§ Order for Third Reading read.6.45 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
This Bill provides a firm framework for the work of the service without putting at risk the efficient and careful conduct of its task. That is our main aim in producing the legislation, and it is what the House will have achieved if it sends the Bill to another place.
The debates on the Bill on the Floor of the House have been strongly argued, serious and sincere, and have revealed, as one would expect, some major and significant differences of view. I should like to deal once more, briefly, with the two main issues that took up most of the Committee's time: first, accountability, and secondly, the definition of the Security Services's role.
Ministers spent many months studying both these issues when no one was expecting them to produce a reform—but we were hard at work on it. On neither were we persuaded by discussion in Committee that change was necessary, but it was natural that the House spent several hours debating them both.
There was a difference between the two issues. On accountability, we were being urged in a direction which, in our view, was risky. On the other, the definition of the role of the Security Service, we knew and tried to explain that the Bill as drafted excluded the sort of dangers of which our critics were afraid. It is not surprising that the House spent the first day entirely—I think—on accountability. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitkin) would have been a little surprised if we had been persuaded during that day to make such a dramatic change of direction as accepting their schemes would have entailed. Our view, as I have tried to explain, was that neither of the two structures on offer as an alternative to ours was practicable or necessary.
This is not to attack the probity or patriotism of the people who might have served on the suggested bodies. It is merely to say that we would have put them in an impossible possition. We should not create structures that force those who operate them to make impossible choices, such as judging without all the facts or, knowing all the facts, staying silent and failing to satisfy the public or Parliament. Another choice would have been to speak out and damage the nation's security. People should not be put in a position of having to do either one or the other. That has been our continued and firm view since I first expounded it to the House in December 1986.
Differing views were fully ventilated during the first day of the Committee stage. Re-reading Hansard and recalling the debate, it is interesting to note that those who advanced the two differing structures recognised the flaws in the schemes of others. That was evident in the analysis by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook of the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook called it a halfway house and perceived one point that not 744 all commentators have spotted. It derived from the fact that my hon. Friend borrowed so closely from the Canadian experience, and it was that his proposal might not really be a form of parliamentary oversight. As he explained to us, persons of substance, who could be mostly, if not entirely, from outside Parliament, would be made Privy Councillors to get them inside the barrier of secrecy. There is nothing essentially parliamentary about that. Indeed, it could be regarded—although not, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldrige-Brownhills—as an extension or expansion of our proposals for a commissioner and a complaints tribunal, which are already in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) was possibly one of the most trenchant critics of the alternative of a purely parliamentary Select Committee, which was the Opposition's proposal. He described that as not entirely suitable for the supervision of the Security Service, and he described its advocacy by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook as unrealistic, because it is unrealistic to imagine a Select Committee taking the Security Service out of party political controversy—quite the reverse.
I shall not repeat the argument that I used on that occasion except to say that I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South who, towards the end of the day, argued eloquently that he believed that that path was inevitable. It is rash to say "never" in politics but he was going considerably too far in saying that it was "inevitable". I shall add only that either of the structures that were offered as an alternative to our proposal would have carried serious risks of danger and confusion.
It sometimes seemed that the strongest argument on which some of the critics rested was that similar structures were in operation abroad. I do not think that by training or instinct I am one of the most insular Members of the House. Indeed, from time to time I have been criticised in the opposite direction. I agree that one of the faults of our system of government—perhaps occasionally one of the faults of this House—is that we are still too slow to find out about practice and experience abroad. But, if ignorance is one fault, copying is another. It would be a strange principle of legislation—I do not know of any other area in which this argument is used—to say that our main duty is to find out what others are doing and then to do it. That is a strange principle on which to argue a case. There may be strong arguments for trying to fit the experiences of others into our system, but one of those arguments should not be simply that it happens in another country, so it should happen here.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)
Surely the problem is not that people were seeking to copy other systems, but that there was no acceptance whatsoever that elected Members—as happens in other systems—should have any part in the supervision. That is the thing; it is not a copy of any system, but saying that the Government—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. We are now rehearsing arguments that have already been deployed at other stages of our proceedings on the Bill. This is very much outside the scope of what would be proper on Third Reading. I hope that the Secretary of State will have regard to that also.
§ Mr. Buchan
I feel very humble about raising this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but that was the assertion made by the 745 Home Secretary. If I was replying to or asking questions about it, he must have been at fault first. As he was allowed to continue, I thought that I might have been allowed to continue with my question.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite right: I was at fault in allowing a latitude to the Secretary of State which, properly, he should not have taken or have been allowed. I very much hope that when responding to what has been said, the Secretary of State will take account of what I have said and that other Ministers will also have regard to what is proper on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Hurd
I accept your rebuke entirely, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It applied to me as well as to the hon. Gentleman.
I hope that I have established my general point. I do not believe that the Canadian security intelligence service—this is a new point, which was not raised before—which has a high reputation, faces the same kind of terrorist threat which makes necessary so many of the activities for which the Bill provides.
Our debates have shown once again the deep and damaging divisions that still exist in the House on such matters and on questions of principle, about which Opposition Members feel strongly. That would put into a difficult position anyone entrusted with the kind of task that they would have had under the Opposition's proposal.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
Was not one of our difficulties in Committee, which we are now encountering on Third Reading and which is in the very proposals of the Bill, that all this is being done in a vacuum and in the absence of an authority that could look at this issue more generally? Such an authority would be a Royal Commission, which could try to weigh up the arguments, some of which are clearly behind the barrier of secrecy, and give guidance to the House on fundamental principles such as the rule of law, citizens' rights and the needs of the Security Service. The absence of a Royal Commission has caused the House difficulty when weighing the Government's contentions.
