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National Security Bill

Volume 826: debated on Wednesday 18 January 2023

Committee (5th Day) (Continued)

Clause 89 agreed.

Amendment 112

Moved by

112: After Clause 89, insert the following new Clause—

“Report on actions taken in response to the ISC report on RussiaWithin six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report on the effect of the action taken by the Government in response to the recommendations of the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament on Russia (HC 632 of Session 2019–21).”Member's explanatory statement

This new Clause requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the actions the Government has taken in response to the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee on Russia.

My Lords, I move Amendment 112 and will also speak to Amendment 118. I will introduce the amendments, but my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire will also speak on this group. Amendment 118 is a probing amendment designed to be helpful for the Government and to allow the Minister to inform the Committee about what their views are on the interaction of the Bill—what will be the National Security Act—and the work of the highly regarded Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. In many respects, it makes absolute sense for the provisions under the Bill to fall within the oversight and scrutiny of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Obviously, as it is a parliamentary committee, and because of its remit, there are ways that it will interact with the Bill, but I would be grateful to know whether the Government would support that.

Amendment 112 links to what was a remarkably prescient report from 2020. When I re-read the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee report on Russia before Committee, I found that it highlighted in an almost spooky way many of the practices and approaches of Russia that have come to bear, a year on since the aggression against Ukraine. The amendment seeks for there to be an update from the Government, not just as a response to the recommendations of the committee, which were provided in July 2020 and which I read with interest, but on the ongoing actions as a result. The report had a mixture of seeking clarifications and seeking action, so I would be grateful to know where the Government are with some of the recommendations.

It was interesting to note that the committee report sought clarity on the overseeing of the strategic direction and co-ordination by the National Security Council. It has been re-shaped twice in recent months: Liz Truss got rid of it and changed its operation into a standardised Cabinet sub-committee; I understand that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has now restored it to what it was previously, but this is an opportunity on the record for the Minister to state exactly what the National Security Council is, how it is composed, and how it will interact with the implementation of the Bill. If he wishes to write to me on that point rather than respond today, I would be very happy.

The committee report highlighted in particular some issues directly linked with the Bill on the powers of the Electoral Commission, as we have discussed previously in Committee. We still believe very strongly that the committee’s recommendations on enhancing the powers of the Electoral Commission are valid, and an update on the Government’s position on that would be helpful. The committee also asked for action to be taken on election material and digital imprints; there has been considerable debate about this, but it would be useful to know how that will be operational. The committee also asked for protocol on social media providers, when it comes to hostile state acts. That was one of the areas where the Government noted the recommendations, but I would be grateful to know what action has been taken.

Finally—I know that my noble friend will be referencing this—the committee went into some detail scrutinising illicit finance and the fact that London has been a laundromat. It highlighted some areas that would be needed for action, notwithstanding that it was positive that the Government, in some respects, have brought forward this legislation in response to the ISC’s report. But there are still unanswered questions with regard to how we are operationalising the need to reduce the scope for illicit finance. Now we have economic crime Bill No. 2: the Government dragged their feet somewhat in bringing the first economic crime Bill to us, but we have the first and the second.

I want give one statistic which is illustrative of what I and certainly my noble friend have been highlighting for a number of years regarding the scale of the issue in London. All along the way, the Government said that we were overestimating the impact of illicit finance, not just from Russia but particularly from Russia. I have debated with the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, all the Russian sanctions that were put forward. I have welcomed them all, and in some respects they have not gone fast enough, but we have worked together collegiately across all Benches, including the Labour Party. The statistic that I have seen, which the Government published in their anti-corruption work, was that the amount of Russian money in September 2021 that was frozen— not seized—was £44.5 million. That is a substantial sum of course, but we felt that there was more illicit finance operating through London. The most recent figures, since sanctions have been put in place against Russia over the last year, show that that figure is now £18 billion. The gap between £44.5 million and £18 billion highlights the scale of the issue that we were warning against; the Government say that those warnings were unnecessary.

I do not expect the Minister to have any of the details to hand, and I would be grateful if he would write to me giving more information and a breakdown of the difference between the £44.5 million and the £18 billion. That is a colossal sum of money. The Government have found a reason to freeze, as a result of the Russian aggression, assets in London, but that is a very clear example of why there is more to know about the extent of illicit finance through London, and I will be grateful if the Minister will provide more information about that. I beg to move.

My Lords, my name is on Amendment 113, and I commend the intentions of the amendments put down by colleagues on the Labour Benches.

What we are talking about here is how we alert the public to the nature of the threat. The Security Minister in the Commons indeed said that one of his greatest concerns in approaching this Bill was to make the public aware of the threats which we face. In the Minister’s absence, one of his colleagues on the Bench, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, said that the overriding purpose of several clauses in the Bill is to convey a message. He said that this is above all a declaratory Bill, rather than a Bill which actually intends to do things, but these amendments are about the Government failing to send a message and, indeed, preferring not to talk about some of the threats which we face. After all, the Bill should alert us not only to the nature of the threats but to where those threats are most likely to come from. I note that the Minister said very little about Russia and not that much about China, North Korea or Iran but did his best to defend the idea that what we regard as friendly foreign powers should be included in our potential concept of threats, as if the message of this Bill should be “Beware of foreigners, particularly those associated with Governments whether democratic or not”. I hope that is not the intention of the Bill, but that is what it looks like at present.

The ISC report states very clearly that there are a number of threats—of course it is concerned with Russia —and that

“it is … the Committee’s view that the UK Intelligence Community should produce an … assessment of potential Russian interference in the EU referendum and that an unclassified summary of it be published”.

The Government have refused to do that, and the only statement in their response about why not is that they have received no evidence of successful interference in British politics, which means that they are aware of a whole range of attempts to interfere in British politics. It might be quite helpful to inform political parties and the public about what those could be.

The Government’s July 2020 response to the ISC’s Russia report is very interesting in a range of ways. It has a section which it entitles

“Defending UK Democracy from Foreign Interference”

and flags up the new defending democracy programme, which was established in 2020, about which, so far, Parliament has been told remarkably little. The Security Minister made a speech about it some weeks ago which was not that much more informative, but he assured us that the defending democracy task force had held its first meeting in November last year, two years after July 2020. I think it would be helpful in informing and alerting the public if we were all told a little more about the defending democracy programme and the defending democracy task force.

The Government’s response goes on to state:

“The Committee will also be aware that … the Government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election.”

The public were not told about that very much either. We all understand that this is mainly because the interference was towards the Conservative Party and the Conservative Party has many links with Russia, Conservative Friends of Russia and so on, which it prefers not to spell out, which may be partly why we are talking about so many other different countries. We remember Boris Johnson’s attempt as Prime Minister to hobble the Intelligence and Security Committee. Thankfully, that has now passed, but the issue of foreign interference in UK politics and public life is an important part of what we are focusing on and should receive more attention.

