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Security Update

Volume 832: debated on Monday 11 September 2023


My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier in another place by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on claims relating to an ongoing counterterrorism police investigation that were reported in the Sunday Times yesterday, Sunday 10 September. The story alleged that two individuals, including a parliamentary researcher, had been arrested on charges of conducting espionage on behalf of China.

These are serious allegations, and it is right that they are being thoroughly investigated by the police and relevant agencies. We must not hamper their work or prejudice any future legal processes by what we say today—as I believe, Mr Speaker, you said at the beginning of today’s proceedings. As you would expect me to say, it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment on any specific aspect of the active investigation itself. I would, however, point the House to what the Metropolitan police said in their own statement:

‘The investigation is being carried out by officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, which has responsibility for investigations relating to allegations of Official Secrets Act and espionage-related offences’.

Of course, any decision on whether to proceed with a prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, and related legislation, would be a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service.

It remains an absolute priority for the Government to take all necessary steps to protect the United Kingdom from any foreign state activity which seeks to undermine our national security, prosperity and democratic values. The Government have been clear that China represents a systemic challenge to the United Kingdom and to our values. That has been evidenced in China’s continued disregard for universal human rights and international commitments in Xinjiang, its erasure of dissenting voices and stifling of opposition under its new national security law in Hong Kong, and disturbing reports of Chinese coercion and intimidation in the South China Sea. We are clear-eyed about that challenge, and we must be able to look the Chinese in the eye and call out unacceptable behaviour directly, just as our Prime Minister was able to do this with Premier Li at the G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend—an approach that has also been taken consistently by our Five Eyes allies.

Actions speak louder than words, and that is why I took the decision to instruct departments to cease deployment of all surveillance equipment subject to China’s national intelligence law from sensitive government sites in November last year. It is one of the reasons why I banned TikTok from government devices; the Government investigated and called out the so-called Chinese overseas police service stations and, as my right honourable friend the Security Minister set out in a Statement to this House in June, instructed the Chinese embassy to close them; we significantly reduced Chinese involvement in the UK’s civil nuclear sector, including taking ownership of China’s stake in the Sizewell C nuclear power project; and, as Digital Secretary, I took the action to ban Huawei from our 5G networks.

This afternoon the Procurement Bill is being debated in the other place. The Bill will include national security debarment provisions that will enable us to act when we see malign influence in our public procurement. In taking this approach, we are aligned with our Five Eyes allies and other G7 partners—indeed, every single G7 partner.

The UK will deploy, again, an aircraft carrier to the Indo-Pacific in 2025; we have announced AUKUS, a new security partnership that will promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that is secure and stable; and we will work with Italy and Japan through the global combat air programme to adapt and respond to the security threats of the future, through an unprecedented international aerospace coalition.

These Houses of Parliament stand as a monument to the freedoms of expression and belief that underpin our values, but just as these institutions have provided the paradigm for so many modern democracies, there are still those who fear such freedoms, and who seek to undermine them and to interfere in our society. We maintain constant vigilance in our efforts to understand and root out that interference, and we will always take action to address it, whatever its source.

In 2022, the Government established the Defending Democracy Taskforce, a group that works to co-ordinate across Government to protect the integrity of our democracy from threats of foreign interference. It is engaging across government, with Parliament, the UK’s intelligence community, the devolved Administrations, local authorities, the private sector and civil society on the full range of threats facing our democratic institutions. Those threats include any foreign interference in the electoral process, disinformation, physical and cyber threats to democratic institutions and those who represent them, foreign interference in public offices, political parties and our universities, and transnational repression in the United Kingdom.

Earlier this year, Parliament passed the National Security Act, which has overhauled legislation applicable to espionage, sabotage and any persons acting for foreign powers against the safety and interest of the United Kingdom. The measures in the Act will enable our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to deter, detect and disrupt the full range of modern-day threats, including threats from China. New offences in the Act will enable the disruption of illegitimate influence conducted for, or on behalf of, foreign states, whether designed to advance their interests or to harm the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Government will do whatever it takes to protect our national security and this nation’s democratic institutions, which have stood for centuries as a beacon of liberty—from wherever the threat may come.

