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National Security Bill

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 7 March 2023

Report (2nd Day)

Relevant documents: 20th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 5th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights

Clause 64: Requirement to register foreign activity arrangements

Amendment 87

Moved by

87: Clause 64, page 45, line 18, after “out” insert “relevant”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment, together with Lord Sharpe’s other amendments to Clause 64 relating to relevant activities, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying which activities of a specified person are subject to the provisions about foreign activity arrangements.

My Lords, the amendments in this group clarify the intent of the enhanced tier of the foreign influence registration scheme —FIRS. They ensure the tier remains proportionate, while achieving its national security objectives. FIRS was recommended by the ISC in its 2020 Russia report, and the Government committed in their response to bring forward such a scheme.

The enhanced tier of FIRS is a targeted regime, allowing the Secretary of State to require the registration of arrangements with specified foreign Governments or entities subject to foreign power control where she believes it is necessary to protect the safety or interests of the United Kingdom. The scheme will play a significant role in the deterrence and disruption of state threats activities by those countries, and entities linked to them, which are of greatest concern.

We know that these states will make use of a whole-of-state approach to covert activities, not just relying on traditional routes of intelligence organisations and undeclared agents. FIRS will be essential to gaining a greater understanding of the scale and nature of activity being undertaken for countries and their proxies that pose the greatest risks to UK interests and national security. The penalties for non-compliance will increase the risk to those who seek to engage in covert activities for specified foreign powers, either directly or through specified entities. It forces them to choose between registering openly or facing prosecution should their activities be known to the intelligence community. Finally, it offers potential for earlier disruption of state threats activity, where there is evidence of a covert arrangement between a person and specified foreign power or entity, but it is not yet feasible to bring charges for a more serious state threats offence.

Government Amendments 89 and 100 make clearer that the Secretary of State can narrow the activities requiring registration under this tier. This will allow us to tailor the registration requirements to the threat posed by the country or entity being specified.

I turn now to government Amendments 95, 104, 125 and 133 and supporting amendments. These amendments make changes to ensure that a proper provision is made for offences committed by those in unregistered arrangements, and employees and subcontractors who are carrying out activities under those arrangements, in both tiers of the scheme. The Government do not wish to unfairly criminalise those who reasonably believe an arrangement is registered and have taken all reasonably practicable steps to check that it is. This is particularly the case with employees of an entity which has made an arrangement with a foreign power or specified person, or for subcontractors carrying out activities under arrangements.

These amendments seek to address this issue by enabling a person—for example, an employee—to avoid committing an offence where they can demonstrate that they took all steps reasonably practicable to determine whether the activities were registered, and they reasonably believed that the activities were registered. We consider that in practice this will mean checking the public register or receiving evidence of registration from their employer in the form of confirmation from the registration portal.

Finally, government Amendments 147 and 151 also modify the individuals to whom an information notice may be issued under both tiers of FIRS. There are circumstances where a person may be arranging for another individual to carry out the activity. In these circumstances, it is important for the Secretary of State to be able to issue an information notice to an individual whom they reasonably believe is carrying out an activity pursuant to a registerable arrangement, even if they are not the person who has made the arrangement.

I have considerable sympathy with the aims of Amendment 91, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. Wherever possible, Governments should strive to share what they know to reduce the regulatory burden on ordinary people and businesses. However, I believe that the schemes he has listed have different purposes and requirements, with relatively little overlap. Where there is a risk of unnecessary duplication, registration requirements can be targeted to avoid this.

Amendment 106, also tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, seeks to require the Secretary of State to produce an annual report on the impacts of the enhanced tier, including on international research collaborations. Again, I seek to reassure the noble Lord on this point, as the Government will keep the impacts of the scheme under review.

Amendments 166B and 203A, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, seek to require the Secretary of State to produce guidance within six months of the Act passing, and to prevent regulations made under the scheme being brought into force until three months after the publication of the guidance. Again, I agree with the spirit in which this amendment has been made but, as I will seek to reassure noble Lords, the Government have already committed to producing guidance during the implementation period, prior to bringing the scheme into force.

I come to Amendment 154A in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile. This contains reasonable points which would bring certainty to the provisions and the Government support it.

I hope noble Lords will support these amendments.

My Lords, I speak to Amendments 91 and 106, which the Minister has mentioned. In this case, I speak very much on behalf of the academic and policy research communities, with which I was professionally engaged for some 40 or more years.

We are concerned not to impose too great a burden on those who are engaged in international research. The Minister will be very well aware of the commitments that have already been made for researchers engaged in international co-operation to provide information to the Government, and the concerns that there have already been, particularly about collaboration with countries such as China and Russia. That information is provided to government, and I remind the Minister that, as a member of a Government who are strongly against adding to bureaucracy and red tape, it should be possible for government departments to share information, rather than require it to be given twice to different departments.

I am conscious that the Home Office has a poor record in this regard; indeed, the entire Windrush affair happened because the Home Office refused to ask other departments for information on whether or not the people concerned had been in this country. This was clearly available at the DVLA, the Department of Health, the national insurance scheme, et cetera. There is a real problem in government about asking for the same information twice. The information asked for indeed overlaps, and I ask the Minister to assure us that the Government will look at this matter again and do their best to make sure that it does not add to the burdens to which those of us who are concerned with international co-operation have to relate.

The Minister will be well aware that the Government are also negotiating to rejoin the Horizon European international collaboration scheme for science, probably the most impressive and important network for international co-operation in the world. All the members of the European Union and the various other countries associated with it are listed as foreign powers, with the exception of Ireland, so this is a live question. I declare an interest: my son, a scientist at the University of Edinburgh, is currently engaged in international co-operation with universities and research institutes—one or two of them government-sponsored and financed—in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. That is a small snapshot of the extent of that collaboration, if one were to go merely to the biology faculty at the University of Edinburgh. I suspect that there are some 30 or 40 other countries with which 100 scientists at the university are involved in various collaborative activities.

The purpose of Amendment 106 is to gain the strongest assurances from the Government that they will look at whether additional burdens are being imposed by the legislation on those who are unavoidably and actively—and desirably—engaged in international collaboration with institutes, universities and other bodies that are part of, or dependent on, foreign Governments in one way or another. We need active assurance on that. If the Minister is able to give that, we will not press these amendments further but I emphasise that it is important that this legislation does not over-add to the requirements to report normal activities. I remind the Minister that we are talking about a country that is determined to become a science international superpower, and that needs to be sure that it does not put obstacles in its own way that deter those in other counties from collaborating as it ensures its security.

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response to the amendments I tabled, supported by my noble friend, on the need for the publication of timely guidance on how the schemes will operate. He has been true to his word from the first day of Report and taken away many of the issues raised in Committee and come back with a number of amendments to address them. They relate mainly to the next group and the political tier but, given that my amendments fall within this group, I wish to put on record how grateful I am to him for the way in which he has engaged and responded.

The government amendments have addressed many of the significant concerns of those seeking legitimate activity—I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, who raised the issue of economic activity, is in her place—and those concerned about human rights. The areas where some questions remain include those we raised on the first day of Report, such as the German Stiftungen and other organisations that will not fall within the scope of the FIR schemes but are nevertheless concerned that they may do so. Much of that will be resolved in the guidance provided to them and therefore, the timeliness of that is of utmost importance.

In Committee I quoted at length from the Government’s impact assessment of the Bill, which suggested that the initial scheme could cost up to £48 million and many thousands of people would have to be informed about the scheme’s operation. Given that it is to be welcomed that the Government have reduced the scope of that, I am not sure what status the impact assessment now has. I should therefore be grateful if the Minister told us whether the guidance to be provided will also be informed by some revision of the impact assessment.

There will be businesses wanting to carry out legitimate activity that have to operate under a set of rules in the current regulations on countries at risk of money laundering or financing terrorism—we have a list of over 30 such countries—and there may now be an enhanced tier under FIRS. There will also be others, making it quite a complex environment for businesses operating in the political sphere.

I am grateful to the Minister for stating that the regulations to establish the scheme will not be put in place until guidance has been issued. It would be helpful if he could state categorically that there will be enough time after the guidance has been released before the scheme becomes operational. There is no point in guidance being published a week before it is operational. Many people will need to familiarise themselves with it, and their knowing that they are not part of it is as important as knowing that they are. If the Minister could take the opportunity to be crystal clear about the Stiftungen, that would tidy up some loose ends. I am grateful for the way in which he has approached this.

My Lords, the enhanced tier of FIRS requires the registration of arrangements to carry out any activity in the UK, or for future activities to be carried out in the UK, at the direction of a specified foreign power or entity. It also requires activities carried out by specified entities to be registered. I too am grateful for how the Government have responded, following concerns that this tier could deter legitimate activities. The Minister has introduced a series of concessions, as he mentioned in opening, which we welcome. There are outstanding issues, which I would be grateful if he could amplify in his answers.

On his Amendment 106, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, spoke about the need for regular reviews, which may highlight barriers to international collaboration. He gave examples from his family—particularly his son, who is no doubt doing important research work up at Edinburgh University. The purpose of this is to ensure that the enhanced scheme does not make the same mistakes as other schemes around the world. I draw the Australian scheme to the Minister’s attention, which I understand is currently being reviewed, given some high-profile concerns about how it is working. I look forward to his answer.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this short but constructive discussion. I will turn straight to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire.

Amendment 91 seeks to ensure that registration under FIRS is not required when the arrangement is registered under other legislative requirements. However, somewhat contrary to the noble Lord’s assertion, I think there is a clear difference between FIRS and the National Security and Investment Act, the academic technology approval scheme and the export control regime. The Government are clear that FIRS fills a gap in our toolkit. It is worth highlighting that the focus of this enhanced tier is to provide scrutiny to UK activities directed by specified foreign powers—it is worth emphasising this; we are talking about the enhanced tier—and foreign power-controlled entities.

We consider that there will be limited circumstances where there is a risk of duplication, but we will work closely across government departments and potential registrants to keep the burden of registration to a minimum and inform our approach to using this tier of the scheme. The Government do not want to impose unnecessary burdens. We have committed to a consultation on the guidance ahead of bringing the scheme into force. If that process identifies risks of duplication, the power to target what arrangements and activities will need to be registered can be used to reduce unnecessary duplication. This will be considered on a case-by-case basis when specifying foreign powers and entities.

Can the Minister give us an assurance that he will consult with the academies, the Royal Society and Universities UK to make sure that the element of duplication is reduced to the absolute minimum? When I was in government, we talked about trying to introduce the principle of “Tell us once” when people were in touch with government. In some other areas, that has now been introduced. The principle is a very good one; we do not want universities having to fill in forms unnecessarily widely. If he can assure us that there will be active consultation with those affected, I will not pursue this further.

My Lords, I am happy with the reassurance that we are committed to consulting, but I cannot say at this precise moment who we consult with. As I say, if that process identifies a risk of duplication, the power to target what arrangements and activities need to be registered can be used to reduce unnecessary duplication. Again, I stress that we are talking about the enhanced tier of the FIR scheme in the National Security Bill so, if there is a little bit of duplication, I am sure he will understand that in the context of the overall Bill.

Amendment 106 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, would require the Secretary of State to produce an annual report on the impacts of the enhanced tier; the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, also questioned me on this. I reassure both noble Lords that the Government recognise the importance of keeping the impacts of the scheme under consideration. Clause 82 already requires the Secretary of State to produce and lay before Parliament an annual report every 12 months after the scheme goes live. The legislation will also be subject to the usual post-legislative scrutiny process, which will consider how the scheme has worked in practice and how far its objectives have been met. I therefore ask that the noble Lord does not press this amendment.

Amendments 166B and 203A tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, seek to require the Secretary of State to produce guidance within six months of the Bill passing, and to prevent regulations made under the scheme from being brought into force until three months after the publication of guidance. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, I say that the Government recognise the importance of ensuring guidance for the public to support the implementation of the scheme. However, it is important that there are not undue restrictions placed on the development of this guidance, to ensure that the guidance produced is clear and targeted to those complying. I can say to him that a revised impact assessment is required before Royal Assent, so that will be forthcoming. He also raised the point about the German Stiftungen. If he bears with me, we will address this directly in the next group. I will also go further: the Government have committed to establishing expert panels to produce sector-specific guidance on compliance with FIRS. With that, I think I have answered all the questions.

Amendment 87 agreed.

Amendments 88 to 90

Moved by

88: Clause 64, page 45, line 19, after “for” insert “relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, together with Lord Sharpe’s other amendments to Clause 64 relating to relevant activities, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying which activities of a specified person are subject to the provisions about foreign activity arrangements.

89: Clause 64, page 45, line 19, at end insert—

“(1A) In this section “relevant activities”—(a) if regulations under subsection (1B) apply in relation to the specified person, has the meaning given by the regulations, and(b) otherwise, means all activities.(1B) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about activities which are relevant activities for the purposes of this section, either in relation to all specified persons or in relation to such specified persons as the regulations may provide.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, together with Lord Sharpe’s other amendments to Clause 64 relating to relevant activities, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying which activities of a specified person are subject to the provisions about foreign activity arrangements.

90: Clause 64, page 45, line 23, leave out from beginning to “ought” in line 26 and insert “P commits an offence if P—

(a) fails to comply with subsection (2), and(b) knows, or having regard to other matters known to them” Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is to ensure consistency with subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 64, which refer to the person who makes the arrangement as “P”. It also clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

Amendments 88 to 90 agreed.

Amendment 91 not moved.

Clause 66: Offence of carrying out activities pursuant to unregistered foreign activity arrangement

Amendments 92 to 95

Moved by

92: Clause 66, page 46, line 13, leave out from beginning to end of line 16 and insert—

“(A1) This section applies where a person (“P”) makes a foreign activity arrangement required to be registered under section 64(2).(1) P commits an offence if—(a) P carries out a relevant activity, or arranges for a relevant activity to be carried out, in the United Kingdom pursuant to the arrangement,”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment confines the offence in Clause 66(1) to the person who makes a foreign activity arrangement with a specified person.

93: Clause 66, page 46, line 18, leave out “the person knows, or” and insert “P knows, or having regard to other matters known to them”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 66, page 46, line 13, and clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

94: Clause 66, page 46, leave out line 19 and insert “pursuant to a foreign activity arrangement.”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the mens rea where P acts pursuant to a foreign activity arrangement.

95: Clause 66, page 46, line 20, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

“(2) A person other than P commits an offence if—(a) the person carries out a relevant activity, or arranges for a relevant activity to be carried out, in the United Kingdom pursuant to the arrangement,(b) the arrangement is not registered, and(c) the person knows, or having regard to other matters known to them ought reasonably to know, that they are acting pursuant to a foreign activity arrangement.(3) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (2) it is a defence to show that the person—(a) took all steps reasonably practicable to determine whether the arrangement was registered, and(b) reasonably believed that the arrangement was registered.(4) A person is taken to have shown a matter mentioned in subsection (3) if—(a) sufficient evidence of the matter is adduced to raise an issue with respect to it, and(b) the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.(5) In this section “relevant activity” has the same meaning as in section 64.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the applicable mens rea where a person other than P carries out the activities in question, or arranges for them to be carried out.

Amendments 92 to 95 agreed.

Amendment 96 not moved.

Clause 67: Requirement to register activities of specified persons

Amendments 97 to 104

Moved by

97: Clause 67, page 46, line 22, after “out” insert “relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, together with Lord Sharpe’s other amendments to clause 67 relating to relevant activities, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying which activities of a specified person are subject to clause 67.

98: Clause 67, page 46, line 26, at end insert “relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, together with Lord Sharpe’s other amendments to Clause 67 relating to relevant activities, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying which activities of a specified person are subject to Clause 67.

99: Clause 67, page 46, line 30, at end insert “relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, together with Lord Sharpe’s other amendments to Clause 67 relating to relevant activities, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying which activities of a specified person are subject to Clause 67.

100: Clause 67, page 46, line 36, at end insert—

“(3A) In this section “relevant activities”—(a) if regulations under subsection (3B) apply in relation to the specified person, has the meaning given by the regulations, and(b) otherwise, means all activities.(3B) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about activities which are relevant activities for the purposes of this section, either in relation to all specified persons or in relation to such specified persons as the regulations may provide.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, together with Lord Sharpe’s other amendments to Clause 67 relating to relevant activities, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying which activities of a specified person are subject to Clause 67.