I have on a number of occasions in recent years argued for a proper review of the golden visa scheme—the tier 1 investor scheme. The Government finally closed it last year and promised to conduct a review. Instead of publishing that review, we had a Written Statement on 12 January 2023 with which the Minister will be familiar because the Statement to this House is in his name. It has no reference to national security risks under this programme. It talks entirely about illicit finance and criminal effects, and in a short two pages it says really very little about the problem as a whole. It states:

“The route attracted a disproportionate number of applicants from the countries identified in the UK’s National Risk Assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing 2020 as particularly relevant to the cross-border money laundering risks faced and posed by the UK.”

The Statement does not say, as the Wikipedia entry on Ben Elliot says, that Ben Elliot raised £2 million in and around the 2019 general election from Russians resident in Britain who were close to the Putin regime. That is something which ought to concern us and about which the Government certainly ought to have been a great deal more concerned. The ISC Russia report indeed talks about the growth of a community of “enablers” in London to service the Russians who had penetrated British political and public life. Ben Elliot’s company, Quintessentially, was one of the leading aspects of this and declared that it specialised in servicing Russian clients.

I stress this not simply to raise a particular name but, after all, he was co-chairman of the Conservative Party—with James Cleverly, the current Foreign Secretary—for 18 months, so we are getting fairly close in to influence and interference here with someone who was described as the Tories’ main fundraiser. Much of this was informal, of course, but the Bill talks a great deal about informal arrangements.

These amendments ask for proper information to Parliament, a stronger role for the Intelligence and Security Committee—which the last Prime Minister but one attempted so ignobly to cut down—and the publication of the review of the golden visa scheme so that we can understand just how far these people penetrated into British public and political life. I remind the Minister that the ISC Russia report says at one point that the penetration of rich Russians into British society and public life had gone so far that it was difficult to disentangle and that we now had to be concerned to mitigate those risks rather than to remove them.

All that the Government say on illicit finance and money laundering in their response to the ISC Russia report is:

“The Government agrees that the transparency of information about political donations is important.”

They then go on to talk about links to Members of the House of Lords. They say nothing about the duties of political parties to ensure that they know where they are getting donations from. No doubt we will come back to this before and during Report.

There are a number of holes in what needs to be done in the Bill to make sure that we strengthen our national security against foreign interference. I trust that the Minister will have some good answers and will come back to us off the Floor to discuss some of these concerns further.

My Lords, I will speak primarily to my Amendment 120A but I thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for his Amendment 112, signed by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, which raises some extremely important points around the Russia report published by the ISC in 2020 and the frustration that many of its recommendations either have not been implemented yet or simply will not be implemented by the Government. It would be helpful for the Committee and for us all to know the Government’s intention with respect to all that. As the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Wallace, said, many important points were raised and it would be interesting to see the Government’s view on that. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and Amendment 113, some very important points were made about tier 1 visas, where all that has got to and what progress we have made.

Amendment 116 from my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, which has been referred to in passing by other Members of the Committee, deals with reporting on disinformation originating from foreign powers. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, who referred to the issue of how far this country is witnessing attacks from foreign powers that wish to pollute and infect our system, whether businesses or our electoral system. It would be interesting for us to know the extent of that and what the Government are doing about it—as far as the Minister can say within the constraints of this.

It is a question worth asking, because one of the things I think the public want to know is who is responsible for co-ordinating the activity across government to ensure that our country is protected. Is it MI5? Is it GCHQ? Is it the various security parts of different departments? Who brings all that together? I think it is legitimate and does not compromise national security in any way to ask who is responsible for that. How is the activity co-ordinated between a national level, a regional level and a local level? The integrity of all our databases requires action not only in Westminster but in a rural village in the middle of nowhere. Those are legitimate questions, and I think the public would like to know about that.

What is the Government’s view of how far they can inform the public of the threat, in so far as the public can then help with respect to maintaining their own security and, by doing so, that of our country? That was the purpose of Amendment 116. It is obviously a probing amendment, but it seeks to understand something about the scale of the threat we are facing regarding this information and what can be done about it.

My Amendment 120A—which I should say at the outset is supported by my noble friend Lord West, who for personal reasons is unable to be with us, and, as I understand it, by the ISC—would require the Government to revise the memorandum of understanding between the Prime Minister and the Intelligence and Security Committee to reflect any changes to the intelligence and security activities undertaken by the Government as a result of this Bill. In other words, it seeks to update the ISC’s remit to ensure that it has the power to effectively scrutinise intelligence and security activity that will be taking place across government under this new national security regime.

Alongside the Justice and Security Act 2013, the ISC’s Mo outlines, among other areas, the ISC’s remit and the organisations that it oversees. This includes the expenditure administration policy on operations of the agencies, as well as several organisations that form part of the intelligence community. The Bill modernises the offence of espionage and creates a suite of new tools for the intelligence community and law enforcement to defend the UK against state threats.

Given the national security focus of the new regime, the ISC already has the remit to oversee much of the intelligence and security work that will take place. Nevertheless, as stated in the ISC’s most recent annual report, published in December 2022, intelligence and security activities are increasingly being undertaken by a wider collection of government departments, including those that generally do not carry out national security-related activity, such as BEIS, DCMS and DfT. Those teams are not covered by the ISC’s MoU, which therefore could be said to be out of date. It urgently needs updating, since effective oversight of intelligence and security matters has, to an extent, been eroded. If the Government continue with this trend, and establish new teams as part of this Bill that sit outside the ISC’s remit, then this amendment would ensure that the ISC’s MoU was updated accordingly.

The amendment is therefore important. It would help to reverse the increasingly large gap that has emerged in Parliament’s ability to effectively oversee intelligence and security activity. These concerns have been raised repeatedly in this Chamber and in the other place, particularly during Parliament’s considerations of the National Security and Investment Act 2021 and the Telecommunications (Security) Act of the same year. Effective oversight of intelligence and security matters can be undertaken only by the ISC, which, as the Minister will know, unlike other Select Committees has the security infrastructure to scrutinise classified material, such as intelligence, that often underpins decisions on national security. In theory, members of the Select Committee may be given sight of sensitive information but they do not have the appropriate office equipment or the cleared staff for reviewing such information, or indeed the security clearance themselves.

The Government provided a clear undertaking to Parliament during the passage of the Justice and Security Act 2013 when the then Security Minister told Parliament of

“the intention of the Government that the ISC should have oversight of substantively all of central Government’s intelligence and security activities to be realised now and in the future.”—[Official Report, Commons, Justice and Security Bill Committee, 31/1/13; col. 98.]

The Security Minister at the time made it clear that the ISC’s MoU was designed to be a document that could be updated where necessary to reflect changes in the defence, intelligence and security architecture.