§ Mr. Hurd
I understand my hon. Friend's point. However, if a Royal Commission were appointed, it would come up against exactly the same difficulties that I have been trying to analyse in reference to proposals for parliamentary oversight—even of the kind proposed by my hon. Friend, which was not necessarily or strictly parliamentary. The conclusion must be that we need to work out structures and arrangements that can grow out of and fit our own system and our own requirements, and that is what we are doing in the Bill.
Without getting out of order again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall now turn to the question of functions. Having considered all the points that have been made, we believe that the definition of functions in the Bill needs to be one that would enable the Security Service to make any contribution to the protection of the nation's security which is clearly necessary. It would be a mistake to try to draft the Bill in a way that creates a rigidity inconsistent with the need to ensure that the Security Service can properly defend the nation's security from threats. An answer has not been produced to that argument.
746 I refer now to national security. It is correct to say that much turns on the phrase "national security", but the term is well recognised and well understood in our legislation. It has been used as an understood and accepted reason for entering reservations on the provisions and safeguards provided by statute. There have been some 29 separate pieces of legislation in the past 20 years which have made such references.
The Bill follows closely the Interception of Communications Act 1985, in which Parliament agreed that an interception warrant could be issued by the Secretary of State on the grounds of national security. But under this Bill, as under the 1985 Act, the Secretary of State cannot act without fear of challenge. There is an independent judicial commissioner, able to form his own view, if he so decides, on each and every warrant issued.
One flaw in the discussions outside the House on this matter has been the virtual ignoring of that point. It has been said that under the Bill "national security" would simply be what the Home Secretary wanted. I have read various lurid possibilities in the press about what might be open to the holder of my office as a result of that phrase. It was argued that I could authorise the burgling of my opponents' offices in Witney, and I read over the weekend that I could authorise the interception of people's telephones simply because they were opposed to the Government.
It is for the House to judge whether I or any successor would be likely to authorise such activities, leaving aside for the moment what has been the function hitherto, or whether the Security Service would carry out such orders were a Home Secretary to give them. I am not pleading for the eternal, God-given virtue and probity of any Home Secretary—that is not the basis of the Bill. The Bill rests on the basis that in the giving of warrants, there should be an independent judicial commissioner. He is already there as regards interception, and if Parliament approves these proposals, he will soon be there as regards interference with property.
Those are new safeguards, but one is already on the statute book and in operation. I have already spoken of its validity and reality in relation to my own work. The amount of time that I spend on these matters has rightly increased as a result of the existing legislation. The other provision is in the Bill and would be added to the safeguards, if Parliament approves the Bill.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
Does the Home Secretary recall that, in the press over Christmas, there appeared a story to the effect that he was prepared to give an undertaking that the telephones of Members of Parliament would not be intercepted save in the case of criminal matters? Is he prepared to give such an undertaking now?
§ Mr. Hurd
The undertaking was originally given by Lord Wilson of Rievaulx and has been repeated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I think most recently in 1986. The assurance is there and there is no reason to add to it. The assurance stands. I was talking about national security. There are safeguards in the Bill to ensure that national security is defined in practice as it is defined in law.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
A few moments ago the Home Secretary implied that the Security Service might well refuse to carry out a warrant if in its view—this 747 was the implication—it did not conform to national security, such as, for example, a warrant that the Home Secretary wanted to issue in terms of political opponents. Is he suggesting that the Security Service will have its own definition and will be able to judge a warrant on its definition of national security?
§ Mr. Hurd
No. It would come to me with a suggestion for a warrant, and I would judge whether to approve it in accordance with whether it complied with the law. The commissioner would be behind me, able, if he should so organise his work, to examine every case and to ensure that my definition of national security, the Security Service's application and the issuing of a warrant was in accordance with the law. These are new safeguards and, as I say, I think that they have been undervalued in debate.
§ Mr. Hurd
The commissioner has two principal jobs, and one of them is to examine the issuing of warrants by the Secretary of State. That is one of his main duties. In doing that, he will do as I know he already does in the case of the interception of communications, for which the provisions in law are very similar, and examine the point that I have been dealing with.
I recognise that in discussing the role of the Security Service, some peple would like to include in the Bill more explanatory and declaratory material. However, the language in the Bill is as clear and as unequivocal as possible. Having listened to the debate, I think that that is the effect that most hon. Members would want to achieve.
In arguing at some length about what has been left out and what critics of the Bill would like to see put in, I hope that we will not forget the remarkable innovations that the Bill proposes. It is amazing how familiarity breeds a certain scorn.
The Government propose to put the Security Service on a statutory basis and are proposing a warrant procedure for any proposals for interference with property. There will be a commissioner to ensure that the warrant procedure is strictly applied by the Secretary of State in accordance with the law. We propose a grievance procedure with a tribunal and the right of the commissioner to rove inside the barrier of secrecy in matters arising out of cases directed to his attention. If anyone had said a year ago, or even six months ago, that such a Bill was proposed, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who is fair-minded man with a passionate interest in such matters and who smiles in half-acknowledgement of my point, would have said that that was grotesquely unlikely. That is the main purpose and thrust of the Bill.
I hope that, in the legitmate argument about all the good things that hon. Members would like to see in the Bill, there will be at least a fair-minded acknowledgement that we have come a long way, substantially farther than our predecessors in government or than our critics supposed was at all likely.