I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for repeating the Statement in a timely way on the same day as it was made in the other place. I have often said from this Dispatch Box that the first duty of any Government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens, but, when you look at it, it is more than that. In doing so, we must ensure that we uphold the integrity of our democracy and values.

I am sure that everyone in your Lordships’ House can recall where they were when we heard the news of the attacks on the twin towers, 22 years ago today. It is an appropriate time to recognise and pay tribute to the work of the intelligence and security agencies, who work alongside the police and other public sector organisations. I thank them for their work to protect us, in which they face unprecedented challenges and risks. Those risks are evolving in size, volatility and complexity. Security threats now appear through threats to our economy and technological systems, at our borders and through interference in our democracy. It is a huge challenge, and our security response must evolve to ensure that it is cohesive, comprehensive and able to adjust to face the changing nature of those threats.

In the last week, we have heard of two serious security issues: the escape from prison of a man facing charges for terrorism and the serious allegations of espionage on behalf of China. The police, intelligence agencies and justice system have our support in carrying out their investigations and should be left to do so. That also means that we have to be honest about the challenges faced and mistakes made; we have to recognise where there are gaps and take action to address them.

The Lord Privy Seal will understand that there is some incredulity that a man suspected of terrorism was able to escape from a category B prison under a van. It is extraordinary that he was in a category B prison—HMP Wandsworth—in the first place, that he had access to an area from which he could escape, and that it was not immediately noticed that he had absconded. I doubt that the Lord Privy Seal will be able to answer questions on this matter today, but I am sure that he recognises the importance of those questions that need to be investigated. Can he say whether the review into the security status of national security prisoners has been completed?

In response to the arrests made for espionage, there are questions about the actions the Government are taking to combat the threats posed by other states which seek to interfere in our democracy. MI5 issued an alert about Chinese attempts to influence Parliament 20 months ago. Our security services have long warned about interference in our democracy and in our elections, and there have been previous alerts and warnings about foreign actors seeking to penetrate parliamentary security. Can the Lord Privy Seal say anything about the actions they are taking in response to those specific warnings, and are they observed across government by both Ministers and those in their departments?

The Lord Speaker mentioned it in his introduction, but I ask the Lord Privy Seal to clarify whether the two men who have been arrested, and, I understand, charged with espionage, have been released on bail.

MI5 has also warned about commercial espionage from China, cyber risks and the threat to supply chains. The Intelligence and Security Committee has noted the Government’s lack of a long-term strategy towards China and is currently waiting for a response to the report it published in July. Can the Lord Privy Seal say anything more today about the specific threat posed by China? Can he more specifically say when the Government’s response to the ISC report will be published?

We must be able to work with China on key issues, such as climate change, but at the same time we must protect our national security and oppose attempts to infiltrate our democracy. In your Lordships’ House, we on the Labour Benches introduced an amendment to the National Security Bill to create stronger checks on donations to political parties which would have closed a loophole that allows shell companies to be used to hide political donations. The Government opposed that amendment. Can the Lord Privy Seal explain why, and will the Government now reconsider their position?

We know that the threats are not limited to China. For example, we saw the attack from the Russians in Salisbury, and we know there have been further cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns. In response to the shocking and terrible attacks on 9/11, the then Labour Government created a comprehensive strategy in response to state threats to national security. The UK counterterrorism strategy Contest established new links between the counterterrorism police, intelligence agencies and our public services, with the Home Office and the Government at the centre at the helm. The scale of the response that is needed today is certainly no less than that which was needed 22 years ago.

We are committed to extending this approach, if we are fortunate enough to be in government, by creating an equivalent strategy today to deal with such state threats. I can assure the Lord Privy Seal that the Government would have our support if they were to commit to introducing such a strategy and response now. I am not asking him to answer that at the Dispatch Box today, but will he commit to take this back to his Cabinet colleagues and report back to your Lordships’ House?

I end where I started. Nothing is more important in government than ensuring the safety, security and well-being of citizens. To fulfil that obligation, we need the right policies, strategies and collaborations. If we are to protect our democracy, we need to have a strategy in place, but we also need our citizens to have confidence in our democracy if they are to properly and effectively participate in it. This should be a joint endeavour across all parties and both Houses, and I hope the Lord Privy Seal will be able today to reassure us on the actions the Government are taking, and commit to going forward on this in a way that protects our democracy and security and unites the country, rather than creating division.

