HC Deb 12 March 1985 vol 75 cc245-61 10.55 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Unauthorised phone tapping is causing considerable and far-reaching concern. It stretches even to the racing pages of a national newspaper, which earlier this week expressed fears that conversations between trainers and owners were being overheard to obtain racing tips. When it reaches that extent, it is a sure bet that something is wrong.

However, the matter is much more serious than that. Tapping is in widespread use against individuals and organisations. The report by Lord Bridge is a whitewash. The investigation was conducted at great speed for the convenience of the Government. It was instigated in response to the "20:20 Vision" revelations, and has been used by the Government as a smokescreen for this debate. Lord Bridge did not cover unauthorised operations, such as breaches of existing guidelines, surveillance of people not engaged in subversive activity or the planting of bugs by illegal break-ins. The report must be cleared out of the way before we turn to the important issues.

Many individuals have been the victims of tapping. A letter in The Guardian on 2 March, from Dr. Joe Collier, stated: To your list of categories subject to telephone surveillance … I would like to add editors of medical journals. It is a most unnerving feeling to hear one's conversation played back during a phone call. Dr. Collier is a correspondent with the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. The Times of 26 February lists many individuals who have been subject to tapping—trade unionists, the Left, the National Council for Civil Liberties, crusading journalists—not the hacks—CND and even the media itself. The article ends by saying that MI5 now vets all graduates applying for political posts with the BBC.

The Secretary of State for Employment said that he opposed the tapping of phones of union leaders in any circumstances other than when they were in contact with an enemy power. Does the Home Secretary agree with that? It is not the criterion now operating.

The "Panorama" programme on 2 March 1981, which is still relevant, was called "The Right to Privacy—the Need to Know." It was about a woman who was on record falsely as having links with terrorist organisations. In that programme Mr. Harold Salisbury was interviewed. He was the former Chief Constable of the North and East Riding of Yorkshire. The record of the programme states: Interviewer: Who lays down the policy for what the Special Branch had to do. Was that laid down by you as Chief Constable? Salisbury: No, no, no, no. These chaps used to go to instructions sessions with the actual security services. Interviewer: In London, with MI5? Salisbury: Well, yes. Interviewer: Which groups would be in the files here? Salisbury: Obviously anyone who shows an affinity towards Communism—That's commonsense—the IRA, the PLO and I would say anyone who's decrying marriage, family life, trying to break that up, pushing drugs or advocating the acceptance of certain drugs, homosexuality, indiscipline in schools, weak penalties for anti-social crimes, pushing that sort of thing. Oh, a whole gamut of things like that that could be pecking away at the foundations of our society and weakening it. Interviewer: And do you regard these people as subversives? Salisbury: Well, in a word, yes. That is what he said — "pecking away at the foundations." That is a disgraceful way to operate.

Yet that has great similarity with the definitions that currently operate in the security services. These definitions are important. They regulate the operations of the security service. In July 1984 I asked for a definition of "subversive". The definition that I was given was: Those which threaten the safety or well-being of the State, and which are intended to undermine or overthrow Parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means."—[Official Report, 3 July 1984, Vol 63, c. 85.] That definition was given 10 years ago by a junior Minister in a throw-away sentence during a long speech in the other place. It did not come to light until 10 years later when I asked for a definition. It led me to ask the Government what they meant and this is the Written Answer that the Secretary of State for the Home Department gave: The word bears its ordinary meaning of injure, or wear out. secretly, insidiously or imperceptibly."— [Official Report, 26 June 1984; Vol. 62, c. 378.] I thought that was what the Labour party was trying to do in order to get rid of the Tories at the next general election. That answer was immensely complacent, arrogant, or both, because I found that it came from The Shorter Oxford Dictionary and that that definition was first used in 1569. This definition of "subversion" replaced the definition of Lord Denning. His definition was not perfect, but it is better than the current definition. He said that subversives are those who contemplate the overthrow of Government by unlawful means". That means those who contravene the law, not those who the Government or the security services think might have contravened the law.

I raised this matter in a parliamentary question about lawful activity not being regarded as subversive and undermining the state. In his written answer the Secretary of State said: Tactics which are not themselves unlawful could be used with the aim of subverting our democratic system of government." — [Official Report, 11 July 1984; Vol. 63 c. 481.] That is a blank cheque that allows the state to act against any person who is acting legally. The definition cart be extended indefinitely to cover virtually anybody. But the position is worse than that. There is the "Police War Duties Manual", of 1965, marked "Restricted". It is still in force, although it has probably been updated. It states that the police can take special measures to maintain internal security, with particular reference to the detention or restriction of movement of potentially subversive people. That is an immensely wide definition. Who, I ask the Secretary of State, are to be defined as potentially subversive? It destroys the protestations of the Secretary of State in his speech that control is provided by means of these definitions. The Maxwell Fyfe definitions which govern the security service are not perfect and need to be tightened up, but I shall leave that point for Committee.