101: Clause 67, page 47, line 6, leave out from “offence” to end of line 7.

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment removes the requirement for knowledge that an activity is not registered from the offence in Clause 67(7). Knowledge of registration is now dealt with in the defence inserted by Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 67, page 47, line 10.

102: Clause 67, page 47, line 9, after first “or” insert “having regard to other matters known to them”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

103: Clause 67, page 47, line 9, leave out “or (b)”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment adjusts the test for committing an offence under Clause 67.

104: Clause 67, page 47, line 10, at end insert—

“(9) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (7) or (8) it is a defence to show that the person—(a) took all steps reasonably practicable to determine whether the activities were registered, and(b) reasonably believed that the activities were registered. (10) A person is taken to have shown a matter mentioned in subsection (9) if—(a) sufficient evidence of the matter is adduced to raise an issue with respect to it, and(b) the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides a defence to an offence under Clause 67(7) and (8).

Amendments 97 to 104 agreed.

Amendment 105 not moved.

Amendment 106 not moved.

Clause 68: Requirement to register foreign influence arrangements

Amendment 107

Moved by

107: Clause 68, page 47, line 14, leave out first “principal” and insert “power”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment and Lord Sharpe’s other amendment to Clause 68(1) restrict the definition of foreign influence arrangements to arrangements with foreign powers.

My Lords, I have listened carefully to the debate about the political tier of the foreign influence registration scheme. I am immensely grateful to the House and others for their expertise and the constructive nature of the debate.

In response to the strength of feeling, this group of amendments refocuses the political tier back on its original intention: the influence of foreign powers over UK democracy. In its revised form, this tier would require registration only where a person is carrying out political influence at the direction of a foreign Government. That bears repeating—only where a person is carrying out political influence at the direction of a foreign Government. To be clear, this will take those being directed by foreign companies, foreign charities or other foreign entities entirely out of scope of the scheme.

I know that there has also been some debate about what it means to be directed by a foreign power. That is a high bar. Its natural meaning is an order or instruction to act. It could be delivered in the language of a request, but only where there is a power relationship between the person and the foreign power which adds an element of control or expectation to the request—for example, through a contract, payment, coercion, or the promise of a future compensation or favourable treatment. It is not enough for a foreign power to fund an activity. Generic requests, joint collaboration, or simply an alignment of views, absent this power relationship, will not meet the test for direction.

As part of this package of amendments, we have made some other changes, which I hope will be welcomed by noble Lords. A person will now have up to 28 days to register an arrangement under the political tier and does not need to register the arrangement before the activity takes place. This will give greater flexibility and ensure that we do not impede spontaneous activity.

We have narrowed the definition of “political influence activity” so that attempts to influence a Member of Parliament or equivalents in the devolved Administrations will require registration only when it is intended to influence them in their capacity as a Member of Parliament. Activity which seeks to influence these individuals in their personal capacity will not be registerable. Amendment 120 makes this clear.

As outlined on the previous group, we have made some minor changes to the offences to ensure that they work properly for subcontractors and that a person will not fall foul of the offence where they have taken all reasonably practicable steps to determine that an arrangement is registered.

I am pleased to say that we have accepted the recommendation by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that regulations detailing the information to be published on the FIRS public register made under Clause 79 should be subject to the affirmative procedure. The public register is a vital element of the scheme. However, we recognise that there will be sensitivities in publishing some information and understand the call for an opportunity to debate this important matter.

I know that your Lordships have been anxious to scrutinise draft regulations under this part of the Bill. Last week, I published two sets of draft regulations setting out what information will be required from registrants and what information will be published. Importantly, these regulations confirm that we will not publish information where there is a risk that doing so would prejudice national security, put an individual’s safety at risk or involve the disclosure of commercially sensitive information. I have placed copies of these indicative regulations in the House Library.

This is accompanied by a government policy statement setting out how we envisage the other delegated powers being used. This includes an example registration form, which I hope noble Lords have found useful in thinking about how the scheme will work.

We are keen for the implementation of this scheme to be as collaborative as possible, which is why we will hold a further public consultation on the guidance required for the scheme prior to commencement. We will also continue to review the scheme and consider any further exemptions necessary to ensure that there is no negative impact on potential inward investment into the UK.

It is important to understand the wider context for FIRS. We are in an era of increased state-based competition. Foreign powers are seeking to influence British democracy to further their own interests, sometimes openly and sometimes covertly.

Foreign influence is not unwelcome. We recognise that Governments around the world seek to influence policies in the UK in a way that benefits their interests. Of course, the UK does the same. This type of influence, when conducted in an open and transparent way, contributes positively, and we recognise the critical role that this expertise plays in enhancing policy-making, employment and wealth creation. However, when foreign powers seek to influence in a way that is not transparent, this can have serious implications for the UK, posing risk to our open system of government and risking erosion of public confidence in political and government institutions.

We need to be more vigilant about this risk. Currently, foreign Governments can use others as proxies to attempt to influence British Ministers, MPs, officials, or indeed shape British public opinion, with only a limited requirement to disclose the hidden hand behind this influence, and no sanction if discovered. It is not unreasonable to aspire to a greater understanding of foreign influence; for the Government, parliamentarians and wider public to know where this influence is being brought to bear. FIRS seeks to address this gap, providing us all with more information about the scale and nature of foreign political influence in the UK. I look forward to the debate on the amended provisions and addressing the amendments that have been tabled.

Finally, I make noble Lords aware that we have identified an inconsistency in the treatment of ministerial decisions taken across the devolved Administrations that fall within the scope of this tier. I commit to tabling an amendment at Third Reading that will resolve that issue. For now, I beg to move.

My Lords, I have my name on a number of amendments in this group. I will start by saying, which I had not prepared to say, that when the Minister looks at the speech he has just made, I think he will find that there were some drafting errors—I hope there were—at the beginning. He said that FIRS would apply now only to a foreign Government. I think he said that twice and afterwards went on to talk about a foreign power. He knows very well why I pick up on the difference because one of my ongoing concerns is about the definition of a foreign power, which includes political parties. I hope that was just an oversight because I think that this captures political parties as well as foreign Governments.

There are two or three points I want to make very briefly but before I go on, I want to add my thanks for what the Minister has done, not only in the incredible change. The Minister has sent me the Keeling schedule that shows that we have ended up with a FIRS that is very different from what we started with. I should declare my interest, as I sit on the board of the ABI and it is very content with where we have got to. It did however make the point that this is no way to make a sausage—I have to say that they were not its words; it was far more polite. The way it started was not the best way to make legislation. The ABI and others are very content with where we have got to, and it is right to record that we have ended up with something very different, so I thank the Minister.

My name is on three amendments. I will not press Amendments 114 and 121 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. But on Amendment 115 I am second to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, and I think it is an indication of the approval of what he has done that one of the delete clause amendments is in his name—only because he got there first because I was about to do that. I think it is a symbol that we do it.

I have that one remaining query about a foreign political power that happens to be in government engaging with any of us or councillors or parliamentary candidates, even on internal, party-to-party issues, using an intermediary such as the conference arrangement. I have looked at the draft regulations again as the Minister helpfully said. There is no de minimis there, even if they pay £1,000 to a conference organiser to book the stall at a Labour Party conference or a Tory Party conference—I am sure they have stalls; I have been to their conference and they do in the same way as we do. There is no de minimis for a political party abroad seeking to engage with a political party or anyone else here using an intermediary which is simply a facilitator. Therefore, I wonder whether there is a possibility of looking at the guidelines or the forms. There will be a contract. It may be only for £1,000 but there are the implications of having all that to be declared. I am not saying that simply because we have stalls at our conference, it could happen to the Government as well. It captures things that I know the Minister never intended. I know that at the moment he will not give me an answer and a promise written in blood, but some acknowledgement that there is a small ongoing problem would be very helpful. For the moment, I think we have ended up in a much better place than we started.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 166A in my name. I also thank the Minister for the way in which the Bill has been discussed and amended between Second Reading, Committee and Report. It is a model of the way in which the Lords should operate, and we all appreciate the way in which the Minister and his team have responded to reasoned criticisms as we have moved forward.

Amendment 166A merely draws attention to some of the definition problems we have all struggled with, wanting to catch all the problems but not to overload the necessary and highly desirable international co-operation with other Governments and other countries, many of which are governed in ways we do not entirely approve of. As somebody who used to work for an international think tank, I am particularly concerned with the opacity of the funding of some of our political think tanks, which as charities do not have to declare their revenue.

In the United States there is much concern with the extent to which some foreign Governments, in particular the Gulf states, put enormous amounts of money into institutes operating as political think tanks, intending to influence and therefore reshape the American political debate. Although that is outside the scope of the current Bill, I and others are much concerned to insist that there should be much greater transparency about the funding of think tanks that set out to deliberately influence the way in which our politics take place.

That is an example, but we all know that there will be a substantial grey area between direction and influence, which we and the Minister have all grappled with. We are not entirely sure that we can draw the line clearly as we go. This amendment asks the Government actively to keep under review and to consult on where that line needs to be adjusted as we move forward in implementation. I hope the Minister will respond in that way.

My Lords, I got involved in Committee—my only appearance on the Bill—because of concerns brought to my attention about the impact of the registration scheme on huge swathes of ordinary, everyday business and commercial activity. I was much encouraged that at that stage my noble friend the Minister said that this was under review. I am more than pleased with the actual outcome. I know that once a Bill has been published it is very hard for the Government to do a radical overhaul, so we have to pay tribute to my noble friend the Minister and the Security Minister in the other place for having the courage to say that what we started with would not work well enough and to come back with such a significant set of revisions on Report. I thank him again for all he has done to achieve this.

My Lords, I think I failed to hear something the Minister said earlier relating to Amendment 110A. I raise it because the noble Lords, Lord Anderson of Ipswich and Lord Carlile of Berriew, are both unable to be in the House this afternoon for various compelling reasons. The amendment helpfully tidies up part of the provision by ensuring that the reference to arrangements entered into before the clause comes into force does not apply to arrangements that have ceased to have effect. I think the Minister indicated that he was going to accept it and therefore, I presume, move it at the appropriate stage.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, raised valid areas with regard to the sometimes complex relationships between political parties and the Governments of states, which I hope the Minister, who referred to foreign Governments, can go a little further and point to. It is absolutely right that that is one of a number of criteria set down earlier in the Bill, in Clause 32, and that the meaning of a foreign power includes

“a political party which is a governing political party”.

There will still be issues when it comes to relationships such as demand and supply and other kinds of relations, but I hope that the Minister will provide clarity and proper consultations so that, when we come to the finalised guidance and regulations, those issues will be very clear. The Minister will not be surprised to hear that, as in the earlier group, we are still hoping for that bit of clarification on the German Stiftungen and others represented by the kinds of organisations that the Stiftungen are—those that operate within a public policy and political sphere but are not directly linked to the Government or governing political parties although they are, by definition, political in their nature. I am sure that the Minister will respond to that when he winds up.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, we have a number of scars on our back from legislation where we have tried to do heavy lifting in this Chamber to improve Bills. I tabled a number of amendments in Committee highlighting the concern that what had been brought forward was an unworkable scheme; I think we are now looking at a workable scheme. That is important for the security of our country.

I particularly welcome the draft registration forms, about which I had raised concerns in Committee. I am very pleased that the Minister will be having an active consultation. I am delighted that there will be an updated impact assessment. While the Minister said that that is required of the Government, in previous Bills some excuses have been made for impact assessments not to be updated, so I am very pleased about that. And on the draft regulations, as I said, I am delighted.

As I said on the earlier group, the Minister has been true to his word. I have just one final favour to ask of him. Given that I have been rather successful with colleagues in securing some concessions on this Bill, could he have a word with other Ministers, just to say that “Purvis is not always wrong”? Sometimes, we can do our job in this place; we can make the Government’s job a bit better and make unworkable schemes workable. I commend the Minister for how he has approached this so far.

My Lords, there seems to be a new approach to Ministers by buttering them up. I noticed my noble friend buttering up the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, the other day, which seemed to cause amusement in the House. Nevertheless, I too thank the Minister for his response to the earlier concerns raised. The primary tier of FIRS requires the registration of

“arrangements to carry out political influence activities within the UK”,

or to arrange for such activities to be carried out in the UK,

“at the direction of a foreign principal”.

Registration of political influence activity is also required

“where the activity is being carried out by the foreign principal itself. The foreign principal will be responsible for registering political influence activities”.

As I said, concerns were raised that this could impair international co-operation through political parties and similar organisations. It was previously reported that the Government might withdraw the primary tier entirely, but, instead, the Minister has removed the most controversial features of this and accepted Amendment 110A in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile—and the name of the Minister himself is also on that amendment.

I also mention the contacts from the German embassy in relation to the same points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Balfe, at an earlier stage of Report: the concerns of political foundations such as the centre-left Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the centre-right Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and whether they would have a duty to register. If the Minister could repeat what he said earlier, I hope that the minds of the representatives of those organisations will be put at rest.

I welcome what has been said. I hope that this is indeed a workable scheme. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, who described a “radical overhaul”, which it is not usual to get on such an important Bill as this. I think that everybody accepts that this is a very important Bill and I hope that it will emerge from your Lordships’ House a better Bill than when it arrived.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who participated in this debate. I am feeling a little overwhelmed. The Government have moved a long way, as has been noted, on the FIRS scheme, which now tackles what it was originally intended to address. I thank all noble Lords for their probing amendments. I would particularly like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for paying special attention and noticing my deliberate error. I should have said—and I will repeat this because I repeated it the first time around—“foreign powers, including foreign Governments”.

With the leave of the House, and in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Beith, I will speak to Amendment 110A, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and signed by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. The Government do not intend to require the registration of defunct foreign influence arrangements, so we urge the House to support the amendment.

Amendments 114 and 121, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, would remove the requirement to register foreign influence arrangements at Clause 68, and the meaning of “political influence activity” at Clause 70, from the scheme. These clauses are essential to the functioning of the revised political influence tier of the scheme, and for this reason I ask that the amendments be withdrawn. I will, however, go into a little more detail on the impact on the proceedings of a UK-registered party in Clause 70. It is not intended to cover every activity undertaken by a UK political party. The focus is on where foreign powers are seeking to influence formal matters of a UK political party, such as candidates’ selections and adoption of policy through third parties; but it will not, for example, cover decisions around venue changes for joint conferences. In this way, we believe that this scheme is appropriately targeted to focus on the arrangements and activities where transparency is most needed, while avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy. However, I have heard the noble Baroness on a number of occasions now and I will certainly be taking her points into account when we are developing the guidance.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for his Amendment 166A. This would require the Government to consult, and lay a report in Parliament, on the merits of expanding the foreign influence registration scheme to those controlled by a foreign power seeking to influence public policy. Again, we have sympathy with this amendment and, indeed, one of the reasons why the Government originally sought a broader scheme was to fully capture the proxies of foreign powers. I share the noble Lord’s interest in ensuring we remain responsive to the risks posed by covert influence, but I reassure him that the Government will keep the impacts of the scheme, and any need to expand it, under careful review. The timings for this are important and I cannot accept an amendment that may tie the Government to evaluating the scheme before it has come into force and had a chance to bed in. So I ask him not to press this amendment but reassure him that the Government will be able to use the annual review requirements to assess areas where the scheme could be strengthened.

In addressing the point raised in both this group and the last by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, around the impact of the scheme on foreign political foundations, we did meet with representatives of the German embassy after the debate last week to discuss this scheme, and recognise the importance of the work carried out by political foundations such as the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung to promote political co-operation and the values of democracy and the rule of law. So I reassure the noble Lord that institutions such as these that operate independently of foreign powers will not have to register their activities. Receiving funding from a foreign power does not trigger a requirement to register under the scheme. Only where organisations are being directed by a foreign power through a power relationship to carry out political influence activities will that need to be registered. With that, I think that I have answered all the questions.

Amendment 107 agreed.

Amendments 108 to 110A

Moved by

108: Clause 68, page 47, line 14, leave out second “principal” and insert “power”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment and Lord Sharpe’s other amendment to Clause 68(1) restrict the definition of foreign influence arrangements to arrangements with foreign powers.