Unfortunately, the National Security and Investment Act 2021 and the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 showed the Government’s failure to recognise that commitment and to appreciate the importance of such oversight. There have been repeated attempts to provide the ISC with these oversight provisions to cover these recent bits of legislation, with new teams being created, but so far there has been no progress with respect to the Government. The Government have refused so far to update the committee’s MoU.

The issue of the committee’s statutory remit has been raised with the National Security Adviser on several occasions. At a meeting in January 2022 the then National Security Adviser relayed the Government’s position that they did not feel bound by the statements made by the then Security Minister during the passage of the Justice and Security Act. In its most recent annual report, the ISC said:

“We are deeply disappointed and concerned that the Government has taken this view, and is therefore actively avoiding the effective scrutiny by Parliament of national security issues across Government. The absence of proper scrutiny, which can only be carried out by the ISC, is genuinely troubling”—

hence the amendment that I felt it necessary to bring to the Committee.

With that stinging criticism of the Government, I say to them: is it not the case that they should, at the very least, be considering updating the ISC’s MoU to reflect what the ISC itself has said? Should they not ensure that the body that was set up by this Parliament to give Parliament, as far as it possibly could, some sort of parliamentary oversight of the intelligence and security matters as they face our country, has the proper MoU for that to happen? I would be grateful to hear the Minister’s response to that and what he has to say on my Amendment 120A.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords very much for contributing to this relatively short debate. Let me first address Amendments 112, 117 and 120A.

Amendments 112 and 117 seek to impose on the Secretary of State a duty to implement the recommendations of the ISC’s report on Russia and to produce a report setting out the action taken. The Committee will already be aware that the Government published their response to the Russia report on the same day that the report itself was published, 21 July 2020. All the recommendations that could be identified within the report were addressed.

On the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, a majority of the ISC’s recommendations had already been implemented by the Government before the report was published: for example, those covering co-ordination of government work on Russia, close working with international partners, and continued exposition and attribution of malign Russian activity. The then Home Secretary reiterated this in a Statement made in the other place on 17 January 2022. I also say that there is ongoing engagement with the committee on these recommendations. The Bill is itself a part of that response, by introducing effective new tools and powers for the police, and security and intelligence agencies, to use against the sophisticated range of threats and actors that we face in the modern day.

I turn to Amendment 118, explained by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, as a probing amendment. Section 3(2) of the Justice and Security Act already provides, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has just noted, for the ISC to make reports

“as it considers appropriate concerning any aspect of its functions.”

This provides the ISC with the ability to report on aspects of the Bill which fall within its remit. Furthermore, the amendment as proposed might be taken to imply that the ISC requires explicit legislative nomination to conduct oversight work on a relevant area of security and intelligence policy. The Government therefore cannot support this amendment.

Amendment 120A seeks to mandate the Prime Minister to update the memorandum of understanding between the ISC and the Government. The Committee will be aware that the MoU is subject to continuous review, as again noted by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. We welcome the ISC proposing changes that it would like the Prime Minister to consider, whether due to this legislation or other aspects of its security and intelligence remit. The Prime Minister will consider the proposed changes in due course. The MoU itself states that it is important to avoid duplication. Some of the organisations that the ISC has proposed that its remit should include are very new, and there are discussions under way regarding whether they are best overseen by other parliamentary Select Committees.

I am sure that answer will not particularly please the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, but I hope he would accept that it is a reasonable answer, given the current state of affairs.

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting. I am sure the Minister recognises the damage which was done to the relationship between the ISC and Parliament, and to maintaining public trust, by the various manoeuvres while Boris Johnson was Prime Minister. There was the delay in the publication of the Russia report and the attempt to have a chair appointed by the Prime Minister rather than elected by the committee, et cetera. We need to be reassured—and by “we” I mean Parliament and the interested public—that the ISC has a very clear and respected role, and is not subject to the whims of changing Prime Ministers.

My Lords, with the greatest respect, this is a different Government and we have moved on. The ISC very much has the respect of certainly this part of the Government. If I may say so, I have answered the principal question that was being asked: the Prime Minister will indeed consider the proposed changes in due course.

I understand that the Minister is saying that the Prime Minister will review it, but does he agree with me that it would help if the Prime Minister actually met the ISC? The Intelligence and Security Committee annual report states:

“Since its establishment in 1994, and for 20 years thereafter, the Committee met annually with the Prime Minister to discuss its work, report on key issues … However, the Committee has not had a meeting with a Prime Minister since December 2014. In the previous Annual Report, we stated that we would seek a meeting with the Prime Minister this year; unfortunately, despite requests for suitable dates, we are yet to receive a response from the Prime Minister. The Committee urges the Prime Minister to meet with it as a priority.”

May I ask the Minister to take that message to the Prime Minister? If he is looking at reviewing the MoU in due course, it might help him to meet with the committee.

The noble Lord makes a very fair point. I will certainly make sure that that message is conveyed. As I have said, the Government do not think it would be appropriate at this point to mandate the Prime Minister to update the MoU as proposed, therefore we cannot support this amendment.

I now turn to Amendment 113. The Committee will be aware that the Government committed to a review of visas issued under the route between 2008 and 2015. The Home Secretary made a Written Ministerial Statement on 12 January setting out the findings of that review, including that the review had identified a minority of individuals connected to the tier 1 investor visa route who were potentially at high risk of having obtained wealth through corruption or other illicit financial activity and/or being engaged in serious and organised crime. The Government have set out the findings of the review of the operation of this route and acted to close it. I think it was in February 2022. I therefore submit that the amendment is not necessary.

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was selectively quoting back to me various aspects of the WMS. I might selectively quote back to him—I suppose I am quoting myself here. I also said:

“Given the importance of ensuring the independence of the law enforcement process I am unable to say more on the operationally sensitive work being taken forward in this area. Whilst unable to comment specifically due to operational sensitivity of work - as an example of the range of actions we are taking I can say that we have already sanctioned 10 oligarchs who had previously used this route as part of our extensive response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine.”

I think that gives answers as to why we have perhaps not commented in the detail the noble Lord would like.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has also accused me of not talking enough about certain states and talking too much about our allies. He, I think, suggests that this is for party-political reasons. I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, would think so little of the Government Front Bench in this House. I gently remind him that, when I am talking about our allies, I am usually responding to questions he has asked me.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that I am afraid I do not have all the stats he asked for about Russian money, but I will endeavour to find them. I do not know if they sit within the Home Office, but I will find out where they are, and I will happily write to him.

My Lords, I apologise if I have gone—as the Minister is advising me—a little far. The point I am making is that the lack of distinction in “any foreign power” is one of the fundamental faults in this Bill. The ISC Russia report on several occasions refers to the threats mainly coming from China, Russia, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That is what I understand as well, although I am well aware that there are other potentially hostile states. One of my strongest memories is watching a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy and a policewoman being shot. These things happen; there are hostile states out there. However, that does not mean we cannot distinguish between allies with whom we work and open societies, and those from which there are likely to be threats. It is very important that we do so.