This definition is being applied not only to telephone but to computer interceptions. I asked a question recently about whether the Home Secretary can intercept computer data. First of all he appeared to say no, but on closer reading the answer revealed that his power covers any form of communications in the postal and public telecommunications system. Computers operate between each other by phone links. That, too, gives the Home Secretary a wide new area of operation. He can tap into computer data.

The Data Protection Act 1984 is no safeguard. It is full of holes. The security services are exempt from it under section 27. The registrar, the ombudsman for data protection, is unaware of secret service activity, according to a parliamentary answer. The Home Secretary does not know whether any of his Cabinet colleagues have signed exemption certificates. Once a certificate has been signed by a Minister, MI5 does not have to renew that certificate. There is no obligation on the Home Secretary to review the security, accuracy or relevance of the data that is stored on the systems.

MI5 has a massive computer system. In Computing of 5 March 1982, it was reported that: A top secret computer system capable of carrying a detailed file on every adult in the country has been set up clandestinely by the MI5 security service. It has been installed since 1978 at a cost of £20 million and has been developed despite growing fears over data protection and privacy … The computers—dual ICL 2980s"— they have probably been updated now— were ordered under the counter and paid for without informing Parliament. The article continued: Investigations by Computing and the New Statesman have revealed that an MoD building in Mayfair's Mount Row is the centre of the system. It is no wonder that the Lindop committee said that there is no assurance that there is any healthy or constructive criticism and debate which ensures that the security services do not stray beyond their allotted functions.

That is an understatement.

An immense range of new technology is available for the surveillance of individuals. The security services have two approaches to that. They can block it, like stopping patents. About 800 patents every year are referred to the Ministry of Defence and about one seventh of those are stopped or restricted. Or they can use it themselves. For example, BT is introducing its customised telephone bills, which will show the date of every call, who made it and who received it and the cost in terms of time used. Five hundred lines can be monitored for £3,250. What could MI5 monitor on an annual budget of £160 million and the security services as a whole with £1 billion? They are not properly accountable.

Against that, we have this puny ineffective Bill, forced on the Government by the European Court. The Home Secretary has made great play of the role of the tribunal, but there is a great danger that it will be composed of placemen, amenable to the Government of the day. The legal editor of The Guardian said: The tribunal is there to ensure procedural correctness in certain forms of interception: it cannot judge the merits of the decision to target persons or organisations. It may inspect the Home Secretary's signature, but it cannot look over his shoulder. It is beyond legal scrutiny. It is not permitted to give reasons for its decision and it has the power to grant compensation if the information which was gained by authorised methods is misused to the detriment of the person tapped. The tribunal will not be a watchdog, as the Secretary of State described it, but a toothless poodle. It will not be satisfactory to those who are denied their rights. They will be resentful because they will be without recourse to justice.

The security services must be properly reined in to stop unauthorised tapping and bugging. The New Statesman even reported that there would be a burglary department. Politicians, especially Conservative ones, have abused the system, as we know, for example, with the vendetta of the Secretary of State for Defence against CND, for his own reasons. We must move towards a more independent review of the security services and accountability. We could start by asking more parliamentary questions and giving them a wider berth. A Select Committee has also a role to play.

More generally, the Government should be much more open. That should be recognised as being in the national interest. We should take steps to curtail the self-perpetuating ever-expanding spy industry. It should not be allowed. The Royal Commission on criminal procedure mentioned the German model, which also could be adopted.

The editor of The Guardian said of the Bill: This curious measure purports to impose legal controls on mail and telephone interception, but its true purpose and effect will be to remove them entirely from any scrutiny by the courts. It is a law, in other words, to place State surveillance above the law. That is said of a measure from a party which claims to be against the power of the state over individuals. The Bill further institutionalises the Government's hypocrisy in this matter.

11.11 pm
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

The Bill in its present form does nothing to re-establish the delicate balance between the needs of the security services and the democratic rights of the British people. If the debate has revealed anything, it is the Conservative party's lack of understanding of the democratic traditions and rights which have been jealously guarded in the House. It also shows how the Government underestimate the effect of their present way of handling the security services on the morale of those services. The Opposition believe that security services are necessary, but if they are to operate within the law and be given the support of Parliament they also need to operate within clear guidelines. The Bill, in its present form, does not provide those clear guidelines.

Under the Government we have seen persistent attempts to get their policies through regardless of the rights of minorities and the democratic traditions of the House. When we hear them turn arguments about normal political conflict into words of the "enemy within" or, more recently, according to Mr. Ian MacGregor, of "making people who have been insubordinate pay", we recognise that what in the past was regarded as normal political conflict has been turned into a form of internal subversion which is alien to the Government.