109: Clause 68, page 47, line 17, at end insert—

“(1A) Where the foreign power is a specified person, the arrangement is not a foreign influence arrangement to the extent that it relates to political influence activities that are relevant activities for the purposes of section 64.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment prevents overlap between foreign activity arrangements required to be registered under Clause 64 and foreign influence arrangements required to be registered under Clause 68.

110: Clause 68, page 47, line 19, leave out “10” and insert “28”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment increases the time limit for registering a foreign influence agreement after it has been made.

110A: Clause 68, page 47, line 21, leave out “made before” and insert “which is made before, and which continues to have effect on,”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies that the requirement to register foreign influence arrangements entered into before Clause 68 comes into force does not apply to arrangements which have ceased to have effect when the Clause comes into force.

Amendments 108 to 110A agreed.

Amendment 111 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 112 and 113

Moved by

112: Clause 68, page 47, line 23, leave out “10” and insert “28”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 68, page 47, line 19.

113: Clause 68, page 47, line 25, leave out from beginning to “knows” in line 26 and insert “P commits an offence if P—

(a) fails to comply with subsection (2), and”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is to ensure consistency with subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 68, which refer to the person who makes an arrangement as “P”.

Amendments 112 and 113 agreed.

Amendment 114 not moved.

Clause 69: Meaning of “foreign principal”

Amendment 115

Moved by

115: Leave out Clause 69

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

Amendment 115 agreed.

Clause 70: Meaning of “political influence activity”

Amendments 116 to 120

Moved by

116: Clause 70, page 48, line 25, leave out “principal” and insert “power”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

117: Clause 70, page 48, line 28, leave out “the conduct of”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment adjusts the matters within subsection (3)(a), for consistency with Clause 14(3).

118: Clause 70, page 48, line 29, leave out “the government of the United Kingdom” and insert “a Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975), a United Kingdom government department”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies that the matters within Clause 70(3) include a decision of a Minister of the Crown or a government department.

119: Clause 70, page 48, line 32, leave out paragraph (c)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment removes reference to the proceedings of Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and Senedd Cymru. Persons in these assemblies are caught by other paragraphs in subsection (3).

120: Clause 70, page 48, line 38, at end insert “(acting in that capacity)”.

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies that the conduct of Members of Parliament etc is relevant only where those persons are acting in that capacity.

Amendments 116 to 120 agreed.

Amendment 121 not moved.

Clause 71: Offence of carrying out political influence activities pursuant to unregistered foreign influence arrangement

Amendment 122 not moved.

Amendments 123 to 125

Moved by

123: Clause 71, page 49, line 16, leave out from first “to” to end of line 17 and insert “the arrangement”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 71, page 49, line 13.

124: Clause 71, page 49, line 19, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—

“(c) P knows, or having regard to other matters known to them ought reasonably to know, that they are acting pursuant to a foreign influence arrangement.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment adjusts the test in Clause 71(1)(c).

125: Clause 71, page 49, line 20, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

“(2) A person other than P commits an offence if—(a) after the end of the registration period the person carries out a political influence activity, or arranges for a political influence activity to be carried out, in the United Kingdom pursuant to the arrangement,(b) the arrangement is not registered, and(c) the person knows, or having regard to other matters known to them ought reasonably to know, that they are acting pursuant to a foreign influence arrangement.(3) In this section the “registration period” means the period before the end of which P must register the arrangement (see section 68(2) and (3)).(4) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (2) it is a defence to show that the person—(a) took all steps reasonably practicable to determine whether the arrangement was registered, and(b) reasonably believed that the arrangement was registered.(5) A person is taken to have shown a matter mentioned in subsection (4) if—(a) sufficient evidence of the matter is adduced to raise an issue with respect to it, and(b) the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the applicable mens rea where a person other than P carries out the political influence activities in question.

Amendments 123 to 125 agreed.

Clause 72: Requirement to register political influence activities of foreign principals

Amendments 126 to 133

Moved by

126: Clause 72, page 49, line 22, leave out subsections (1) and (2)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

127: Clause 72, page 49, line 30, leave out “a foreign principal who is”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

128: Clause 72, page 49, line 37, leave out “principal” and insert “power”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

129: Clause 72, page 49, line 37, at end insert—

“(3A) Where the foreign power is a specified person, the prohibition in subsection (3) does not apply to the extent that the political influence activities are relevant activities for the purposes of section 67.” Member's explanatory statement

This amendment prevents overlap between the offence in Clause 67 and the offence in Clause 72.

130: Clause 72, page 50, line 7, leave out subsection (7)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to leave out Clause 72(1) and (2).

131: Clause 72, page 50, line 11, after first “or” insert “having regard to other matters known to them”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

132: Clause 72, page 50, line 11, leave out “or (b)”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment adjusts the test in subsection (8).

133: Clause 72, page 50, line 12, at end insert—

“(9) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (8) it is a defence to show that the person—(a) took all steps reasonably practicable to determine whether the activities were registered, and(b) reasonably believed that the activities were registered.(10) A person is taken to have shown a matter mentioned in subsection (9) if—(a) sufficient evidence of the matter is adduced to raise an issue with respect to it, and(b) the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides a defence to an offence under Clause 72(8).

Amendments 126 to 133 agreed.

Schedule 15: Exemptions

Amendments 134 to 144

Moved by

134: Schedule 15, page 184, line 7, leave out “(1) to”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to omit Clause 72(1) and (2).

135: Schedule 15, page 184, line 16, after “66(1)” insert “or (2)”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to clause 66, page 46, line 20.

136: Schedule 15, page 184, line 19, after “71(1)” insert “or (2)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 71, page 49, line 20.

137: Schedule 15, page 185, line 31, after “71(1)” insert “or (2)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 71, page 49, line 20.

138: Schedule 15, page 185, line 33 leave out paragraph (c)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to omit Clause 72(1) and (2).

139: Schedule 15, page 185, line 37, leave out sub-paragraph (2)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to omit Clause 72(1) and (2).

140: Schedule 15, page 186, line 5, after “71(1)” insert “or (2)”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 71, page 49, line 20.

141: Schedule 15, page 186, line 10, leave out “principal” and insert “power”.

Member's explanatory statement

The amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

142: Schedule 15, page 186, leave out lines 14 to 18 and insert—

““news-related material” , “publish” , and “recognised news publisher” have the meaning given by paragraph 4A.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment and Lord Sharpe’s proposed new paragraph 4A of Schedule 15 incorporate the definitions of “news-related material”, “publish” and “recognised news publisher” in Schedule 15 rather than by cross-referring to the definitions in the Online Safety Bill.

143: Schedule 15, page 186, line 18, at end insert—

“(1) In paragraph 4, “recognised news publisher” means any of the following entities—(a) the British Broadcasting Corporation,(b) Sianel Pedwar Cymru,(c) the holder of a licence under the Broadcasting Act 1990 or 1996 who publishes news-related material in connection with the broadcasting activities authorised under the licence, and(d) any other entity which—(i) meets all of the conditions in sub-paragraph (2),(ii) is not an excluded entity (see sub-paragraph (3)), and(iii) is not a sanctioned entity (see sub-paragraph (4)).(2) The conditions referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(d)(i) are that the entity—(a) has as its principal purpose the publication of news-related material, and such material—(i) is created by different persons, and(ii) is subject to editorial control,(b) publishes such material in the course of a business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit),(c) is subject to a standards code,(d) has policies and procedures for handling and resolving complaints,(e) has a registered office or other business address,(f) is the person with legal responsibility for material published by it in the United Kingdom, and(g) publishes—(i) the entity’s name, the address mentioned in paragraph (e) and the entity’s registered number (if any), and(ii) the name and address of any person who controls the entity (including, where such a person is an entity, the address of that person’s registered or principal office and that person’s registered number (if any)).(3) An “excluded entity” is an entity—(a) which is a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000 (see section 3 of that Act), or(b) the purpose of which is to support a proscribed organisation under that Act.(4) A “sanctioned entity” is an entity which—(a) is designated by name under a power contained in regulations under section 1 of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 that authorises the Secretary of State or the Treasury to designate persons for the purposes of the regulations or of any provisions of the regulations, or (b) is a designated person under any provision included in such regulations by virtue of section 13 of that Act (persons named by or under UN Security Council Resolutions).(5) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)—(a) news-related material is “subject to editorial control” if there is a person (whether or not the publisher of the material) who has editorial or equivalent responsibility for the material, including responsibility for how it is presented and the decision to publish it;(b) “control” has the same meaning as it has in the Broadcasting Act 1990 by virtue of section 202 of that Act.(6) In this paragraph—“news-related material” means material consisting of—(a) news or information about current affairs,(b) opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs, or(c) gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news;“publish” means publish by any means (including by broadcasting), and references to a publisher and publication are to be construed accordingly;“standards code” means—(a) a code of standards that regulates the conduct of publishers, that is published by an independent regulator, or(b) a code of standards that regulates the conduct of the entity in question, that is published by the entity itself.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment and Lord Sharpe’s amendment to paragraph 4 of Schedule 15 incorporate the definitions of “news-related material”, “publish” and “recognised news publisher” in Schedule 15 rather than by cross-referring to the definitions in the Online Safety Bill.

144: Schedule 15, page 186, line 29, leave out “(1) to”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment leaving out Clause 72(1) and (2).

Amendments 134 to 144 agreed.

Clause 74: Registration information

Amendments 145 and 146

145: Clause 74, page 50, line 22, leave out “an” and insert “a relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

146: Clause 74, page 50, line 27, at end insert—

“(2A) Regulations under subsection (1)(c) may, in particular, require the person to provide information about any political influence activities carried out, or arranged to be carried out, during the registration period by any person pursuant to the arrangement which is required to be registered.(2B) In subsection (2A) “registration period” has the same meaning as in section 71.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the breadth of the regulation-making power in Clause 74(1), and is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 71 allowing for political influence activities to be carried out during the registration period.

Amendments 145 and 146 agreed.

Clause 75: Information notices

Amendments 147 to 153

Moved by

147: Clause 75, page 51, line 13, at end insert—

“(ba) a person the Secretary of State reasonably believes to be carrying out relevant activities, or arranging for relevant activities to be carried out, in the United Kingdom pursuant to a foreign activity arrangement within paragraph (a) or (b);”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment allows the Secretary of State to give an information notice to persons carrying out relevant activities pursuant to a foreign activity arrangement who are not themselves a party to the arrangement.

148: Clause 75, page 51, line 14, after “registered” insert “relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

149: Clause 75, page 51, line 15, at end insert “relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

150: Clause 75, page 51, line 17, at end insert “relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

151: Clause 75, page 51, line 24, at end insert—

“(ba) a person the Secretary of State reasonably believes to be carrying out political influence activities, or arranging for political influence activities to be carried out, in the United Kingdom pursuant to a foreign influence arrangement within paragraph (a) or (b);”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment allows the Secretary of State to give an information notice to persons carrying out political influence activities pursuant to a foreign influence arrangement who are not themselves a party to the arrangement.

152: Clause 75, page 51, line 25, after “registered” insert “political influence”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is for consistency with subsection (2)(e).

153: Clause 75, page 51, line 26, at end insert “political influence”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is for consistency with subsection (3)(e).

Amendments 147 to 153 agreed.

Amendment 154 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment 154A

Moved by

154A: Clause 75, page 51, line 31, at end insert—

“(3A) An information notice may only specify information which the Secretary of State considers may be relevant to an arrangement or activity within subsection (1) or (2).”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the information which may be specified in an information notice.

Amendment 154A agreed.

Clause 77: Offence of providing false information

Amendments 155 to 157

Moved by

155: Clause 77, page 52, line 24, leave out “an” and insert “a relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

156: Clause 77, page 52, line 32, after “or” insert “having regard to other matters known to them”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

157: Clause 77, page 53, line 1, after “or” insert “having regard to other matters known to them”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

Amendments 155 to 157 agreed.

Clause 78: Offence of carrying out activities under arrangements tainted by false information

Amendments 158 to 161

Moved by

158: Clause 78, page 53, line 6, leave out first “an” and insert “a relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

159: Clause 78, page 53, line 6, leave out second “an” and insert “a relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

160: Clause 78, page 53, line 13, after “or” insert “having regard to other matters known to them”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

161: Clause 78, page 53, line 24, after “or” insert “having regard to other matters known to them”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “ought reasonably to know”.

Amendments 158 to 161 agreed.

Clause 79: Publication and copying of information

Amendment 162

Moved by

162: Clause 79, page 53, line 32, after “(1)” insert “(a)”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies that Clause 79(2) only relates to the power in Clause 79(1)(a).

Amendment 162 agreed.

Clause 80: Offences: penalties

Amendments 163 and 164

Moved by

163: Clause 80, page 54, line 15, leave out “an” and insert “a relevant”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on changes to the definition of foreign activity arrangement in Clause 64.

164: Clause 80, page 54, line 36, leave out “(7) or”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendment omitting Clause 72(7).

Amendments 163 and 164 agreed.

Clause 82: Annual report

Amendments 165 and 166

Moved by

165: Clause 82, page 55, line 21, leave out “principals” and insert “powers”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

166: Clause 82, page 55, line 23, leave out “principals” and insert “powers”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

Amendments 165 and 166 agreed.

Amendments 166A and 166B not moved.

Clause 83: Interpretation

Amendment 167

Moved by

167: Clause 83, page 56, leave out line 3

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment omits the definition of “foreign principal” and is consequential on Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 68(1).

Amendment 167 agreed.

Amendment 168

Moved by

168: Leave out Clause 84

My Lords, at the risk of being accused of buttering up the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, I should say at the outset that we are very grateful to him, his officials and the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for their positive engagement with us on the Ministry of Justice aspects of the Bill. There has been significant movement by the Government on the MoJ provisions, and on this group in particular.

While that is the reality, there remain significant differences between us on these provisions. Our position on the damages reduction clauses in the Bill is that the power to reduce or extinguish damages in a case against the Crown on the basis that the claimant has been involved in some terrorist wrongdoing in the past should never have been in the Bill. After all, the clause does not require the conviction of a terrorist offence. Ground 1 in Clause 85(3)(a)(i) is the commission of such an offence, but the alternative ground in sub-paragraph (ii) is nebulously described as

“other involvement in terrorism-related activity”.

That could be serious or it could be limited. After all, even wearing clothing that might suggest support for a proscribed organisation is a terrorist offence. I therefore invite the Government to give the House an assurance that the provisions on reducing damages will not be invoked on unproven allegations emanating from a foreign state that a claimant has been involved in some terrorism-related activity under the alternative ground in Clause 85(3)(a)(ii).

We have serious concerns about Clauses 84 to 88 being part of the Bill. Those concerns are that they are restrictive of civil rights, effectively denying or restricting legitimate claimants’ access to the courts and their right to a remedy; that they could enable the Government to avoid liability for damages in the face of justified claims; and that they would reduce accountability and limit the publicity for genuine claims of government wrongdoing.

These clauses risk undermining two important democratic principles: first, that everyone is entitled to enforce their rights in court and, secondly, that, where a legal right is breached, there is a remedy. Our central question is, why should the Government be excused from paying damages in a case where their liability to a claimant is proved? I invite the noble and learned Lord to explain how the Government answer that central question. Why, also, have the Government not confined this power to cases within Clause 88, where there is a risk of damages being themselves used for the purposes of terrorism?

In Committee, I drew attention to the cases of Jagtar Singh Johal, Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, arising from the British Government’s complicity in torture and, in the latter case, detention in Thailand and rendition to Libya. Their cases and other cases of government wrongdoing might risk being threatened by this new power. However, since Committee, and in response to one of the main criticisms I and others levelled at this clause, the Government have laid Amendment 169. My reading of that amendment, which agrees with the Ministers explanatory statement, is that the court may consider reducing damages

“only if there was a connection between the terrorist wrongdoing and the conduct of the Crown complained of in the proceedings.”

