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Mr. Allason : I am anxious about any suggestion of guidelines and controls as identified in clause 1 and especially in amendment No. 6. The Secret Intelligence Service has a wide remit and has consistently operated under strict ministerial controls. I understand that there was only one occasion, in 1956, when it slipped out of that control. That was an unfortunate lapse, which created a considerable internal row and cost Sir John Sinclair, who was the chief at the time, his job. On that occasion, a surveillance operation conducted under the Ordjonikideze went wrong and Buster Crabb lost his life. The Prime Minister was furious. It turned out that the Foreign Office adviser had lost his father on the morning of the day of the authorisation. As a result, the operation was authorised, with unfortunate and disastrous consequences. I do not know of any other occasion on which the service abused its responsibilities. The organisation would argue that on that occasion it had received full authority and that there had perhaps been an error in providing it.
Since that time the organisation has surely always sought Foreign Office consent and ministerial support for each operation. That is why it has never been the subject of the sort of investigations conducted in the United States by the Church committee, former Vice-President Rockefeller and others.
The organisation certainly has a very clean record on assassinations. I recall Sir Dick White being especially anxious when Graham Greene wrote "The Human Factor" and suggested that the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service would authorise the assassination of a foreigner--or anyone else for that matter. Sir Dick White told me that that allegation was profoundly offensive, partly because such action simply was not structurally possible within the organisation and--more to the point--partly because it gave credence to the mythology that had been created around the SIS, which was that it was prepared to brook murder and mayhem. That is most emphatically not the case.
One consequence of that mythology is that it tends to blur the issue when the SIS is mentioned in a criminal trial. When the Secretary of State opened his remarks on Second Reading he gave an example that is extremely relevant to amendment No. 6, describing a case in which the Secret Intelligence Service had provided clandestine surveillance of a drugs suspect in an unnamed country and had been able to provide information that was of enormous use to the authorities.
My worry is about what will happen when someone is brought to trial in this country and the SIS is referred to. That will offer defence counsel a tremendous opportunity to exact great advantage. Defence counsel will be able to tell the jury, "The SIS is involved in this prosecution and we all know about them. They have assassinated people." He will be able to make many completely irrelevant allegations and may compromise the chances of obtaining a conviction. That is a very real worry, especially as the service has never indulged in criminal investigations and as we have a national drugs intelligence unit to co-ordinate intelligence on suspected drugs offences. The unit was set up by Colin Hewett, a distinguished deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland yard and a former head of special branch.
I have strong reservations if a straightforward criminal offence such as drug smuggling, which is not a direct threat to the realm, is to be subject to SIS interference and surveillance, just as I have reservations about the Security Service being involved in anti-terrorist operations. Neither organisation has ever involved itself in such activities. One could interpret those developments by suggesting that the services are taking in washing. With the end of the cold war, one would have thought that there would be quite enough for them to do monitoring the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, biological and bacteriological weapons and other important threats to this country. It is worrying that they are actively seeking work on behalf of the regular police authorities, and it may well compromise criminal prosecutions.
Although I oppose amendment No. 6, I very much hope that two messages will go from the House this evening. The first is that ordinary crime will be dealt with in an ordinary way in the Old Bailey, without screens to protect witnesses or anything of that sort that would smack of special treatment for a special crime ; drug smuggling and peddling are criminal offences and should be treated as such. Secondly, the Front-Bench Opposition spokesman should not give any credence to the fact that anything like a shoot-to-kill policy exists ; nor should he discuss it. That is absolute nonsense. As far as I am aware, the only shoot-to-kill policy that exists is that exercised by the Provisional IRA.
Mr. Rogers : I agree that ordinary crime ought to be dealt with in the ordinary way by the police force and police officers. But there surely comes a point where, if intelligence is available and one is able to bring a particularly vicious bunch of drug smugglers to book--with the tentacles of organised crime ever present, many people think that we are in grave danger of corrupting our society--there is an argument for secrecy. Surely there is a case for saying that people could give evidence without giving away their identity.