The Bill would have prevented the Malone case—many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have made that point—and must be amended. The Bill as it stands would have meant that Mr. Malone could not have gone to the Strasbourg court, which would not then have leaned on the British Government to introduce this legislation. The Bill sets up a toothless tribunal of lawyers, which will not allay the fears that have risen as a result of the "20:20 Vision" programme and from other factors.

I have a specific question for the Minister. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) asked for an independent inquiry into the allegations made by that programme and others. There are many reasons for wanting the inquiry, not least in justice to the relatives and friends of Mr. Harry Newton. Many people have seen the complaints of his family and friends that after his death he was unfairly named by Miss Massiter in the television programme. If that is correct, we should be able to say so. It is wrong to leave this slur, if it is a slur, on that man's name after his death.

I understand that today Mr. Ken Gill, the general secretary of AUEW/TASS, was visited by two men from Scotland Yard, I am told on the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The senior officer was a Chief Superintendent Bates. Mr. Gill was questioned about the alleged break-in referred to in the "20:20 Vision" programme and was asked whether he had known about it. His response was to say that, if he had known about it, he would have reported it. I want to know from the Minister whether the Government are carrying out further inquiries into the allegations in the "20:20 Vision" programme. If not, what was the purpose of that visit to Mr. Gill? If they are carrying out inquiries, what sort of report will be presented to the House in due course?

The Home Secretary must answer another question, which he avoided earlier when it was asked by one of my hon. Friends. If people who tap telephones are to give evidence to the tribunal, will they be protected from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act? There should be a fairly clear and simple answer to that. The Secretary of State was wrong to say, as I thought he did this afternoon—I shall check Hansard to make sure—that the tribunal can examine the Home Secretary's reasons for authorising a warrant. Clause 2(2) provides: The Secretary of State shall not issue a warrant under this section unless he considers that the warrant is necessary. The words "unless he considers" give him the responsibility for judgment, and that matter is not covered effectively in the schedule. He will have to amend the Bill if he is to stick by the words that he used in opening the debate.

The Government have made a piecemeal approach to the problem, which does not relate only to the interception of mail and the tapping of telephones. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam), who made a helpful speech, and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), both of whom have detailed knowledge of the technology behind the methods that we are examining, we should be concerned about the much wider area of surreptitious surveillance. There are electronic telescopes and lasers that pick up vibrations. In addition, there is electronic eavesdropping. Only a few weeks ago on 14 February, the BBC's "Tomorrow's World" programme showed a way in which, with about £100 worth of equipment and relatively limited electronic knowledge, one could eavesdrop on a computer terminal several floors up in an office block from a vehicle outside. Technology has been moving fast for several years.

That brings me to another important point. It is no good relying only on the methods that we have used in the past. If we consider what other countries are doing, what we have learnt from our experiences of recent years, and changing technology, we should recognise that there is a need for change in the way that we control our security services and deal with telephone tapping, postal interceptions and surveillance generally. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton read out advertisements from Exchange and Mart for the sort of equipment that can be bought over the counter. I understand that in a shop in Tottenham one can buy the equipment that is used by MI5. If the position is becoming so stupid, we must examine it in more detail than we have done for some time.

Opposition Members—some Conservative Members tried to deny it—have said that we recognise the need for surveillance. No one has said anything different, and I certainly did not during my time as Opposition spokesman for Northern Ireland. What is crucial is to keep such surveillance under the control of the democratic system and, as far as possible, to keep it within the confines of the law. One area where tapping, interception and surveillance are extremely important is terrorism. That has been mentioned several times during the debate. A year or two ago, in conversation with the senior police officer in west Germany who was responsible for capturing the Baader Meinhof group, I was told of the difficulties that the police had experienced in capturing that group and staying within the constitutional law which contains regulations on the rights of the privacy of the individual. The police tracked down the group to a café where it held its meetings and planned its bombings and killings. They then planted a bug in one table of the café and one of their men activated the bug at the appropriate time, but to do that, at one stage they went outside the law.

The Opposition say that such an activity is undesirable and above all that it is wholly unacceptable if it is not under the control of the democratic procedures of Parliament or some suitable organisation of a similar type.

From the recent tracking of the arms cache of the Provisional IRA in Buckinghamshire, we know of another example where surveillance was appropriate. It is also appropriate in certain crimes, of which drug trafficking is one. Another area is espionage. After that, it is hard to justify some of the areas that have been suggested as appropriate for surveillance.

I am dubious, as are a number of my hon. Friends, about such phrases as subversion, economic well-being, national security and serious crime. If we are to write these into the laws of the land, we had better be clear what we are writing in and give them careful consideration.

Subversion in particular worries me a great deal. While I appreciate that it is not included in the three areas referred to in the Bill, what worries me is that subversion has been used by a number of people on a number of occasions as a reason for surveillance. Subversion means to try to overthrow a Government, but there is nothing wrong with trying to overthrow a Government as long as one does it within the law.