Because it is complex, I invited the noble and learned Lord to write. Today, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and I have received a letter from the Minister containing that assurance. I hope he will forgive me if I read from it the relevant paragraph. He says, “On damages I am pleased to confirm your understanding of the intention and effect of the Government’s amendments to the scope of the Bill. The Government consider that they will mean that applications by the UK security services to reduce damages in national security cases will be possible only where there is a connection between the Crown’s conduct and the terrorist conduct of the claimant.”

That assurance, embodied in Amendment 169 and its consequential amendments, is a significant concession and answers an important criticism. Although the central criticisms of principle that I have outlined remain, we will not be pressing the stand part objections we have laid. Important among our concerns, as pointed out in Committee, is that the clause fails to set out criteria as to when and on what basis the court should exercise powers to reduce or extinguish damages. This was a matter extensively canvassed in Committee, but the Minister could really only say that the provisions were intended “to convey a message” that Britain should not be seen as a “soft touch” for terrorism. There was no guidance as to how and on what basis judges should exercise this new power. With the benefit of several weeks to consider the way in which the power is to be exercised, can the Minister please give us such guidance now?

I turn to Amendments 174 and 175 in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Ludford. At present, Clause 85(4) requires the court to take into account whether

“there was a limitation on the ability of the Crown to prevent”

the wrongful conduct complained of, including on the basis that it occurred overseas or was carried out in conjunction with a third party. That formulation suggests that His Majesty’s Government are just too weak to control their own conduct, if wrongful, overseas, or in collaboration with a third party. That permitted excuse is inadequate. Our amendments would restrict permitting any such limitation on the Crown’s ability to prevent its own wrongful conduct to places where it was both carried out overseas and—not or—instigated by a third party.

In the noble Lord’s letter, to which I referred, he has indicated that the Government are not prepared to concede these amendments. I would nevertheless appreciate the Government’s further consideration of the present provisions as they stand, and of the effect of the amendments we propose. I look forward to his further consideration and his response, in the hope that we might get a little further if he comes back with something at Third Reading. I beg to move.

My Lords, I added my name to some of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marks. I echo his thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, and the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for their constructive engagement with us on the damages clauses. I too am satisfied that Amendment 169, in particular, and the assurance that the noble and learned Lord gave in writing—which I hope he will repeat on the Floor of the House—address the main concern. I am impressed also by the eloquent point he made in Committee, that these clauses simply confer a power, or discretion, on the court, and I am confident that the courts will exercise those powers fairly and sensibly.

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Marks, for his amendments, and to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his comments. I hope the House will agree that the Government have been in listening mode throughout this Bill, and that we have in this particular instance moved quite considerably to deal with what the Government consider to be justified observations by your Lordships.

On the general point, the reforms are designed to protect the public, to deter those who seek to exploit our security services for compensation and to reduce the risk that court awards or damages may be used to fund terrorism—perhaps the most serious harm that can be perpetrated against society, going to its very fabric. The noble Lord, Lord Marks, asked me to restate the purpose of the clause and I think I have endeavoured to do so in those words.

On whether the Government can give any assurance that these provisions will not be invoked on the basis of

“unproven allegations … from a foreign state”,

I draw your Lordships’ attention to the fact that this is a power in the court; it is entirely in its discretion. No court is going to act on anything other than proper evidence, so in the Government’s view there is no risk of the danger to which the noble Lord, Lord Marks, referred, because this is a court process with rules of evidence and proper and fair procedures.

With those two preliminary observations, I come to the central point that was at issue when we discussed this clause in Committee. We have listened to the concerns expressed by noble Lords that the legislation needed to ensure that no national security case fell into scope where there was no connection between the Crown’s conduct and the terrorist conduct of the claimant. I can repeat before this House the assurance in the letter I sent noble Lords today, to which we have already been referred, saying that there needs to be a causal connection between the conduct of the terrorist and the reduction in damages.

As to what criteria the courts should apply when considering these issues, I know that noble Members felt the courts would require further guidance. In the Government’s view, the courts do not require further guidance; they are well able to interpret and apply this legislation, especially in light of the amendments we have proposed. The Government have every confidence in the court being able to discharge its functions under these provisions.

Our courts are well versed in taking a wide range of relevant factors into account in determining liability and assessing the level of damages. There are a number of common-law considerations to which noble Lords referred in Committee which may indeed provide some guidance. We do not seek to exonerate the Crown in respect of its own culpability; we aim simply to ensure that the terrorist conduct is properly taken into account when calculating quantum.

I turn to what I think are the only live amendments on this part, Amendments 174 and 175. Those amendments would apply to the Bill’s provisions whereby a court would consider the context in which the Crown had acted to reduce a risk of terrorism, but their underlying intention seems to the Government to be to markedly restrict those provisions. As I understand it, the amendments seek to limit the consideration of the court to where the Crown’s actions had been commenced —the provisions use the word “instigated”—and the conduct was required to have taken place overseas at the instigation of a foreign state.

While the Government accept that there are difficulties in preventing terrorism when the action concerned needs to be taken overseas, there are so many different facts and circumstances flowing from the claimant’s own actions that the proposed amendments would significantly limit the effect of these clauses. In the Government’s view, the courts ought to have complete discretion to apply the clauses as they stand; a very tight restriction both as to instigation and to the requirement that the instigated conduct took place overseas would limit them inappropriately and improperly restrict the discretion courts should have under the provisions.

The Government further feel that there is scope in these amendments for some confusion. The two aspects, an overseas element and instigation, seem to be couched in language reminiscent of an exclusive list, quite apart from the difficulty of deciding exactly what one means by “instigation”. In practice, the Government feel that the courts should be left to exercise their discretion, as they surely will, without the limitation proposed by these amendments. That is the Government’s position on the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and I hope that in the light of what I have said, he will consider not pressing them.

There is one amendment by the Government—Amendment 181—which is proposed to ensure family proceedings in Scotland and Northern Ireland are excluded from the freezing and forfeiture provisions that are also part of this part, as with those in England and Wales. That simply corrects an oversight in the original drafting.

Having set out the Government’s amendments and why we are unable to accept the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, I commend Government’s amendments and ask the noble Lord to withdraw his.

My Lords, I have heard the Minister’s explanation. It is right that the amendments that were between us were Amendments 174 and 175. Having considered his point on the court’s discretion, I am not sure that the difference between us is so wide as to justify my testing the opinion of the House on this occasion. I shall not move those two amendments and beg leave to withdraw the stand part amendment.

Amendment 168 withdrawn.

Clause 85: Duty to consider reduction in damages payable by the Crown

Amendments 169 to 173

Moved by

169: Clause 85, page 57, line 18, leave out from “wrongdoing” to “and” on line 21 and insert “that—

(i) involves the commission of a terrorism offence or other involvement in terrorism-related activity, and (ii) has a connection with the conduct of the Crown complained of in the proceedings,”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment, together with the other Government amendments to this Clause, would mean that the court may consider the matters in Clause 85(3)(b) only if there was a connection between the terrorist wrongdoing and the conduct of the Crown complained of in the proceedings.

170: Clause 85, page 57, line 22, leave out “terrorist” and insert “such”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Government amendment to Clause 85(3)(a) removing the defined term “terrorist wrongdoing”.

171: Clause 85, page 57, line 23, after “wrongdoing” insert “and of its connection with the conduct of the Crown”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Government amendment to Clause 85(3)(a) requiring consideration of whether there was a connection between the wrongdoing and the conduct of the Crown before considering its extent.

172: Clause 85, page 57, line 26, leave out paragraph (a)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the matters referred to in this paragraph being referred to in Clause 85(3) as a result of the Government amendments to that subsection.

173: Clause 85, page 57, line 30, leave out “that conduct” and insert “the conduct complained of in the proceedings”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Government amendment leaving out Clause 85(4)(a).

Amendments 169 to 173 agreed.

Amendments 174 to 176 not moved.

Clause 86: Section 85: supplementary

Amendment 177

Moved by

177: Clause 86, page 58, line 19, leave out from “out” to “to” and insert “how the Crown considers the national security factors”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Government amendments to Clause 85.

Amendment 177 agreed.

Amendment 178 not moved.

Clause 87: Sections 84 to 86: interpretation

Amendment 179 not moved.

Clause 88: Damages at risk of being used for the purposes of terrorism

Amendment 180

Moved by

180: Leave out Clause 88

My Lords, we now move on to group four on legal aid. Again, I express our gratitude to the Minister, and to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for his engagement with us on these provisions. Nevertheless, in spite of one welcome concession, to which I will turn, we oppose in principle the Bill’s proposals to exclude access to legal aid for those previously convicted of terrorist offences, however minor, subject only to the time and age conditions set out in the Bill. Legal aid, restricted as it might already be, is a right that we enjoy as citizens, and it is wrong simply to exclude that right for anyone convicted of a terrorist offence, however minor, whether or not the legal aid sought has any connection with the previous conviction. At least in relation to damages in the last group, the Government made the concession in Amendment 169, as we have heard, that, for the power to reduce damages to be exercised, there would have to be some connection between the past terrorist activity and the Crown’s wrongful conduct complained of in the proceedings. Here, no such connection is necessary before the exclusion of legal aid kicks in.

All we have from the Government in this group is an exception in Amendment 186 and its associated amendments for cases where an applicant for legal aid is the victim of domestic abuse. That is, of course, important, and it is welcome, but it is based on no discernible principle at all. If the victims of domestic violence should be entitled to legal aid, why not the victims of human trafficking, which, we observe, may well have led them into terrorist activity in the first place? Why not the victims of sexual offences? These two examples are the genesis of Amendments 186A and 186B in my name and the name of my noble friend Lady Ludford.

There are many examples of other cases where legal aid ought to be available, regardless of past convictions: family cases involving children, housing cases, Equality Act cases, and eligible cases of applications for judicial review. It is simply no answer for the Government to say that exceptional case funding remains available. The criteria for exceptional case funding are very restrictive. Broadly, they apply where convention rights are said to be infringed—principally in family, housing or benefits cases. There are very difficult hurdles to surmount before exceptional case funding is given, and there is no promise by the Ministry of Justice to make that funding more widely available.

In any case, the Government are trying to make legal aid more difficult to obtain for past terrorist offenders. It is a nonsense for them now to claim, and then rely on that claim, that it is not all that bad because exceptional case funding will make it easier for the very people they are trying to exclude from the availability of legal aid. So we put down Amendments 185 and 187 based on principle, and it is exactly the principle the Government conceded in the last group in relation to damages reduction: that legal aid would not be excluded in cases where there was no link—which we have called “no relevant factual connection”—between the past terrorist offence of which the applicant had been convicted and the current application for legal aid. I have invited the Minister and the Government to accept that principle. Were it accepted, we would not press these amendments to a vote because, although these clauses would still be unacceptable, much of the sting would be removed from them. In the letter from the noble Lord to which I alluded earlier, those amendments have not yet been accepted. I invite the noble Lord to reconsider that.

We also support Amendment 188 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Carlile of Berriew, and my noble friend Lady Ludford, restricting the exclusion of legal aid to cases where an offender has been sentenced to more than seven years for the relevant terrorist offence. At least those are serious terrorist offences—that is not a limitation in the Bill as currently drafted.

I regret that we cannot see the benefit of Amendment 188A, put down yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on behalf of the Labour Party, after what must have been weeks of thought. It seeks a review of the impact of Clause 89 on offenders sentenced to a non-custodial sentence. The review sought is very limited and does not address the flawed principle of the proposal or its application. We will stick to our principled amendments, and I beg to move.

My Lords, I have added my name to amendments in this group. I declare my interest as a practising barrister, sometimes representing clients on legal aid. The harmony that has broken out in this afternoon’s debates does not apply to this group, although I do thank the Minister, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, for engaging with me and others on this subject and for tabling an amendment that mitigates, to a limited extent, the mischief of Clause 89.

I will first cite some history. At the legal aid Bill’s Second Reading on 15 December 1948, the Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, told the House of Commons that civil legal aid was so important because it would

“open the doors of His Majesty’s courts and make British justice more readily accessible to the great mass of the population who hitherto have too frequently, I am afraid, had to regard these elementary rights—as they ought to be—as luxuries which were beyond their reach”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/12/1948; col. 1223.]

Sadly, the scope of legal aid has been much reduced in recent years by Labour Governments, Conservative Governments and by the coalition Government. But, where civil legal aid is still available, it remains a vital legal protection for individuals and their families. It is a noble scheme that goes some way, although not far enough, towards ensuring that a lack of financial resources is not a bar to access to justice. So it is objectionable in principle for the Bill to propose to remove eligibility, even subject to exceptions, for a category of people who are defined simply by the nature of the criminal offence of which they have been convicted.

Clause 89 is simply indefensible for three main reasons. First, it will apply irrespective of the seriousness of the criminal offence of terrorism of which the individual is convicted, so long as that offence is capable of being punished by up to two years’ imprisonment. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, who cannot be in his place, pointed out in Committee that terrorism offences include such matters as

“inviting … support for a proscribed organisation”

and

“‘failure to disclose professional belief or suspicion about’ the commission of terrorist offences by others”.—[Official Report, 18/1/23; col. 1868.]

Now such criminal conduct is wrongful, but it may, and often does, lead to a short custodial sentence or even a community sentence. But, under Clause 89, any such conviction excludes a person from civil legal aid, subject to narrow exceptions, for 30 years, whatever sentence the court thinks is appropriate in the circumstances of the individual case. This is indefensible, and it is particularly so when, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, also pointed out, the recidivism rates for terrorist offenders are very low indeed: he gave the figure of 3%.

The second reason that Clause 89 is simply indefensible is that there is no exclusion from civil legal aid for those convicted of murder and rape, people who may receive life sentences and who normally receive very serious sentences for their offence. To single out terrorist offences, and to do so irrespective of the gravity of the individual offence, suggests to me, and I may not be the only one in this House, that the Government are more interested in political gestures than they are in pursuing any coherent principle.

The third reason that Clause 89 is simply indefensible is the one given by the noble Lord, Lord Marks: it will exclude persons from civil legal aid in cases which have no connection to the offence of terrorism of which they were convicted. A woman may be convicted of giving support to a proscribed organisation and receive a short custodial sentence or a community sentence, but 10 or 20 years later, she may be evicted, or face eviction, from her flat and face homelessness. The idea that she should be denied civil legal aid—and denied eligibility for civil legal aid—because of the terrorist conviction frustrates the very purpose of civil legal aid in a civilised society. Let us suppose the terrorist offender is beaten up in prison by prison officers—it does happen. Should he be excluded from eligibility for civil legal aid if he otherwise satisfies the relevant criteria? The idea that this proposal is brought forward by a Ministry of Justice defies credulity.

The only question in my mind is how best to remove or dilute the stain of Clause 89, and the Marshalled List contains a number of possible amendments, to some of which I have added my name: that Clause 89 should not stand part of the Bill, that it should be confined to those who are sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment or more, or that it should be confined to legal aid for a matter connected to the terrorism offence, which is the amendment preferred by the noble Lord, Lord Marks.

I am very sorry indeed that the Labour Front Bench is unwilling—as I understand it; I would welcome correction from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby—to support any of these amendments, and has itself tabled what can only be described as a weak amendment, Amendment 188A, which would require a review within 60 days of Clause 89 coming into force. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby spoke eloquently about Clause 89 in Committee; he is far too sensible and fair-minded to think personally that Clause 89 makes any sense. I assume, although I welcome correction, that the Opposition in the other place fear that they will be accused of being soft on terrorism if they support any of the substantive amendments. I think we all know what Sir Hartley Shawcross or the great Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, would have said about that.

If, as I hope, the noble Lord, Lord Marks decides to test the opinion of the House on one of these amendments, he will certainly have my support.

My Lords, I can speak briefly because my noble friend Lord Marks and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, have spoken forcefully on this matter. The amendments to remove Clauses 89 and 90 are in my name and signed by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I spoke at some length on this in Committee, and I believe it is a matter of principle—a very flawed principle, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said—to bar anybody with a terrorism offence, however minor, from being granted civil legal aid.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, admitted in Committee that this proposal was “symbolic”— I think he said it more than once. In other words, it is gesture politics. The hope must be, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, just said, to paint those of us opposing it as somehow soft on terrorism, but I put it to the Government that they could be regarded as soft on murder, rape and sexual offences. They are apparently content that major offenders against women, of the likes of Wayne Couzens and David Carrick, variously guilty of abduction, rape and murder, could one day be eligible for civil legal aid, but not someone who is a minor offender under terrorism laws. If they try to throw at us in the Daily Mail that we are soft on terrorists, the Government ought to be prepared for a counter charge that they are soft on murderers and rapists. Given the huge public concern in recent weeks, months and years about the volume and the type of offences against women, I do not think that the Government are going to come out of this well.