Mr. Allason : That is an interesting point. The hon. Gentleman says that secrecy is necessary when such operations are conducted and he is right. Police officers are all subject to the Official Secrets Act. More to the point, they are used to giving evidence in court, have been trained and are subject to internal discipline. Who has heard of an SIS officer carrying a warrant card or being subject to any discipline that is available to external scrutiny ? That does not happen, and there is a good reason for police officers, who are subject to that sort of scrutiny, conducting criminal investigations.
My anxiety relates to the fact that, if SIS officers are involved in criminal prosecutions, they will have to appear in court ; as they have never done so before, they will not be very good at it. Special branch officers who give evidence in court are hopeless, usually because they have appeared in court before only once.
It is not just a matter of collecting intelligence, of mounting a successful prosecution and of giving evidence in court ; it goes way beyond that. I believe that police officers, not the Secret Intelligence Service, should exercise that function. If we are in such a state that the Secret Intelligence Service is to become a branch of the
Column 297police service, as appears to be advocated by the Opposition, that is a very interesting development with considerable implications for human rights.
Mr. Rogers : I know that the hon. Gentleman is an expert at writing fiction, but I wish that he would not exercise that function is relation to what I say. I never said--or even hinted--that the Secret Intelligence Service ought to be a branch of the police force. I said that, in the normal run of events, ordinary crime should be handled by the police, but that I could envisage circumstances whereby, if the witnesses who had to appear before the court were members of the Secret Intelligence Service, the court should allow them to give their evidence in secret or from behind a screen.
Mr. Allason : I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says. On a point of fact, I must explain that I am primarily an historian--I have written 17 books of non-fiction--although it is true that I have made two not very good attempts at writing thrillers, which are fiction. I think the hon. Gentleman said that when a crime was particularly vicious or when criminals were particularly determined it might be appropriate to involve the Secret Intelligence Service. I dispute that. I am simply saying that it will be a gift to defence counsel in that it will provide them with an opportunity to muddy the water on behalf of their clients.
However vicious the crime, it must be dealt with by normal criminal law and by police officers who are used to giving evidence in court. To be entirely candid, I am not sure that, in the Secretary of State's example, it would be possible for the prosecution to mount a case or obtain a conviction based on the evidence of an SIS officer who is operating illicitly overseas and collecting clandestine surveillance information. Such information may be useful, but I do not believe that that is an appropriate function of the Secret Intelligence Service and I very much hope that the House will reject amendment No. 6.
Mr. Richard Shepherd : The amendments are trying to limit and, it seems to me--subject to correction from the Opposition Front Bench-- specifically focus the remit of the intelligence service. I want to speak in particular to amendment No. 38, in the name of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen).
We discussed the remit and function of the intelligence service in the debate on the Bill to which this legislation is joined--the Security Services Act 1989 and, through it, the Official Secrets Act 1989. The debate about the remit, function and definition of national security--as set out in the hon. Gentleman's amendment--has exercised the minds of a great many people, including the Mcdonald commission on freedom and security in Canada.
The Government have a great difficulty in this area. I am not unsympathetic to their plight ; it is terribly difficult to define and refine what is necessary in these terms without the benefit of a White Paper and without any independent examination of the issues or input from Opposition Members and others. Without a proper examination of what the services do now, how does one judge what should be done ?
Clause 1(2)(a) contains the words
"in the interests of national security with particular reference". The Opposition seek to drop those words and insert the words
Column 298"where there is a threat".
I think that the proposal is endeavouring to make a proper and sensible limitation. It then refers to
"the defence and foreign policies of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom".
I know that the Minister, who has conducted the debate very honourably, will find all manner of reasons for refuting my point, but I can make an interpretation of those words. The "interests of national security" are not defined. There was a savage attack on the foreign policies of Her Majesty's Government in this country. It occurred when the Government tried to bring forward a deeply federalist Bill and make us part of a state in Europe. William Cash of Stafford was clearly subversive and a number of hon. Gentlemen have also pursued the undoing of Her Majesty's domestic and foreign affairs policy. There is no doubt that we gathered together in a covert fashion to discuss these matters. We also sat down and thought about how we could conspire to undermine the Government's attempt to thrust us into a sovereign European state.