Nowadays I keep on talking about balance, and it is becoming a platitude. As my hon. Friend the Member for 748 Aldridge-Brownhills said, there has to be a balance between freedom and security. That is the texture of the everyday life of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) knows that perfectly well. The liberty and freedom of the individual have to be set against the freedom to protect him and the whole nation from those who threaten our security and well-being. The structures that we devise have to make it possible for such balances to be struck.
For many years the position was ill-defined, and we feel that now is the right time to establish the Security Service in the clear language of statute, and to assign clear roles and responsibilities to the Secretary of State, the commissioner and the tribunal. This is the right time to introduce statutory arrangements for a warrant procedure, to make sure that the balance can be struck at the right level in every case.
Many hon. Members want to move the balance further. I understand that, but equally I hope that they will understand the nature of the judgment and the balance that has to be made. I must make one final point. I am sure that most of our constituents, the public as a whole, want and expect the Security Service to protect us They understand basically what it is about. There is widespread and understandable concern if, at any time in that challenging and dangerous task, there appears to be any lapse in the quality of the job or the intelligence obtained. We appear to expect superlative effort and infallible results from those who defend us in this sphere.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) who has much experience in these matters, said on Second Reading:The failures of the secret services are broadcast, but, of course, their successes are unsung, which is as it should be."—[Official Report, 21 December 1988; Vol. 144, c. 493.]That was absolutely right.
I hope that, on reflection. the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook will look again at what he said on Second Reading. He said:In truth, since the war MI5 has been one of the worst and most ridiculed security services in the western Alliance."—[Official Report, 15 December 1988; Vol. 143, c. 1124.]I do not know whether that was part of his text or whether it was spontaneous, but it is not true. I know that because I have increasing occasion to discuss these matters with people in other countries. I know that, day after day, the Security Service has to identify terrorist threats and arms supplies and prevent terrorist action and hostile foreign actions. The list is long. Members of the service often risk their lives in such work. In discussing such matters, comments such as that from the Opposition Front Bench are neither fair nor just.
The Bill represents a major step forward for the Security Service and for the whole country. It represents a fundamental change in the way that we arrange for the necessary work of the service. We are moving it on to a firm statutory basis and appointing a commissioner and a tribunal to review warrants and to consider complaints. Of course there are those who would like more, or who want to propose changes. The debate about this matter will not collapse, and we have examined and discussed such changes at length. The House will recognise the depth of this reform, the responsible but radical way that I have approached the matter arid the very real advance embodied in the Bill. I invite the House to give the Bill a Third Reading.
§ 7.8 pm
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
The more that the Opposition hear about the Security Service Bill the less we like it. Our opposition is in three distinct related parts, but before I describe that opposition, which was reinforced by what we heard in Committee last week, I should like to set out again the underlying cause of our concern.
Until the Bill becomes law, as no doubt it will, the legal position of the Security Service is that which Lord Denning set out 25 years ago. That is:Members of the services are, in the eye of the law, ordinary citizens with no special powers greater than anyone else. They have no special powers of arrest, such as the police have. No special powers of search are given to them. They cannot enter premises without the consent of the householder even though they may suspect a spy is there.The Bill is designed to change all that. If the Bill is passed, when members of the Security Service enter premises, they will, presuming that they have obtained the Home Secretary's warrant, do so with the protection of the law. The decision to give the Security Service a legal persona and legal obligations within which to work could have provided complete reassurance about its future activity, but the contents of the Bill—combined with what we have heard in Committee from the Home Secretary—has produced in many people, and certainly in the Opposition, quite the opposite results. The more we hear from the Home Secretary, the greater our concern becomes.
Our concern can be described under three headings—first, those things that should have been in the Bill but have been omitted; secondly the interpretations of some of the Bill's provisions; and thirdly, provisions that are unacceptable in themselves. As far as is consistent with the rules of order, I shall attempt to deal with each of these objections in turn.
I know that the rules governing the conduct of Third Reading debates prevent me from dealing in any great detail with the Bill's omissions. However, it is right, and possible, for me at least to assert that no Bill of this sort should be acceptable to the free Parliament of a democracy without the inclusion of adequate provisions for the supervision of the Security Service. The Home Secretary spent some time before he was called to order explaining why, in his view, such supervision was impossible or inappropriate. I shall not transgress to the same extent, but I shall, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, say something about what the Home Secretary suggested to the House.
Essentially, the Bill provides supervision by Government nominees. It should have provided supervision by a body that would responsibly discharge, at least to some extent, independent oversight. On the first day of the Committee stage, when two rival schemes to provide that supervision were proposed, the Home Secretary—I suspect from his demeanour that he knows this—made no attempt seriously to meet the arguments of either the official Opposition or his hon. Friends. That was the view of the whole House. The hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) accused him of ignoring the serious arguments. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) said that the Home Secretary failed to understand the need to balance the needs of the security and democracy. The hon. Member for Caithness and 750 Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) described his speech as completely failing to address the central issue of accountability.
I have no doubt how that failing came about. Insisting that the control of the security services is kept in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary and that the only form of inquiry and redress should be under the supervision of Government nominees is politically convenient. But it is intellectually indefensible. The Home Secretary was at the same sort of tactic this evening. He complained about the shortcomings in the proposal of the hon. Members for Aldridge-Brownhills and for Thanet, South and his main argument against that proposal was that I regarded it as inadequate.
