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Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his response, though I am not too happy with it. It almost feels as though this list has been plucked out of the air. I am extremely grateful for the contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and my noble friends, who have sought to assist me in demonstrating by example the need for this type of amendment.
We needed at least to probe the fact that it does not make sense to include some forms of petrol and diesel distribution, such as distribution by rail, but exclude others, such as distribution by road. Other forms are excluded because of a risk factor. As I pointed out, however, probably one of the places at greatest risk is our Underground, which has been included. The BBC charter states somewhere that it should respond and take part in informing the public through broadcasting in the event of emergencies.
The Bill lacks clarity and it is depressing debating these points. I do not feel that the Minister's responses make sense. It is clear that we will not be able to get an exhaustive list, but that is not really what we are asking for. We are trying to point out some of the key responders that we think should be included in the Bill. Perhaps the Government should give thought to ensuring that at least some form of guidance is published that explains to local authorities and to all involved that the list is not exhaustive.
We need to remember that this legislation will be picked up and referred to in an emergency. It is crucially important that all those who could be responders do not feel that they cannot be involved because they are not listed in the Bill, or that some Minister does not decide that because they are not listed as a category 2 responder it is not appropriate for them to be involved. That is what really concerns us. We keep hearing from the Minister the need to modernise and to be flexible. But what worries me is that we have any list at all. It is almost worse to have a half-hearted and half-baked list, which could cause more confusion than not.
I will not go on, as I know that we are seeking to reach a further point in our deliberations tonight, but I urge the Minister to think deeply about these issues before Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(a) an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in the United Kingdom or in a Part or region,
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(b) an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of the United Kingdom or of a Part or region, or
(c) war, or terrorism, which seriously threatens the security of the United Kingdom."
This new clause relates to Part 2 of the Bill. The Government are very mindful and have a strong desire to ensure that emergency powers cannot be misused. We have looked again at the definition of security and intend to move an amendment to ensure that Clause 19(4) is exhaustive. That would ensure that the use of emergency powers for reasons of security would be possible only in relation to war, including armed conflict or terrorism. That should prevent any suggestion that the powers could be invoked or misused in the name of an unspecified risk of a security or in the face of non-violent civil disobedience. It is therefore unnecessary to include a definition of "security". Amendment No. 93A thus removes the provision.
Amendment No. 167B defines terrorism, with the meaning given in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and war, as including armed conflict for the purposes of Clause 19(1)(c). That is not to say that any outbreak of war or any act of terrorism will constitute an emergency for the purposes of the Bill. But government Amendment No. 86C makes it clear that it is only if war or terrorism threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom that they will constitute an emergency. I hope that that clarification meets the concerns behind Amendment No. 94.
Turning to Amendment No. 96, I know that it has been suggested that disruption to electronic communications, as described in Section 1(2)(e) of the Terrorism Act, should be excluded from the definition, and that any serious disruption to electronic communications may have disastrous results. It could potentially cripple the emergency services and key service providers, not to mention the banks. We believe that it is appropriate that emergency powers may be available to restore such services, if needed, and to mitigate the effects.
Such a disruption could be as a result of terrorism action within the meaning of Section 1(2)(e) of the Terrorism Act. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, pointed out during the first Committee day, we live in an electronic society, in which the destruction of key records held by government, the public sector and business could cause an enormous amount of inconvenience and difficulty for our citizens in their everyday lives. At that stage, the noble Lord also pointed out that a deliberately launched virus could result in such disruption. There was force in what he said on that occasion.
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The definition of terrorism in the Terrorism Act is designed to cover all aspects of terrorism. It was approved by Parliament. To remove any part of that definition would be illogical at this stage, and certainly inconsistent with the wider counter-terrorism strategy. I hope that what I have said to support government Amendments Nos. 86C, 93A and 167B allows me to resist Amendments Nos. 94 and 96, and will obviate the need for Opposition Peers to press them.
Lord McNally: I do not want to disappoint the Minister too much but, as this is the start of Part 2, it is worth explaining why we have tabled amendments throughout that part. I do not include the Minister in this attack, but the Liberal Democrats have got used to taking stands on various parts of the legislation that has come through over the past few years on crime and terrorism, and later when we get to the excitement of the hustings in by-elections or various speeches to conferences. The fact that we make Ministers clear high hurdles to get new powers is then termed as meaning that we are soft on crime or terrorism. That is part of the hurly-burly of politics. Like Kipling, I am used to seeing the truths that I have spoken:
As the Minister is aware, there is concern about the nature of the emergency powers asked for in the Bill. It is incumbent on us to make sure that the Bill is drafted as tightly as possible. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, has been assiduous in that as well. Where there is a general definition, she has insisted on a precise definition. Where there are broad and sweeping powers or lengthy times, Ministers have been forced to explain and justify them. That is the responsibility of opposition, and also of Parliament with this legislation.
I hear what the Minister says in introducing the amendment. I will probably incur the wrath of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in saying it, but I am worried that we get too bedazzled by new technologies and bow down to them. The words that the Minister used"disruption", "inconvenience" and "difficulty"were interesting. Mere disruption, inconvenience or difficulty should not trigger powers as wide and all-encompassing as are given to the Government in the Bill. Therefore at each stage, as with the amendment, we will make Ministers explain why in each set of circumstances they need the powers.
Ministers have to go beyond mere disruption, inconvenience or difficulty. We support the pre- legislative Joint Committee that talked in terms of a threat to human welfare. Obviously, the threat to human welfare can be consequential to acts that are not initially directly a threat, but will bring threats to human welfare in their train. But we do not want the trip wire that triggers these powers to be too easily
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removed. I do not doubt the good will of Ministers, but one has only to read history: the massive powers that President Johnson took to escalate the Vietnam war were based on the "Tonkin incident"an alleged attack on an American ship that never took place. But that government were then able to extend their powers in terms of the war.
It is extremely important that, as we debate Part 2, we ensure the trip wire is not too loose and that the hurdles the Government have to clear to justify them are not set too low. We are willing to take the risk of being misrepresented in that we will be probing Part 2 deeplynot just regarding these amendments. I heard the Minister's comments and will not press the amendments, but I hope that our reasoning and our approach is clear as we go through Part 2.
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