The intelligence service--which is no doubt listening intently--is no doubt aware that, if the Secretary of State so deemed it, the clause could be interpreted to mean that, in the interests of national security, that action was contrary to the well-being of the Government. That is why a number of people have tried to limit, or more specifically focus, these clauses--and more power to the Opposition Front Bench and the hon. Member for Leyton.
These are very serious arguments and there are many more points to adduce. We should remember that the intelligence service can link up with the Security Service, and the remit of the Security Service can be transformed at the behest of the Secretary of State and at the request of the head of the service. The structure is very loose ; it is not coherent. It is a typical British muddle. It is not even as well defined as the Maxwell Fyfe directive of 1952--I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will correct me if I have the date wrong.
Where are the limiting clauses in the Bill ? The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) suggests that there are none. That is the truth of the matter. This is a jumble of words that is open to interpretation. After all, did not Mr. Churchill stand in this House and launch a savage attack upon no less than the
"defence and foreign policies of Her Majesty's Government" ? Of course he did.
I refer again to the Mcdonald commission. Where is the limitation of remit ? Where is the recognition of the lawful dissent clause ? On Second Reading, I said that it is very important to have some declaratory things in a statute covering an area that is so sensitive to the well-being and freedoms that we enjoy as British citizens, such as our understanding of civil liberties. None of that is in the Bill.
I do not want to make a big thing of it, but the Bill should have been incorporated into the Security Service Act 1989. There should be one compendium Bill dealing with the functions of oversight and so on. It should relate to all the services set out in this legislation. Instead we have two pieces of paper and two different, wide definitions. I give a cheer for the Opposition for trying to limit this Bill.
I also accept that, in a sense, the Government already have the Bill ; it was given in the House of Lords and in this place. There has been no serious attempt to see whether there was a proper structure in which oversight and all the
Column 299other functions set out in this Bill could be pulled together and defined. First and central to this was the definition sought by the hon. Member for Leyton.
Mr. Rogers : I think that the hon. Member is being a little unfair to the members of the Committee, who worked hard to put up very substantial arguments in order to alter the framework of the Bill in its final form.
Mr. Shepherd : I am suitably rebuked ; that is a fair point. I am crying out, in my anguish, about the way in which one does business. There was no White Paper. There has been no effort to maintain in what way this is a proper security force of the realm, what its definition and focus is and how one relates all these points to it. I wanted to make a brief speech. Most of the arguments have been addressed by the Security Service Act. Once one has a pre-delivered piece of legislation, which is secure in the heart of the Executive and not open to any form of discussion, the House is traduced because it can respond only along the tramlines of the thinking of the present Executive about these matters.
I do not believe that the Bill, once enacted, will last for ever, if only because the civil liberties lobby and others will want greater security and definition on certain points. For that reason, I did not mean to criticise or to imply criticism of the Committee. I just wanted to make it clear that I support the principle behind the amendments. I understand why it is unlikely that they will be accepted, because the Executive have a view of how these matters should be conducted. They do not want any genuine limitation governing the recognition of lawful dissent, nor do they believe that it should be excluded from the remit of the security services. We are therefore at the behest of the benign intent of the Secretary of State whose direction those services follow.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : I am grateful to the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) for his support of new clause 2, the case for which he emphasised with as eloquent a contribution as all the others that he has made throughout the passage of the Bill. His voice should be echoed loudly on the Opposition Benches as well. The hon. Member referred to amendment No. 38, which is a modest one. It calls for a definition of the terms "national security", " economic well-being" and "serious crime". After all, hundreds of millions of pounds are spent by the security services on activities relating specifically to those terms. The Government should attempt to define what they mean. My modest amendment would also ensure that such definition should be contained in an order, which should be renewed--subject to debate--at least once every five years. In parliamentary questions I have asked the Government to define the terms "national security", "economic well-being" and "serious crime". The Government replied that those terms are well understood, but, given the seriousness of the matter, that answer is not good enough.