My Lords, these clauses restrict access to civil legal aid for convicted terrorists, although there are exemptions to this, such as when the convicted terrorist is under 18. I welcome government Amendments 184 and 186, where the Minister has made a further concession regarding people who have been victims of domestic violence and domestic abuse.

While we support the principle that terrorists should not receive legal aid, we are concerned that application of these clauses could permanently impact those with minor offences such as vandalism. We have therefore tabled Amendment 188A in my name to create a practical mechanism to address these concerns. This would establish a statutory review of the impact on those who receive non-custodial sentences. We will not support Amendment 180 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Marks, which would allow terrorists to receive legal aid if their applications relate to a non-terrorism offence. We believe that these most serious offenders who commit attacks on the UK should not receive support, regardless of the nature of their later civil proceedings.

There is a point of principle here, which is that terrorism is a uniquely targeted offence against the British state, and we think that that needs to be recognised. However, there are the points of the low-level offences, which I brought to the attention of the Committee, and there is also the point that was acknowledged by the Minister about people who are victims of domestic abuse. So, there are principles here, but there is a clash of principles.

Will the noble Lord explain on behalf of the Official Opposition why, if terrorism is a unique crime against the state, he does not have a similar view of unique crimes against the integrity of the person, the integrity of women, that we have seen in the appalling crimes that have, thankfully and at last, led to convictions of the likes of Wayne Couzens and David Carrick? Those are offences against the integrity of the person, the integrity of women and the integrity of society. Why would they not be considered on a similar level to some terrorist offences, without giving any quarter to terrorism whatever, but on the lesser scale of terrorism? I think his “uniqueness” argument really demands justification.

I agree that it demands justification, which is that when terrorists carry out their activities, they are attacking in a random way the state itself. The attacks against women to which the noble Baroness referred are of course totally reprehensible, but do not attack the state in any way. They attack women for what they are and those offences are, of course, taken extremely seriously.

I accept that the Government’s amendments regarding civil legal aid on these offences send a message. I and the Labour Party accept and support that point. However, that needs to be ameliorated at the lower level and reviewed. That is why I will be testing the opinion of the House when we reach Amendment 188A.

That does not clear a path in the Bill at all. I am rather shocked by Clause 89. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he accepts the position regarding someone who was convicted of terrorism some years before and brings a civil claim, particularly, for instance, for eviction from housing. Is he or she entitled to a lawyer in order to be able to come before the court and put his or her case? If so, there is an absence of fairness if that person cannot afford the lawyer that he or she would need, and would have to represent himself or herself. That seems to be contrary to access to justice.

My Lords, we in the Opposition are accepting the principle that terrorism is uniquely terrible and needs to be dealt with in that way. However, my amendment calls for a review of the impact of this on certain lower-level cases.

The noble Lord is being patient, but what is there to review? Why has he not put down an amendment that simply excludes from this objectionable clause those who are convicted only in circumstances that lead to a non-custodial sentence? That surely is the logic of what he is saying. Why do we need a review?

We need a review because we do not know what the impact is unless we have looked at the data. It seems to be as simple as that.

I am grateful and the noble Lord is being patient on these points. He referred to only the most serious cases and said that there was a separate issue with regard to cases that are less serious. In Committee, he used as an example a personal one: someone being convicted of the offence of graffiti. That woman—if indeed it was a woman—would no longer be able to get any legal aid support if she had been a victim of human trafficking or sexual attack. That cannot be right. Does the noble Lord agree that that is what he is supporting today?

As the noble Lord knows, the amendment is calling for a review to look at the practical impact of the proposed legislation. We have yet to hear from the Minister on whether the Government accept that a review is necessary.

It is perfectly within the rules of the Companion for noble Lords to seek points of clarification or elucidation from those who are speaking.

I am again extremely grateful to noble Lords for their interventions and, in particular, for the support for the principle behind Clause 89 expressed by the Official Opposition, subject to the point about minor offences, which I will come to in a moment.

As a quick reminder, Clause 89 narrows the range of circumstances in which individuals convicted of specific terrorism offences can automatically receive civil legal aid services. This includes individuals convicted of terrorism offences punishable with imprisonment for two years or more as well as other offences where a judge has found a terrorism connection. It is important to note that this clause modifies but does not exclude legal aid, because there is still the route of exceptional case funding, particularly if convention rights are in issue. One of the fundamental convention rights— I think this at least partially answers the point raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss—is the necessity for a fair trial, in Article 6. The exceptional case funding route is still available in that regard. Phrases such as “excludes”, “denies”, “debars” and “no legal aid support” are not an accurate summary of what this clause achieves.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way, but is it not the case that no one gets exceptional case funding simply because they otherwise would not get legal aid? The point made by the noble and learned Baroness was that it is unfair, so you will not get a fair trial. However, that does not ground exceptional case funding —unless the noble and learned Lord has a different view of exceptional case funding from the rest of us.

My Lords, there might well be found applications for exceptional case funding; approximately 75% of such applications are successful each year. In any event, exceptional case funding is still available.

On the question of numbers and definition, what is the essential definition of exceptional case funding and how many cases have given rise to such a relief?

I do not have the exact definition in front of me. It is a matter for the director of the Legal Aid Agency to decide. There is guidance on this, which applies in particular to cases of inquest and other areas where convention rights are at issue. I can supply my noble friend with further details in due course.

I do not have that information with me, but about three-quarters of applications succeed.

At the risk of disturbing the atmosphere of good will that has, to an extent, prevailed this afternoon, your Lordships would have expected me to explore with the Government whether there can be any further movement on this clause and I am sorry to say that, subject to the important exception for victims of domestic abuse in relation to family and housing matters, they adhere to the clause and respectfully present it to the House.

The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, seek to remove these clauses from the Bill altogether. The Government’s position is that the measures are necessary to ensure that our limited resources for legal aid funding are not directed towards individuals who attack society and democracy and, through their actions, commit acts of terrorism that seek to threaten and undermine the very democratic institutions which provide the benefit of legal aid. It is right that access to legal aid should therefore be subject to the provisions of this clause. Again, I understand that the Labour Party, in principle, accepts that approach.

It is certainly possible to argue, as the noble Baroness did, that if this applies to terrorism, why does it not apply to murder, the abuse of women, drug trafficking and other offences? Certainly, one can always advance an argument about where you draw the line. The line is drawn here at terrorism because of its particular threat to our society and democracy; that is the Government’s reasoning. As I have just said, it is not a blanket ban on civil legal aid because the exceptional case funding route ensures—in compliance with our obligations under the convention—that legal aid remains available when it is most needed to ensure access to justice.

Amendment 188, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, would limit the restriction to where an offender has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of seven years or more. I acknowledge of course the noble Lord’s concerns, but the Government oppose this amendment on the following grounds. The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021, introduced following the Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham Hill terrorist attacks, expanded the sentencing powers of courts in relation to terrorist offenders and created more restrictive provisions for terrorist offenders whose offences carry a maximum sentence of more than two years. So, the two-year benchmark is already baked into legislation, and the Government feel that it is the appropriate benchmark in this instance.

The noble Lord’s seven-year sentence proposal would mean that a number of quite serious terrorism offences would escape: for example, the breach of a TPIM notice. It would also—by reference to sentencing, as distinct from the statutory definition of an offence—create quite a subjective difference between offenders when one has got more than the other: one is a bit above and one is a bit below, perhaps because one has had more previous convictions than the other, or for whatever reason. So, the Government think that the two-year benchmark in existing legislation is logical, defendable and clear and that it should remain. So, with regret, the Government are unable to accept Amendment 188 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.

Amendment 187, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, would make the restriction not apply if the terrorism offence of which the individual had been convicted had no relevant factual connection with their application for legal aid. We quite understand the noble Lord’s intention behind that amendment, but, again, the Government cannot accept it. As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said, this is a point of principle. The Government have considered with great care the proposal put forward and consider that the fact of a conviction for a terrorist offence carrying a sentence of more than two years is a ground for restricting the route by which legal aid is granted, so we are unable to accept this amendment.

However, we have tabled government Amendments 182, 183, 184 and 186 to create an exception so that the restriction will not apply where a terrorist offender is a victim of domestic abuse and is applying for legal aid related to family and housing matters within a relevant time period. That would include such matters as pursuing protective injunctions in child custody cases, as well as the loss of a home or homelessness. Again, the question arises: if you have extended it there, why do you not extend it somewhere else? The answer, I think, is that one has to draw a line somewhere. Those are particularly serious issues in society as it stands, and that seems to the Government to be a sound basis for making an exception. It is not our position that it is relevant or wise to create any further exceptions.

That takes me to the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on the review, by way of an impact statement after a certain period, of the effect of this amendment on those who have been convicted of a terrorist offence but given a non-custodial sentence. The request is that there should be a statutory obligation for the Government to review the impact from that perspective. The Government find it somewhat difficult to imagine a non-custodial sentence for a terrorist offence carrying a sentence of more than two years. It is certainly quite difficult to collect the data or find exactly what happened in all sorts of different magistrates’ courts at different times—I assume that this relates to magistrates’ courts. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is very concerned about the graffiti example that we discussed earlier, and the risk of a young person inadvertently falling into the net.

The Government do not feel that the correct approach is to have this kind of statutory obligation to look at the impact. We can see all sorts of serious practical difficulties in doing it. But, of course, in general, as with any legislation, if it were to appear that there were difficulties in this regard and that this was having an undue impact on persons sentenced to non-custodial but serious terrorist offences—that is, sentences of more than two years—any Government would, in the ordinary course, respond and investigate and review what was going on in a proper but non-statutory way, so as to consider whether further remedial action was required.

So our answer to this is that the Government—when I say this, I mean not the party in power but any British Government—would take seriously a problem of that sort and would undoubtedly conduct a proper review, even if it is not provided in statute that it should do so. That is the Government’s position on the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify a point from his earlier comments on exceptional case funding. The guidance on this on GOV.UK says:

“You could get legal aid for cases that would not usually be eligible if your human rights are at risk. This is known as exceptional case funding”.

Can the Minister clarify: under the Bill, will anybody who receives any sentence for any terrorism offence now automatically be eligible for exceptional case funding?

No, that is not the Government’s position. There is a mechanism by way of exceptional case funding to ensure access to justice in an appropriate case.

Then the point that the Minister referred to about the Bill is irrelevant, because the eligibility for exceptional case funding is regardless of whether the Bill is in place.

It is not entirely irrelevant that exceptional case funding is always available for access to justice. That fact changes some of the comments that have been made about the restrictive nature of the Bill.

My Lords, there is a sharp division of opinion on the general principles here. I share the disappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, at the position taken by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on behalf of the Labour Front Bench, particularly in view of the way the Labour Front Bench spoke in favour of the principles we enunciated in Committee. I do not propose to press Amendment 180, but when the time comes, I will seek to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 185.

Amendment 180 withdrawn.

Schedule 16: Damages at risk of being used for the purposes of terrorism

Amendment 181

Moved by

181: Schedule 16, page 188, line 21, leave out from “proceedings”” to end of line 26 and insert—

“(a) in relation to England and Wales, has the meaning given by section 75(3) of the Courts Act 2003; (b) in relation to Northern Ireland, has the meaning given by Article 12(5) of the Family Law (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 (S.I. 1993/1576 (N.I. 6));(c) in relation to Scotland, has the meaning given by section 135 of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and includes proceedings under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (asp 1).”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides a definition of “family proceedings” in relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as England and Wales.

Amendment 181 agreed.

Clause 89: Legal aid for individuals convicted of terrorism offences

Amendments 182 to 184

Moved by

182: Clause 89, page 60, line 11, after “Schedule 1” insert “other than those in paragraph 12 of Schedule 1”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would remove the limitation on the availability of civil legal aid to an offender where the services are provided to them as victims of domestic violence in relation to a matter arising out of a family relationship in which there has been, or is a risk of, domestic violence.

183: Clause 89, page 60, line 17, at beginning insert “the Director determines that”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would clarify that the Director has to determine that one or more of the additional conditions is met in order for civil legal services to be available to offenders.

184: Clause 89, page 60, line 17, leave out “F” and insert “G”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment to this Clause inserting a new Condition G.

Amendments 182 to 184 agreed.

Amendment 185

Moved by

185: Clause 89, page 60, line 17, leave out “F” and insert “G1”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on Lord Marks’ other amendment to this clause inserting a new Condition G1. Condition G1 will become Condition H if the amendment to be moved by Lord Sharpe of Epsom inserting a new Condition G is accepted.

Amendment 186

Moved by

186: Clause 89, page 60, line 35, at end insert—

“(7A) Condition G is met where—(a) the general case services are those described in paragraph 11, 33, 34 or 35 of Schedule 1 (services in relation to domestic violence and housing), and(b) the offender—(i) was or is a victim of domestic violence occurring after the relevant date, or(ii) is at risk of being a victim of domestic violence.(7B) In subsection (7A)—“domestic violence” has the meaning given in paragraph 12(9) of Schedule 1;“relevant date” means the date five years before the application date.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would allow offenders to access civil legal aid in relation to services relating to domestic violence and housing where they were at any time in the five years preceding their application, or at any time after their application, victims of domestic violence, or are at risk of being victims of domestic violence.

Amendment 186A (to Amendment 186) not moved.

Amendment 186B (to Amendment 186) not moved.

Amendment 186 agreed.

Amendments 187 and 188 not moved.

Amendment 188A

Moved by

188A: Clause 89, page 61, line 33, at end insert—

“(10A) Within 60 days of this section coming into force, a Minister of the Crown must publish a review in to the impact of this section on offenders who have been sentenced to a non-custodial sentence.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment means that a Minister must review the impact of restrictions on legal aid on those who receive non-custodial sentences.

Amendment 189 not moved.

Clause 90: Legal aid for individuals convicted of terrorism offences: data sharing

Amendment 190 not moved.

Amendment 191

Moved by

191: After Clause 91, insert the following new Clause—

“Amendments of Terrorism Act 2000Schedule (Amendments of Terrorism Act 2000) contains amendments to the Terrorism Act 2000.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment introduces the new Schedule inserted by Lord Sharpe before Schedule 17.

My Lords, Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000—hereafter referred to as TACT —confers a power on a police officer to arrest a person whom they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist. Under Section 41, officers are able to detain someone before charging or releasing them. The Section 41 detention clock allows them to do so for a maximum period of up to 14 days. It is possible for a person to be arrested under Section 24 of PACE then subsequently rearrested under Section 41 of TACT. This might happen, for example, when information comes to light during the investigation indicating that the offence of which the individual is accused has a terrorist connection. Under the current position, the time spent in detention under Section 24 would, in theory, not be counted towards the initial 48-hour permissible period of detention under Section 41. Though counting this time is, in fact, current operational practice, the Government are clear of the need to codify this practice and ensure that the safeguard continues to apply in all future cases. This is what this amendment does, while aligning the power relating to foreign power threat activity contained in Part 1 of this Bill.

Schedule 5 to TACT contains a power under which an officer of at least the rank of superintendent may, by a written order, give to any constable the authority which may be given by a premises search warrant issued by the court for the purposes of a terrorist investigation. The authorising officer must have reasonable grounds for believing that the case is one of great national emergency and that immediate action is necessary. We are seeking to amend Schedule 5 to TACT to create an ex post factum judicial authorisation safeguard. This will require the police to apply to the court for a warrant in relation to any relevant confidential journalistic material seized during the search that they need to retain for the purposes of a terrorist investigation. In the interests of national security, it is right that confidential material should be accessible in cases where the police can show that the action is necessary, proportionate and satisfies the legal tests in these provisions, while pursuing a terrorist investigation.