This Bill does exactly that. We have been talking about FIRS over the last couple of days—the foreign influence registration scheme. There are different tiers specified in that. There is no doubt that this Bill acknowledges where our principal threats come from. Other countries, unfortunately, are also sometimes used as proxies. That is another discussion we have had at considerable length from this Dispatch Box with various noble Lords who have raised that point. I think it has covered very widely exactly what the nature of the threats are and where they come from.

Amendment 116 would duplicate existing work being carried forward by the Government to ensure that the threat posed by disinformation spread by foreign states is monitored effectively. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked me for more detail on the Defending Democracy Taskforce, and I am happy to supply it. As he pointed out, it was announced in November 2022. As it has become apparent that the threats to our democratic institutions and wider society are growing, the taskforce’s mission statement is to reduce the risk to the UK’s democratic processes, institutions and society and to ensure that they are secure and resilient to threats of foreign interference. It will work across government and with Parliament, the UK intelligence community, the devolved Administrations, local authorities and the private sector on the full range of threats facing our democratic institutions. The work of the taskforce will report to the National Security Council and more details will be set out in the update of the integrated review. I have no more details at this point.

That leads nicely to the work of the National Security Council, which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked me about. That is the main forum for a collective discussion of the Government’s objectives for national security and about how best to deliver them in the current financial climate. The key purpose of the council is to ensure that Ministers consider national security in the round and in a strategic way, and it is chaired by the Prime Minister. In answer to one of the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, the National Security Council co-ordinates His Majesty’s Government’s work on national security policy. Unfortunately, as the noble Lord knows—this answer will disappoint him—the convention is not to speak about the working of Cabinet committees, for which I apologise; I would like to go further, but I cannot.

The Government have robust systems in place to protect UK democracy, bringing together government, civil society and private sector organisations to monitor and respond to attempted interference, in whatever form, to ensure our democracy stays open and vibrant. The Government have amended the Bill in the other place to make the foreign interference offence a priority offence in the Online Safety Bill. That will require companies in scope of the regime to conduct regular risk assessments of the presence of content which constitutes an offence, and to put in place proportionate systems and processes to mitigate the possibility of users encountering that content. That will include disinformation spread by foreign states that is intended to undermine our democratic, political and legal processes. Furthermore, the Online Safety Bill’s advisory committee on disinformation and misinformation will provide cross-sector expertise on disinformation and misinformation and provide advice to Ofcom about how providers of regulated services should deal with disinformation and misinformation.

Finally, I will discuss the Electoral Commission recommendation, as that was requested by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. The Elections Act 2022 introduced a restriction on ineligible foreign third-party campaigning above a £700 minimum threshold. The Government’s digital imprint regime, also introduced by the Elections Act 2022, delivers the ISC’s recommendations to introduce a requirement to add an imprint on all digital paid-for political advertising. Those proposals represent a significant step forward and will make United Kingdom politics even more transparent.

For all the reasons I have outlined, the Government cannot accept the proposed amendments.

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s thorough reply, notwithstanding some of his responses, which he prefaced by saying that he knew they would disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Coaker.

The noble Lord is a very cheerful person for someone who is disappointed. One of the telling facts he highlighted was the difficulty of the committee having an annual meeting since 2014—that speaks for itself. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he is going to take that message back.

I am also grateful that the Minister has committed to provide some more information, which is quite helpful. On the issue of the tier 1 visas and golden visas, we are in a slightly ridiculous position where we have a discrepancy between what should be on the public record as to who received them and what is on the public record as to who is sanctioned. However, the Government are refusing to put the two together and to say who they are, which means we will have difficulty learning lessons as to how this came about, why they were able to secure the visas and what they have done. If the Minister is writing to me with more information, I would be grateful if he could state who is currently under sanction by the UK and has received a tier 1 visa. That would be very helpful information to receive.

I am grateful for the information on the co-ordination and the security council, and for the other information that the Minister provided. With Amendment 120A from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and my amendment, I think we are aiming for the same destination but with a different route. I think that the Minister said that the ISC would be able to scrutinise the implementation of all national security aspects of this Bill. If I have taken that incorrectly from the Minister, I am happy for him to correct me on the record. However, I think that we will pursue that aspect. As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and my noble friend, said, we want national security to work and, for that to be done, proper scrutiny by the committee of Parliament needs to be facilitated, with no gaps across the whole panoply. National security is complex and multi-departmental, and a whole-government function, as the Government say—and I respect that—between BEIS, DCMS, the Cabinet Office, the Treasury and FCDO. This is a complex area, and the committee is best placed to do it, but it must be equipped to do it. We may want to return to this issue after we have reflected on the Minister’s responses. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 112 withdrawn.

Amendment 113 not moved.

Amendment 114

Moved by

114: After Clause 89, insert the following Clause—

“Ministerial appointments: official advice(1) The Cabinet Secretary must publish a memorandum in respect of any ministerial appointments made by the Prime Minister, where advice or concerns were communicated to the Prime Minister by civil servants that the appointment may be counter to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom including because of potential influence from a foreign power.(2) A memorandum under this section must set out that advice or concerns were communicated to the Prime Minister by civil servants, and in respect of which ministerial appointments. (3) A memorandum under this section may not include details of the advice or concerns, where the Cabinet Secretary considers that inclusion of those details may be prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom.”Member's explanatory statement

This new Clause requires the Cabinet Secretary to publish a memorandum in circumstances where the Prime Minister made a ministerial appointment and where advice was that the appointment may be counter to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom.

My Lords, this is an amendment which I really did not think it should be necessary to debate, on ministerial appointments by a Prime Minister, where that appointment may raise issues to do with the safety, security and interests of the United Kingdom. The amendment seeks clarification from the Government on the ability for there to be transparency in the operation of the Ministerial Code, but also where there is concern about ministerial appointments.

This is not a partisan point, because we know as a matter of fact that a Home Secretary was sacked because of a significant security breach. The guidance on security of government business was breached considerably, and Liz Truss sacked Suella Braverman, who admitted a breach of government security guidelines. I recognise that none of the material that was shared on a private email system was marked “secret”, so with regard to national security considerations, on the face of what was sent to an incorrect recipient but also what was intended to be sent, it was not secret or top secret. They were not classified documents, and I respect that fact. However, the recipient’s employer—because one of the emails was sent to a member of staff of an MP—replied to Suella Braverman saying:

“Simply asking my team to delete this email and ignore it is not an acceptable response to what appears, on the face of it, to be a potentially serious breach of security … You are nominally in charge of the security of this nation, we have received many warnings even as lowly backbenchers about cyber security.”

The fact that that Minister was then reappointed for political purposes within a matter of days has been well rehearsed. The Minister has responded to this issue in Questions in the Chamber, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, also responded, saying:

“Everyone deserves a second chance.”—[Official Report, 22/10/22; col. 1558.]

