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Mr. Ashby: In my hon. Friend's reference to a slick, clever, overpaid lawyer, does he mean a lawyer who gets an innocent man acquitted or a guilty man convicted?

Mr. Robathan: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who, as a lawyer, is right on cue. Indeed, he obviously has personal experience of the issue. I do not think that any hon. Member would want innocent people to be convicted, but many in this House, as well as many people less insulated from the workings of society, are concerned that our criminal justice

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system enables barristers to be paid so much money that they work to obtain acquittals for clients who, in their hearts, they believe might be guilty.

Mr. Ashby: Those barristers get £180 a day.

Mr. Robathan: Apparently, the poor barristers get only £180 a day. However, I have met one or two who earn a great deal more than a quarter of a million pounds a year. Perhaps they have obtained acquittals for one or two guilty men.

I welcome the Bill, which I believe will play a valuable role in the fight against organised crime. It will be welcomed by everyone in the country except criminals, organised crime syndicates and, perhaps, Liberal Democrats.

6.3 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): I am glad to have the opportunity to say that I accept that there is a useful role for the Security Service in assisting in the fight against organised crime. Our amendment sets out the ways in which we believe the Bill does not satisfy that objective. It almost exactly parallels the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which I hope the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) will read. It explains why we think that the Bill should have been cast in a different way.

Another danger arising not just from the hon. Gentleman's speech but from some other speeches is that we might create expectations that the proposed changes cannot satisfy. It will be of no service to those who work in MI5 to create expectations that cannot reasonably be satisfied.

My assumption is that the numbers of staff initially made available will be very small, so that the number of inquiries in which they can be involved must also be very small. Perhaps only a bare handful of inquiries will be undertaken at any one time. We must not lead people to expect that the massive problems of drug trafficking, violent crime, international criminal organisations and all manner of other offences--even prostitution, which the hon. Member for Blaby mentioned--can be significantly tackled by such a small number of people.

The suggestion by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, in response to Dame Stella Rimington, the Director-General of the Security Service, was that the analytical skills of the Security Service could be brought to bear in cracking some of the criminal syndicates. It could usefully supplement the capacity of the police if those skills were brought to bear in an appropriate way. However, I do not believe that the Bill will secure that. It does not match the intentions described by the Home Secretary today.

To some extent, I was reassured by what the Home Secretary said he sought to do through the Bill. However, as he said it, I was reminded of a remark by the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in another context--that, having taken a Bill to a Special Standing Committee where it was examined in a more inquisitorial way, he quickly discovered that it did not meet the purposes for which it had been drafted, and even with amendment could not be made to meet those purposes. Ministers sometimes set out their intentions but then find that a Bill does not meet them.

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If the Security Service is to use the capacity that I have described in support of the law enforcement agencies, it must be on a tasked basis. That is how the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ currently support law enforcement internationally. They are asked to do certain things to back up the attempt to crack international drug smuggling or to locate organised gangs trying to commit crimes. They set about those tasks and then provide the authorities concerned with helpful intelligence that can be acted upon.

The Bill does not provide such a procedure for Security Service involvement in the fight against organised crime. The police lead is not specified in the Bill. I would be much happier if it were made clear in the Bill, as the Committee suggested in its report, that the work must be in support of the law enforcement agencies. If we do not get that right, we run the risk of undermining the authority and confidence of the police.

The Bill does not deal with the present differences in the way that the Security Service operates. Its director-general has a responsibility to interpret the remit of the service and to decide the priorities, in a way that does not apply to the directors of the other two services in the area. They are tasked by Departments to do certain things.

The Security Service has a unique responsibility to consider the matters within its remit and assess the extent to which they represent a threat to the security of the state or the economic well-being of the country, and then to take appropriate action. The service reports to the Home Secretary on that action, but the tasking responsibility lies with the service. If we imported that procedure into the work of the Security Service as it relates to the police and organised crime, it would not fit with what the Home Secretary envisaged in his description--it would be a very different structure indeed.

Theoretically, if the Security Service were to operate on the same basis as it does in other areas, it would decide whether the priority was gang warfare in Manchester, for example, and then deal with it independently--whether or not the chief constable of Manchester thought that it was the highest priority or that it was not currently being sufficiently tackled by the resources available to him.

Mr. Rogers: As I understood the Home Secretary, he said that the Security Service, in its envisaged role, would be tasked by the National Criminal Intelligence Service. I realise the implications of that, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman did cite a precise tasking master.

Mr. Beith: I was pleased to hear the Home Secretary use those words, but the NCIS is not mentioned in the Bill. Indeed, the notion that the Security Service will be tasked by anybody is not mentioned in the Bill. The parent Act gives the Security Service the responsibility to assess for itself where the threat lies and where to deploy its resources.

My experience as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, albeit for only a short time, is that the services work to their statutory remits and that they are different. The culture of the services that have a tasked relationship with customers--that is, the SIS and GCHQ--is different from that of the Security Service. It is the direct and proper result of the fact that the statutes are framed differently.

The Home Secretary's civil servants--perhaps for ease of drafting--have simply hung the change that he wants to make on the peg of the existing remit. The Intelligence

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and Security Committee sought to explain why that would not work unless the remit was restricted in some way. Unless it is made clear that the work has to be undertaken in support of the law enforcement agencies and with their consent, it will import an inappropriate new kind of self-tasking into the fight against organised crime, which in no way corresponds with what the Home Secretary says that he is seeking to do.

My concern is further underlined by the way in which the Bill is drafted in respect of the co-ordination between the Security Service and the police. The Director-General of the Security Service is told, as it were, to write the rules for co-ordination between the Security Service and the police. The Bill casts on the director-general the responsibility for ensuring that arrangements for co-ordination are in place. A strange back-door way of specifying that co-ordination should exist has been found.

It is not adequate to let--in effect--the Security Service write its own rules. I do not say that because I think that it will do so in any improperly motivated way. I just do not think that it is a sensible way to do it. We do not give the police such responsibility. We do not tell them that it is their job to arrange co-ordination with the local community. We enact provision for police authorities. We enact the main features of the relationship between the police and the rest of the community, and we should do the same with the Security Service.

The rules which are to be set up for co-ordination are not subject to approval by anybody. They are not the subject of a statutory instrument which comes before the House, nor do they have to go before the Intelligence and Security Committee. Once the director-general is satisfied that arrangements exist, the machine can start and roll into effect. Her or his decision that the arrangements are in place is sufficient to start the clock, which is not satisfactory.

A further weakness in the Bill is that there is no national structure into which all the proposals are being plugged. The National Criminal Intelligence Service is not mentioned in the Bill. The police national squad is still a creature of Government speculation and imagination rather than reality. The Prime Minister set out the idea in his speech but, as I quoted earlier, the Scottish Office said that the feasibility of the idea--the principle of it--was still being examined so far as it affected Scotland.

We are being invited to grant the Security Service the right to a relationship with a police national structure which might exist in a year's time. It might be UK-wide; it might just affect England and Wales. It is not clear.


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