This brings us to the important point of keeping within the law. Although I do not usually find myself in agreement with Lord Denning, I hope that in Committee we will be able to consider in much greater depth his interpretation that subversion should mean only attempts to overthrow the Government by illegal means—in other words, that a criminal offence must be planned or committed. If we do not do that, we will slip into the area of political crimes.

We have difficulty in legislation of this type, because we recognise that we are dealing with an area which is strictly neither within the remit of the criminal law nor within the remit of the political. It overlaps the two areas. That is one reason that some countries, which we should examine, have gone down the road of having both judicial and ministerial warrants. There may be a lot to be said for that. If one does not want to go down that road, there is a case for arguing whether one should have judicial warrants or ministerial warrants. One recognises the legal aspect of the problem; the other recognises the political aspect.

It troubles me considerably when, together with the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 we put on the statute book legislation which is answerable no longer to a court of law but to Ministers. It is a dangerous road to go down unless we consider the implications carefully. There need to be checks before the act of interception—that is the issue of warrants—and accountability, and checks after the act of interception.

That brings me to another point with which a number of my hon. Friends have dealt fully, the question of a Select Committee. I have felt for a long time that a Select Committee of the House to oversee the security services might be a useful way of considering the problem afresh, keeping it under permanent review, and not demoralising the security forces by the suggestions made by Conservative Members—that we pretend that nothing has happened and that serious allegations have not been made on television programmes. To try to push this under the carpet does no good to the morale of the security forces, and it certainly does no good to the concept of the democratic liberties of the House.

The Victorians of all people would have been ashamed of the Conservative party and the way in which it tries to avoid the question of civil liberties and democratic rights. They would not have ducked these issues. It is significant that it was under a Conservative Government in the last century that committees of inquiry were held in the House to investigate the police. They do not talk about doing that now; that would be disruptive. In many respects, the Victorians looked after our democratic traditions much better than the present Government have ever thought of doing.

In that way, the Conservatives have betrayed and undermined the traditions of Parliament and in the same way, if they are not careful, they will betray and undermine the security services, because without effective democratic control, those services will get out of control, and any security officer worth his salt in a democratic society will not want such a situation to develop.

We shall seek to make this a much better Bill in Committee. If we do not succeed there, when we return to government we shall put the security services under effective and proper democratic control.

11.26 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Waddington)

The House was fortunate indeed to hear today two former Home Secretaries, one of whom later became Prime Minister, speak on these important matters. How different was the tone of their speeches — they being people who had to carry responsibility for these issues — from the warlike offering of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and the effort of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who also did not have to carry the onerous responsibilities in this sphere.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield seemed to suggest that there was some difficulty — at least, he found it difficult—in saying what was and what was not parliamentary democracy. I found that frightening. He was followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki), who knows well what is and what is not parliamentary democracy, and the vast majority of hon. Members have no difficulty in knowing what it is.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) put matters into perspective when he said that the Bill was an improvement, but not a solution. Everything came back to the integrity of the Home Secretary, he said, and he thought that there was no reason to doubt that. The Bill would produce some element of safeguard, he added.

The right hon. Member for Gorton went wide of the Bill. We do not resent that, because many hon. Members did the same. He dealt with the "20:20 Vision" programme and with the conduct of the operations of MI5. One must contrast his treatment of the allegations in the film — "I am not making allegations," he said, but it sounded precious like it—with the speech of the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), which was a masterpiece of moderation, and we recall what he said about allegations concerning a person named Tommy Roberts.

Mr. Michael Forsyth (Stirling)

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the researcher for the "20:20 Vision" programme, Mr. Gerry Gable, was a Communist party candidate in 1962, that he has a criminal record for breaking and entering while impersonating a GPO officer, and that his counsel claimed in his defence that he was hoping to obtain material which might be useful to the special branch? Given that that man was responsible for the programme, does my hon. and learned Friend think that we can place any credibility in it?

Mr. Waddington

It is not my job tonight to say whether the allegations in the programme were correct — [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will come to that shortly, and there is an obvious reason for that. The House has heard what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Corbett

Is the Minister aware that the smear allegations of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) are 20 years late and of course are lapsed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act? Will he reflect on the point that perhaps what his hon. Friend is more concerned about is that that senior and experienced journalist was responsible for the programme "Maggie's Militant Tendency", which linked Tory party candidates and Members with the National Front?

Mr. Waddington

Really, I cannot get involved in these matters. The House has now heard a little more about the background of the Bill which it did not know before. As the debate has gone so wide, I must, as a matter of courtesy, deal with some of these matters outside the Bill as such.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) asked about a new head of MI5. There is to be a new head and he is to be somebody from outside. It is not customary to name the director general of MI5 and I shall not breach that practice tonight. It is interesting that he was selected two months ago, so his appointment has nothing whatsoever to do with these matters which have causes so much excitement in the past few weeks.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said that there ought to be somebody to which or some way in which an employee of MI5 can complain. The main thing surely is that the management should be effective and that the Home Secretary and the director general should take a keen interest in the morale of the employees and ensure that it remains high. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary mentioned earlier this afternoon the keen interest he has in these matters and his determination to play his part in that regard.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) talked about a visit by the police to the home of Mr. Ken Gill. I did not quite understand what, if anything, the hon. Gentleman was complaining about. It would seem to me that the police were quite obviously carrying out an investigation to see whether a criminal offence had been committed, as alleged by other persons.

