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Lord Renton: I am relieved to know that this is only a probing amendment because it is defective. It refers to the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1993, but in fact it was passed in 1994. I say with respect that, in any event, the idea of having a police authority imposed upon the machinery already envisaged under the Bill is utterly inappropriate. In Section 4 of the 1994 Act, which amends the 1964 Act, the noble Lord will see
Baroness Blatch: Again, I understand the noble Lord's desire for the work of the Security Service in pursuit of its new function to be accountable, but this amendment seems to be a very strange way to pursue that aim. In any case, I believe that the present accountability arrangements governing the work of the Security Service are highly effective.
The amendment proposes that there should be a special police authority to oversee the co-ordination arrangements which will govern the Security Service's support for the law enforcement agencies. By way of clarification, it refers to the relevant functions under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act, whether 1993 or 1994. I am at a loss to see how the functions under that Act would be relevant. The primary objective of a police authority is to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force. In doing so, the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act refers to the police authority's duty to set objectives in consultation with the chief constable and local people and to issue local policing plans and annual reports. Those functions are all appropriate to maintaining a police force with an essentially local focus. They do not seem appropriate to the work of the Security Service.
The Security Service is a different type of organisation and it has its own systems of accountability. Ultimately, the Security Service is accountable to the Home Secretary, through the Director General. By way of independent oversight, we have established the Intelligence and Security Committee, a committee of distinguished parliamentarians including my noble friend Lord Blaker, who represents your Lordships' House. The ISC will certainly be able to oversee the Security Service's new function.
Under the new function, the Security Service will be supporting police forces and law enforcement agencies. All police forces are accountable to their own police authority and organisations like Customs and Excise have their own accountability arrangements. I do not think it would be appropriate for there to be a new police authority duplicating these existing accountability arrangements for occasions when the Security Service is supporting a law enforcement agency in pursuance of its new function.
The other key organisations in the Security Service's new role is of course NCIS. The co-ordination arrangements will have to be agreed with the Director General of NCIS, as the designated chief officer, and NCIS will perform a central role in co-ordinating the contributions of the various agencies. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may have views on the accountability arrangements which would be appropriate for NCIS but, I fear, this is not the occasion to pursue them.
It is the Government's firm intention to bring forward legislation placing NCIS on a clear statutory footing, with greater independence from the Home Office. I assure the Committee that we shall address the issue of oversight arrangements as an integral part of that legislation and we are aware of the need for public
In the meantime, we want to ensure that the co-ordination arrangements which will govern the Security Service's new role are not unduly bureaucratic and do not stifle operational effectiveness. The arrangements will cover practical issues such as mechanisms for ensuring the visibility of Security Service operations; mechanisms for sharing information; and the role of groups such as the Drugs Trafficking Strategy Group. This does not justify the setting up of a new police authority in an oversight role. It would be cumbersome and inappropriate. Instead we should rely on the existing accountability arrangements, which are tailored to the needs of each organisation. In the case of NCIS we have given clear commitments that we will place the organisation on a statutory footing with revised oversight arrangements and therefore I ask the noble Lord to avoid pre-empting that piece of legislation now.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: The noble Baroness referred to placing the National Criminal Intelligence Service on a statutory basis. As she is aware, a number of us have expressed regret during our debates this afternoon that that is not being done in this Bill. I wonder whether there is any possibility of the Government reconsidering this matter because it would relieve a number of us of our anxieties in that regard.
We heard what the noble Baroness said about the Director-General of NCIS being the former chief officer who will be appointed to the role which had been referred to by the Home Secretary. But it would be far better to deal with NCIS and place it on a statutory footing in this Bill. I still wonder whether it is possible to do that on Report or at Third Reading.
The noble Baroness has told us on a number of occasions that the Government will be bringing forward their proposals. But the difficulty is that the new Session of Parliament will begin in October or November of this year and the Government will then have a life of, at the most, five months to put through the legislation. The Minister refers to a package of measures but, as she will know, a part of that package of measures is highly controversial. The prospect of such legislation reaching the statute book, unless this issue is dealt with in isolation, is remote in the extreme. Why is that issue not dealt with in this Bill?
Baroness Blatch: At the risk of being repetitive, because I have said this a number of times this afternoon, discussions are continuing with all the relevant agencies involved with this matter. However desirable it might have been--and I have said that it would have been desirable--to deal with the matter in this Bill, it is inappropriate to deal with such an important matter by amendment at this late stage in the progress of the Bill. It has already passed through another place and is now completing its Committee stage in this Chamber. Therefore, only two stages remain. I believe that it would be a mistake to introduce
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Minister really confirms all that I was saying and all that I have been thinking about this issue. Clearly with an amendment of this kind to this Bill as drafted, I could do nothing other than propose a special body which will have the functions referred to in Clause 1.
Equally clearly, if the designated person is to be the director of NCIS then the work of the National Criminal Intelligence Service will be subject to the same police authority. But since it does not exist, I could not propose that in an amendment.
The Minister seeks to make a point about the fact that some of the functions under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994--and I acknowledge with thanks the correction of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, are not appropriate to this purpose. I did not say that they were. The amendment refers to the "relevant functions" under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act.
We are in a difficulty which is entirely of the Government's making. Because they have not been able to prepare the legislation which surrounds this Bill and makes it make sense, we cannot consider even the most modest provisions of this little Bill in the way that we should if that legislation were before Parliament. For that reason, of course my amendment is very limited and does not do all that we would wish it to. But the acknowledgement by the Home Secretary, confirmed by the Minister today, that there will have to be a police authority of some kind when the statutory basis for NCIS is legislated for is welcome. I hope that it is clear that that will include the functions that are laid down in Clause 1. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In dealing with Clause 2, we come down to earth with a bump because we are now concerned with one of the very many practical issues which will arise from the implementation of Clause 1; that is, the issue of warrants. If it is of any comfort to the Government, the complexity of the arrangements for warrants confirms the difficulty which I can see that they are experiencing in drafting legislation to deal with the other issues which are raised by Clause 1.