My Lords, there are two distinct but related aspects to this Statement. The first relates to the arrest of two people on charges of conducting espionage on behalf of China. The second relates more generally to our posture towards the security risks which China poses to the UK.

On the charges, I fully understand why it is inappropriate to comment at this stage. However, I confess to be bemused as to the nature of the spying which the parliamentary researcher might have undertaken. According to media reports, one of his crimes seems to be to have organised regular drinks sessions at a Westminster pub. This may not be a meritorious activity but it is hardly a serious offence. I think everybody will be fascinated to discover, if charges are pursued, exactly what kind of secrets the parliamentary researcher might have had access to. But for today, we must simply compose our souls in patience until further details of any charges emerge.

There is the more serious question of whether parliamentarians should have been told about the arrests at an earlier stage, so that they could take particular care in their dealings with China and Chinese entities. It is not clear when the Home Secretary and Prime Minister were aware of this case and why they decided to remain silent about it with parliamentary colleagues. Perhaps the noble Lord the Leader can enlighten us.

The broader issue which this case exemplifies relates to our overall posture towards China. The Statement says that the Government believe that China presents a systemic challenge to our values. It lists a number of actions which they have taken to counter these challenges, but it fails to convince. In July, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee issued an excoriating report on China which said that the Government do not have a “clear strategy” on China and have not devoted sufficient resources to tackling the threat that it posed. The actions listed in today’s Statement do not constitute such a strategy. The Government should be making protecting our democracy a national security priority—something, incidentally, which they have already consistently failed to do in respect of Russia—and accept the recommendations of the ISC’s China report.

More generally, the Government’s record on standing up to China is weak. From the genocide against the Uighurs to Hong Kong, and from Taiwan to interference in our democracy, the Government have failed to take China seriously. The Prime Minister may have meetings in Delhi with his Chinese counterpart, but the suspicion is that he is more interested in trade, rather than these broader concerns.

Developing a clear overall approach to China should now be an urgent priority. One specific question which such a strategy must cover is the extent to which we designate China formally as a security threat. The Prime Minister originally claimed that China was such a threat during the Conservative leadership contest—and on this we agree—but since then, he has back-pedalled. The spying case illustrates the broad challenge which China now poses to the UK, yet the Government have failed to take Chinese interference seriously. They surely must now do so.

My Lords, I am grateful for the general tone of the response. It is invidious to choose, but although I am grateful for the response of the noble Lord, Lord Newby, I am particularly grateful for the very statesmanlike tone of the noble Baroness. I of course underline her tribute to the work of the Security Service, and indeed all the law enforcement services. On the day of 9/11, I was occupying the office which is now that of the Lord Convener, and I remember vividly watching what was going on in a position of disbelief. We must support their work, which sometimes, of its very nature—often, perhaps normally—has to be done on a confidential and secret basis. I think all noble Lords understand that matters cannot be avowed and addressed in detail while cases are ongoing.

I heard what the noble Baroness said about the prison escape and, fortunately, the individual concerned was recaptured—after I had had a sleepless night as the police helicopters circled over Richmond Park. I did not resent that at all; it was essential that that man be retaken.

The Lord Chancellor certainly said that these matters would be looked into. I shall not expand on that; nor would I want to anticipate where the examination of those events might lead. I will make sure that the Lord Chancellor is made aware of her comments on that.

On the question of MI5’s alerts and concerns, of course we are concerned about China. I thought a disappointing aspect of the response from the noble Lord, Lord Newby, was that he rather belittled the range of action taken by this Government in relation to China. I repeated that in the Statement and do not wish to weary the House by repeating it again but a look at Hansard will see the significant actions we have taken, which, in addition to those in the Statement, include reducing Chinese involvement in the UK’s civil nuclear sector by taking control and ownership of China’s stake in the Sizewell C project. We have also passed the National Security Act, which I referred to in the Statement.

The director-general of MI5—since MI5 was referred to specifically—called this

“a game changing update to our powers”.

Those are his public words. He said:

“We now have a modern set of laws to tackle today’s threats”.

These will give law enforcement and intelligence agencies new and updated tools to deter, detect and disrupt foreign influence, including a foreign influence registration scheme that criminalises those acting covertly for states that pose the greatest threat to the UK.