It is important to make absolutely clear what we are and what we are not doing in the Bill and how inappropriate—one might say cynical—is the Opposition amendment when it refers to vague and sweeping criteria and to interception on an unacceptably wide basis".

Mr. Barron

It seemed earlier that the Minister would comment on many of the things that were said in the programme in which Mr. Ken Gill was mentioned. I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to address himself to the question that I put to him during the debate and which I repeat now. Presumably, from what he says, what was said in the "20:20 Vision" programme was not true, so why does he not comment on it? Why does he not tell us what allegations were made against Mr. Ken Gill? Why does he not comment on the allegations that Christian CND, CND itself and many other organisations have been infiltrated? Many hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that this would not be against the national interest.

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman will remember that I did not say that I would comment on the allegations in the film; I said that I would explain why I would not deal with them. I shall do that now out of courtesy to the hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Members for Birmingham Erdington (Mr. Corbett) and Hammersmith, all of whom mentioned this matter.

We would do well to remember that a Home Secretary has never said whether or not in a particular case interception ever took place — for obvious reasons. Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers have never answered questions about the operation of our security service. A moment of thought would tell all hon. Members why that is so. A cascade of questions about a variety of matters would eventually give clues about how, why and in what circumstances certain operations were carried out.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said in 1978: I shall adhere to the normal practice of not commenting on security matters."—[Official Report, 29 June 1978; Vol. 952, c. 631.] He was right then, and I am right now, to say that that is the practice and will remain the practice.

Since 1979 we have not departed from the practices of previous Governments. We are not seeking new powers now. We are seeking to put in statute form the very powers that the Opposition operated when they were in power.

The complaint of the right hon. Member for Gorton is no more than that every word in the 1980 White Paper explaining why an application on behalf of the security service for a warrant is not spelt out. We have made clear that we have operated and shall continue to operate in line with the criteria laid down over the years. The powers in the Bill are not new. What are new are the safeguards surrounding the use of the powers. What are new are the procedures whereby a person who has been the subject of interception, which has not been properly authorised, may obtain redress.

The Bill detracts not at all from the individual's existing rights. On the contrary, it extends those rights. The Opposition amendment says that the Bill provides insufficient safeguards for those adversely affected by unlawful interception. That is downright cheek coming from an Opposition who, when in government, did nothing about that. They certainly cannot say that the European court had not by then given its judgment, because that part of the Opposition amendment has nothing to do with authorised interception. They are saying that we are not putting in this Bill sufficient safeguards against unlawful interception. That is cheek from an Opposition who throughout the years that they had Government responsibilities did precisely nothing in that area.

Clause 1 makes unlawful interception a criminal offence. Unlike the Labour Government, we are strengthening the safeguards against unlawful interception. We are making it a serious criminal offence. No Government of which Opposition right hon. and hon. Members were members did that.

Everyone, apart from the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), accepts the need for a power of interception to deal with those who prey on our society and who are out to destroy it. It would be ridiculous—

Mr. Mikardo

The Minister must not say that, I spent a substantial part of my speech saying that I accepted the need for interception to deal with enemies of the state and with criminals.

Mr. Waddington

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for intervening. I had to leave the Chamber while he was speaking, and I obviously misread the notes given to me. I would not have made that allegation if I had understood the way in which he put the matter. I shall read carefully in Hansard tomorrow what the hon. Gentleman said. [Interruption.] I do not know what Opposition Members are getting so steamed up about. I have been on the Front Bench since half past 3. I have had to leave from time to time. When I leave, I have friends who are kind enough to make notes of what has happened, and I do them the courtesy of reading what is said. Unfortunately, perhaps my glasses were not working as well as they used to, and I shall have to have another eye test.

So I can start again and, with due courtesy to the hon. Gentleman, say that everyone would concede the need for a power of interception—

Mr. Mikardo

I accept the Minister's apology.

Mr. Waddington

—to deal with those who would prey on our society and are out to destroy it. It would be quite ridiculous if serious criminals could use the phone to plot their crimes secure in the knowledge that no one could find out what they were up to. It is our job, therefore, to ensure that the powers to intercept are adequate to meet the need, but it is also our job to ensure that the system commands the confidence of the great mass of law-abiding citizens who want their privacy adequately safeguarded, but certainly do not want the security service and the police hobbled and hamstrung in their efforts to root out the few evildoers in our midst.