When we deal with warrants we are in a very difficult situation indeed. It is proposed that the existing warrants used by the Security Service, which are property warrants and interception warrants, which at present cannot cover action in relation to property in the British Isles shall be permitted for the Intelligence Service and
That raises two very important questions which the legislation shies away from. The first issue is in relation to what is the present statutory basis for the use of interception warrants by the police. When this matter was debated in Committee in the other place, it was clear that there was a considerable amount of embarrassment on the part of the Minister concerned because he could not define the statutory basis for the use of interception warrants used by the police. It is quite clear that they are used. However, because of a lack of statutory justification, there is the possibility that a policeman using an interception warrant--bugging, in other words--could be subject to prosecution or pursuit on a civil trespass. Clearly something has to be done to provide a statutory basis for the powers which the police have, although they do not necessarily use them on a statutory basis.
That is not the case for property warrants where the police have to have a judicial trigger. They have to apply to a magistrate, or under certain circumstances to the High Court, to obtain a property warrant. What the Government are proposing in this Bill is a rather curious approach. Instead of rationalising and justifying the police powers--which is what would surely be the right way to approach the matter because that way Parliament and the people would know what the powers of interception and property warrants are--the Government are proposing to provide a statutory basis for interception and property warrants on the part of the Security Service, not in line with police powers but in line with the existing Security Service powers as they apply outside the British islands or the United Kingdom. That raises huge problems because there is no judicial trigger; there is only an executive trigger in the sense that the warrant is granted by the Secretary of State rather than by the judiciary. That immediately raises questions of the propriety, in civil liberties terms, of having the Executive able to authorise bugging by persons necessarily unknown in a way that the police are not able to do.
Therefore, there are two issues that we have to face. First, is there in Clause 2 an extension of the powers of anyone--the police, the Security Service or anyone else--to bug and to plant bugs in the homes, places of work or wherever of the people of this country? If that is the case at the very least we ought to know about it and the extent to which it is proposed that it should happen and we ought to know what safeguards are proposed. Secondly, does the wording of this clause raise the possibility of powers, as between the police and the Security Service, which are inconsistent? In other words, do they have powers of investigation, of bugging and of access to property in pursuit of the same case of detection or prevention of serious crime which are different from each other? If that is the case, I should have thought there is something rather seriously wrong. The issue of whether these powers are being exercised differently by different people or whether there are different powers being exercised by different people
I apologise to the Committee for being able to raise this matter only on a clause stand part debate. I know that in the House of Commons it is always considered possible to have new clauses which raise completely new issues. If I possibly can I prefer to amend the wording of the Bill in order to improve the effect of the Bill. Any Member of the Committee who looks at Clause 2 will realise how difficult it is to change the wording when it is itself an amendment to the Intelligence Services Act 1994.
What we want from Clause 2 is an assurance that the security services have no powers which are not available to the police and that there is congruity between the powers available to the police and those available to the Security Service. If that means a better statutory basis for police powers, so be it. We want an assurance, above all, that we are not, by the back-door and by inference rather than by deliberate legislation, extending the powers of the law enforcement agencies to plant bugs in any of our homes or places of work, or indeed to extend the powers of property warrants. I am not saying that there are not circumstances in which the people and Parliament might not give those powers, but they ought to do so explicitly, clearly and knowing what is involved. Clause 2 does not provide that. It does not provide any answers to those important and difficult questions. I suggest to the Committee that unless the Government have some clear and new answers to those problems, Clause 2 ought not to stand part of the Bill.
Lord Campbell of Croy: As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, pointed out, I raised a subject connected with warrants on his Amendment No. 2 because I was keen to make sure I did not miss an opportunity to do so. Of course I did not know what particular point or points the noble Lord was going to raise in his proposal to remove Clause 2 altogether. I wish simply to add to what I said earlier.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is, of course, referring particularly to property warrants, which are the important ones in this Bill. I was referring to the warrants which have been issued over many years to police, as well as to the Security Service, for telephone tapping and interception of postal communications. I made reference to the latest report from the commissioner, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, who was present a few moments ago. His report of 1995 was issued only last week. The incidents which he reports on concern only telecommunications and letters. He provides figures in the summary at the end of his report. He lists interceptions only in the categories of telecommunications and letters. A total is given for the two categories.
As far as I know--I am sure this is the case--the noble and learned Lord does not report on what are known as bugging incidents; that is, the surreptitious placing of eavesdropping devices in premises to enable conversations to be overheard from a distance, night and
The report which I am discussing is issued every year. I have just referred to the most recent edition. As far as I can see, it does not deal with bugging; that simply is not mentioned in the report at all. It is an area which needs considerable, careful consideration, clarification and, if necessary, legislation. At Second Reading, my noble friend indicated that the issue would be dealt with at the next stage of the legislation.
I have assumed that bugs are an important part as regards property warrants. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the Committee stage in another place. It did not become clear whether bugs were used already by the police under administrative arrangements. As I said earlier, the interception of telephone communications has been authorised and accepted by Parliament, to my knowledge for at least 30 years. As Secretary of State, I was signing warrants, or withholding my signature, nearly 30 years ago. Therefore that situation has been accepted. It seems strange that that aspect should have been regularised in such intimate detail. Yet nothing has so far been done about placing eavesdropping devices in premises.
I simply speak further on a subject which I raised briefly on Amendment No. 2. It is an important matter to which an eminent member of the judiciary drew attention in recent days.
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