I know for a fact that not everybody who will fall foul of some of the significant offences under this Bill will receive a second chance—or that some officials will receive it. But it would be useful to know whether there are security concerns about the appointments of Ministers.

The second thing I say concerns something that did not happen but could easily have happened. A Member of this House, the noble Lord, Lord Lebedev, was appointed under considerable concern about security situations. He was appointed to Parliament by Boris Johnson. He could very easily have been asked to be a Government Whip or a Minister: that is not a stretch of the imagination. What is the situation then, when security concerns have been raised about the appointment of a Member to Parliament but there is no mechanism for transparency about concerns about ministerial appointments? I do not besmirch any existing Ministers: these are two factual situations; one is regrettable, of course; and the other has not happened but could easily have happened. Therefore, my amendment seeks clarification as to what mechanisms are in place for it to be transparent when there have been concerns about an individual being appointed to a ministerial position, so that those concerns can be made public. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for speaking to Amendment 114, which seeks to require the Cabinet Secretary to publish information concerning ministerial appointments in scenarios where officials have indicated that the appointment of a particular individual

“may be counter to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom including because of potential influence from a foreign power”.

The Government cannot accept this amendment because the appointment of Ministers is a matter solely for the Prime Minister, in line with his role as the sovereign’s principal adviser. It is critical to the functioning of government that any conversations that occur around appointments are able to take place in confidence. There is a long-standing practice to protect that confidentiality. Without the ability to speak freely on matters that will be personal and sometimes sensitive, particularly where they may include matters of security, the ability of officials to provide meaningful advice ahead of an appointment will be critically undermined. The National Security Bill is concerned principally with the conduct of state actors working for foreign powers or with an intention to benefit a foreign power. Not only is the Bill not the appropriate vehicle for such a change but the Government also firmly believe that any information relating to ministerial appointments and procedures is not appropriate for publication. The Government therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister, and I am not entirely surprised by his response. I think the Government’s concerns regarding confidentiality and protecting Civil Service advice were addressed in the amendment. In fact, it explicitly states that information would not be provided within the memorandum, but that security considerations had been raised should be in the public domain. I hear what the Minister said; we will explore this in the other avenues. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 114 withdrawn.

Amendments 115 to 118 not moved.

Amendment 119

Moved by

119: After Clause 89, insert the following new Clause—

“Assessment of interaction with the Official Secrets Act 1989The Secretary of State must publish an assessment of how this Act relates to the Official Secrets Act 1989.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment intends to probe to what extent the Bill furthers the government’s objective to update the Official Secrets Act 1989.

I will not keep noble Lords too long on this amendment. There are a couple of points I wish to make and a couple of questions to ask. I say at the outset that Amendment 119 is a probing amendment, obviously, but it allows us to discuss reform, or not, of the Official Secrets Act 1989. As we know, this National Security Bill does not deal with that, but earlier Official Secrets Acts of 1911, 1920 and 1939, which deal with espionage. In that sense, this Bill represents a missed opportunity and leaves many unanswered questions which simply cannot be ignored, questions which Amendment 120 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, setting up an office of the national security whistleblower, also seeks to address.

In the Government’s consultation document for the state threats legislation reforms, it is clear that changes to the Official Secrets Act 1989 appear to be on their way. Is it correct that they will reform the Official Secrets Act 1989 as soon as possible? If they will, can the Minister give any indication of what “as soon as possible” might mean—other than “as soon as possible”?

The former Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland MP, highlighted the two main issues arising from this National Security Bill regarding future reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989. The first is the possible creation of a public interest defence, rather than leaving it up to juries; the second is to raise a statutory commission to allow people to raise their concerns, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, seeks to propose through her Amendment 120 and as was supported by the Law Commission.

I can appreciate the concerns of the security services. No one wishes to undermine them and we have had many good debates on the public interest defence, but the current situation is not satisfactory. Someone who sees wrongdoing either commits a criminal offence, keeps quiet or speaks to superiors, hoping that it will be taken seriously—in some circumstances, I am sure that it is. The Government are worried about this area; as we said earlier, and as the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, helpfully confirmed, they are looking at strengthening the guidelines to various government departments on how to deal with individuals who feel themselves to be in that situation. An independent office to which you could complain may be the answer; if it is not, the Government need to be clear about how they think we can take this problem forward.

There have been many examples in the past of individuals doing a public service by highlighting various issues which, had it not been for them, could not have been brought to public attention. These have been in security and many other areas of public life, including our Parliament. Would the murders that occurred between 2001 and 2004, highlighted by the ISC in its 2018 report—the Law Commission also makes this point —have been exposed with a better system that people felt confident in at the time? If the Government oppose these amendments, can they outline their policy?

My final point was raised by the Constitution Committee. Can the Minister explain why there is such a significant difference between the maximum sentences proposed for offences created by this Bill and those in the Official Secrets Act 1989, which will remain in force when the Bill is enacted? As the Constitution Committee report says, this may lead to different sentences being available for offences applied to the same conduct, depending on which Act is used with respect to a particular individual. That will give rise to legal uncertainty. Can the Minister explain why there are different sentences, including life imprisonment, in this Bill, soon to be an Act, and the Official Secrets Act? Does the Minister agree that this is yet another reason to bring forward reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989? The Government need to get on with reforming that Act. They seem to have said that they will do it; it would be helpful if they categorically confirmed to the Committee that that is their intention.

My Lords, I again find myself the only Back-Bencher of my party in the Chamber. This time I cannot claim to be speaking on their behalf, although last time I intervened I felt that I had sufficient support from Labour Members who were not here to be able to speak at large on behalf of the Back-Benchers.

I have an entirely technical point. My noble friend Lord Coaker has tabled an amendment which he described to the House and in the Marshalled List as being intended to probe

“to what extent the Bill furthers the government’s objective to update the Official Secrets Act 1989.”

Of course, in Schedule 16, at the end of the Bill, we see what the Government are doing about repealing—or otherwise—previous Acts, going right back to the Official Secrets Act 1911, as my noble friend Lord Coaker mentioned.

As I say, this is a technical matter. I do not ask for it to be dealt with this evening, but perhaps the Minister’s officials and advisers could look at this. When the Bill was before the House of Commons, the Law Commission gave oral evidence and then submitted written evidence. In that written evidence, it took up the issue of the Official Secrets Acts 1911 and 1920 and commented on their provisions. The Law Commission said, in its recommendation 9:

“The offence of doing an act preparatory to espionage should be retained. Save for that, section 7 of the Official Secrets Act 1920 should be repealed.”