At the moment we leave it to the intelligence service, the people who carry out the relevant tasks, to interpret what those terms mean. We might as well say, "We are leaving it up to you, chaps and lasses, to interpret them as
Column 300you like." That is an extremely dangerous course to follow. I am not suggesting that those in the security services are not good people, but we are aware of instances where those in the intelligence service have attempted to subvert legitimate Governments in this country. We are also aware that the powers of the security services have been misused in other countries. The death last week of President Nixon brings to mind such an example. Those powers were also misused in Nazi Germany. Just because Britain has not suffered from the problem to that extent--as far as we are aware--does not mean that we should not have the legislative safeguards that other countries have thought it necessary to introduce.
The definition of the terms set out in amendment No. 38 gives a legal basis for the actions that members of the security services take. If they step outside their proper remit, they could, one hopes, be brought to account by the Intelligence and Security Committee. It is wrong to leave the definition of those terms to the people who carry out particular functions connected with them.
The matter should have been dealt with in the Security Service Act 1989, section 1 of which states that the function of the service should be the
"protection of national security and, in particular, its protection against threats from espionage, terrorism and sabotage, from the activities of agents of foreign powers and from actions intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means."
That definition gave the security services the scope to hold personal data on individuals and its terms are potentially extremely wide. The use of the words "in particular" makes it clear that, although the security services place emphasis on those activities mentioned in section 1, the terms of the Act do not exclude other activities deemed as relevant to national security. The security services could interpret political demonstrations as a threat to national security or the activities of right-wing Conservative Members protesting about Maastricht, as the hon. Member for Aldridge- Brownhills said. A clearer definition of the function of the security services is therefore needed in the Bill, because whether certain other activities fall within the remit of MI5 or MI6 is, at the moment, left to be determined by members of those services. That cannot be right.
My amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to give the definitions of the terms "national security", "economic well-being" and "serious crime" and would allow the House to approve them at least once in every Parliament. That approval would give those special powers the legitimacy that they require. I do not think that a debate every five years to renew and consider those definitions is too much to ask for, especially when we compare that with the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which comes up for renewal every year. At least such a debate would give hon. Members who are not members of the Intelligence and Security Committee the opportunity to debate the functions of the security services.
A debate every five years would at least give the public a little more confidence in the work of the security services. At the moment such confidence is even lacking in the legitimate work of those services. The Government should improve parliamentary oversight by offering important definitions of the three terms included in my amendment.
I am sorry to note that during the passage of the Bill the Government have not accepted any amendments bar a minor one. They pushed the Bill through Committee and
Column 301presumably they will do likewise in another place. The Government should be more flexible and I hope that they will accept my modest amendment or, if not, will accept a similar one in another place.
When talking about the functions and the roles of the agencies, as we are in the context of the amendments, it is important to set the debate within the framework of the definitions and the checks and balances that are provided by the Bill and the general framework of the law. I would therefore like to remind the House of the framework within which the agencies operate.
To start with, clause 1 does two things. First, it defines the functions of the intelligence service and defines the circumstances in which those functions can be exercised. Secondly, in relation to interference with property or with wireless telegraphy, it provides circumstances in which applications must be made, for approval, to the Secretary of State--that is the warrant procedure. It further provides that acts that would be unlawful by reason of the Criminal Justice Act 1948--acts done abroad--can be rendered lawful only if they are authorised by the clause 7 authorisation procedure. It provides the mechanisms whereby complaints to the tribunal can be made. It sets up and establishes a commissioner whose function and role is to oversee the exercise by the Secretary of State of the clause 5 warranty and clause 7 authorisation procedures. It creates the oversight committee, the remit of which is set out in clause 10. Equally importantly, all the functions of the agencies are regulated by the ordinary law of the country, save and to the extent that it might otherwise be relaxed, either by the terms of the Bill or--we are speaking also of the Security Service Act 1989--by some other ordinary operation of law.