I therefore heartily agree with all that has been said by many hon. Members on both sides of the House about the need for a balanced approach. That is what we are out to achieve in the Bill. The people expect—and they will continue to get — a balanced approach. The need to safeguard the privacy of communications in the public system is balanced with the need to protect the interests of society as a whole.

I do not pretend that it is easy to get the balance right. I am sure that wise members of Opposition parties realise how easily we could, in our anxiety to be more open in these matters, do great damage to the country. While debating interception, and, indeed, the wider question of the operations of the security service, we would all do well to remember what my noble Friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, with all his wisdom and experience, said during the debate on the Telecommunications Bill in the House of Lords on 19 March 1984, which was referred to by several other hon. Members. He said: I have in my time known two Governments virtually wreck their secret services by attempts at open government and we cannot afford anything like that in this country."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 March 1984; Vol 449, c. 1036.] Therefore, we know that the operation that we are carrying out involves a delicate balance. It involves no undue intrusion into the privacy of individual citizens, but sufficient powers in the hands of our security services, the police and so on, so that they can carry out their duties properly.

Some hon. Members have expressed regret that we are not taking the opportunity to deal with the whole question of surveillance in the Bill. That was the theme of more than one hon. Member's speech, such as that of the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam)—

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This concerns the reference that the Minister made to a Member of another place. My understanding was that it is not in order to quote such a person unless he is a Minister. Is that the case, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the Minister was quoting from the last Session, not from the current Session. That is in order.

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Member for Blaydon suggested that we should have dealt with the whole question of surveillance, but I remind the House that what he said was in marked contrast to what was said by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South who thought that, although we should deal with the question of surveillance, that would be properly the subject of another Bill.

There is a special case for dealing with the interception of communications passing through public communications systems, because somebody has committed such a communication to a carrier over which he has no control and is entitled to believe that, except for good reason, his privacy will be safeguarded. Furthermore, legislation on surveillance would pose many far more difficult problems. I doubt very much whether there is yet a consensus in the House about how we should deal with those matters.

Mr. McWilliam


Mr. Waddington

I must get on.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) complained that we were not implementing the recommendation of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure to the effect that police surveillance should be regulated by statute. In my view, magistrates should not be expected to form judgments about what are essentially operational matters for the police, but that is not the important thing. Certainly my view is not important. It must not be forgotten that the Government have already taken some very important steps in surveillance outside the range of interception.

This Government first published the guidelines on police surveillance. This is relevant to the speech of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas). Those guidelines have now been strengthened. They contain more detailed and rigorous procedures than were in the 1977 guidelines. For instance, the chief constable's personal authority is required in more circumstances. Secondly, the House has heard today that the Law Commission's proposals on breach of confidence are to be implemented, which means that where a person acquires information about another by the use of a device for surreptitious surveillance and then divulges it the other person may have a right of action against that person. This seems a sensible approach—not control over the act of surveillance itself but regulation of the use of the product of surveillance. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) cannot have been in the House when my right hon. and learned Friend announced his decision in that regard, so an important part of the hon. Member's speech was misconceived.

To deal briefly with some of the matters raised on clause 2, I was asked about the power to intercept in the interests of national security. I remind the House that that phrase has appeared in numerous statutes brought in by Governments of different political persuasions. It has never been further defined. Hon. Members can find all the guidance that they could possibly need in the White Paper and the other documents which have been referred to. There is power to issue a warrant for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime.

In answer to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, a "serious arrestable offence" as defined in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act can be less serious than a serious crime as defined in the White Paper. That is because section 116 defines as serious an offence which has led to serious financial loss to any person. If we substituted the definition that is in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act we would be weakening rather than strengthening the controls on tapping.

Then there is the power to intercept to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom. Once again there seems to have been a number of misconceptions among the Opposition. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South said that he had never excercised the power. I remind him that this part of the Bill is all about acts and intentions of people abroad, and I can assure him, as he would be assured by many of his right hon. Friends, that this power has been exercised for a long time.

I stress again, in view of what was said by the hon. Member for Rother Valley, that this power has nothing to do with Fred Harraway, wage bargaining and disputes that have taken place here, there and somewhere else. An economic well-being warrant can only be issued to acquire information relating to the acts or intentions of persons outside the British Isles. The information sought must be about overseas matters, so an economic well-being warrant can be issued only to ascertain the intention of a person outside the country. The power cannot be used to obtain information about any sort of trivial money matter either, because the Secretary of State has to be satisfied that the phone tapping is necessary to safeguard our economic well-being. It must be necessary not just to check up on people but to protect our economy at the international level. The House will have noted that the phrase "economic well-being" is the phrase used in article 8 of the convention, but, as the House has seen, we have introduced a qualification that does not appear in the convention by limiting the use of the warrant to acquire information about acts or persons overseas.