There were various comments and I have to say that not everything said in this House derived from newspaper reports was entirely accurate. But I shall not be led to comment on what was or was not. I think all noble Lords will understand that this is an ongoing investigation and it is extremely important that we do not jeopardise any proceedings that may follow.

I was asked about the response to the ISC report. I think it may not be the first time I have been asked that very legitimate question. I was told that I was permitted to say “very shortly” in response. I am now telling everybody not to betray secrets but I did say that I could not say that again and was assured that “very shortly” really does mean “very shortly” in this case. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe will have heard those comments.

Information to Members of Parliament is again a matter for the relevant authorities. I shall not go down that road or say who knew what when. Noble Lords will have heard the Lord Speaker assure the House that:

“The extremely small number of people who needed to know about this issue were immediately briefed on a strictly confidential basis”.

That was held to be the responsible approach.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, said that our approach to China does not convince. The noble Baroness also said that we must have a serious response to China. I believe that was implicit in the Statement and explicit in the Statement made by my right honourable friend in the other place. I underline what he said and what the House feels: China is a country that—sadly—has fundamentally different values from us and therefore represents a systemic challenge to the world order.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that China’s behaviour is increasingly concerning. It is becoming more authoritarian at home and more assertive overseas. We are alert to that challenge and I would say, as I often say in this House, how much we feel fortified by the support across the Chamber. We must take the necessary steps to stand up for our values and protect our interests.

On the other hand, China is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is the second largest economy in the world and has an impact on almost every global issue of importance to the UK. Our overall approach, therefore, must be rooted in our national interest and co-ordinated with like-minded partners, as I referred to with the AUKUS arrangements, the long-standing Five Eyes arrangements and the work on a new aerial provision with Italy and Japan. We will go on working with like-minded partners. We are sending the aircraft carrier presence to the East again to assure our allies there that we will go on working with them to maintain a stable international order. The integrated review refresh set out a new approach and measures to respond to the increasingly concerning actions of Chinese authorities.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that it is an epoch-defining challenge for our country and the world. We have been clear that China remains the biggest long-term question and threat to the UK’s economic security, but it is not smart foreign policy to reduce our entire approach to China to one word. Our approach should be measured in our actions rather than our words. We in the Government are confident that, with the support of the party opposite and others, we are taking the right actions to keep the United Kingdom safe and prosperous.

My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that I, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and our families, have been sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party for, among other things, speaking out against the treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the atrocities committed in Tibet, the threats almost daily to Taiwan and the terrible destruction of democracy and incarceration of lawmakers and pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, including the British citizen, Jimmy Lai. Here at home, we have spoken—as many have today in the House in the preceding debates—about issues such as forced organ harvesting and the surveillance state that comes through the installation of cameras by companies such as Hikvision and Dahua, in which the noble Lord himself has taken such a keen interest.

In the light of all that, the Leader of the House will not be surprised to hear me reiterate a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. In another place earlier today, my good friend Tim Loughton MP, who is also one of those who has been sanctioned, expressed surprise that those of us who had been put in this invidious position were not told anything about the activities that were said to be taking place across the Parliamentary Estate. Will the Leader look at that issue again and have some regard to those who obviously have a direct interest in this?

The foreign influence registration scheme contains a power to place a foreign power in the enhanced tier. That will require parliamentary approval. What is the proposed timetable? Can it be accelerated? Will the Chinese Communist Party regime be on that list? The Leader referred to the “very shortly” assurance that he was asked to give concerning the excellent report from the Intelligence and Security Committee, which says that China has penetrated

“every sector of the UK’s economy”.

This House’s Select Committee on International Relations and Defence has also said that China is not a strategic competitor but a threat. Although it cannot be reduced to one word, as the Leader of the House said, surely it is time for us to schedule a debate. I hope that, as soon as the response from the Government is forthcoming, we will have in government time the chance to discuss the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report, along with our own reports.

Finally, will the Leader urgently consider establishing a small Joint Committee of both Houses to review infiltration, espionage, the subversion of our democratic institutions, the effects on places such as our universities, and these attempts to silence those of us who have been sanctioned by the CCP and our families?