That is the framework in which the agencies operate. I adopt what my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) said about the liability of members of the agency to the ordinary criminal law. If the members of the agencies do something that contravenes the ordinary criminal law
Mr. Rogers : It is absolutely true--it is part of the Bill and we are coming to it. All those procedures are in a tight ring of secrecy. The Secretary of State appoints the members ; the Secretary of State screens the information ; a report is made to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister. It is nonsense to suggest that those are accountable structures, especially to Parliament.
Mr. Hogg : I do not agree. To start with the last argument that I made, if an act contravenes the ordinary criminal law of the country the act complained of will be investigated by the police. They act independently. If, for example-- [Interruption.] If it is warranted, it is covered by the clause 5 procedure, provided that the clause 5 procedure applies. The hon. Gentleman did not seem to focus on the fact that the clause 5 procedure applies only to cases involving entry to or interference with property or wireless telegraphy, and has nothing to do with the general points that he was making about murder and physical injury to individuals and so on. Insofar as those acts are done within the jurisdiction, they are criminal unless another defence applies, such as legitimate self-defence. That is the general framework within which one operates. I shall now discuss the four amendments that the House is debating. Amendment No. 3 is designed to confine the competence of the intelligence service to circumstances where it can be said that there is a threat to national security. I believe that that is unduly restrictive and I would not commend it to the House. One of the functions of the intelligence service is to further and advance the national interest. Such a purpose can well exist even in the absence of a threat to national security. Let me illustrate that, because I hope that the House will be persuaded by the argument.
It is obviously in the country's interests to find out as much as we can about the military capacity of various countries or the terrorist capacity of various organisations. That interest might--probably does--exist even in the absence of a direct threat. We have every interest in trying to discover the attitude towards various policy issues of various Governments or organisations in the middle east, although one could not, in all honesty, say that there was a threat, or an obvious and direct threat, to the national interest.
We have every interest in investigating proliferation--channels of proliferation ; risks of proliferation ; where arms come from ; where they go to. One would often be pushed to say that that constituted a direct threat to the United Kingdom. We have every interest in trying to identify the stability of various Governments, friendly and unfriendly, and it will be difficult to say, in that context, that there will always be a risk to our national interest.
It is unduly restrictive to confine the competence of the intelligence service to those circumstances in which it can be said that there exists a threat to the national interest.
Mr. Rogers : I cannot follow the Minister's argument when he says that the Bill says that the function of the Secret Intelligence Service--I presume that the purpose of the Bill is to delineate the functions--is to further and advance the national interest. There is no mention of that in the Bill. It mentions "national security" in clause 1(2)(a) and then it speaks about
"interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom". However, for the Minister to justify his argument under a general term of national interest is to create another dimension in addition to national security.
Mr. Hogg : I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman may not have been following the argument as closely as I might have wished him to do--or perhaps I am at fault. There is a difference between saying that competence exists only where there is a threat, and saying that competence exists
Column 303where the purpose of what is being done is to further the national interest. It is true that I have taken a broad phrase because otherwise I spend a lot of time summarising the meaning of sub-paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) and, for the purposes of this discussion, I am subsuming (a), (b) and (c) into a general phrase. The difficulty with amendment No. 3 is that it allows the intelligence service to act only when there is a threat, yet there are many circumstances in which I suspect that 80 or 90 per cent. of Members of the House--not that there are many Members here to make that assessment--would wish the intelligence service to act even if one could not, in honesty, say that there was a threat.
Mr. Cohen : The Minister has made an interesting statement and he has broadened the scope of national interest by saying that the intelligence service is furthering it. Will he say, for example, that the coup in which the British were involved, which brought down Mussadeq in Iran and put the Shah into power, was furthering the national interest ? Also, who would have made that decision, according to the logic of the Minister's argument ?
