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Age Discrimination

Mr. Quentin Davies accordingly presented a Bill to make provision in respect of age discrimination: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 20 March, and to be printed [Bill 144].



(1) At the sittings this day and tomorrow the Speaker shall not adjourn the House until any messages from the Lords have been received.
(2) At this day's sitting, in respect of the motion relating to ministerial accountability the Speaker shall forthwith put the questions on the motion and on any amendment which may have been selected and moved; and the questions may be decided, though opposed, after Ten o'clock.
(3) At this day's sitting--
(a) the Speaker shall, at Ten o'clock, put the question on any motion in the name of a Minister of the Crown relating to estimates, and
(b) any Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill ordered to be brought in and read the first time shall be proceeded with as if its Second Reading stood as an Order of the Day, and Standing Order No. 54 (Consolidated Fund Bills) shall apply.
(4) At the sitting tomorrow, in respect of any motion in the name of a Minister of the Crown which relates to tax simplification or a report from a Select Committee, the Speaker shall forthwith put the questions on the motion and on any amendment which may have been selected and moved.
(5) If any Lords Amendment to the Public Entertainments Licences (Drug Misuse) Bill is received at the sitting this day or tomorrow--
(a) it shall be considered forthwith,
(b) the Speaker shall forthwith put the question on any motion which may then be made relating to it, and
(c) the question may be decided, though opposed, after Ten o'clock.
(6) Notwithstanding Standing Orders Nos. 11 and 11A (Fridays) and the Order of 30th October 1996, the House shall sit on Friday 21st March, at Eleven o'clock.--[Mr. Peter Ainsworth.]

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Orders of the Day

Police Bill [Lords]

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Madam Speaker: Before I call the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), I have to tell the House that, in addition to the amendments that I selected earlier today, I have received three manuscript amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley). Those have been distributed. I have selected the first of those amendments, which seeks to leave out lines 27 and 28 on page 56 of the Bill. The amendment will, of course, be taken in its appropriate place, after amendment No. 4.

Clause 2

General functions of the NCIS Service Authority

and NCIS

3.55 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 42, at end insert

(e) the system of justice operating in any country with which it is proposed to offer intelligence or support under subsection (3)(d), and the extent to which it can be assumed that such intelligence or support will be used in accordance with conditions similar to those to which NCIS is subject.'.

The amendment refers to a clause that I have strongly supported--I was among a number of people who argued that it should be introduced. The clause puts the national criminal intelligence service and the national crime squad on a statutory footing, and it sets out the powers and responsibilities of NCIS.

The amendment was tabled because the provisions on co-operating with the intelligence and security services and police forces of other countries are extremely broadly described on the face of the Bill. The Bill refers to NCIS dealing with

I am strongly in support of international co-operation between law enforcement organisations, which is absolutely essential in the fight against international drug trafficking. Indeed, our drug liaison officers who operate, for example, in Holland, work closely with their counterparts in other countries. When they do, however, in Holland or other countries--even in very friendly countries and countries with a similar background--they have to be very careful about how they exchange intelligence, for a number of reasons. That is even more the case, given some of the regimes to which one might imagine the power would extend.

The wording could open the door to co-operation with the most oppressive regimes in the world--those with the most authoritarian and uncontrolled police forces, or with forces that are subject to the control of some element in a deeply divided form of government. It could open the way to intelligence being shared with very insecure

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organisations, whose acquisition of the knowledge from that intelligence could damage our own security and the sources from which the intelligence had come. It could also lead to threats to individuals who are in this country but in whom other Governments have an interest, perhaps because they are fugitives from the politics of that country and might have vulnerable families living there.

All those considerations are familiar to the security organisations, because they have to make judgments about those matters in their existing work and co-operation, but I was worried to find on the face of the Bill a power so broad without any reference to NCIS having an obligation to have regard to international human rights obligations; to the security of the information that it might pass on; or to any other relevant factors.

The amendment follows on from a broader amendment tabled in Committee, but it is much narrower and requires reference to the system of justice in operation

There are a number of international arrangements under which that provision can be met. The Interpol constitution refers to keeping

    "within the spirit of the universal declaration of human rights."

Article 3 of the constitution forbids intervention in the affairs of a member country of a

    "political, military, religious or racial character."

There are other provisions in the Europol arrangements that may help.

It is important that the Minister takes the opportunity to clarify and put on record how we shall ensure that we do not share intelligence in a way that could compromise our security and which would damage the human rights of individuals; that we do not share intelligence with regimes whose use of that intelligence would be oppressive; and that we have regard to all the wider human rights obligations to which I referred. I hope that the Minister will be able to do that.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Timothy Kirkhope): I fully understand the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). The amendment would require the NCIS service authority to have regard to the systems of justice in any country with which NCIS may exchange intelligence and provide support. The service authority would also be required to consider how that intelligence might be used, and to judge that against the controls in place for NCIS.

Those are operational matters, and it would be wholly inappropriate for the service authority to undertake such functions. However, I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman's concern is to ensure that intelligence exchange between NCIS and non-UK law enforcement agencies is subject to appropriate controls. I assure him that that is already the case.

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, I wrote to members of the Standing Committee on 10 March setting out the various controls that already exist for the exchange of information by NCIS. That letter is in the Library.

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I stress that most exchanges of information between law enforcement agencies are through Interpol. The Interpol constitution states that its aims are to

    "promote and facilitate the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws existing in the different countries and within the spirit of the universal declaration of human rights."

In addition, the constitution forbids any intervention in the affairs of a member country of a

    "political, military, religious or racial character."

I also referred in my letter to the exchange of intelligence between NCIS and the countries that host NCIS and Customs and Excise liaison officers. Any such exchanges are in accordance with Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance on the individual country, and at the discretion of individual liaison officers with detailed knowledge of the country involved. Furthermore, any requests received direct from individual law enforcement agencies that give cause for concern are checked as far as is practicable before a response is given. Some requests have been refused, and I outlined some examples in my letter to the Standing Committee.

I cannot go into specific details for operational reasons, but, for example, NCIS has refused to exchange information about individuals who have claimed political asylum. Some countries can prosecute individuals for committing an offence in another country, and allegedly bringing discredit to their sovereign country. NCIS does not pass on information in such circumstances, nor does it pass on information when that may lead to a United Kingdom national facing capital punishment.

I cannot agree to the amendment, because it would require the service authority to become involved, as I said, in operational matters, and it would blur the lines of responsibility between the service authority and the director general. That said, I do of course agree about the need for exchange of information to be subject to some control. However, as I said, that is already the case in NCIS, and it will continue to be so.

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