My Lords, I pay tribute to the persistence and courage of the noble Lord—I will call him my noble friend—Lord Alton in his long-standing witness against the brutalities that he has described and the assault on democracy; for example, I refer to the oppression that we have seen in Hong Kong. I also deprecate, as the Government do, the absurd concept of people in your Lordships’ House and the other place being sanctioned—and by whom? The Chinese Communist Party. By what right do people who do not understand our freedoms in this place and our right to speak purport to sanction or threaten us?

We are very alert to some of the activities, which is why the so-called police service stations that perhaps should never have been allowed to grow in the first place have been closed down. We do not assume that they are being closed down; we are checking that they have been closed down.

The noble Lord asked specific questions about the FISA provisions, including timing and scale. If I may, I will be advised on that and write to the noble Lord, but I can say that those powers are there. I quoted the director-general of MI5 saying how welcome they are; I can assure your Lordships that we will pursue them.

My Lords, this is an unusual situation. We are dealing with a matter of great sensitivity. There is a prosecution currently ongoing and there are national security issues; a review of parliamentary security is also ongoing, as the Lord Chancellor mentioned in the media yesterday.

I have given notice of my concern to the Lord Privy Seal and my noble friend the Cabinet Office Minister by way of email; I have also communicated previously with the Lord Speaker about it. I am talking about the current practice, which is well known to all noble Lords—this is not a personal point at all—of noble Lords’ spouses and partners being issued with security passes without any security vetting. Due to the overlap between these issues, which is a rare circumstance, I ask my noble friend the Minister whether this review gives us an opportunity to think about whether we need to reconsider that policy in light of the matters raised, particularly the safety of our staff and the fact that we are well aware of how clever and wily our enemy is. We need to make sure that any loophole or avenue is closed off.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving advance notice. I am not sure how helpful that means I can be. Obviously, although I have the indescribable honour of being the Leader of your Lordships’ House, a review of security vetting in Parliament is a matter for Parliament and the authorities here. I am sure that they will have taken note of what my noble friend says, but the Parliamentary Security Department is responsible for the delivery of security vetting in Parliament. Like all security policies, we expect this to be kept under constant review; I hope that will be informed.

I did not answer the point from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about people being informed about what had happened. I said that I had nothing to add to what was said in the Lord Speaker’s Statement about the extremely small number of people who needed to know being briefed immediately.

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. I fully endorse all the comments made by my noble friend on the Opposition Front Bench. I declare an interest as a member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy; it involves Members of both Houses, some of whom have been mentioned in the course of press reporting on the case that we are discussing—or not discussing. We are fully aware of the fact that certain countries, such as China, are engaged in what I have heard described as the hoovering up of as much information and intelligence as possible for purposes of their own that may be a threat to us.

The Statement refers to the Official Secrets Act and related legislation. Do I take it from the Leader of the House’s answers so far that the Government take the view that the National Security Act now provides a much more appropriate legal framework for considering a case of this kind? Secondly, we now know of events that took place as long ago as March, but that have only become widely known this week. Is there any connection between this and the fact that the Prime Minister chose to raise with Premier Li at the G20 summit the case that has given rise to this Statement?

My Lords, the Prime Minister will have an opportunity to discuss the G20 Statement tomorrow, when I fear that your Lordships will suffer the pain of me answering again from this Dispatch Box. Perhaps I can then say a little more, if asked, about the engagement with Premier Li. However, I assure the House that the Prime Minister has certainly addressed the substance of Chinese activity and China’s efforts to undermine our democratic procedures so far as they are concerned.

On the question of the Official Secrets Act and the National Security Act, I would not wish to relate those to the ongoing investigation and was not seeking to do so. Obviously, I referred to the National Security Act, as did the director-general of MI5, as a further building block in the tools we have. That was in response to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. So far as the current investigation is concerned, the Met has said that due to the active and ongoing nature of the investigation, it will not provide further details at this stage. It would not be right for me to comment on these reports. A statement was put out by the Metropolitan Police; I refer noble Lords to that statement.

My Lords, I begin by declaring that I was previously a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, although that is not a reason for urging the Minister to re-read the report, since it contains a lot of conclusions that are entirely relevant to our discussion this evening.

I direct his attention to paragraph 7, which carries the description “whole-of-state threat”. The committee concludes that the Government’s policy has enabled China

“to advance its commercial, science and technology, and industrial goals in order to gain a strategic advantage”.