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) said that the Government's object was to appoint to the tribunal policemen who are amenable to the Government of the day. That was outrageous. The hon. Member cannot have read the Bill, because the method of appointment to the tribunal is almost the same as the method of appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. The tribunal will be entirely independent of Government. Its purpose is not just to check the paperwork. It will inquire whether the Home Secretary has properly authorised interception in a particular case.

In answer to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), I point out that the powers of the tribunal are analogous to those of the High Court hearing an application for judicial review. Has the Home Secretary exercised his administrative discretion reasonably, bearing in mind the criteria? He cannot have done so if he has not observed the criteria.

I was asked about compensation for those who were found to be the subject of phone tapping that had not been properly authorised. It was said that we had not dealt with article 13 of the convention, which demands that there should be redress when the convention is violated. We have met article 13 by providing for compensation. [Interruption.] I know that it is late for the right hon. Member for Gorton, who is yawning, but he has a great deal to learn. I hope that he does so before the Committee, or we shall have to waste many hours educating him, because he clearly does not yet understand the Bill.

One cannot have a person going to the tribunal to find out whether his phone is being tapped. One cannot have a crook, for example, going to the tribunal to ask whether his phone is being tapped, and therefore there must be special rules of procedure. Because we must have those special rules of procedure, there is a tribunal. Unfortunately, we cannot leave this matter to the ordinary courts.

I have been asked what would happen if a person were to go to the tribunal to complain of an irregularity. It has been suggested that, on the face of it, he would be guilty of an offence under the Official Secrets Act as a result of mentioning such matters to the tribunal. That is the most arrant nonsense. If that argument is right, the Member who talked the nonsense is saying that no person who is an employee of any of the relevant organisations should go to the police to complain about the fact that an offence has been committed because by doing so he will be guilty of an offence himself and will find himself in a lock-up instead of the chap against whom he is complaining.

This is a good Bill and I think that we shall have an interesting time in Committee trying to make it better. We shall have a job to make it better, because it is an extremely good Bill. We should remember the heavy responsibility that we are bearing. It is unpleasant for Ministers to have to tell hon. Members that we must adhere to the convention that allegations of tapping are not either confirmed or denied. It is not pleasant to have to refuse to answer questions about security matters. It is easy for irresponsible journalists to have a field day printing the invention or the truth, or the fact or the fabrication, which is fed to them without regard to the national interest. The majority of hon. Members know how vital to the national interest is the security service and how essential, although distasteful, is the interception power for security reasons and in the fight against crime.

The time has come when we should spell out in our law precisely what powers lie in the hands of the Secretary of State. The time has come when there should be an independent tribunal to which the citizen can complain and a statutory commissioner to carry on the work of the monitor and keep under continuing review the manner in which the Secretary of State exercises his powers. That is what the Bill is about. It preserves necessary powers which were exercised by the Labour Government not so long ago. It is a Bill which provides new safeguards for the individual, and I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 278.