However, the Government also recognise that press freedoms are extremely important. Therefore, when such material is seized during a search that has been authorised under this urgent procedure, it is right that a warrant must be sought from a judge for its continued retention, and that an application for retention can be ex post factum, after the search itself has taken place. This approach reflects recent case law and ensures that the provisions provide appropriate protection for journalists. This amendment will also align this aspect of Schedule 5 to TACT with the equivalent urgent premises search power found in Schedule 2 to this Bill.

I turn to Amendment 192, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. This amendment seeks to impose on the Secretary of State a duty to implement the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia. As noble Lords will be aware, the Government published their response to the Russia report on the day the report itself was published, 21 July 2020. Although the report did not itself enumerate specific recommendations, all the recommendations that could be identified in the report were addressed in the government response. 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 HMG’s Russia work, close working with international partners and continued exposition and attribution of malign Russian activity. The then Home Secretary reiterated this in a Statement made to the House on 17 January 2022.

The Government’s response made our approach to tackling the recommendations in the report clear. By introducing effective new tools and powers for the police and security and intelligence agencies, this Bill can rightly be seen as delivering on commitments that the Government made in their response. Noble Lords will also be aware that the Government implement the vast majority of all ISC recommendations. However, there may be occasions when, for reasons including national security, we may not be able to take forward specific recommendations. We do not consider further reporting nor this amendment necessary, given the actions that the Government have already taken in response to the report.

Amendment 193, also tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, seeks to impose a duty on the Prime Minister to update the memorandum of understanding between the Government and the Intelligence and Security Committee to reflect the changes to the Government’s intelligence and security activities as a result of the Bill. Section 3(2) of the Justice and Security Act 2013 already provides for the ISC to make reports

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

That already gives the ISC the ability to report on matters that fall within its remit so far as is consistent with the MoU—for example, to seek to avoid duplicating the work of other committees. Amending the Bill as proposed might be taken to imply that the ISC required explicit legislative nomination to propose changes to the MoU in relation to changes in intelligence and security arrangements brought in by Bills, which is not the case.

I turn to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. I am aware that there are concerns about how the now closed tier 1 investor route operated—in particular, concerns that the route was used by those relying on funds that had been illegitimately acquired and those who may have posed a wider risk to the UK’s national security. It was because of those concerns that we 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, or being engaged in serious and organised crime.

The Statement of 12 January represents the Government’s substantive response to the commitment to undertake a review and publish our findings. I am aware that some noble Lords would have preferred that the published review had included more information about specific individuals. However, we have had to act responsibly with regard to the UK’s national security. We have sought to strike the right balance between setting out the broad findings of the review and the constraints on disclosing sensitive details, which must be withheld at the request of our operational partners to protect our border, and the vital work of our law enforcement agencies.

I stress that this Government have already acted decisively regarding the risks posed by the tier 1 investor route to the UK’s national security when we closed the route on 17 February 2022. The Government have also been clear that any future visa programme in the investment space must operate on a fundamentally different premise from the previous one, with a far greater focus on skills and impacts, rather than just cash in the bank. I beg to move.

My Lords, this is the first opportunity I have had to join other noble Lords in thanking the Minister for the various significant changes the Government have made to the National Security Bill and the improvement they have brought.

I shall speak to my Amendments 192 and 193. Again, I thank the Minister for his various amendments in this group, which are also an important step forward. I will leave the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, who has signed my Amendment 192, to speak to his Amendment 194.

Amendment 192 deals with the recommendations of the July 2020 ISC Russia report. The Minister has addressed some of those but I have one or two questions to ask him before I turn to Amendment 193, which is the real priority for me in this group. The report highlighted the fragmentation of the various bodies. The Minister has spoken about how the Government seek to address that, but we would all like to know how the supposed co-ordination of the government response to the Russia report is being monitored to ensure that it is taken forward, and that what the Government say about the need for co-ordination to tackle fragmentation is made a reality.

The report highlighted again the prominence of dodgy Russian money in London. The Government will say, quite rightly, that they have at last taken action on that. How is that progress being monitored, so that we know how effective it has been, particularly in light of Ukraine? Similarly, can the Government reassure us that the various threats to democratic processes that the report highlighted are being addressed? I do not intend to press Amendment 192 to a vote—I am really just asking about the progress made since the report was published. As the Minister said, the Government’s response was published on the same day, but the question is how we maintain the progress that we all want to see on the various issues raised.

I will try to be as brief as possible on Amendment 193. The ISC’s annual report, published on 13 December 2022, clearly laid out the need to update the memorandum of understanding. That is what my Amendment 193, on which I will test the opinion of the House, seeks to do: to update the MoU the ISC operates under to reflect the changes made by the Bill and those made over the last few years. The Minister himself referenced the various government departments that now have responsibility for different aspects of security and intelligence, a point I will come to in a moment.

Let us remember that the ISC was set up in 1994 to allow for greater parliamentary oversight of these important matters, while respecting the obvious need for national security—an issue brought into sharp focus by the excellent Saunders report on the horrific Manchester Arena attack. The current MoU is out of date. The commitment made by the Security Minister in 2013 during the passage of the Justice and Security Act—that the MoU is a live document that is easily changed—needs to be honoured.

Who oversees the increasing devolution to policy departments of intelligence and security activities? How can parliamentarians scrutinise those when only ISC members with the necessary security clearance can access classified information? The Select Committees supposedly tasked with these various oversight roles are not suitable for that reason, rather than for any reason of capability. They simply do not have the security clearance to look at classified information.

The following departments and bodies are mentioned in the Saunders recommendations: the Department for Education, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Law Commission, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice—and that is the open part of the report; for obvious reasons, we will not know what is in the closed part. If the ISC oversees all this, as it is perhaps expected to do in light of the recommendations, how will that work with regard to the Department for Education and the various other departments?

Our committee says that the outdated MoU is a real problem, but the Government say it is not. The ISC says it is a problem, but the Government simply dismiss it and say it is not. Can the Minister explain how members of a Select Committee—let us use BEIS as an example—can oversee classified information that informs the work of a body they are responsible for if they cannot see that information? Pages 42 and 43 of the Intelligence and Security Committee annual report lists numerous departments that have various security and intelligence functions they are supposed to oversee, but they will not be able to see the classified information because they do not have the security clearance. The ISC itself cannot oversee this because that is not part of the memorandum of understanding under which it works.

The committee was told, as I said, that the Government do not feel bound by statements made by the Security Minister to Parliament in 2013. So what weight should we give to any Ministerial Statements the Minister makes if, in a few years’ time, the Government can simply say, “We don’t give any weight to what was said in 2013”? Parliamentary Statements by Ministers of the Crown are supposed to be justifications of policy. We all rely on them. Courts rely on them. Many amendments to this Bill were withdrawn earlier because of what the Minister said at the Dispatch Box and the reassurances he gave, yet the Government are saying that they no longer agree with the 2013 assurances given by then Security Minister, so they will ignore them. We are talking not about policy—I understand how policy works—but about process and the need to update it. As I say, that is very disappointing, to say the least.

The ISC has outlined a proposed memorandum in its report, which should clearly be a starting point for any document about updating the memorandum of understanding in future. But of course, as my amendment says, to do this, the Intelligence and Security Committee needs to discuss it with the Prime Minister. Perhaps the Minister can update this Chamber on when the Prime Minister is going to meet the Intelligence and Security Committee. I hope that all noble Lords realise that in the report we also see that no Prime Minister can update the memorandum of understanding, because no Prime Minister has met the Intelligence and Security Committee, despite repeated requests.

The ISC is the foremost body of this Parliament to have parliamentary oversight of intelligence and security matters, yet no Prime Minister of our country has met the Intelligence and Security Committee since 2014. Perhaps I should have amended my own amendment to include this. If my amendment is to mean anything and the Prime Minister is to negotiate a new memorandum of understanding with the Intelligence and Security Committee, we had better sort out a meeting between them. Not to have met the ISC since 2014, I suggest, is simply unacceptable. The Minister has taken it upon himself to try to get that sorted and we would appreciate an update on that.

The ISC is an important committee and becoming ever more so. As such, its MoU needs updating. It is a simple request which the Government are resisting for no good reason. It is an increasingly disappointing and concerning response. At a time of higher levels of national security concerns and increasing and changing threats, the Government refuse to give the ISC—our parliamentary oversight body—the updated remit that it needs and requires. Therefore, I ask noble Lords to support the memorandum of understanding put forward in Amendment 193. It is a sensible amendment requiring the MoU to be updated and, as such, I would have thought the Government would have accepted it.

My Lords, my name is on Amendments 192 and 194. I also support Amendment 193. I remind the Minister that the Conservative 2019 manifesto states:

“We will protect the integrity of our democracy, by introducing … measures to prevent any foreign interference in elections.”

This Bill partly does that—not in my opinion sufficiently, but it takes us some way in this direction. There are questions of transparency and of accountability, about which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has just been speaking, and broader questions about public information and public education into the nature of the threat and the experience which we have so far had of that threat.

I remind the Minister, that paragraph 47 of the Russia report has as its heading, “Lack of retrospective assessment”. It says:

“We have not been provided with any post-referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference … This situation is in stark contrast to the US handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, where an intelligence community assessment was produced within two months of the vote, with an unclassified summary being made public.”

It goes on to say that it is

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

The following chapter talks about the high level of integration for Russian oligarchs within London society and, in particular, political parties—including mentioning penetration of the House of Lords. In effect, it recommends that some of that should be published. Very little has been, which leads to Daily Mail allegations of all sorts of things about the House of Lords, which I suspect are exaggerated, and to a lack of understanding of the nature of the threat. I understand that many of these issues might embarrass the Conservative Party because the penetration, influence and money has most evidently gone to the Conservative Party. However, I can easily imagine what a Conservative Party in opposition would be saying if it were a Labour Government who were refusing to accept the recommendations of the ISC in this respect. Accountability and public education are important. In this respect, they have failed.

On Amendment 194, I take the same view in terms of accountability and public education on the golden visa scheme, and some of that review should be published. We have heard very little about the problem of Chinese rich people in Britain. I remind the Minister that by far the largest nationality of origin of people who have come in under the golden visa scheme was Chinese. The second largest was Russian, and then there were various other nationalities, including a lot of central Asian nationalities. We need to understand a little better what the experience has been, what the sensitivities have been, and what we should learn from that. The Government, in keeping it all under wraps, are failing not only to account to Parliament about what is going on but to tell the public what sort of world we now live in and where there are sensitivities about which we should be concerned. This Bill, as a whole, is trying to sensitise some of the public to the delicacies of our international relations.

Part of our problem in Britain is that we live in a highly internationalised world, with a very large number of rich people in London living among us. My wife and I have just begun to face up to the dreaded problem of downsizing. As we go around parts of London, we see estate agents who tell us that 20% to 40% of the people to whom they have sold houses in recent years have been from overseas—from the Middle East, eastern Europe, Russia and Asia. Again, many of these are highly desirable people buying second homes in London. However, we need to know where there are problems, what we should have been thinking about, what the government have now learned and what they would like the public to understand.

My Lords, I support on behalf of the ISC Amendment 193 in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker. This amendment would update the ISC’s remit to ensure it has the power effectively to scrutinise intelligence and security activity that will be taking place across government under the new national security regime.

The ISC already has the power to oversee much of the intelligence and security activity that will take place. However, as my noble friend Lord Coaker outlined very persuasively, the ISC’s oversight has generally been eroded due to intelligence and security activities often now being undertaken by policy departments which do not generally carry out national security-related activity. He mentioned a list of them and there are many. They were not included in the ISC’s remit and they can—I have to say, they have often—excluded the ISC from looking at the material that we think we should look at. If the Government establish new teams as part of this Bill which sit outside our remit, this amendment will make sure that the memorandum of understanding is updated, and we will be able to have access to do our job for Parliament scrutinising this highly classified material.

Updating the ISC’s MoU is vital, as effective oversight of intelligence and security can be undertaken effectively only by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Unlike Select Committees, the ISC’s purpose is to oversee these highly classified matters which relate to national security on behalf of Parliament. It is therefore the only parliamentary body with the necessary security infrastructure to scrutinise the material that often underpins national security decisions. This issue of having the right material affects the staff. For example, civil servants, who are working with regular access to “top secret” have to have DV. If one looks across government at the moment, I am not sure that that is the case in some departments. They also, including Ministers, have to be read into the STRAP material, and then there is the extra physical security to store “top secret” and STRAP material. It is considerable, and I am not convinced that this is the case across government.

As my noble friend Lord Coaker mentioned, the Government understandably provided a very clear commitment to Parliament, during the passage of the Justice and Security Act 2013, that the ISC’s MoU would be kept updated. Unfortunately—we noted this in our last annual report—this has not been done. They have not stood by this commitment. I cannot understand what difficulty the Government have with this, because I would have thought it was in the interests of the Government to ensure that Parliament has an ability to do this.

I can only repeat the words of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker:

“Each piece of new legislation devolving national security matters away from bodies already overseen by the ISC should come with commensurate expansion of the ISC’s MoU”.

This has been promised by the Government and it should be done. This amendment will seek to do that if, as a result of this Bill, the Government do indeed establish new teams outside the ISC’s current remit. However, as this amendment is linked to this Bill only, it understandably has limited scope; it will not fix the lack of effective oversight in other national security legislation, such as the Telecommunications (Security) Act, where, again pretty much across this House, people argued that the ISC should have the ability to scrutinise that. But it will be a very useful start to help embed the oversight provisions, and for that reason I support this amendment.

My Lords, I want to support Amendment 193, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. He said that he felt the memorandum of understanding had not been renewed and brought up to date for no good reason. I believe it is worse than that. I think it has not been revised for a bad reason: because the Government have taken a dislike to the Intelligence and Security Committee. They have tried to restrict its activities, I believe for two reasons. First, the Government were piqued when there was pressure to publish the Russia report before the 2019 election and they did not want that. I suspect the reason they did not want it was that they did not want the discussion which the report introduced about the involvement of Russian apparatchiks in London politics. Secondly, I believe the Government were piqued because the committee did not elect as its chairman the person whom the Government wanted. It seems extraordinary that one could say of a responsible Government that these were their motives; they are childish motives. But the consequence is that in recent times the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has not been used for the purpose for which it was set up.

If the Government are not going to use the Intelligence and Security Committee properly, they should save money and abolish it. But, of course, they will not do that because Parliament set it up, Parliament thinks it is important that this House and the House of Commons should have some insight into intelligence operations, and it would be unacceptable for the Government to abolish it. But they must choose either to abolish it or to use it properly. If they are to use it properly, they must update the memorandum of understanding and, as the noble Lord, Lord West, said, use it for the purpose for which Parliament intended: to give oversight by people who are fully screened within the ring of secrecy to report to Parliament. I think this is a much more important amendment than the face of it suggests.

My Lords, again I thank all those who have spoken on this group of amendments, and in particular I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his generous remarks.

In terms of the Russia report, it is simply not true that we have not implemented the report’s recommendations. As I said in my opening remarks, the Government published a full and comprehensive response to the ISC report in July 2020, which is available online and which addressed all the committee’s key themes and recommendations point by point. The Government have responded to all the recommendations that could be identified within the report. The majority of the committee’s recommendations were already being implemented by the Government before the report was published: for example, those covering co-ordination of HMG Russia’s work, close working with international partners, and continued exposition and attribution of malign Russian activity.

I would say also that, as noted in HMG’s response to the Russia report, an assessment was produced and is available at a higher classification. Noble Lords will appreciate the difficulties of producing intelligence assessments for the wider public, given the risks of putting sensitive material, including information about our capabilities and methods, into the public domain.

If I may, I will go on to address the remarks about the ISC, particularly those made by the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord West. Noble Lords will be aware that the ISC proposed changes to the memorandum of understanding in its annual report for 2021-22, which was published in December. This included a proposal to extend the committee’s oversight to include one of the organisations affected by the recent changes in the machinery of government. As such, the Prime Minister has not yet responded to these proposals. The noble Lords will recall my remarks in Committee that the Prime Minister will respond in due course. It is entirely appropriate that the ISC should propose changes to the MoU in this way, so the proposals can be given full consideration. We may well anticipate that, when this Bill has completed its passage through Parliament, the ISC may decide it wishes to suggest changes to the MoU, and we will welcome those, including such proposals as are in their next annual report to the Prime Minister.