If we turn to Schedule 16, we learn that the Bill proposes to repeal those Acts in their entirety. The question is, therefore, why the written report of the Law Commission is not being followed. There are great complications when you start having to sew old legislation into modern legislation, and as I have complained before, the legislative process has become too complicated. This is not something to be answered now. The Minister can be relieved of having to give any explanation at the moment, but I wondered if it could be carefully looked at.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his supportive words on the key aspects of my Amendment 120. Obviously, I have not participated in the broader issues of the Bill, but I think I can say on behalf of my colleagues that we are very impressed by his amendment. The probing character of an amendment, certainly in Committee, is a very important tool to try to get responses from the Government.

Given the late hour, I want to focus specifically on my Amendment 120. We heard at Second Reading—in a sense, it has been repeated at various points in Committee; I have been following this a bit in Hansard—how concerned former leading members of the intelligence community are about the consequences of public disclosure. I think the Government have echoed that. There is one very good way to avoid public disclosure, and that is to have an excellent whistleblowing regime and process. That is exactly what my Amendment 120 seeks to do. I understand that my amendment is not ideally drafted, but my goal is to generate a proper and, I hope, fruitful discussion. That is one of the reasons I am rather sad that those former leading members of the intelligence community are not in their places today, but perhaps they will pick up this issue afterwards.

Yes, they were here earlier.

My preference would be to create an overarching office of the whistleblower covering all public and private activity, as I have proposed in my Private Member’s Bill. However, failing that, I suggest that much more immediate action could take place within the security and intelligence services.

Whistleblowers are essential in any and every field of activity. People err and power is abused, and whistle- blowing is both the best deterrent and often a necessary step to cure. But organisations so often welcome whistleblowers in their speeches, and perhaps in very general policy terms, but not in the practical reality.

I have to keep a good distance from sources because here in the House of Lords we do not have the power to protect their confidentiality. But over and again, the message comes that, in the security and intelligence services, various schemes—not all, but various and significant ones—are actually dysfunctional. Retaliation happens and is not exceptional, in the form of career destruction and the threat of the use of the Official Secrets Act—it may be entirely inappropriate, but it is a very frightening threat. Follow-up and proper investigation rarely happen. Instead, wagons are circled and retaliation begins.

In this, I have to say that the intelligence agencies are really no different from so many other parts of the public sector. We have to look only at the experience that the Metropolitan Police is currently going through to realise that there is a certain inbred complacency in many organisations. They are certain if you ask them that they have excellent processes in place, but then some event triggers and exposes problems that have lain underneath for a long time.

At Second Reading, I gave an example of a whistle- blower who spoke out using the existing systems to expose evidence that key equipment was being sourced from a hostile foreign power. That person is still suffering the price of a destroyed career.

Also at Second Reading, in explaining that he had worked with the intelligence community for more than 40 years, the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts—I think quite unwittingly—gave another, even more serious illustration of the dysfunctional nature of the system. Referring to the earlier speech that day of the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, and his reminder that in regard to extraordinary rendition

“Britain appears to have been involved in at least 70 cases, according to the 2018 ISC report”,

the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts said,

“in my experience, the men and women of the intelligence community were profoundly shocked by the revelations of what had happened in those fraught months and years after 9/11.”—[Official Report, 6/12/22; cols. 137-39.]

I am sure that some people, including the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, were profoundly shocked, but with at least 70 cases, a significant number of people, including those at senior level, must have known, knew it was wrong and either decided or were persuaded to do nothing, because of misguided loyalty, a culture of cover-up and fear that retaliation would destroy their careers.

Speaking out is frightening, disloyalty being the least of the accusations that typically follow. Each person to pluck up the courage to speak out needs to know exactly who they can go to to speak safely and how they can initially do it—most of them wish to do so anonymously initially. They cannot turn for information or advice to a colleague, as that exposes who they are. They cannot go to a senior person, as that exposes who they are. They should never look on the intranet or internet because that is traceable. Even in the health services, nurses use burner phones to report wrong behaviour. A whistleblower has to be absolutely confident that the person they speak to has both the will and, even more importantly, the authority to follow up and investigate an act. That is what whistleblowers look for.

However, it is much more than that. Confidentiality, which is often seen as the greatest protection for a whistleblower, is almost impossible to sustain once an investigation process starts, because the issue and the information themselves direct anyone who is interested to the identity of the whistleblower. So it is absolutely crucial that any person or body that a whistleblower goes to can provide them with protection or, where things go wrong and there is retaliation, with redress.

At both Second Reading and in earlier days in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, for whom I have great respect, and the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, listed reams of people who a whistleblower could go to. Of course, they would have to identify who was the right responsible person, what they would and could do, and, even more importantly, they would have to have their confidential contact details.

Included in the list from those speeches were government departments’ internal policies and processes, but, as we heard earlier, even the Government know that many of these are unsafe and are looking to improve their guidance because they are very broad, general concerns, so that is not a terribly good answer. Otherwise named were: a staff counsellor; the external staff counsellor in the Cabinet Office; organisational ethics counsellors—they play an important role but they have limited authority, particularly to investigate, and they have no power of redress as far as I can understand; the chair of the ISC; the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office; the Attorney-General’s Office, the Director of Public Prosecutions; the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; with permission, the PUSS to the Home Office; the National Security Adviser; the Cabinet Secretary; and the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The list itself underscores the fact that this is a farce.

As I said, junior people on that list have relatively little power to act and certainly none for redress. As for the senior names listed—those many senior and important names—I am sure there are some people in this Committee who have the personal, confidential and secure phone numbers for those people, such as the National Security Adviser, but I very much doubt that a mid-level intelligence agent or the junior clerk in a supply chain has that information. Whistleblowers are very often the little people and mid-level people, because they are the least institutionalised.

I am asking the Government to get to grips with this now, and to at least make sure that there is a single place where people can go to to speak out, and that every member of every related organisation has that confidential number and contact information. The office that they go to—it cannot just be an individual, as that is far too narrow—has to have the power to set whistleblowing policies, procedures and reporting structures that include confidentiality and anonymity, the power to investigate and, significantly, because confidentiality is so fragile and so impossible to enforce, the power to redress where a whistleblower suffers detriment. In that way, there would be a system to catch wrong behaviour early. I would like to see it open not just to employees and contractors but to anyone who has relevant information. That information, coming early and going to the right people so that there is guaranteed follow-up, means that misbehaviour and wrongdoing are stopped in their tracks early. There is no better protection for the public interest.

My Lords, I wish to stress the importance of how the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will relate to the Official Secrets Act. I am almost in a minority in my own family in not having signed that Act, although I note, looking at the dates, that the version my wife signed in 1979 was the 1939 version, and the version my daughter signed is rather more up to date. It is worth noting that it was 28 years from the first Official Secrets Act to the first revised Act in 1939, and 50 years from then to the second revised version, in 1989. We are now approaching 34 years since the last revision. As the Law Commission suggested, we really need to update the Official Secrets Act.

Part of the disappointment that many of us have with the Bill is that it takes the place of what might have been an effective revision of the entire Official Secrets Act. We all know what happens with legislation in this House. The time taken up for the Bill as it becomes an Act will mean that it will be another four or five years before we get round to a proper revision of the OSA.

