretary wanted. I have read various lurid possibilities in the press about what might be open to the holder of my office as a result of that phrase. It was argued that I could authorise the burgling of my opponents' offices in Witney, and I read over the weekend that I could authorise the interception of people's telephones simply because they were opposed to the Government.
It is for the House to judge whether I or any successor would be likely to authorise such activities, leaving aside for the moment what has been the function hitherto, or whether the Security Service would carry out such orders were a Home Secretary to give them. I am not pleading for the eternal, God-given virtue and probity of any Home Secretary--that is not the basis of the Bill. The Bill rests on the basis that in the giving of warrants, there should be an independent judicial commissioner. He is already there as regards interception, and if Parliament approves these proposals, he will soon be there as regards interference with property.
Those are new safeguards, but one is already on the statute book and in operation. I have already spoken of its validity and reality in relation to my own work. The amount of time that I spend on these matters has rightly increased as a result of the existing legislation. The other provision is in the Bill and would be added to the safeguards, if Parliament approves the Bill.
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South) : Does the Home Secretary recall that, in the press over Christmas, there appeared a story to the effect that he was prepared to give an undertaking that the telephones of Members of Parliament would not be intercepted save in the case of criminal matters? Is he prepared to give such an undertaking now?
Mr. Hurd : The undertaking was originally given by Lord Wilson of Rievaulx and has been repeated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I think most recently in 1986. The assurance is there and there is no reason to add to it. The assurance stands. I was talking about national security. There are safeguards in the Bill to ensure that national security is defined in practice as it is defined in law.
Column 747was the implication--it did not conform to national security, such as, for example, a warrant that the Home Secretary wanted to issue in terms of political opponents. Is he suggesting that the Security Service will have its own definition and will be able to judge a warrant on its definition of national security?
Mr. Hurd : No. It would come to me with a suggestion for a warrant, and I would judge whether to approve it in accordance with whether it complied with the law. The commissioner would be behind me, able, if he should so organise his work, to examine every case and to ensure that my definition of national security, the Security Service's application and the issuing of a warrant was in accordance with the law. These are new safeguards and, as I say, I think that they have been undervalued in debate.
Mr. Hurd : The commissioner has two principal jobs, and one of them is to examine the issuing of warrants by the Secretary of State. That is one of his main duties. In doing that, he will do as I know he already does in the case of the interception of communications, for which the provisions in law are very similar, and examine the point that I have been dealing with.
I recognise that in discussing the role of the Security Service, some peple would like to include in the Bill more explanatory and declaratory material. However, the language in the Bill is as clear and as unequivocal as possible. Having listened to the debate, I think that that is the effect that most hon. Members would want to achieve.
In arguing at some length about what has been left out and what critics of the Bill would like to see put in, I hope that we will not forget the remarkable innovations that the Bill proposes. It is amazing how familiarity breeds a certain scorn.
The Government propose to put the Security Service on a statutory basis and are proposing a warrant procedure for any proposals for interference with property. There will be a commissioner to ensure that the warrant procedure is strictly applied by the Secretary of State in accordance with the law. We propose a grievance procedure with a tribunal and the right of the commissioner to rove inside the barrier of secrecy in matters arising out of cases directed to his attention. If anyone had said a year ago, or even six months ago, that such a Bill was proposed, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who is fair-minded man with a passionate interest in such matters and who smiles in half-acknowledgement of my point, would have said that that was grotesquely unlikely. That is the main purpose and thrust of the Bill.
I hope that, in the legitmate argument about all the good things that hon. Members would like to see in the Bill, there will be at least a fair-minded acknowledgement that we have come a long way, substantially farther than our predecessors in government or than our critics supposed was at all likely.
Nowadays I keep on talking about balance, and it is becoming a platitude. As my hon. Friend the Member for
Column 748Aldridge-Brownhills said, there has to be a balance between freedom and security. That is the texture of the everyday life of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) knows that perfectly well. The liberty and freedom of the individual have to be set against the freedom to protect him and the whole nation from those who threaten our security and well-being. The structures that we devise have to make it possible for such balances to be struck.
For many years the position was ill-defined, and we feel that now is the right time to establish the Security Service in the clear language of statute, and to assign clear roles and responsibilities to the Secretary of State, the commissioner and the tribunal. This is the right time to introduce statutory arrangements for a warrant procedure, to make sure that the balance can be struck at the right level in every case.
Many hon. Members want to move the balance further. I understand that, but equally I hope that they will understand the nature of the judgment and the balance that has to be made. I must make one final point. I am sure that most of our constituents, the public as a whole, want and expect the Security Service to protect us. They understand basically what it is about. There is widespread and understandable concern if, at any time in that challenging and dangerous task, there appears to be any lapse in the quality of the job or the intelligence obtained. We appear to expect superlative effort and infallible results from those who defend us in this sphere.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) who has much experience in these matters, said on Second Reading : "The failures of the secret services are broadcast, but, of course, their successes are unsung, which is as it should be."--[ Official Report, 21 December 1988 ; Vol. 144, c. 493.]
That was absolutely right.
I hope that, on reflection, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook will look again at what he said on Second Reading. He said : "In truth, since the war MI5 has been one of the worst and most ridiculed security services in the western Alliance."--[ Official Report, 15 December 1988 ; Vol. 143, c. 1124.]