No doubt, if he had had time, the right hon. Gentleman would have said that what was wrong with his Bill was that his hon. Friends thought that it went too far. Dredging up as one of his arguments against his hon. Friends the idea that I wanted their proposal to go further is the action of a man not altogether confident in his own brief. I understand exactly why the Home Secretary should take such a peculiarly defensive line. The intellectual inadequacy of his case shone all through his speech on supervision in Committee, and we could not possibly support a Bill that did not include at least some independent supervision.
Our second major concern—the role and duties of the Security Service—was enormously increased by the Home Secretary's speech on the second day of the Committee. The major debate on that day concerned definitions—definitions of subversion, which the Security Service is to resist, and of parliamentary democracy, which it is to protect. It also dealt, in considerable detail, with the second crucial definition of the service's role and function—its role and function abroad, as is incorporated in clause 1(3):It shall also be the function of the Service to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom against the threats posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British islands.
I shall deal first with the domestic activities of the Security Service. In Committee, our concern was to ensure that the Security Service did not interfere with, or inhibit, what was described as lawful advocacy, protest and dissent. A number of ways were suggested of avoiding its intrusion into legitimate political activity.
The Home Secretary's response to these genuine concerns was wholly inadequate. He tried to be emollient by offering windy generalisations about—I swear that these are his actual words—the safety and well-being of the nation.He gave assurances that what divided him from those who had moved the amendments—again these are his actual words—was adifference of principle, but one of flexibility, or relative flexibility."—[Official Report, 17 January 1989; Vol. 145, c. 213–7.]Such statements have no meaning and answer none of the questions. The question that he should have answered, but has failed to answer, is why, if fears about improper political involvement of the Security Service are groundless, he is not prepared to incorporate safeguards into the Bill.
On Second Reading, the Home Secretary told us that there was no need to be concerned about political bias because clause 2(2)(b) specifically prohibits the Security Service from acting to further the interests of any one 751 political party. I tell the Home Secretary again, in the hope that at last he may be able to understand, and perhaps even answer, the point, that clause 2(2)(b) does not provide a complete safeguard. Our concern is not that the Security Service might act on behalf of a political party, but that it should not act in any way that reflects a built-in bias against certain activities, certain individuals, certain ideologies and points of view, and certain procedures that are essential to our democracy but that have been frowned on by the Security Service, and in which the Security Service has interfered.
I do not want to risk angering the Home Secretary again by referring to the established history of the Security Service, but we know, and he will readily agree, that in the past, the Security Service has interfered in matters in which every hon. Member, and I suspect the Home Secretary himself, believed that it was improper and wrong for it to interfere. All that we are asking is that the Home Secretary should say more than, "They may have done it in the past, but they won't do it in the future." We need a specific safeguard that can be written into the Bill, and the Home Secretary has not begun to give a reason why that should not be the case.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
The right hon. Gentleman appears to be confusing the provisions of clause 1(2) with those of clause 1(3) and conveniently merging the two. The reality is that, in dealing with economic well-being, the criterion is whether the person concerned was outside the United Kingdom, which is the crucial point. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if that were being done, whether or not the Labour party were in government, the Home Secretary ought to ensure that that was not being done against the interests of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Hattersley
I know that the hon. Gentleman was making notes for his "impromptu" speech, but I said that I would come to the overseas aspect of the work in a moment. At the moment, I wish to emphasise that what we believe should be in the Bil, and what the Home Secretary has not begun to convince us need not be in the Bill, is provisions, couched either in negative or positive form, to prevent the Security Service from doing those things which it has done in the past and which it would be wrong for it to do in the future. Until the Bill, either by specifying the role of the service or by extending the definition of those things that the service should not or must not do, meets our concern about its possible use against wholly legitimate activities, the Bill will not be satisfactory.
The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) asked about the Security Service's external role of safeguardingthe economic well-being of the United Kingdom against threats posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands.
On Second Reading, I attempted to find out what that meant. The debate in Committee was largely based around the question of how that power would be exercised and what that role involved.
Before Committee stage I attempted to find out the meaning of the clause and offered the Home Secretary an example of what it might mean. I asked the Home Secretary whether my suggestion was a good example of what he had in mind. I used the example of the Sultan of Brunei who, as is well known and publicly established, was put under great pressure by the Government not to remove 752 his sterling balances from London. That was certainly an external force and, in the Government's view, it was related to the economic well-being of the British Isles.
I asked the Home Secretary whether clause 2(2)(b) would allow the burgling of the Sultan's palace and the tapping of his telephone in order to protect our economic welfare by deciding whether he was likely to remove his sterling balances. The Treasury and the Chancellor could then take the necessary remedial action at the first opportunity.
Any reasonable reading of the Bill would assume that the clause would allow that. The Home Secretary did not answer my question. Some people might say that that was reasonable, since it was unfair for me to ask for such a specific example that was potentially embarrassing for the Government.
In Committee, the Home Secretary rashly offered his own example of how the clause might operate. He spoke ofa threat from abroad in respect of a commodity upon which we are particularly dependent. One can think of oil as being such an example from the past, though not now."—[Official Report, 17 January 1989, Vol 145, c. 221.]The Home Secretary said that a threat to our oil supplies would be a reasonable example of when clause 2(2)(b) might be put into operation.
It is important to remember, as the hon. Member for Stafford would be the first to remind me, that the clause talks about economic well-being, not physical security, of the state—not of convoys being sunk but of supplies being cut off. Fifteen years ago, the OPEC nations were seriously considering denying supplies to some countries in the West, until those developed countries accepted what OPEC believed to be an acceptable pricing structure for oil.