I say this to the Minister: part of the argument for taking our time as we complete this Bill is that, for the next four or five years, this is probably it in terms of legislation dealing with this whole area of national security. So we need to make sure that it is well considered; that it addresses our current, changing threats; and that it feeds into and informs the public debate for those who need to understand these things. It should not be rushed. I hope that, in Committee, the Minister has got a real sense of the disappointment and discontent at the quality of the Bill as it now stands. I look forward to our discussions and hearing about the wider consultations that now need to take place before this Bill finishes its time in this House.

My Lords, I must confess to being rather puzzled by some of the detail in Amendment 120 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. When I got to proposed new subsection (4), I assumed that the office was intended to be a regulatory body ensuring that the whistleblowing arrangements with regard to national security were appropriate; however, it subsequently became clear in proposed new paragraph (b) that it was intended to be the whistle- blowing channel. Those seems like slightly different roles to me.

I am also puzzled as to why there is a proposal here for a whistleblowing channel that is in fact very narrow. It relates only

“to the commission of an offence under this Act”.

I would have thought that, if there was a need for a whistleblowing channel—

Perhaps I can help the noble Lord. Amendments must be written to be in scope; it is sometimes quite limiting.

I thank the noble Baroness very much for that clarification; in that case, the amendment certainly needs some amendment itself.

I am also puzzled as to the route proposed that any disclosure, particularly from one of the intelligence agencies, can go to any public authority. Again, that seems a surprising route for a whistleblowing channel for somebody in the intelligence and security agencies.

More particularly, and more importantly, I absolutely fail to recognise the culture of cover-up that the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, cites. Having worked in the Security Service for 33 years, I am confident in saying that, far from there being a culture of cover-up, there was in fact a strong willingness to speak up, as far as I could see. There was strong and, at times, fairly heated internal debate on some of the ethical matters that have been cited in this debate. So I do not believe that the characterisation of the intelligence agencies we have just heard in any sense accurate. Although the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, gave the complete list of everybody to whom a member of the agencies could go, I think that almost anybody in the agencies would recognise their ability to go to the internal ethics counsellor—a role that plays an important part in actively encouraging debate of these issues—who has a direct right of access to the director-general of the day; I am sure that that would still be the case. That role has now extended from the Security Service to the other intelligence agencies. Also, it was clear and straightforward how you obtained the contact details for the external counsellor who acted as a whistleblowing channel directly outside the service. Of course, that was put in place specifically because of previous concerns that there was no such provision, and it was reflected in the legislation of the day.

I feel that the detail of this amendment is not clear —certainly not to me. The need for this amendment has not been made clear, in my view, because it is based on a rather misleading characterisation of the internal culture of the intelligence services. In my experience, there has been considerable focus on ethical matters and the ability internally to debate those.

My Lords, I thank Members of the Committee for all their speeches. Amendment 119 seeks an assessment of how the Act relates to the Official Secrets Act 1989. As we set out in last week’s debate, the new espionage offences in Part 1 of the Bill replace and reform the existing provisions in the Official Secrets Acts from 1911 to 1939. They carry strict tests for a person to be caught within those sections. For example, the first two offences apply when a person is acting for, on behalf of, or with the intention to benefit a foreign power. This is distinct from the Official Secrets Act 1989, which covers unauthorised disclosures by Crown servants and government contractors. As the Committee knows, the Government are not reforming the 1989 Act through the Bill, as has been observed this evening. Under the existing law, it is possible that a person making a damaging disclosure could commit both the espionage offence in the Official Secrets Act 1911 and an offence under the Official Secrets Act 1989.

Pausing there, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, for his contribution in relation to the 1911 Act. The difference, drawn out in the fact that you could commit both an offence of espionage under the Official Secrets Act and an offence under the 1989 Act, will continue to be the case. It is possible that a person could commit an offence under two pieces of legislation simultaneously and be charged in relation to both. That is not a matter unknown in the criminal law. Any overlap between the espionage offences in the Bill and the Official Secrets Act 1989 allows us to prosecute damaging acts in the most appropriate way. Where a person commits both a 1989 Act offence and an espionage offence under the Bill, the charging decision would be taken by the Crown Prosecution Service in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, as is always the case. CPS prosecutors select the charges that they consider are most appropriate on the facts of each case, and to reflect the nature of the wrongdoing. I hope that this explanation reassures the Committee that the Government have carefully considered the interaction between our new offences in the Bill and those in the 1989 Act.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, raised a question regarding reform of the 1989 Act, and I will address it directly. The Government’s view is that the Official Secrets Act 1989 is an essential part of our ability to protect national security and sensitive information. However, the views and concerns raised by stakeholders in response to our public consultation for the Bill, including those in favour of not reforming the Act at all, highlight the complexity of the legislation and the wide variety of interests that should properly be considered before pursuing any reform. Given its complexity, we are also concerned that reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989 at this time may distract from the Government’s package of measures in the Bill to counter state threats, and prevent us from providing law enforcement and the intelligence agencies with the tools that they need now directly to tackle these threats. Accordingly, we do not have any immediate plans to pursue reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989, but will continue to keep that position under review. The matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, are well considered. Issues such as whether to increase maximum sentences under the Official Secrets Act 1989 would be considered as part of potential reform proposals and would be viewed in the round with the measures of sentences in the Bill.

Amendment 120 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, proposes the establishment of a new office for the national security whistleblower. We are told that the aim of such an office would be to protect whistleblowers who make disclosures related to offences under the Bill where disclosures are considered to be in the public interest. Of course I pay tribute to her in her ongoing work and efforts to champion the important cause of whistleblowing. The Government are committed to ensuring that our whistleblowing framework is robust, and I confirm that the business department intends to carry out the promised review of the existing framework, and that further details will be set out in due course in relation to that.

However, as the Government outlined last week on the public interest defence—as many noble Lords present will remember—the offences in the National Security Bill target harmful activity by or on behalf of states, not leaks or whistleblowing activity. As the Law Commission said during oral evidence to the Committee for this Bill in the other place, and as the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, noted, the requirements of these offences take them outside the realm of leaks and into the realm of espionage. Consequently, the creation of a whistleblowing office in relation to the Bill is, in essence, a misunderstanding of the aims of this legislation.

Having said that, I welcome the opportunity this amendment brings to outline the Government’s commitment to individuals who seek to raise concerns about national security information pertinent to the Official Secrets Act 1989. The Government recognise that there may be situations where an individual has a legitimate need to raise a concern; for example, where there may have been wrongdoing or where they think there is a public interest in disclosing that information.

