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Mr. Rogers: I do not want to give way again as I want to conclude my speech simply by saying again why I have strong reservations about the Bill. As I said at the beginning of my speech, this measure puts the cart before the horse. The policing structures in Great Britain are not available to use the security services' resources to the best advantage.

As was said earlier in the debate, we all want police forces to maintain their traditional impartiality and to be accountable to local communities. Those are the real strengths in protecting and preserving individual freedoms, but, manifestly, the present structures do not work and the battle is being lost. Everyone who has considered the matter, from the Home Affairs Select Committee, to the Association of Chief Police Offers, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the security services, and anyone and everyone who has given evidence on this matter, acknowledges that. Sir Paul Condon's phrase, that in some places the foundation is too weak to sustain additional pressure and change, is correct.

Although I welcome the fact that the Security Service is to be involved in organised and serious crime, I feel that the Government have not given sufficient consideration to the structure of the Bill to allow it to pass Second Reading without some criticism.

5.50 pm

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said that the Bill was short and--I think he said--sensible. I trust that my contribution will be the same; it will certainly be short.

Over Christmas, I received letters about drugs from four children from Whetstone in my constituency. The children were aged between eight and 11, and I suspect that their primary school teacher might have put them up to it. All the children--the oldest was Simon Clay, aged 11--said that they were worried about drugs, and that the Government should do something about it. I am delighted that our drugs education programme is getting through. All four letters suggested that we should employ what they called "the secret service" to deal with drug dealers. I suggest that out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes the truth.

In the city of Leicester, if not in my constituency, organised crime, particularly drug dealing and trafficking, is rife, and we see the problems spreading. In the past

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fortnight, there have been shootings in Belfast by a deceitful IRA front organisation called Direct Action Against Drugs. It claims to be against people involved in drugs.

Violence is certainly perceived as increasing in our society. There has been the business with knives, and in the past six weeks we have seen the tragic murder of Mr. Lawrence. We have seen guns used more often and police being assaulted. In the past couple of days, a chief constable has expressed his concern in the newspapers. All that is often linked to gangs. Three apparent drug dealers--I cannot comment from knowledge--were murdered in a Range Rover beside a reservoir in Essex during the past month.

In the House, we are often accused of being out of touch. It is true that we are insulated. The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), who made what was generally an extremely sensible speech, said that we are not necessarily at the front line in the war against drugs. That is fair. We do not hang around in playgrounds or on campuses where drug dealers are to be found.

To a certain extent, we are insulated by virtue of our age as well as our life style from the reality of much of the drug dealing in the back streets of our inner cities. The people of our country are not insulated, and, as the hon. Member for Rhondda said, the parents of young people who are at risk from drugs and criminal violence want sensible action for themselves and their children.

Violence is the most frightening manifestation of organised crime, but the power and the rackets of syndicates, whether from Latin America or south-east Asia, can and do spread. Organised crime involving the Mafia, the so-called Russian mafia, eastern European groups and other international groups is becoming more evident in western Europe.

As I have said, drugs are an obvious manifestation, but, as the Select Committee report pointed out, the international organised crime groups are involved in other huge and lucrative rackets such as counterfeit currency, money laundering, smuggling, illegal immigrants--that was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King)--possibly nuclear smuggling, illegal weapons dealing and high-technology crime, which, although I do not understand it, is certainly understood by them. They might be involved in prostitution--although I believe that the white slave trade is a bit outdated--and a raft of other criminal activities which threaten the fabric of our society. It may sound as if I am overstating the issue, but to some people in our cities, such problems are a grave worry every minute of their day.

I fear that we are less likely now to find honour among thieves. Those kindly avuncular crooks such as Fagin have been replaced by ruthless and violent gangs who will intimidate police officers, prison officers, judges and juries as well as the families of those people. Sadly, that is a growing problem, and the man and woman in the street, if they still exist, fear organised crime and the increase in violence which are typified by the shootings and stabbings I have mentioned.