The Home Secretary offered that example and he has a duty—at least, his Minister does—to pursue it. In the Home Secretary's example, would the Security Service's power to interfere be justified? Would it be proper and right under the Bill, for the security services to "interfere"—the word in the Bill—in OPEC premises? Would it be right for the security services to tap telephones in the embassies of OPEC countries? According to the Home Secretary's example, that must be the case.
The Home Secretary has a duty to make clear to Parliament the extent of the powers that he is proposing that we should invest legally, not covertly, in this organisation. There will be mixed feelings about whether that is a legitimate form of operation. For the House of Commons to give such a power without knowing its potentially serious applications is not an appropriate way for the Executive to treat the House.
I referred to the word "interference" and when interference with property might be justified under the Bill. Interference is the power provided for the Security Service in the Bill. Under the Bill, "interference with property" is justified when the Home Secretary "thinks it necessary" andlikely to be of substantial value in assisting the Service to discharge any of its functions".
As I have already said, those functions are defined in a way that underlines the fear that the service can involve itself in activities from which, in a democracy, it should be precluded. The definition of when the Security Service can act within the limitless parameters of its terms of reference is equally wide. The definitions of how it should act and when it should act are wide. The definition of what justifies 753 it acting is wider still. The width of all the definitions, the opportunities it gives for interpretations to the Government of the day, and the discretion it provides for the service and its responsible Ministers are all justifications for voting against the Bill.
Much reliance has been placed by the defenders of the Bill on the ability of any man or woman who is aggrieved by the behaviour of the service to complain to the commission or tribunal. That is provided for under paragraph 3 of schedule 1. The Bill explicitly prohibits a dissatisfied complainant from appealing against a decision or testing it in the courts. We regard that as crucial to the Bill and I asked about it during the debate on the Loyal Address. It is a question on which the Government have hardly touched throughout the consideration of the Bill. That is an inadequacy and an omission which makes the Bill in itself inadequate.
The explicit exclusion of the small and simple powers to appeal or test judgments in court demonstrates more than the Bill's inadequacies. It demonstrates the Government's unwillingness to compromise with any of their critics on either side of the House and even seriously to consider any of the proposals that could have helped to create bipartisan support for the work and existence of the Security Service.
Taken in conjunction with the Official Secrets Bill—the two cannot be separated, because the Official Secrets Bill cloaks the Security Service in absolute, total and permanent secrecy—the Bill demonstrates how hollow is the Government's claim that they would like to see a common position between the parties on the security of this country. They would like to see a common position as long as they are allowed to stake out the ground in every detail and other political parties tamely occupy the area that the Government have defined and from which they are not prepared to budge even by an inch. That is not how bipartisan agreements are made. That is not how services which are essential to the national security are removed from political controversy. The Government have chosen to reject even the most constructive criticisms of what they now propose for the Security Service, and because of that we shall vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)
Virtually every time the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has spoken on the Bill, he has changed his position. That says something for his flexibility but nothing for his consistency or understanding of the issues involved. For example, his initial reception of the Bill was one of welcome and he said that he expected to support it, subject to reading the small print. There was no mention of the problems about oversight. We have now heard yet another change of position. Early in his speech he said that he had discovered that we are changing the scope of the operation of the Security Service. He suggested that intervention in property and other activities of the service will take place now but could not take place before. Later in his speech he said that in years gone by the Security Service had been involved in improper actions.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I am sorry to explode this part of the hon. Gentleman's speech but it requires a confession. The 754 So-called inconsistency in tonight's speech to which he has just referred was copied verbatim from my speech on Second Reading.
§ Mr. Whitney
If the right hon. Gentleman considers carefully what he said in his second speech he will understand that he changed his position within the speech. When he reads his first allegation about what is now to be allowed and compares that with what was allowed in the past under the Maxwell Fyfe directive, which he deemed to be improper, he will be able to detect inconsistency in his performance.
I must declare a degree of non-interest. I wish to make it clear, as I have done regularly in the press—I had not felt it necessary to do so in the House but it appears to be necessary—that I have never had the privilege of serving in MI5 or any other intelligence or security organisation. I hope that that is not itself a breach of the Official Secrets Act. I hope also that my statement will save me from having to write endless letters to correct false newspaper allegations or to correct the misapprehensions of Opposition Members.
I declare, however, a deep interest in our security. I well recognise that that interest is shared entirely by all hon. Members on both sides of the House. My experience as an unglamorous and straightforward member of Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service has given me some insight into the straits to which Britain and all democracies are subjected, and when I reach my conclusions on the issues that are before us they may be positioned on a different resting point from that of many Opposition Members and from one or two of my hon. Friends.
If I may say so—I say this with no immodesty—I have some awareness of the nature of the threats to open and democratic societies, and of the way in which they are changing and becoming much more difficult to cope with and much more subtle. In our efforts to preserve the balance between freedom, to which we are all committed, and the security of the nation, of which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke, we must take careful account of the threats to which our society is subjected. We must proceed cautiously before we change the status quo.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Clause 1(2) deals with national security, to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. He has said that he is aware of threats to national security and says that they have become more subtle. Did he protest in any way at the actions of Army officers in the early months of 1974? According to reports which appeared in The Times, which were written by Christopher Walker, certain officers were making remarks which were definitely subversive. That was confirmed in 1979 by Lord Carver, who deplored such remarks. Did the hon. Gentleman make any protest?