Division No. 156] [11.57 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Craigen, J. M.
Alton, David Crowther, Stan
Anderson, Donald Cunliffe, Lawrence
Ashdown, Paddy Cunningham, Dr John
Ashton, Joe Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Deakins, Eric
Barnett, Guy Dewar, Donald
Barron, Kevin Dixon, Donald
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Dobson, Frank
Beith, A. J. Dubs, Alfred
Bell, Stuart Duffy, A. E. P.
Benn, Tony Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Eadie, Alex
Bermingham, Gerald Eastham, Ken
Blair, Anthony Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Ewing, Harry
Boyes, Roland Fatchett, Derek
Bray, Dr Jeremy Faulds, Andrew
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Fisher, Mark
Bruce, Malcolm Flannery, Martin
Buchan, Norman Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Caborn, Richard Forrester, John
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Foulkes, George
Campbell-Savours, Dale Fraser, J, (Norwood)
Canavan, Dennis Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Freud, Clement
Cartwright, John Garrett, W. E.
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) George, Bruce
Clarke, Thomas Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clay, Robert Godman, Dr Norman
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Golding, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Gould, Bryan
Cohen, Harry Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Conlan, Bernard Hancock, Mr. Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Hardy, Peter
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Harman, Ms Harriet
Corbyn, Jeremy Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cowans, Harry Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Haynes, Frank Patchett, Terry
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Pendry, Tom
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Penhaligon, David
Home Robertson, John Pike, Peter
Hoyle, Douglas Prescott, John
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Randall, Stuart
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Redmond, M.
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Richardson, Ms Jo
Janner, Hon Greville Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
John, Brynmor Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Robertson, George
Kennedy, Charles Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rogers, Allan
Kirkwood, Archy Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Lamond, James Rowlands, Ted
Leadbitter, Ted Ryman, John
Leighton, Ronald Sheerman, Barry
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Litherland, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Skinner, Dennis
Loyden, Edward Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
McCartney, Hugh Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Snape, Peter
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Soley, Clive
McKelvey, William Spearing, Nigel
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stott, Roger
Maclennan, Robert Strang, Gavin
McNamara, Kevin Straw, Jack
McTaggart, Robert Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Madden, Max Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Marek, Dr John Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Tinn, James
Martin, Michael Torney, Tom
Maxton, John Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Maynard, Miss Joan Wareing, Robert
Meacher, Michael Welsh, Michael
Meadowcroft, Michael Williams, Rt Hon A.
Michie, William Wilson, Gordon
Mikardo, Ian Winnick, David
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Woodall, Alec
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Tellers for the Ayes:
O'Brien, William Mr. John McWilliam and
O'Neill, Martin Mr. Robin Corbett.
Parry, Robert
Aitken, Jonathan Boscawen, Hon Robert
Alexander, Richard Bottomley, Peter
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Amess, David Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Ancram, Michael Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Arnold, Tom Bright, Graham
Ashby, David Brinton, Tim
Aspinwall, Jack Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Brooke, Hon Peter
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Bruinvels, Peter
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Bryan, Sir Paul
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Buck, Sir Antony
Baldry, Tony Budgen, Nick
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Bulmer, Esmond
Batiste, Spencer Burt, Alistair
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Butler, Hon Adam
Bellingham, Henry Butterfill, John
Bendall, Vivian Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Benyon, William Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Best, Keith Cash, William
Bevan, David Gilroy Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Biffen, Rt Hon John Chope, Christopher
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Churchill, W. S.
Blackburn, John Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Body, Richard Clegg, Sir Walter
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Cockeram, Eric
Colvin, Michael Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Coombs, Simon Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Cope, John Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Corrie, John Hunt, David (Wirral)
Couchman, James Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cranborne, Viscount Hunter, Andrew
Critchley, Julian Irving, Charles
Crouch, David Jackson, Robert
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Dickens, Geoffrey Jessel, Toby
Dorrell, Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jones, Robert (W Herts)
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Dunn, Robert Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Durant, Tony Key, Robert
Dykes, Hugh King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Tim Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Emery, Sir Peter Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Evennett, David Knowles, Michael
Eyre, Sir Reginald Knox, David
Fallon, Michael Lamont, Norman
Farr, Sir John Lang, Ian
Favell, Anthony Latham, Michael
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lawler, Geoffrey
Fletcher, Alexander Lawrence, Ivan
Fookes, Miss Janet Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Forman, Nigel Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lester, Jim
Forth, Eric Lilley, Peter
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Franks, Cecil Lyell, Nicholas
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) McCurley, Mrs Anna
Freeman, Roger Maclean, David John
Fry, Peter Major, John
Gale, Roger Malone, Gerald
Galley, Roy Mates, Michael
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mather, Carol
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Glyn, Dr Alan Meyer, Sir Anthony
Goodhart, Sir Philip Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Goodlad, Alastair Miscampbell, Norman
Gorst, John Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Gow, Ian Moate, Roger
Gower, Sir Raymond Monro, Sir Hector
Greenway, Harry Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Gregory, Conal Moynihan, Hon C.
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Murphy, Christopher
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Needham, Richard
Grist, Ian Neubert, Michael
Ground, Patrick Newton, Tony
Grylls, Michael Nicholls, Patrick
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Onslow, Cranley
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Parris, Matthew
Hampson, Dr Keith Porter, Barry
Hanley, Jeremy Portillo, Michael
Hannam, John Powley, John
Hargreaves, Kenneth Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Harris, David Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Harvey, Robert Rhodes James, Robert
Haselhurst, Alan Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Hawksley, Warren Roe, Mrs Marion
Hayes, J. Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hayhoe, Barney Rost, Peter
Hayward, Robert Rowe, Andrew
Heathcoat-Amory, David Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Heddle, John Sackville, Hon Thomas
Henderson, Barry Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Hickmet, Richard Scott, Nicholas
Hicks, Robert Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hind, Kenneth Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hirst, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Shersby, Michael
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Silvester, Fred
Hordern, Peter Sims, Roger
Skeet, T. H. H. van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Speed, Keith Viggers, Peter
Spence, John Waddington, David
Spencer, Derek Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Waldegrave, Hon William
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walden, George
Squire, Robin Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Stanley, John Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Steen, Anthony Waller, Gary
Stern, Michael Ward, John
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Warren, Kenneth
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Watson, John
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Watts, John
Stradling Thomas, J. Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Sumberg, David Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Taylor, John (Solihull) Wheeler, John
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Whitfield, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Whitney, Raymond
Terlezki, Stefan Wiggin, Jerry
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Wolfson, Mark
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N) Wood, Timothy
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S) Woodcock, Michael
Thornton, Malcolm Yeo, Tim
Thurnham, Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Townend, John (Bridlington) Younger, Rt Hon George
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Tracey, Richard Tellers for the Noes:
Trippier, David Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Twinn, Dr Ian Mr. Peter Lloyd.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 41 (Amendments on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second Time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House. —[Mr. Archie Hamilton.]

Committee this day.