The MoU is subject to continuous review and the Government do not think it would be appropriate to mandate the Prime Minister to update the MoU in a specific timeframe, particularly so soon after a change has been proposed, and while there is an established practice of the ISC proposing such changes via its annual report. The MoU is clear that it is important to avoid duplication and, as I have said, some of the organisations the ISC is proposing to include in its remit are very new, and there are discussions under way regarding whether they are best overseen by other parliamentary Select Committees.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has some concerns that the Prime Minister was unaware of the ISC’s concerns, and that is not the case. The Justice and Security Act requires the Prime Minister to read the report before it is published, and the Prime Minister gets an unredacted version, so he sees the full picture. Ultimately, whether and when the Prime Minister attends an ISC is for the Prime Minister to decide. The noble Lord will recall that my noble friend Lord True heard noble Lords’ concerns last week, and will no doubt pass them on to the Prime Minister, and I will certainly remind him of that.

I am afraid I am going to reject completely the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, about fits of pique and whatnot.

Going on to the tier 1 visa scheme—

Before the noble Lord moves on to a different amendment, can he answer my question? How can Select Committee members, who do not have the necessary security clearance, possibly look at and scrutinise classified material on Parliament’s behalf?

If they do not have the necessary security clearances, they obviously cannot, but, as I said earlier, that is part of the full consideration of the MoU and the various changes to the machinery of government that is currently under way.

Has the noble Lord quite grasped the significant value of the ISC? I speak as someone who used to be on it. One aspect is its value to the Prime Minister, who gets a detailed assessment of aspects of security in circumstances where nobody else can, and he alone can do something about it. It is also an important guarantee to parliamentary colleagues in both Houses that things that cannot be disclosed are being examined by people whom colleagues trust, and that is very important in order to have some confidence that there is oversight going on.

I completely agree with the noble Lord. I certainly get it, and I hold the ISC in great respect, including the noble Lords in this House who are members. As I have said, the Justice and Security Act requires the Prime Minister to read the report before it is published. He gets an unredacted version, so he sees the full picture, and I have committed to take back the House’s concerns about attending the committee, via my noble friend Lord True.

If I may, I will turn to the tier 1 investor visa route, and I am afraid that I will have to repeat a number of things that I said in my opening remarks. The review of visas issued under the route took place relatively recently. A Written Ministerial Statement on 12 January set out the findings of that review, which reviewed visas issued between 2008 and 2015. That included that it had identified a minority of individuals connected to the tier 1 investor visa route that were potentially at high risk of having obtained wealth through corruption or other illicit financial activity. The Statement represented the Government’s substantive response to the commitment to undertake that review and publish its findings.

I am aware that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, would have preferred that the published review included more information about specific individuals. I agree with his remarks about protecting our democracy and transparency. However, we have had to act responsibly in regard to the UK’s national security. We have sought to strike the right balance between setting out the broad findings of the review and the constraints on disclosing sensitive details, which must be withheld at the request of our operational partners to protect our border and the vital work of our law enforcement agencies. I think that those are perfectly reasonable points to have made in regard to the tier 1 investor visa.

I appreciate that I have not given as fulsome answers as all noble Lords would like, but in light of the answers that I have given, I request that noble Lords do not press their amendments.

Amendment 191 agreed.

Amendment 192 not moved.

Amendment 193

Moved by

193: After Clause 91, insert the following new Clause—

“Duty to update the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament's memorandum of understanding(1) The Prime Minister must ensure that the memorandum of understanding between the Prime Minister and the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (the “ISC”) under section 2 of the Justice and Security Act 2013 (the “MoU”) is revised to reflect any changes to the intelligence or security activities of His Majesty’s Government as a result of this Act.(2) Any revisions to the MoU under subsection (1) must be agreed between the Prime Minister and the ISC in accordance with the process set out in section 2 of the Justice and Security Act 2013.(3) Any engagement between the Prime Minister and the ISC relating to revisions to the MoU under subsection (1) must commence within the 6-month period beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment ensures that the ISC’s Memorandum of Understanding is updated to reflect this Act.

Amendment 194 not moved.

Amendment 195

Moved by

195: After Clause 91, insert the following new Clause—

“Proscription of organisations: hostile activity on behalf of another State(1) Within six months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, the Secretary of State must publish draft legislation establishing a process for the proscription of actors engaged in hostile activity within the meaning of paragraph 1(5) of Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019.(2) Such legislation must have reference to the existing proscription process as governed by section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (proscription).”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to propose a new proscription process for actors engaged in hostile activity on behalf of other states.

My Lords, in moving Amendment 195, I will not speak at great length. The amendment requires the Secretary of State to propose a new proscription process for actors engaged in hostile state activity on behalf of other states, or indeed non- state organisations acting for a state or those who may act on their behalf.

I am moving this amendment to enable the Government to deal with any legislative problem in proscribing, among others, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known as the IRGC. The Government will tell the Chamber and me that existing legislation can deal with it, so it is not a problem. So why is there a delay in proscribing the IRGC? If there is no problem with existing legislation, why are Foreign Office officials questioning, as reported in the Times and many other media outlets, how the IRGC can be defined as a terrorist organisation under existing legislation, given that it is a government agency, unlike most of the other groups on the list? Foreign Office officials are being reported in the media as saying that there is a problem with the legislation. The Home Office is saying—I presume this is what the Minister will say—that there is not. Where has that come from? Why is the Foreign Office briefing the media that the reason it is resisting the proscription of the IRGC is that it is not sure that existing legislation will be adequate to define the IRGC as a terrorist organisation because it is a government agency.

There is a problem here at the heart of government. My Amendment 195 seeks to say to the Government, “Here is a legislative vehicle by which you can plug a gap so that the concerns raised by the Foreign Office can be alleviated”. The Home Office and the Foreign Office cannot both be right. So we should pass the legislation as I have laid it out here. I have read—I was advised that this was the way to give the Government a vehicle to deal with any legislative problem in the proscription of the IRGC, as laid out by the Foreign Office—the various parts of the 2000 Act and the 2019 Schedule in front of me and, as much as I can read and understand them, I will have to take the Foreign Office’s word that it is because it is a government agency that there is a problem.

As I said, something is the matter here. It is the will of Parliament, as expressed time and again in this place and in the other place, that the IRGC should be proscribed, but the Government are unable to do it. Therefore, all of us should pass this amendment to get rid of the legislative barrier that the Foreign Office says stays in the way. I am not a legislative expert, but, if the Foreign Office says there is a problem, if I were in the Home Office, I would pass this amendment and call out the Foreign Office if I wanted to proscribe the IRGC. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether the Government wish to proscribe the IRGC and whether there is a problem with the Foreign Office. Clearly there is; the Minister will not say there is, but there is.

We have seen an Iranian TV station in the UK forced to shut down because of activity from Iran. Numerous plots have been foiled, thanks to our security services. The noble Lord, Lord Evans, is here, and the noble Baroness, both former heads of MI5, so we thank them. But the Government are prevaricating on the proscription of the IRGC. My amendment, as I said, seeks to help the Home Office in its disagreement with the Foreign Office by allowing the creation of an improved and clearer process for proscribing hostile state actors.

The Government are divided in the face of this worrying issue. The Government will say they are not, so I was looking for evidence to show that they were. What did I find? In Hansard, Bob Blackman MP—not me trying to create trouble in the Lords but a Conservative MP—said:

“Clearly, the threat from the IRGC to people in this country—be they opposition journalists reporting on what is going on in Iran at the moment or UK citizens—is paramount. Foreign Office Ministers have responded to all the urgent questions the Speaker has granted and the debates we have had, but will my right hon. Friend now take the obvious step, which is supported by all political parties in the Chamber, and proscribe the IRGC in its entirety?”

Tom Tugendhat, Minister, Home Office, responds with this direct quote:

“My hon. Friend will know that it is not me”—

I am quoting this—

“he has to persuade in this matter and that there are many areas where I would like to go. I can assure him that the Government are absolutely listening to exactly what he is saying. The Home Secretary and I are as one on this”.—[Official Report, Commons, 6/2/23; col. 639.]

I am not a genius at working out what that means, but I think anybody who has been in the other Chamber or in this Chamber and has listened to the debate knows that the National Security Minister is telling Bob Blackman MP that the Home Secretary and he agree that the IRGC should be proscribed, but they have a problem with other parts of government, and those other parts of government are the Foreign Office, which believes that it should keep open communication with Iran and that proscribing the IRGC will cause all sorts of other problems, presumably around the nuclear treaty and so on and so forth.

All I am saying to the Minister is that the Foreign Office is clearly blocking the proscription of the IRGC, which is what the majority of people in this Chamber and the other think should happen, and my amendment seeks to take away from it the excuse it is using: namely, that there is a legislative problem, because the IRGC is a government agency and it would therefore be difficult under existing legislation to define it as a terrorist organisation.

Amendment 195 is extremely important, because it will allow the proscription of the IRGC and will take away from the Foreign Office the excuse that it is using to block that proscription. It is in the national security interests of this country for the IRGC to be proscribed as soon as possible. From what I just quoted, it is obvious that the Government, defined as the Home Office, agree, but the Foreign Office is stopping it. This Chamber has the opportunity, in the vote on my Amendment 195, to take away the excuse that the Foreign Office is using to stop that proscription. I hope that noble Lords will take it.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for bringing this issue to the Chamber on Report. He asked very pertinent questions. If he seeks to test the opinion of the House, we shall abstain on this point, but that is not because we do not wish to hear the Minister’s answer—it is because, if we are reforming the Terrorism Act 2000 and the means by which we proscribe organisations, there are perhaps better places for a full and more fundamental review.

I have been on record as supporting the proscription of the IRGC, and I have said that this should not be done without considering the knock-on effects within Iraq and Lebanon. The Terrorism Act 2000 states that it is the Home Secretary who has the specific power to proscribe, so the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked are valid. If this is a Home Office Minister stating that to the House of Commons and it is the Home Secretary’s decision, what is the process by which government will now make decisions on this? I have also repeatedly called for the proscription of the Wagner Group, which is a non-government organisation but clearly has direct links with the Russian Government.

There are, of course, some grey areas. Before we reached this group, I reviewed the whole list of those proscribed organisations, and we have recently proscribed some that are clearly not linked with a Government but are organisations designed to destabilise that country’s Government. However, over the years, there have been other organisations where the lines are more blurred as to whether they are within the framework of aliases or associated organisations, which can be proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, even if they are not directly part of the Government of that nation. It is obviously a large step if we proscribe part of a Government, but, in the past, we have seen that, in many areas, it has not been clear who the Government of a country are. Therefore, the statutory tests that are used, and that need to be satisfied, need to be robust.

I have raised the issue of the Wagner Group since 25 April last year, and I have seen it operating with my own eyes in Sudan—some noble Lords have heard me make this case before—and it is palpably the case that its operations are terrorist in purpose and in nature and that they are directly against the national security interests of the United Kingdom and pose a threat to British nationals and our allies. I called for its proscription last year on 25 April, 23 May, 9 June, 7 July, 15 November and 21 December, and on 26 January this year.

On 26 January, we raised questions about Mr Prigozhin receiving a licence from the Treasury to circumvent sanctions to receive legal support for a palpably malicious legal purpose. The noble Baroness, Lady Penn, said that she would write to me, and I got the letter this morning—I am grateful for her reply. There was nothing new in it, but there was an interesting line with regard to how the Home Office considers the proscription regime to

“assess if the statutory test is satisfied … taking into consideration several discretionary factors.”

I am curious about whether these factors would meet the purpose of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and I hope that the Minister can satisfy us on that.

No doubt the Minister will say shortly that the Government do not routinely comment on the issues, and I understand that case: no Government have in the past, and I suspect that no Government will in future, for good reason. But one question on the IRGC that the Minister can answer is whether, as it is constituted, the IRGC would meet the statutory test of the 2000 legislation. Another question that the Minister can answer today is whether the Wagner Group would meet the statutory test for an organisation to be considered. If so, we would have a bit more clarity. I hope that the Minister can give us positive news today.

My Lords, I have not spoken on the Bill before, and I appreciate that we are very near the end of it, but I am moved to stand by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which, as it is written, I support.

I have only voted against the Government once and, in retrospect, I think that was a mistake, in that I got confused about what the legislation said. But in this particular instance there is an opportunity for us to stand up and say that the IRGC is an organisation that should be proscribed. It is clear that large parts of government and MPs, including the Tory MPs referenced, believe that, and it is clear that a group of people in the Foreign Office take a different view. That is not a new position. I appreciate that my noble friend is a Home Office Minister and does not have a Foreign Office Minister with him but, none the less, an inflection moment is in front of us. I hope that my noble friend the Minister might find a way of supporting this amendment or explaining how he will satisfy the questions raised tonight.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Leigh led the way, and I shall follow. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I am one of the two Members of this House who have been proscribed by the Iranian regime and the IRGC, and I have consistently called for it to be proscribed by the Government.

I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said and, if there is an issue with the organisation being part of the Government, how were we able, when Sajid Javid was Home Secretary, to proscribe Hezbollah, which had Members of Parliament in Lebanon? This was always the argument against it, but it was done because it was the right thing to do. I remind noble Lords that Hezbollah and Hamas, which we all proscribed, are in fact the unruly children of the parent body—the IRGC, which needs to be proscribed.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lords, Lord Polak and Lord Leigh, as well as my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. He is indeed a friend, but I disagree with the conclusion he reached today. I want to support the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, if he puts the amendment to a vote in the House. I salute the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for the work he has done on both the IRGC and the Wagner Group; like him, I have seen the consequences of their actions in many parts of the world. I think that proscription is the right thing to do in some circumstances, and I believe that it is right in these circumstances.

Just before the debate on this amendment, I was at a committee meeting upstairs in Committee Room 9, where a young Iranian woman was speaking, during this special week celebrating the rights of women, about the slogan which has been used so often in the protests: “Freedom, Life and Women”. This young woman described atrocities that had occurred to her friends and her own personal experiences. She asked what we were doing about the IRGC and why the television broadcaster Iran International has had to leave this country and go to the United States because it is not safe to operate in west London. How can that be? How can it be that BBC Persian service personnel are constantly harassed as a result of doing their job, even though Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the freedom to transmit ideas and opinions? That freedom is not permitted by the theocracy in Iran.

As the noble Lord, Lord Polak, said, he and I have been sanctioned, along with Tom Tugendhat MP, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, referred. This is trivial in comparison to the things that happen to Iranian people and to what we have seen happening to people in the protests in Iran, which are truly shocking. It is trivial when you think about the export of drones from Iran to Russia that are now pouring down on the people of Ukraine. If we fail to take this kind of action—indeed the noble Lord, Lord Polak, and I asked this question in your Lordships’ House back on 18 January, after Alireza Akbari, a British citizen, was executed—what has to happen before they are proscribed? We asked it again on 23 February, in the Moses Room during a Question for Short Debate I tabled about relations between Iran and the United Kingdom. We specifically asked about the division between the Foreign Office and the Home Office and about what was impeding a decision being taken on this matter.

I know the Minister quite well now, and I admire and respect him. I do not expect him to give us a lot of cant from the Dispatch Box, but I hope that he will take back to the Government the feelings of so many of us in this House today who want to support the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for the reasons he expressed so well.

My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I have considerable sympathy for what he says in view of the appalling behaviour of the IRGC. However, this amendment, as I understand it, would open the door to the proscription of state organisations, with proscription having originally been envisaged as a mechanism principally to bear down on non-state organisations.

I wonder therefore whether the Minister, when he responds, could clarify whether the proscription of state organisations brings with it unintended consequences that would be potentially quite difficult. For instance, will we say that anybody who is a member of a hostile intelligence service—which might be proscribed—is, by definition, committing an offence? What will that do, for instance, to intelligence liaison with people who are hostile to us, which sometimes happens? Does it create problems which would not be created for a non-state organisation, because these organs will be part of a very considerably bigger state entity with which we may have to engage at some level?

I am neither in favour with nor against the amendment. I am not quite sure exactly how it would work, and I would be very grateful if the Minister could clarify those aspects.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this very brief debate.