Mr. Hogg : Both sides agreed in Committee that we would not discuss specific cases or alleged incidents. The hon. Gentleman says that I am furthering, or at least developing, the responsibility of the intelligence service, but I assure him that I am not. Many times on Second Reading and in Committee I argued, as did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, that the purposes of the intelligence service include the furthering, the forwarding or whatever word one wishes to use, of the national interest, and that they are not confined to those circumstances in which there can be said to be a threat.
The second of the amendments relates to the question of economic well- being. The amendment contemplates--it was not spoken to in the debate, so I will be brief--that the word "substantially" should be placed in front of the phrase "economic well-being". That has real disadvantages and no counter-balancing advantages. In promoting that argument, I first return to the general constraints which I have mentioned and which I will not repeat now. Secondly, the intelligence service responds to tasking by the Joint Intelligence Committee. Thirdly, when resources are scarce there is a natural reluctance on the part of any agency to waste its time on trivial matters. The agency would be concerned only with matters of substance ; it would not be concerned with trivial matters.
Such matters would include, for instance, the price and availability of commodities, financial and monetary policies of countries that might have an impact on the United Kingdom, activities of individuals abroad that might discredit financial institutions in the United Kingdom and, perhaps, the promotion of British economic interests abroad, in a variety of ways.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) rose
Column 304a habit of spying on foreign companies that compete with British companies, and rewarding British companies with titbits of information picked up through GCHQ or elsewhere in return for unspecified favours. Is that justifiable ?
Mr. Hogg : The hon. Gentleman is asking me to comment on allegations, which I will not do. The question is whether particular activities fall within the functions defined in clause 1, and the circumstances in which those functions can be exercised.
Mr. Mullin rose
Mr. Hogg : Come, come : the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that my general attitude is not to discuss hypothetical cases, save in the most general context. Although it might be fun to do that, I do not think that it would be a good way in which to spend the House's time.
I have described the type of circumstances in which economic well-being is an interest to be forwarded or protected. The question that then arises is whether the word "substantially" improves the Bill in any way. I do not believe that it does. The concept of what is and what is not substantial is, of course, subjective, and I do not see how it can add to the Bill-- although it might make the lives of individual officers rather more difficult.
Moreover, many of the activities that I have described--which I suspect the House would regard as desirable--might not be said to have substantial significance when judged against the weight and size of the British economy. We would find ourselves precluding desirable activities that satisfied all other criteria because, in relation to the weight and size of the British economy, they could not be described as substantial.
Mr. Rogers : The Minister said that officers would be placed in a very difficult position. I understand that the joint intelligence machinery tasks MI6 to carry out the functions involved ; surely it would be able to gauge whether certain activities were substantially in the country's economic interests. The purpose of the amendment is solely to tighten the rules on what the service can do and to ensure that it carries out what the Minister has rightly described as large-scale generic functions.
Mr. Hogg : That is not true, because we are talking about a subjective test--which, moreover, might not be fulfilled in any particular enterprise, because of the relationship between the economic activity being investigated and the overall size of the British economy. As there is a mismatch between the two, the test would not be satisfied--although most people would be pleased to support the objective.
Amendment No. 6--to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Brownhills has spoken from time to time--is defective and should be rejected, although the Opposition Members who tabled it have tried to take account of some of the arguments that I advanced in Committee. First, if the amendment were passed, the
Column 305intelligence service could not intervene in respect of threats or attacks against employees of British companies abroad who were not citizens of the United Kingdom. That is a bit peculiar. Secondly, we all have an interest in fighting terrorism, but in its present form the amendment would prevent us from intervening in--or assisting, for instance, the French Government in frustrating--an act of terrorism in France. I find that difficult to accept.
My hon. Friend the Whip has just entered the Chamber. I feel a little nervous when I see him ; does he want me to stop ? If so, I shall be brief.