§ Mr. Whitney
At the time I happened to be a civil servant. It was scarcely in my gift to protest or otherwise. I share entirely the revulsion which the hon. Gentleman clearly has for any extreme Right-wing or Left-wing coup d'etat to subvert our democracy. I think, however, that the hon. Gentleman seeks to take me far beyond the bounds of the debate.
The balance to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has referred is an extremely difficult one to strike. We would at great risk disturb the system at which we have arrived. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Government as a whole on the progress which has been 755 made and which is enshrined in the Bill. It is a matter for deep regret that the majority of the exchanges in the debate have focused on what is not in the Bill, what might have been in it and on what other countries have or have not done rather than on the changes—I would regard them as improvements—that are now proposed by the Government. The old adage that the appetite grows with the feeding has never been more clearly demonstrated than by the reaction of Opposition Members and of some of my right hon. Friends to what has now been achieved.
It is important for the House to understand the change in the climate in which these affairs are now debated over the past 10 years. I draw the attention of the House to the views of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. We are led to believe that he, as the Prime Minister of a Labour Government, had especially good reason to he aware of the activities of the security services. In his book entitled "The Governance of Britain", which he was careful to point out was written after he had left office and after the flurry over what did or did not go on during his incumbency of No. 10 involving some MI5 officers, about which the world has been informed or misinformed by the Wright book, he made it clear that he had reason to understand the issues that were involved.
In a book of about 200 pages Lord Wilson devoted only two paragraphs to national security. The chapter in which we find the two paragraphs is entitled "The Prime Minister and National Security". Lord Wilson quotes with approval at the beginning of the first chapter a statement by the late Earl of Stockton, and it is important that the House reminds itself of it. It should be used to set where we were then in 1976 with Lord Wilson and where we are now with the proposals that are contained in the Bill. Harold Macmillan said:It is dangerous and bad for our general national interest to discuss these matters. It has been a very long tradition of the House to trust the relations between the two parties to discussions between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister of the day. I ask the House now to revert to the older tradition which I think is in our real interest. Otherwise we would risk destroying services which are of the utmost value to us.Harold Macmillan said that in 1963. I believe that it was true then, the Labour party believed that it was true then and Harold Wilson, as he then was, repeated it in 1976. Most of the Labour party believed that it was true then. I believed that it was true then and I believe that it is still true. Lord Wilson concluded a brief paragraph by writing:There is no further information that can usefully or properly be added before bringing this Chapter to an end.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
There is another side to the story. As I understand it, these matters were always dealt with by means of private notice questions from the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister of the day. As I further understand it, the present Prime Minister—I am open to correction but I do not think that I am wrong—refused to continue with the time-hallowed way of dealing with these matters with the present Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock). As I have said, there are two sides to the story.
§ Mr. Whitney
I must disagree with the hon. Gentleman on the substance. I have no knowledge of the nature of the exchanges that take place between the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It must be asserted, however—this cannot really be 756 challenged—that the statements that have been made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on security matters, following her statement on the Blunt episode, have been much fuller than any of the statements made by her predecessors, Conservative or Labour. The statement which was made by Harold Macmillan, as he then was, which was endorsed so warmly by Lord Wilson, underlines that change. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been much more forthcoming with the House on security matters but far from satisfying the House, that has whetted its appetite. That is the problem with which we must deal. It behoves all hon. Members to understand just how far we have come.
Why has there been such change? Has something fundamental happened within the security services? 'With the possible exception of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) who now occupies the Government Front Bench, none of us can seriously answer that question. That applies even to my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), with all his splendid researches and special sources of information.
Throughout the consideration of the Bill we have heard generalised allegations. These have often come from the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, but not only from him. Whenever we have asked for substantiation of the assertion that something is rotten in our security system, we are taken back 15, 20 or 30 years. That must give us pause for thought.
§ Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)
Would I not be right in thinking that the Bettaney case, which caused grave anxiety—especially to the Security Commission—was just three years ago?
§ Mr. Whitney
Absolutely. I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As I said in Committee, the Bettaney case was an exception.
The main body of complaint has centred on the extraordinary farrago—I do not know how much is true; it is clear that a lot of it is not true—in the Wright book and the replay of the tawdry old stories of a generation ago. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) took us back to Palme Dutt, for example. We have heard many times of the Blunt and Philby saga. It is worth remembering that the Soviet Union had its money's worth about three times over as a result of that little clique of Cambridge traitors who were recruited in the early 1930s. The effect of their recruiting those four, five or however many there were is still reverberating. Such so-called evidence is still used by critics of the status quo, and critics of the changing system as proposed in the Bill, as justification for further change.
My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay mentioned the Bettaney case, which I accept revealed, within the limits of what we have been able to know, a depressing state of affairs. The details of the Security Commission inquiry that were released verify that. It is clear that the Security Service is a particularly difficult service. It spends its whole time looking for spies and subversion. It is, by definition, a closed and difficult world where personnel management and the broader picture are crucial. It is, presumably, not composed entirely of saints and fellows of All Souls—there are weak links in the chain.
We should note that we hear of only one or two failures out of the hundreds or thousands that there may be in the 757 service. The lessons of the Bettaney experience have been learnt. The security proposals were put into operation, a staff counsellor was appointed and Sir Antony Duff, whom I know personally from his days in the Foreign Office and who is an excellent administrator, has put things on the right track.
Mr. Eric S. Helfer (Liverpool, Walton)
The hon. Member is trying to prove that there has been nothing to argue about since the days of Palme Dutt or what Peter Wright referred to in his book. How does he know that people have not been burgling all over London and elsewhere? It is a secret service. They do not go around with placards saying, "I have just burgled somebody's house," or, "We have just bugged somebody's telephone." They do not do that. That is why we think that they should be under surveillance. Can the hon. Member assure me that, since those books and, perhaps, those written by the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) were written, nobody has done any of those things which we know went on before?
