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We had an interesting morning in Committee when we considered clause 29, which deals with persons entitled to grant authorisations under sections 27 and 28--the sections covering directed surveillance and covert surveillance. We were innocuously going through the clause, and when we reached the part that stated that the people with the power would belong to "relevant public authorities", we saw which public authorities were listed.
There were the big boys--the heavy players that we would expect to have powers of directed surveillance and covert surveillance. They are the same as those with which we had dealt earlier, which also have the power of
Perhaps by a little accident, more information began to be revealed. I asked the Minister to reassure me that the sandwich police at the Department of Health would not have those powers. We were all rather amazed when the Minister briefly said that the sandwich police at the Department of Health would indeed have powers of directed surveillance and the use of covert sources.
It was a Thursday morning, and you will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, how bad Thursday mornings are for maximum performance. However, at that point many of us began to wake up and realise that there might be more to the apparently innocuous little clause than met the eye.
We asked the Minister to reassure us that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food vets, and the inspectors who count my farmers' sheep, would not be included under the same clause as the National Criminal Intelligence Service, MI5, MI6 and the big boys. The Minister was forced to tell us that MAFF inspectors were included. We had a long debate in Committee as we tried to tease out what was going on in subsection (4)(h).
There seems to be a breach of normal parliamentary convention. It is acceptable for the Government to include an order-making power in the Bill if the Secretary of State has not decided what the orders will be, or if he knows that he will have to make an order at some future date, but the subject is not yet certain. However, the Government know exactly what they want to cover. The Minister, in his usual courteous and helpful way, followed up the debate in Committee with a letter.
New schedule 2 contains the substance of the letter. At the beginning of it, the Minister mentioned the organisations listed in the clause, including the National Crime Squad, the intelligence services and so on. He mentioned two other Home Office agencies--the Prison Service and the immigration service. He also listed the Department of Social Security, the Inland Revenue and seven different organisations in the Department of Health that required powers of directed surveillance. The latter included one organisation--the welfare foods section--that I omitted from new schedule 2 because it does not need such powers. I should like to hear the Minister's justification for its inclusion.
The list also includes the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, three organisations in the Department of Trade and Industry, three organisations in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and nine organisations in MAFF. We can understand the need to include the Meat Hygiene Service. I used to run the Pesticides Safety Directorate; I therefore understand the reasons for its inclusion. However, my list omits the egg inspectorate. Irrespective of the powers that MAFF, in its wisdom, believes that it needs, the egg inspectorate should not be listed in the same clause as MI5, MI6 and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. I am sure that Edwina Currie would have reached the same conclusion.
Other organisations in MAFF, too, have the power of directed surveillance, and want the Secretary of State to make an order. The Intervention Board for agricultural produce wants that power. The Health and Safety Executive, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial
Thirty-two other agencies of Departments want to be included in subsection (4)(h). The clause currently includes the big boys--that is the best collective name for the police force, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the security services. As soon as we pass the clause that lists them, the Secretary of State will place an order before the House that lists 32 other agencies of Departments, which want the same power as the six big boys.
Why play the game of listing some organisations in the Bill and including the others through order-making procedures? The Government know which organisations they are. The Government claim that they already use the powers for which the clause provides. I accept that the egg inspectorate does not wish to take new, draconian powers. It apparently already has the power to undertake directed surveillance. I was never in charge of the egg inspectorate, so I never used those powers. I used others, but not those.
I appreciate that some of those departments need such powers. They can all probably make a valid argument for having them; it is legitimate to exercise the powers for directed and covert surveillance involving the lion mark for eggs, meat hygiene and all the other valid subjects. I could easily deal with the funny ones, but many important matters are involved, such as serious fraud, veterinary and human medicines and so on. It is legitimate to exercise those powers now and it was apparently legitimate to have them under previous Governments, so let us not be too embarrassed about including them in a schedule.
We should not pretend that under clause 29, only important state agencies such as the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, the police, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ will be given the power to undertake directed and covert surveillance. The Government should have the guts to say that in addition, there are good reasons why other organisations, including the Department of Social Security, the NHS fraud office, NHS Estates, Rampton and Broadmoor high security hospitals, the Radiocommunications Agency, the coal health claims unit, the Environment Agency and the Vehicle Inspectorate should have those powers.
The Government intend to list those bodies. They and the Minister, very decently, have published the list, so let us put it in a schedule and make a clean breast of it. My amendment, which may not be perfectly technically correct, states that the Home Secretary may add more bodies or another Department that is discovered to need such powers. I pay tribute to the Minister for writing to all Departments and trying to winkle them out. They have all been using those powers since the year dot--the coal health claims unit since the last century but one, no doubt. He has tried to pull them together into a comprehensive whole, and has winkled out from them the powers that they have and those that they think they must continue to have.
It would be helpful if those bodies were included in a schedule, together with a power to add others as and when the Home Secretary concludes that another inspectorate of the department of little widgets and big sausages requires such powers as well. There would be no harm in
We know, and the Government know, what they will do the second the Bill is passed. Let us be absolutely honest and up-front. One can mock the egg inspectorate of MAFF. No doubt next week I shall receive a briefing note stating why it must have such draconian powers to inspect our sunny-side-ups. Although it is legitimate to have the powers, if the Minister defends them at the Dispatch Box, as I hope he will, let him say that they will be included in a schedule, both so that everyone can see what they are and why bodies have them, and so that they can be amended easily if necessary.
Mr. Simon Hughes: The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) does the House a service by referring to an issue with which we have dealt three times this year in Home Office legislation. A similar matter arose when we considered the Freedom of Information Bill, which ended up including pages of organisations because someone believed that it was important to set out who was governed by the provisions. When the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill was considered in Committee, the Government were persuaded to include a general duty to promote good race relations, although they decided that it would be useful to include a schedule of public authorities that would be governed by it. The right hon. Gentleman makes the case very well as to which authorities, at least at the starting point of the legislation, are to be governed by the provisions. They know, we know and everyone else knows who they are, but the Government must justify putting them on the list, and if they are embarrassed perhaps that is a reason for particular organisations' being removed from the list. I hope that the Government will respond positively on that.