I do not know whether that was part of his text or whether it was spontaneous, but it is not true. I know that because I have increasing occasion to discuss these matters with people in other countries. I know that, day after day, the Security Service has to identify terrorist threats and arms supplies and prevent terrorist action and hostile foreign actions. The list is long. Members of the service often risk their lives in such work. In discussing such matters, comments such as that from the Opposition Front Bench are neither fair nor just.
The Bill represents a major step forward for the Security Service and for the whole country. It represents a fundamental change in the way that we arrange for the necessary work of the service. We are moving it on to a firm statutory basis and appointing a commissioner and a tribunal to review warrants and to consider complaints. Of course there are those who would like more, or who want to propose changes. The debate about this matter will not collapse, and we have examined and discussed such changes at length. The House will recognise the depth of this reform, the responsible but radical way that I have approached the matter and the very real advance embodied in the Bill. I invite the House to give the Bill a Third Reading.
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Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook) : The more that the Opposition hear about the Security Service Bill the less we like it. Our opposition is in three distinct related parts, but before I describe that opposition, which was reinforced by what we heard in Committee last week, I should like to set out again the underlying cause of our concern.
Until the Bill becomes law, as no doubt it will, the legal position of the Security Service is that which Lord Denning set out 25 years ago. That is :
"Members of the services are, in the eye of the law, ordinary citizens with no special powers greater than anyone else. They have no special powers of arrest, such as the police have. No special powers of search are given to them. They cannot enter premises without the consent of the householder even though they may suspect a spy is there."
The Bill is designed to change all that. If the Bill is passed, when members of the Security Service enter premises, they will, presuming that they have obtained the Home Secretary's warrant, do so with the protection of the law. The decision to give the Security Service a legal persona and legal obligations within which to work could have provided complete reassurance about its future activity, but the contents of the Bill-- combined with what we have heard in Committee from the Home Secretary--has produced in many people, and certainly in the Opposition, quite the opposite results. The more we hear from the Home Secretary, the greater our concern becomes. Our concern can be described under three headings--first, those things that should have been in the Bill but have been omitted; secondly the interpretations of some of the Bill's provisions; and thirdly, provisions that are unacceptable in themselves. As far as is consistent with the rules of order, I shall attempt to deal with each of these objections in turn.
I know that the rules governing the conduct of Third Reading debates prevent me from dealing in any great detail with the Bill's omissions. However, it is right, and possible, for me at least to assert that no Bill of this sort should be acceptable to the free Parliament of a democracy without the inclusion of adequate provisions for the supervision of the Security Service. The Home Secretary spent some time before he was called to order explaining why, in his view, such supervision was impossible or inappropriate. I shall not transgress to the same extent, but I shall, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, say something about what the Home Secretary suggested to the House.
Essentially, the Bill provides supervision by Government nominees. It should have provided supervision by a body that would responsibly discharge, at least to some extent, independent oversight. On the first day of the Committee stage, when two rival schemes to provide that supervision were proposed, the Home Secretary--I suspect from his demeanour that he knows this--made no attempt seriously to meet the arguments of either the official Opposition or his hon. Friends. That was the view of the whole House. The hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) accused him of ignoring the serious arguments. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) said that the Home Secretary failed to understand the need to balance the needs of the security and democracy. The hon. Member for Caithness and
Column 750Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) described his speech as completely failing to address the central issue of accountability.
I have no doubt how that failing came about. Insisting that the control of the security services is kept in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary and that the only form of inquiry and redress should be under the supervision of Government nominees is politically convenient. But it is intellectually indefensible. The Home Secretary was at the same sort of tactic this evening. He complained about the shortcomings in the proposal of the hon. Members for Aldridge-Brownhills and for Thanet, South and his main argument against that proposal was that I regarded it as inadequate. No doubt, if he had had time, the right hon. Gentleman would have said that what was wrong with his Bill was that his hon. Friends thought that it went too far. Dredging up as one of his arguments against his hon. Friends the idea that I wanted their proposal to go further is the action of a man not altogether confident in his own brief. I understand exactly why the Home Secretary should take such a peculiarly defensive line. The intellectual inadequacy of his case shone all through his speech on supervision in Committee, and we could not possibly support a Bill that did not include at least some independent supervision.
Our second major concern--the role and duties of the Security Service--was enormously increased by the Home Secretary's speech on the second day of the Committee. The major debate on that day concerned definitions-- definitions of subversion, which the Security Service is to resist, and of parliamentary democracy, which it is to protect. It also dealt, in considerable detail, with the second crucial definition of the service's role and function--its role and function abroad, as is incorporated in clause 1(3) :
"It shall also be the function of the Service to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom against the threats posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British islands."
I shall deal first with the domestic activities of the Security Service. In Committee, our concern was to ensure that the Security Service did not interfere with, or inhibit, what was described as lawful advocacy, protest and dissent. A number of ways were suggested of avoiding its intrusion into legitimate political activity. The Home Secretary's response to these genuine concerns was wholly inadequate. He tried to be emollient by offering windy
generalisations about--I swear that these are his actual words-- "the safety and well-being of the nation."
He gave assurances that what divided him from those who had moved the amendments--again these are his actual words--was a
"difference of principle, but one of flexibility, or relative flexibility." --[ Official Report, 17 January 1989 ; Vol. 145, c. 213-7.]
Such statements have no meaning and answer none of the questions. The question that he should have answered, but has failed to answer, is why, if fears about improper political involvement of the Security Service are groundless, he is not prepared to incorporate safeguards into the Bill.
On Second Reading, the Home Secretary told us that there was no need to be concerned about political bias because clause 2(2)(b) specifically prohibits the Security Service from acting to further the interests of any one