§ Mr. Whitney
I am happy to agree with about 90 per cent. of what the hon. Gentleman said. I do not know whether there are other Bettaneys in MI5. None of us does. Knowing Sir Antony Duff personally, accepting the Security Commission and accepting also the integrity and skills of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I would wager that, of all the security services in the world, our MI5 gives us reason for pride. That view was reinforced by what my right hon. Friend said earlier. Is the hon. Member for Walton suggesting that a parliamentary committee of oversight would discover a Bettaney mark 2? It is inconceivable. The idea does not stand up to a moment's investigation.
It is suggested that, because there are from time to time rotten apples in the barrel and we find them out, that is damaging to the security services. It would be much more in the interests of the security services, as happened with Blunt initially, to hush up the failures. When the failures are exposed, everyone has an opportunity to say, "It has all failed."As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, the success of the security services can never be told.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)
May I challenge my hon. Friend's sweeping assertion that a future Bettaney could not in any circumstances be discovered by an oversight committee? Surely he accepts that such a committee's duties would include matters such as recruitment, training and supervision generally. At least the terrain would be far better monitored than it has been hitherto.
§ Mr. Whitney
I ask my hon. Friend seriously to consider much easier territory—the rest of the Civil Service. We have active and energetic Select Committees for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, for the Department of Health and for the Department of Social Security in respect of which we have no serious problems with official secrets. Is my hon. Friend telling me that recruitment policies and the quality of recruitment is affected by those Committees? If he believes that they are, I have to say that he is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. We 758 must recognise that there is a substantive difference between what we are talking about in the security services and—
§ Mr. Bermingham
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I understand that the purpose of a Third Reading debate is to deal with germane and pertinent points of a Bill and those which were not raised in Committee. I do not recall recruitment policies in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and other such waffle being part of the—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
Order. The opening speeches widened the Third Reading debate rather more than I would have wanted, but I am sure that the hon. Member will come back to the purpose of the debate.
§ Mr. Whitney
I shall, but I hope that it is understood that what I have said is germane if we are comparing the secret services with the operations of other parts of the Government service. I submit with great respect, Madam Deputy Speaker, that such issues are central to what we are considering.
We are considering special areas of Government which cannot be compared with any others, so we have to take account of the special characteristics. It is not enough for Opposition Members to say, "Of course we understand the needs of security but…" It is the "but" on which the debate turns. Too glibly, the caveats and conditions that should follow that "but" are ignored.
I should like, if I may, to say something about the extent to which the Bill takes us towards what pertains in other countries and the grave expressions of disappointment that we have heard from both sides of the House that we are not going as far as other countries with parliamentary oversight. It is important to understand the crucial change that is being made. We have the commissioner, a senior member of the judiciary, and the tribunal sitting on the Home Secretary's shoulder, as it were. That is a major change.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) has sometimes gone too far in suggesting that our Canadian friends have found utopia or nirvana. It is early days for the Canadian experiment, and they will probably end up, not with parliamentary oversight, but with a small group of the great and the good above the parliamentary battle—who may have been in it at one point—in a supervisory role, not distinct from the role of the Commission.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd
Does my hon. Friend have no views about the relationship of the Security Service to the rule of law, for example?
§ Mr. Whitney
It is precisely the rule of law that we are discussing. We are taking a step forward to enshrine by statutory provision the existence of something which hitherto did not exist—MI5. I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the embodiment of the security service within what he terms the rule of law. Of course I have regard to that.
We often hear American experience cited as an example, and there is a small paradox in that. Many people on the Left of politics in Britain frequently use America either as a negative or a positive example. Our Health Service is always defended by an immediate reference to 759 the so-called black example of the American experience—I am glad that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) is here—
§ Mr. Bermingham
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I asked for your guidance earlier. Many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate, but time ticks on and we have had a most wide-ranging—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. These points of order are usurping the time of the House. I appreciate that several hon. Members wish to speak and I think that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) was about to reach his peroration.
§ Mr. Whitney
You are entirely right, Madam Deputy Speaker.
By contrast, those on the Left heartily welcome the American security service experience. I draw to their attention the views of the last—I mean that in every sense—Labour Prime Minister on the American experience—those of Lord Callaghan. He said:I think the Americans wrecked their system by allowing covert intelligence to be discussed by Congress. It is absolute madness.The Bill has achieved the right balance and I have great pleasure in supporting it this evening.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I must disagree immediately with the opening remarks by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) when he criticised the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). My right hon. Friend's speeches, far from becoming weaker, have grown increasingly strong on each occasion and his attack on the Government and the Bill has grown increasingly devastating. Whether that is because of the weakness of the Bill or his natural capacities, I do not know, but I think that it is a combination of the two. Nobody who has listened to these debates could say that the Opposition have not presented a consistent and persistent attack on what is being done, and we have had sound reasons for doing so.
I speak partly as a journalist. Long before I ever heard how the House of Commons would try to settle matters of official secrecy, I had to look at these questions from the view of a journalist who was trying to print what he thought was right. If before the war, or even during it, anyone had suggested that there should be such an absolute prohibition on what should be properly printed as a defence of the existing position, most reputable journalists would have denounced the idea as a gross interference with the freedom of speech.