My third objection is this. Crime is pretty international ; there are many criminal acts in which we would want the intelligence service to become involved, but which do not have a direct or immediate impact on the United Kingdom or its citizens. Good examples are the smuggling of arms and drugs, child prostitution and international pornography : we have a legitimate interest in the investigation of each of those classes of crime, in the obtaining of information and, in many circumstances, attempting to interrupt them, but in many cases it would be impossible to say that their immediate consequence would be an impact on the United Kingdom or its citizens. They would therefore be outwith the provisions of the amendment. Finally, let me comment on a point made by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Brownhills. [Interruption.] He did support it.
What hon. Members are saying is basically this : "We cannot ourselves define the various concepts, but we want the Government to do it by way of an order-making power. Furthermore, we want to debate it every five years." That is the broad effect of the amendment. I think that it is extremely difficult to define national security in statutory terms ; incidentally, I think the same about economic well-being. My view is reinforced by what the Commissioner of the Security Services, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, said in his 1990 report. Effectively, he said that it was very difficult to define national security in statutory terms, although it could be recognised easily enough.
Labour has encountered the problem in the past. The sex and race discrimination legislation of the mid-1970s refers to national security without giving any definitions or amplifications, because it is so difficult to define. I therefore do not think that it would be at all easy to secure a comprehensive definition of those two phrases which would be satisfactory.
I accept that the position is rather different when it comes to serious crime, which can sometimes--and for some purposes--be defined. It was done in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, in--I think--the Interception of Communications Act 1985 and in other legislation. It should not be forgotten, however, that in this instance we would also have to consider crime committed abroad, because that comes within the definition. I do not think that it would serve a serious purpose ; serious crime is easy enough to recognise, even if it is not defined.
Let me make two more points. First, I am against order-making powers and I am rather surprised that my
Column 306hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge- Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) is not against them as well. As hon. Members and my hon. Friend know full well, an order laid before the House is not subject to amendment--it has to be accepted all or not at all. Of course, that is just what the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) is anxious that we should not do in relation to Northern Ireland. The fact that a draft must be placed before the House and debated before the order is made is an attempt to mitigate the defects associated with the order- making procedure, but it does not solve it.
Mr. Richard Shepherd : As I understand it, the Procedure Committee is at this moment reporting, or has already reported, on how orders may be made in other ways, but that was not my point. I was querying whether there are to be limitations. The remit outlined in the Bill is very large. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that the definitions to which he referred are extremely difficult and they have exercised minds considerably, which is why I come back to the issue of limitation--what the services may not do. This is a compendium Bill but security service legislation exists in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Limits can be imposed, which was the reason for my general support for the amendment. Lawful dissent was one of the issues that I raised but which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister did not cover, although perhaps he is coming to it. What constitutes the foreign policy of the United Kingdom ? Would Mr. William Cash and Sir Teddy Taylor be objects of interest to the services ? Are their activities lawful dissent ? Should they be limited under the Bill ? As I understand it, if the Secretary of State, using his warrant, set out to seek information about them, the Bill would allow him to do so.
Mr. Hogg : There are various ways in which one can try to control the exercise of given powers by the agencies. We have tried a mixed approach by defining the powers and subjecting the exercise of powers to various controls. It was for that reason that I began with general observations, pointing out the definition of the powers and the circumstances in which they could be exercised, and went on to speak about the complaints procedure, the clause 5 and clause 7 procedures, the commissioner's role, the ordinary criminal law and the oversight committee. The Bill creates a range of controls, checks and balances which impact on the functions and the circumstances in which the functions are exercisable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills was concerned--at least, I thought that he was, although he was perhaps being more humorous than I realised--that his acts a propos the Maastricht Bill might fall within the scope of the intelligence service. He mentioned only the circumstances in which the functions were exercisable, but he will, of course, have been the first to note that the functions outlined in clause 1--the underpinning provisions--relate to "the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands".
Although I might wish on occasion that my hon. Friend was outside the British Isles, I have to say that he does not satisfy that criterion. Therefore, the circumstances do not even begin to apply in the case that he postulated because the functions do not exist in that case.