Given what we know of China’s tactics, why are we so surprised that there are now allegations of spying? Indeed, there would be surprise had there been no such allegation, given China’s previous record. Respectfully, it seems that the Government should be not only responding to the contents of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report but implementing the various opportunities it identifies for putting a proper control over the activities of China against the United Kingdom. It is not a matter of “as soon as we can”; it should be a matter for immediate implementation.

My Lords, the committee’s report is obviously of great significance and importance, and the Government regard it in that way. I have nothing to add to what I have said about hoping that the government response will come very shortly. Some people suspect that I am part of the usual channels. but I am not going to say from this Dispatch Box whether there will be a debate on this subject. However, at some point Parliament will require that we have a chance to take stock.

The only thing I would say—this is a statement of fact rather than a political point—is that if one goes back to the coalition years, when we shared time in government, the rhetoric was very different. Some of the facts on the ground were different. The nature of the Chinese regime has evolved since those times and the nature of our response is evolving. It is often easy to be wise after the event, but as my right honourable friend said in the Statement, we are very open-eyed about this and clearly recognise the nature, scale and uniqueness of the position of China, led by the Chinese Communist Party, with its ambitions, not all of them potentially pacific. We recognise that reality in the modern world and I hope that Parliament and the country as a whole will rise to that. Certainly, the Government will play their part.

My Lords, I declare my position as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong. The reports this weekend and the allegations that have emerged are of great concern to the large and growing community of refugees, exiles and students from Hong Kong in the UK. This follows a few months after a bounty of 1 million Hong Kong dollars was put on the heads of eight activists around the world, three of whom live in the UK. What reassurance, services and support are the UK Government planning to provide to ensure that people know where to go if they have had a concerning, dangerous or worrying experience on social media or in person? The many students, particularly post-graduates, who might be studying issues around China, may be approached, perhaps innocently or not so innocently, by someone who may be an agent of the Chinese state. Do the Government have advice for them on what steps they should take to make sure they are able to act appropriately in that situation to protect themselves and the rest of us?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her question. I believe she will acknowledge that the action of Her Majesty’s Government, as it then was, in opening the door to so many people from Hong Kong, which was supported across the House, was the right and wise thing to do—I hope that she will recognise that. In that region we are seeking to be active to constrain China as it seeks to extend its malign influence, and I know from her background that she will welcome the AUKUS arrangement—I am very disappointed to see her shaking her head, because that is a reaction that might be shared in quarters that we are now discussing.

The Hong Kong bounties are intolerable and unacceptable. Anybody who receives any sort of threat should let that be known to the authorities; we take that extraordinarily seriously. We will not tolerate any attempts by China to intimidate and silence individuals in the UK or overseas. The UK will always defend the universal right to freedom of expression—why are we here in this Chamber?—and stand up for those who are targeted. We strongly object to the national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong, including its extraterritorial reach, which was in breach of the legally binding Sino-British joint declaration. We suspended the extradition agreement with Hong Kong on 20 July 2020 in response to the imposition of the national security law by Beijing. I assure your Lordships that we will give the most vigorous support to those intimidated by China who come from the remarkable territory of Hong Kong.

My Lords, I have listened carefully to the Statement, with which I am obviously at one, as I did the Front Benches and the call for a renewed strategy. I propose that procedures of verification and enhanced vetting be considered. As a matter of course, and for the purpose of disclosure and information, is the Minister aware that the press have been referring to a spy

“at the heart of power”?

In doing so, they were referring to Parliament. I was concerned, and ask what explanation there is, that a Russian spy now expelled from the UK—and so presumably known about—was at a high-level reception, including ambassadors from a range of countries friendly to the UK, at which I was also present. That person was expelled shortly after the meeting to which I refer. I bring this to the attention of the Leader only so that all these matters be considered by the relevant authorities as we clean up what is going on.

My Lords, I am not going to comment on press reports. It is unfortunate that I am not the most regular reader of the press—much to its annoyance. All I say in response to the noble Viscount is that this country is always vigilant against espionage threats from whatever quarter. Over many decades, there has been a record of incidents of bad actors being expelled from the United Kingdom, and I am sure there will be more in the future.

House adjourned at 8.24 pm.