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Column 338

Rathbone, Tim

Redwood, Rt Hon John

Renton, Rt Hon Tim

Richards, Rod

Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm

Robathan, Andrew

Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn

Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)

Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)

Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)

Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela

Ryder, Rt Hon Richard

Sackville, Tom

Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim

Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shersby, Michael

Sims, Roger

Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Soames, Nicholas

Speed, Sir Keith

Spencer, Sir Derek

Spink, Dr Robert

Spring, Richard

Sproat, Iain

Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steen, Anthony

Stephen, Michael

Stern, Michael

Streeter, Gary

Sweeney, Walter

Sykes, John

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, John M. (Solihull)

Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thomason, Roy

Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thornton, Sir Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)

Tracey, Richard

Trend, Michael

Twinn, Dr Ian

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Viggers, Peter

Waldegrave, Rt Hon William

Walden, George

Walker, Bill (N Tayside)

Waller, Gary

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Waterson, Nigel

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John

Whitney, Ray

Whittingdale, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Sir Jerry

Wilkinson, John

Willetts, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)

Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Irvine Patnick and

Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.

Question accordingly negatived.

Schedule 1 --

Investigation of Complaints

10.15 pm

Mr. Rogers : I beg to move amendment No. 23, in page 10, line 20, after State', insert

7A. The Tribunal shall submit details of every determination made by it, its reasons for the determination and the relevant background papers to the Intelligence and Security Committee.'.

Madam Deputy Speaker : I understand that with this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 24, in page 11, line 4, at end insert

. Where it is possible for the Tribunal to give reasons for its determination to the complainant without damaging national security it shall do so.'.

Mr. Rogers : The amendments relate to the tribunal and the oversight committee. [Interruption.] It is very difficult to hear oneself speak because of all of the noise from the Government Front Bench and the racket from the Back Benches.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I do not think that the conversation is confined to the Front Benches. The hon. Gentleman's point is well taken.

Mr. Rogers : I am glad that some Government Members have been able to have an enjoyable evening ; they look all the better for it. The reason for the amendments is to enable the Committee, as we have described in the last group of amendments in relation to clause 10, to consider the

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workings of the two services. For it to do so, it must know what complaints have been made and how they have been dealt with by the tribunal.

The vast majority of complaints to the current security service tribunal appear to be unjustified. Indeed, since the commission was set up and the tribunals have been in operation, the number of complaints is in the low 40s. None of those has been accepted by the commissioner, even for investigation, without being related to the tribunal in any way.

Therefore, it is important that the tribunal reports to the oversight committee to see whether any complaints are justified. Of course, that information will be helpful for the committee to carry out its work, and the committee would also need the power to call for information from the tribunal. During the debate on the previous group of amendments, we talked about the power of the committee to compel witnesses to appear before it and order people to provide information for it. The Government would not accept that. Within the closed circle of secrecy that the Government are creating, surely there is no harm or difficulty in the tribunal reporting to the scrutiny committee. It is within the circle of secrecy that the Minister is so anxious to maintain and would not affect national security in any way.

Amendment No. 24 is extremely important. It deals with whether the tribunal should give reasons for its determination to complainants so long as national security is not involved. The amendment seeks to give the complainant greater rights to natural justice. The tribunal would have to give some details to the complainant.

The procedure envisaged in the Bill is completely secretive. Everything is done by post. There is no hearing. Once complainants have made a complaint, they receive a letter saying that the case is being investigated. A few months later they receive another letter saying that no determination has been made in their favour. That is the pattern that has prevailed under the Security Service Act 1989. No information is given about what has happened in the intervening period, who has been investigated and who has been interviewed. The complainant has no access to any information, even if the disclosure of the information would not affect national security.

Without access to any of the results of the tribunal's investigation, the complainant is in an impossible position and cannot argue his or her case properly. Therefore, the so-called remedy is of little value. In some cases, it will not be possible to reveal any information, but in many cases it will be possible. As we have said, we support most of the provisions of the Bill because we believe that we have to have a secret intelligence service and it has to be allowed to carry out its job properly. However, the procedures laid down in the Bill do not comply with safeguards contained in article 6 of the European convention on human rights.

In addition to the failure to provide any information on the allegations that may have justified surveillance, as we have seen the tribunal can determine only whether the service had reasonable grounds for its actions. It cannot consider the correctness of the service's decision that any particular action or surveillance was justified.

Since the 1989 Act set up the tribunal for the security service, no complaint has ever been upheld by the tribunal. That shows that the model for what is envisaged in the Bill

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not only has an imperfect record but does little to further the interests of natural justice. We believe that the amendments are extremely important in the general structure of the Bill. Therefore, we shall press them to a vote.

Mr. David Davis : May I begin by correcting something that I am sure the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) did not intend to put on the record. He said that of the 40 complaints none was investigated. I think that he meant that there were no determinations in favour of the complainants. All the complaints were investigated. As I said in Committee, although the commissioner has the right not to investigate if he judges a complaint to be vexatious, he has investigated every complaint put to him.

I cannot commend the amendments to the House. Both have been discussed previously in another place and in Committee. As I explained in Committee, amendment No. 23 would increase the access of the oversight committee to information and by so doing would risk confusing and overlapping its functions with those of the tribunal. The legislation is framed in a way which ensures that there is a proper, independent and effective form of redress for complainants. That is what is important and what the tribunal is for. The oversight committee's remit is to examine the administration, policy and expenditure of the agencies. The Bill provides that they shall have access to the information that they require to fulfil that remit, subject to the provisions of schedule 3. The committee has no role in investigating complaints, nor is it its role to oversee the work of the tribunal.

The investigation of complaints naturally involves detailed consideration of precise operational information. That may include information listed in paragraph 4 of schedule 3 which is defined as sensitive. For that reason, we are not prepared to accept that the tribunal should automatically give details of all its cases to the oversight committee.

At first sight, amendment No. 24 attracts some sympathy. It requires the tribunal to give reasons to a complainant for its determination, if it can do so without endangering national security. The amendment has an attraction, since I appreciate that complainants may feel aggrieved when they receive no explanation for the tribunal's decision on their case, whether their complaint is upheld or not.

Before I explain why we have a problem with the amendment, the House should remember that many organisations throughout the world--and closer to home-- are keen to learn about security and intelligence apparatus and techniques in this country. That is self-evident. Many of those organisations are extremely sophisticated and have considerable resources. They are capable of monitoring all sorts of information and much can be inferred from what is not, as well as what is, made public when collating intelligence information.

As the Government have often said, they remain absolutely committed to ensuring the continued security of the agencies' operations. Without that security the work of the agencies would be ineffective. For that reason, it is vital that information about the operations and procedures of the agencies is not inadvertently divulged in any circumstances.

Security would obviously be jeopardised if complainants who were properly the subject of investigation were made aware of that fact. If, on the other hand, the

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