As we discussed on the previous occasion in Committee, there are already a number of existing internal and external authorised routes in government through which individuals can raise such concerns. The number of routes has increased since 1989 and the Government consider them to be safe and effective. Many were outlined in the powerful speech given by the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, during the debate last week on the public interest defence. With great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, I find the testimony given by the former director-general of MI5 to be persuasive on what the view of an intelligence officer might be. That appears to have been confirmed in the contribution we just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Weardale—in particular, his assessment of the culture in the intelligence services being one of honesty and integrity.

I am grateful to the Minister. He is aware of the point I raised earlier in Committee, which, as he correctly pointed out, pertained more to the Official Secrets Act in respect of the authorised disclosure of information. The Law Commission’s recommendation is clear—that there should be an independent statutory commissioner, to which individuals can go, who has investigatory powers—but the Minister says that there are no plans to reform the 1989 legislation.

We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and earlier from the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, that they do not recognise this culture, but the Law Commission came to its own view and its own recommendation. Do the Government accept that recommendation but then say that they are not going to do anything about it, or will we have to find a way to bring together the disclosure of information and the points that my noble friend raised? The Law Commission’s recommendation was perfectly clear, and it was not besmirching the culture within the agencies. It was a very clear recommendation.

Indeed, the Law Commission made a recommendation about a potential reform to the 1989 Act. As I have already said, that is not the purpose of this Bill and will be a matter for a future reform, which will not be conducted immediately, as I already explained in answer to the point from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. The Law Commission’s recommendation will have considerable weight but, at this stage, I cannot prejudge any government decision in relation to the 1989 Act.

In last week’s debate, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the Government’s plans to update internal whistleblowing guidance. I can confirm that the Government regularly keep this guidance under review and, last year, they updated it to include specific reference to how to raise an issue that would require disclosure without breaching the Official Secrets Act 1989. The updated internal guidance has been shared across departments and agencies, with confirmation from all Whitehall departments that a review of their own processes and procedures has been undertaken or is planned.

Across government, organisations have also continued to undertake activities further to develop a safe and supportive culture for raising concerns. Over the last year, the majority, including all 17 Whitehall departments, have undertaken communications through awareness-raising events and campaigns, including an annual “Speak Up” campaign.

We of course understand that journalists have a specific and important role to play in holding government to account in our democratic society. We also understand that responsible journalists do not want unwittingly to put lives at risk or compromise national security. That is why we have robust processes in place which enable journalists to mitigate the harm caused when considering the publication of potentially damaging information.

For example, during the Government’s public consultation on the Bill, several media stakeholders commented on the value of the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee—the DSMA—which alerts the media to the consequences of disclosing certain types of information and provides advice on how to mitigate damage, while leaving editors to judge whether to publish or broadcast. A number of editors already engage with this valuable process when considering the publication of sensitive information, and we encourage them, and others, to continue to do so.

The Government are committed to ensuring that these channels are safe, effective, and accessible. Accordingly, for the reasons I have just set out, the Government, with regret, cannot accept the tabled amendments and invite their withdrawal.

My Lords, I will be brief, but will start by thanking the Minister for his response and all noble Lords for their contributions to this short but important debate. I am grateful to the Minister for following up on my question from last week about what was happening with the updating of guidance for people in departments across government who wish to raise concerns. But frankly, the headline from what the Minister has said is that the Government have kicked the reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989, which was never particularly on the immediate horizon, into the long grass. That is deeply disappointing because, irrespective of one’s view, the issues of the public interest defence and people being able to come forward—whistleblowers, if you want to call them that—will not go away. Reforming the Official Secrets Act would have enabled us to debate that and come up with an Act that is relevant to 2023 and beyond. As I say, it is deeply disappointing that the Minister has effectively kicked that reform into the long grass, and that is the headline from this response to the amendments. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 119 withdrawn.

Amendments 120 to 120B not moved.

Clause 90 agreed.

Schedule 16 agreed.

Clause 91 agreed.

Clause 92: Regulations

Amendments 121 to 123

Moved by

121: Clause 92, page 63, line 11, after “63” insert “specifying a foreign power, or a person other than a foreign power, who is not specified immediately before the regulations are made”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides that regulations under clause 63 attract the affirmative procedure only if they specify a foreign power or other person not already specified. Regulations revoking a specification will be subject to the negative procedure.

122: Clause 92, page 63, line 12, leave out paragraph (b)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to clause 68, page 46, line 30, which omits the regulation making power in clause 68.

123: Clause 92, page 63, line 17, at end insert—

“(fa) regulations under paragraph 27 of Schedule (Public officials);”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides that regulations under the new Schedule inserted by Lord Sharpe after Schedule 13 are subject to the affirmative procedure.

Amendments 121 to 123 agreed.

Clause 92, as amended, agreed.

Clauses 93 and 94 agreed.

Clause 95: Extent outside the United Kingdom

Amendment 124

Moved by

124: Clause 95, page 64, line 13, at end insert—

“(1A) His Majesty may by Order in Council provide for any provision of this Act other than section 20 to extend (with or without modifications) to the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.(1B) An Order in Council under subsection (1A) may make consequential, supplementary, incidental, transitional or saving provision.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment confers power to extend the Bill to the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Clause 20 is excluded from the power because clause 20 is extended to the Sovereign Base Areas by clause 95(1)(b).

My Lords, Amendment 124 creates the power to extend any provision in the Bill with or without modification to the sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus by way of Order in Council. The provisions of the Official Secrets Acts 1911 and 1920 extend to the sovereign base areas, and this amendment will allow provisions of the Bill to be extended to the law of the sovereign base areas. This would ensure that harmful activity that the Bill addresses can be prosecuted in sovereign base areas when conducted there.

Clause 20, which provides for the aggravating factor to apply to some service offences in the Armed Forces Act 2006, has been excluded from this power given that it is already being extended to the sovereign base areas though Clause 95(1)(b).

I end by putting on record that the Government consider that any references in this Bill to the sovereign base areas will not in any way undermine the provisions of the 1960 treaty concerning the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus between the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. I therefore ask the Committee to support the inclusion of this amendment.

My Lords, I have very little to say with regard to the government amendment. I recognise the Government’s sensitivity to the ongoing issue of the politics within Cyprus.

As this is the last group in Committee, I thank the Ministers today, the noble Lords, Lord Sharpe and Lord Murray, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, for their willingness to engage. As my noble friend Lord Wallace indicated, there is a lot of work to be done in persuading the Committee that the measures in the Bill will meet the Government’s intent. There are some key areas of the Bill where we are looking for more information. I think the noble Lord, Lord Murray, indicated on an earlier group that he is reflecting and that there is more to follow. We await the correspondence from the Ministers. We are very happy to meet Ministers before Report. I say from these Benches that it might be advisable for the Government not to be in a rush to schedule Report, so that there can be proper thinking on the many aspects of the Bill about which we have highlighted problems.

Amendment 124 agreed.

Clause 95, as amended, agreed.

Clauses 96 to 98 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported with amendments.

House adjourned at 9.58 pm.