With tongue in cheek, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) suggested, to a certain extent rightly, that the job of the security services now has less to do with countering Soviet spies. That is self-evident. Threats to the United Kingdom remain, but the KGB and eastern

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European security services have changed. I recall the activities of the Bulgarian secret service agent, although I cannot remember his name--

Mr. Allason: Georgi Markov.

Mr. Robathan: I thank my hon. Friend. He was murdered on a bridge with the tip of an umbrella, which introduced cyanide or some other poison into his system. Such agents no longer exist.

I fear that some opponents of the Bill have watched too many James Bond films and read too much Le Carre. They tend to see anybody in the security services as a cross between Walter Mitty and a character from the pages of Fleming or Gerald Seymour. Indeed, such people do exist--I remember Mr. Bettany, who was a Walter Mitty character.

The vast majority are not like that. When I was in the Army, I saw a little of the work of the Security Service, and I can speak with some experience. I was generally impressed by the hard-working and highly capable people who were often using extremely sophisticated equipment which required complicated training. They showed great skill in gathering intelligence.

Violent international organised crime is not so dissimilar to subversion and terrorism, which the Security Service is used to combating. The Security Service is an excellent organisation, which, as has been said, is perhaps not used as intensively as it was. It is as well suited to assisting in the battle against organised crime as it has been to dealing with previous threats against our society.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) made a speech which I thought was generally very sensible. He mentioned our local county police forces and supported that system. I also support that structure. It is well liked, and I wish to see it continue. I do not believe that a national police force such as that mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Ashby) would find favour with the population. Organised crime is not just based in a county such as Leicestershire or in the Metropolitan police area. The need for national organisations is well understood. I am glad to see that the DNA database which was set up recently is working.

Mr. Ashby: That is national.

Mr. Robathan: As my hon. Friend says, it is a national database.

Mr. Bermingham: Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the problem with local police forces, regional crime squads and the security services is caused by funding? For example, the NCIS will often develop from its computer information about a particular group of people who are seeking to import drugs. It may be that regional crime squad No. five--the south-east regional crime squad--is allocated. It then has to go to, for example, the Essex police or Kent police to ask whether it is all right to act. I have been told that, on a number of occasions, the necessary funds have not been available. Unless there is a national funding system, things fall apart, and the criminals are not caught.

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Mr. Robathan: That is a good point. I am not against nationally based organisations. I wish to see our police force developed further, while remaining based in local areas. There is great affection for that system within local populations. The hon. Gentleman mentioned drug dealing, which we are discussing today, but crime in the streets of his constituency or my constituency may remain local, and should be dealt with locally as far as possible. The hon. Gentleman made a good point about funding, which, although it is a real issue, is possibly not the issue being dealt with today.

I should like to see the national Security Service used against national and international crime in the way that has been described. It is a development of our resources, and I believe that the development of institutions is usually better than any revolutionary or radical change.

This Bill will consolidate the existing organisations and improve their workings and usage. The people on the streets of Britain want action against organised crime, which concerns them greatly, so they will welcome the employment of the Security Service in the fight against crime. Liberal Democrat opposition to the Bill is but another example of slightly misguided ideology--putting so-called civil liberties before the liberties of all citizens of the United Kingdom, who should be allowed to live their lives and go about their lawful business in freedom and security.

I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to take account of two related concerns. First, the workings of the Security Service must remain covert and secret. Details about operational techniques or individual security officers should not be revealed in open court. We need to protect the weapon--the body--that we want to use against organised crime. Officers will not be operating in uniform; they will be operating covertly.

Secondly, the people who will try to find out details about the service and the techniques will be clever lawyers working for the benefit of clients who may or may not be criminals with powerful, violent organisations behind them. If we want the Security Service--the secret service, as it was called by my constituents aged eight to 11--to remain secure, we must ensure that the law does not undermine that by demanding the identity of security officers.

That matter was raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn. I fully accept his point that accountability is important, but on this occasion the hon. Gentleman and I take different positions. I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary can reassure me that the work of the Security Service will not be undermined or negated by slick, clever, overpaid lawyers.


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