I think it would be helpful to give a brief overview of the concept of proscription as outlined in Part 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Put simply, proscription can play an important role in degrading the ability of terrorist organisations to operate effectively, and it sends a strong message that the UK is a hostile operating environment for such groups. The Terrorism Act 2000 gives the Home Secretary the power to proscribe a group if she has a reasonable belief that it is currently concerned in terrorism and it is proportionate to do so. The amendment seeks to replicate this within an explicit state threats context and requires that the Government develop and publish appropriate draft legislation.

The Home Secretary’s decisions on proscription can be legally challenged. As such, those decisions are supported by a comprehensive, evidence-led process which involves close consultation with other government departments and partners. This House will fully appreciate that developing a state threats proscription power will need to be considered fully.

Before I go on, I will refer to the IRGC, as it has come up in all contributions. I remind the House that the United Kingdom already sanctions the IRGC in its entirety. The separate list of proscribed terrorist organisations is kept under very careful review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription.

In response to the illustrative points from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on whether there is a legislative gap in this area, I say that the National Security Bill creates a wide range of offences, tools and powers to counter state threats activity. In many respects, they cover very similar ground to a proscription-like power. For example, any person materially assisting a foreign intelligence service in their UK-related activities would commit an offence under Clause 3. Under the enhanced tier of the foreign influence registration scheme in Part 3, the Government could require the registration of all activities being conducted with those specified under the scheme. The Government will, with the agreement of Parliament, be able to specify a foreign power, part of a foreign power or an entity controlled by a foreign power. That means that those who are in arrangements with such organisations must register their activities or risk prosecution. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, referred to my right honourable friend in the other place, the Security Minister, and I know that he is reassured by this.

However, as the Government have previously set out, we see the Bill as forming a new baseline for state threats legislation from which the statute will inevitably build over time as the threat evolves and diversifies. I am therefore grateful to the noble Lord for raising the issue and giving us the opportunity to debate it. I reassure him that I understand the reasons behind the amendment and the concern about the activities of state groups such as the IRGC. The Government of course share the noble Lord’s concerns, as was made clear in the Government’s statements on Iran International —to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, also referred—which highlighted the potentially lethal operations of the IRGC taking place in the UK.

The amendment raises an important question of whether more needs to be done in this space, and I can reassure all noble Lords that this is a question that the Government are already considering carefully. The Government are committed to tackling all forms of state threats and to ensuring that our police and security services have the right powers to keep the UK safe.

Given, as I have said, that the measures in the Bill already have a similar effect in the state threats context to that achieved through the proscription for terrorism, we need to fully consider, alongside our operational partners, whether and how additional tools such as a state threats proscription power would add to the offences and measures in the Bill. We are committed to ensuring that any future legislation we pursue in this area has maximum effect.

Returning to the amendment itself, while it does not seek to set the ultimate scope of any legislative provision, I am afraid I am unable to accept an amendment that too tightly constrains our thinking in this important area. Linking proscription to hostile activity as defined in Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 would need careful consideration. I very much take on board the points of the noble Lord, Lord Evans, on this and on the scope. While that definition was considered suitable for that legislation, a different approach was taken in the National Security Bill, reflecting the differing nature of the tools and powers it contains. I would not want to pre-empt what might work best in the context of a potential proscription-like power. Furthermore, it is possible that to deliver an operational benefit, the tool may need to be created in a different way, and as such proposing a link to existing proscription processes may be unhelpful.

For these reasons, the Government cannot accept this amendment as drafted. I am also going to have disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Purvis: I am unable to comment on the Wagner Group; I am not qualified to do so. I hope the noble Lord is reassured that the Government are already looking carefully at this area and will therefore consider withdrawing his amendment.

I thank the noble Lord for his response. Of course the Government are carefully considering this. I do not for one moment believe that they are not thinking about or carefully considering it—that would be an insult to the British Government. Of course they are concerned about national security and worried about various issues, including the one before us. That is a given. I have never accused the Government of not being concerned about it, of not considering it, of not deliberating on it, of not thinking about what they should do.

My amendment is saying that there is a real problem at the heart of government because the Foreign Office is blocking what the Home Office wants to do. There was not a word about that from the Minister; not a word about the fact that the Foreign Office is saying, “You cannot use existing legislation because it means that the IRGC”, to use that as an example, “is a government agency and not within the definition of a terrorist organisation under the legislation as drafted”. That is the core of it.

The noble Lords, Lord Leigh, Lord Polak, Lord Alton, and others who have spoken are saying that if there is a legislative problem, which the Foreign Office thinks there is, sort it out or come before this Chamber and say, “We do not want to proscribe the IRGC. We do not want to take that sort of action”. It is a perfectly reasonable thing to argue. “We do not want to proscribe the IRGC because we think the better way of sorting this problem out is to maintain open communications with the Iranian regime, to talk to them, to embrace them. We are not going to take any hard action against them because we think that undermines the policy objectives of the British Government.” It is a perfectly reasonable policy position, but I do not think that that is what is going on. I think the Government are having a row. I think there is a clash between the Foreign Office and the Home Office, and I am on the side of the Home Office. The IRGC should be proscribed, and I think that is what the majority of people in this Chamber, and in the other place, think. If so, it is the Government—or part of the Government—who are the problem, and my Amendment 195 gives them a legislative vehicle to sort it out.

What sort of a response is it, on something as serious as this, to say it is a drafting problem and “I did my best with it”? If there is a drafting problem, the Government can accept it and sort it out. They can change it, bringing in their battalions of lawyers, barristers even—I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick—to sort it out. I was a teacher; I played football; I was a politician; I am not a lawyer, but that was the best I could do, because I know how important this is. The IRGC is operating within this country, to the extent that MI5 and others are having to foil terrorist plots. It forced a TV station to shut down, and the Government’s reaction to my amendment is to say, “There is a drafting problem with it”. It really is not acceptable.

The noble Lord, Lord Evans, is right in saying that there is a balance to be struck. Well, strike a balance by accepting Amendment 195, sorting the legislation out and allowing the will of this Parliament to be expressed through its directly and properly elected Government. It is saying to the Government that the IRGC is simply and utterly unacceptable. I do not care if the legislation says there is a problem with defining it. It is a terrorist organisation. “No, it is not”, because Schedule 58 to some Act somewhere says it is not. That is ridiculous. It is the tail wagging the dog. The IRGC is causing damage in our society and the Foreign Office is blocking this, according to the Times and other media outlets, because its officials are saying there is a definition problem because it is a government agency.

The noble Lord, Lord Evans, is right that this takes us into new territory. It does, and there are problems, but all I am saying is that it cannot be an excuse for the British Government to say, “We are not going to proscribe the IRGC because the Foreign Office says there is a problem with it being defined as a terrorist organisation when it is a government agency”. What do we say to people? Bring it down from these heady clouds of the House of Lords Chamber. Bring it down to the fact that terrorist plots are having to be foiled by our security services because of its actions. An international Iranian TV station has been forced out of our country: the United Kingdom cannot guarantee the safety of people who work for a TV station, in the face of actions by the IRGC and the people who support it, and the British Government prevaricate on whether to proscribe it. It is unbelievable.

The Government are whipping their Members to vote against that proscription and the Liberal Democrats, for their own reasons, are going to abstain. So, we are going to have people voting against and abstaining on the proscription of a body that poses a very real threat to our country. Good luck with explaining that. Good luck with explaining to people why that is something Parliament should accept and why my amendment should fail. “A drafting error”. “Not properly written”. Goodness me, is that the best we can do? I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Amendment 196

Moved by

196: Before Schedule 17, insert the following new Schedule—

“ScheduleAmendments of Terrorism Act 20001 (1) Section 41 to the Terrorism Act 2000 (arrest without warrant) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (3)(b)—(a) for the words from “Schedule 7” to “2019,” substitute “a provision listed in subsection (3A)”;(b) for “examination under that Schedule” substitute “detention under that provision”.(3) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) Those provisions are—(a) section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984;(b) Article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (S.I. 1989/1341 (N.I. 12));(c) Schedule 7;(d) section 1 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 (asp 1);(e) Part 1 of Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019;(f) section 27 of the National Security Act 2022.”(4) After subsection (8) insert—“(8ZA) Subsection (8A) applies where— (a) a person is detained under this section in hospital, or(b) a person detained under this section is removed to hospital because the person needs medical treatment.”(5) In subsection (8A)—(a) for the words before paragraph (a) substitute “Where this subsection applies”;(b) in paragraph (a) after “hospital or” insert “(where this subsection applies by virtue of subsection (8ZA)(b))”;(c) in paragraph (b) after “hospital or” insert “(where this subsection applies by virtue of subsection (8ZA)(b))”.2 (1) Schedule 5 to the Terrorism Act 2000 (terrorist investigations) is amended as follows.(2) In paragraph 3 (power to search premises within cordoned area)—(a) in sub-paragraph (1) for the words from “Subject” to “superintendent” substitute “A constable”;(b) in sub-paragraph (2) for the words from “who” to “paragraph” substitute “may exercise the power in sub-paragraph (1) only”.(3) In paragraph 15 (search and seizure in urgent cases: England, Wales and Northern Ireland)—(a) at the end of sub-paragraph (1) insert “(subject to sub-paragraph (1A))”;(b) after sub-paragraph (1) insert—“(1A) An order under this paragraph giving the authority which may be given by a search warrant under paragraph 11 does not authorise a constable to retain confidential journalistic material.(1B) “Confidential journalistic material” means material which is excluded material by virtue of section 11(1)(c) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.”(4) After paragraph 15 insert—“15A “(1) This paragraph applies where confidential journalistic material is seized by virtue of an order under paragraph 15 giving the authority which may be given by a search warrant under paragraph 11.(2) A constable may apply to a Circuit judge for the issue of a warrant under this paragraph.(3) An application under sub-paragraph (2) must be made as soon as reasonably practicable after the material is seized.(4) The judge may grant an application under sub-paragraph (2) if satisfied that conditions 1 to 3 are met.(5) Condition 1 is that the warrant is sought for the purposes of a terrorist investigation.(6) Condition 2 is that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the material is likely to be of substantial value, whether by itself or with other material, to a terrorist investigation.(7) Condition 3 is that there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is in the public interest that the material should be retained having regard to the benefit likely to accrue to the terrorist investigation if the material is retained.(8) A warrant under this paragraph is a warrant authorising the retention of confidential journalistic material.(9) A warrant under this paragraph may impose conditions on the retention and use of the material.(10) If the judge does not grant an application for the issue of a warrant under this paragraph in relation to any of the material to which the application relates, the judge may direct that the material is—(a) returned to the person from whom it was seized, or (b) destroyed.(11) “Confidential journalistic material” has the same meaning as in paragraph 15.”(5) In paragraph 18 (application to Northern Ireland) before paragraph (f) insert—“(ea) the reference in paragraph 15(1B) to section 11(1)(c) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is to be taken as a reference to Article 13(1)(c) of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (S.I. 1989/1341 (N.I. 12)),”(6) In paragraph 31 (search and seizure in urgent cases: Scotland)—(a) at the end of sub-paragraph (1) insert “(subject to sub-paragraph (1A)).”;(b) after sub-paragraph (1) insert—“(1A) An order under this paragraph does not authorise a constable to retain confidential journalistic material.(1B) “Confidential journalistic material” has the same meaning as in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (see section 264(6) and (7) of that Act).”(7) After paragraph 31 insert—“31A “(1) This paragraph applies where confidential journalistic material is seized by virtue of an order under paragraph 31.(2) The procurator fiscal may apply to a sheriff for the issue of a warrant under this paragraph.(3) An application under sub-paragraph (2) must be made as soon as reasonably practicable.(4) The sheriff may grant an application under sub-paragraph (2) if satisfied that conditions 1 to 3 are met.(5) Condition 1 is that the warrant is sought for the purposes of a terrorist investigation.(6) Condition 2 is that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the material is likely to be of substantial value, whether by itself or with other material, to a terrorist investigation.(7) Condition 3 is that there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is in the public interest that the material should be retained having regard to the benefit likely to accrue to the terrorist investigation if the material is retained.(8) A warrant under this paragraph is a warrant authorising the retention of confidential journalistic material.(9) A warrant under this paragraph may impose conditions on the retention and use of the material.(10) If the sheriff does not grant an application for the issue of a warrant under this paragraph in relation to any of the material to which the application relates, the sheriff may direct that the material is—(a) returned to the person from whom it was seized, or(b) destroyed.(11) “Confidential journalistic material” has the same meaning as in paragraph 31.””Member's explanatory statement

The amendments to section 41 of the Terrorism Act reflect provision in Clause 27 of the Bill. The amendments to paragraph 3 of Schedule 5 amend powers to authorise searches. The remaining amendments to Schedule 5 restrict powers to retain confidential journalistic material to reflect provision in Schedule 2 to the Bill.

Amendment 196 agreed.

Schedule 17: Minor and consequential amendments

Amendment 197 not moved.

Amendments 198 and 199

Moved by

198: Schedule 17, page 194, line 16, at end insert—

“Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (c. 25)

10 (1) Schedule 3 to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (exceptions to the exclusion of certain matters from legal proceedings) is amended as follows.(2) After paragraph 8 insert—“Proceedings under Part 2 of the National Security Act 20238A (1) Section 56(1) does not apply in relation to—(a) any proceedings which are relevant proceedings within the meaning of Part 2 of the National Security Act 2023 (see section 63(1) of that Act), or(b) any proceedings arising out of any proceedings within paragraph (a).(2) But sub-paragraph (1) does not permit the disclosure of anything to—(a) any person, other than the Secretary of State, who is or was a party to the proceedings, or(b) any person who—(i) represents such a person for the purposes of the proceedings, and(ii) does so otherwise than by virtue of an appointment as a special advocate under Schedule 10 to the National Security Act 2023.”(3) In paragraph 20(2) (proceedings for certain offences)—(a) after paragraph (h) insert—“(ha) an offence under section 1 or 3 of the National Security Act 2023 relating to any information, document or other article which, or an offence under section 12 of that Act relating to any asset which—(i) incorporates, or relates to, the content of any intercepted communication or any secondary data obtained from a communication, or(ii) tends to suggest that any interception-related conduct has or may have occurred or may be going to occur;(hb) an offence under section 18 of the National Security Act 2023 in relation to an offence falling within paragraph (ha);”(b) in paragraph (i), for “(h)” substitute “(ha)”.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment makes consequential amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

199: Schedule 17, page 194, line 16, at end insert—

“Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 (c. 3)

10 In paragraph 62 of Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 (review of Schedule 3 by Investigatory Powers Commissioner) omit—(a) sub-paragraphs (1) to (5);(b) sub-paragraphs (7) and (8).”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment omits provision for the review of Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. It is superseded by new Clause (Reviews: general), which provides for reviews of Schedule 3 by the independent reviewer appointed to review Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill.

Amendments 198 and 199 agreed.

Clause 94: Regulations

Amendments 200 to 203

Moved by

200: Clause 94, page 64, line 19, at end insert—

“(za) regulations under section 64(1B);”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides for the affirmative procedure to apply to regulations under Clause 64(1B), which is inserted by Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 64, page 45, line 19.

201: Clause 94, page 64, line 22, at end insert—

“(aa) regulations under section 67(3B);”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides for the affirmative procedure to apply to regulations under Clause 67(3B), which is inserted by Lord Sharpe’s amendment to Clause 67, page 46, line 36.

202: Clause 94, page 64, line 22, at end insert—

“(ab) regulations under section 79(1)(a);”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment provides for the affirmative procedure to apply to regulations under Clause 79(1)(a) (provision about the publication of information provided to the Secretary of State under Clause 74 or 75).

203: Clause 94, page 65, line 3, leave out “63” and insert “64, 65 or 67“

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the additional regulation making powers in relation to specified persons conferred by Lord Sharpe’s amendments to Clause 64, page 45, line 19 and Clause 67, page 46, line 36.

Amendments 200 to 203 agreed.

Clause 98: Commencement

Amendment 203A not moved.

In the Title

Amendment 204

Moved by

204: Title, line 7, after “terrorism;” insert “to amend the Terrorism Act 2000;”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the new Schedule inserted by Lord Sharpe before Schedule 17.

Amendment 204 agreed.

Sitting suspended.