When the Home Secretary introduced these measures he said that he was taking the past into account, introducing a new method of control over the security services and a novel system of operating and that he should be given the benefit of the doubt on that. If he were present I would gladly compliment him on his diligence in attending almost all our debates and listening to what we have had to say. He does not seem to have understood what we were saying, or at least he has not translated it into legislative fact, and that is the argument to which I shall return in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman has a 760 whole series of measures so dangerous that he is afraid to leave it to his subordinates to speak on them. 'That precaution may be wise.
Some Conservative Members, including the hon. Member for Wycombe, try to give the impression that we in the Labour party are not eager to see the Security Service properly protected and able to do its work. One of the attacks on my right hon. Friend involved taking one of his remarks out of context and using it for that purpose. Far and away the most damaging revelation—if it is a revelation; I shall come to the truth of it in a minute—about the Security Service that has been made from any quarter in recent years was not made by the Labour party. It was the charge that for many years the head of the service, Sir Roger Hollis, was a Soviet agent. If that was true, obviously it would be deeply damaging to the whole Security Service. That was not a wild charge thrown up by the Labour party. The charge came into the public forum partly thanks to the actions of other people in the secret service.
If the Security Service is saying that we in the Labour party have not been sufficiently vigilant in trying to protect it, I repudiate the charge entirely. We want the service to be properly controlled and conducted and able to do its job. The direct responsibility for the worst and most damaging charge against our Security Service over the past 10 years was the charge that the head of the service was for a long period a Soviet agent. I do not believe that he was.
I know that there is the Chapman Pincher theory. I do not know whether we have a Chapman Pincher clause in the Bill yet. It is not specified in those terms, but there has been one operating over the past 15 years. Although members of the Security Service are not supposed to say anything to anybody, they are entitled to go and speak to Chapman Pincher. Some of those people told Chapman Pincher that Roger Hollis was a spy and he printed it., as did Peter Wright and others. Every time that that has been investigated it has been repudiated, and I hope that it will be repudiated now.
That is an example of how the Security Service cannot be protected by the forms of secrecy which the Home Secretary thinks can be erected to protect it. It cannot be protected in that way. A point is reached where the matter must be argued in public, and if it cannot be argued in public, the security services will be as damaged as they were when the charge was made against Sir Roger Hollis.
When people do not believe the repudiation, that also damages the service. The Labour party, and certainly my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr Rees), who was partly responsible for the conduct of the services when he was Home Secretary, utterly repudiate the charge that we are not in favour of the security services being able to do their job properly. Of course we are.
This has been going on since 1911, and nobody now claims that the accidental measure introduced in 1911, which has governed the proceedings since then, has worked properly. It has worked shockingly. Neither this Bill, nor the Bill to be introduced next week, deals with the problem, and we must examine the two together. In many respects the Bill will make matters worse, because the law will have been laid down in a way that makes it even more difficult to protect freedom when matters are to be settled in the courts.
First, we object strongly to having a Bill of this nature brought to us. We were told on the first day of our debate 761 that there could be no proper parliamentary surveillance. I shall not go into all the arguments, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South presented them fully, but the Government have made no attempt to answer them, and it is particularly important that they should do so in the light of the most recent evidence on how Select Committees could deal with such matters. The Select Committee on the Falklands, on which my right hon. Friend served, showed that a matter of boiling, burning topicality could be examined by a Committee of the House. There was no suggestion of any leakage or of any threat to the security of the state. What would have happened if that investigation had not taken place? We can imagine the amount of rumour and tittle-tattle, and the charges of various kinds, that would have spread throughout the country.
It was absolutely right to establish that Committee. It was a much larger Committee than the Prime Minister wanted, but, as my right hon. Friend and those associated with him proved, it was a perfectly proper way to examine the issues. It is the most recent example of the ability and versatility that the House has shown in dealing with such questions, and one that the Government should have noted when they brought the Bill forward.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I should like to praise the Franks committee, on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) served. I appeared before the committee for an hour and 25 minutes, and wonder retrospectively whether it was given all the information that it should have been given. This encapsulates a real problem. How can we be sure that such a committee is given all the information to which it is entitled? I doubt whether it can be.
§ Mr. Foot
I cannot say for certain whether all the information was provided; neither can my hon. Friend. Even those who were on the committee could not know for certain whether they had all the information, but I have little doubt that many of them strove to ensure that they would obtain most of it.
What is certain is that that committee, investigating as it did so soon after the event, had much more information on the conduct of the services at the time than they would have if there had been no parliamentary surveillance. The form of surveillance set up by Parliament may not be perfect, but that is no reason not to have it at all. Once we have set out, as we do in the Bill, to establish a new form of responsibility for the security services, it is quite wrong for the Government to push aside the arguments of hon. Members from various parties for the forms of effective surveillance that the House can establish. It is an insult to the House to say that we cannot devise secret methods of governing our own Security Service, but that is what the Government have persistently told us.
My second major charge against this inadequate Bill is contained in what the Home Secretary himself has said. He went out of his way to try to listen to what we were saying and to meet it if he could. In Committee, he read out a formula which he said should govern these matters. He said that he would not put it in the Bill, for various reasons which he did not give. He clearly wanted to believe that a statement of that character would influence the way in which we would consider the Bill, and perhaps also 762 influence the courts. I shall not read all his statement, although it is worth reading; nor shall I try to take one part of it out of context. He said:There is no power in the Bill to enable the Security Service to take any interest in any person or organisation or any activity or enterprise which presents no threat to the security of the nation as a whole. It does not matter if such people have views on the structure or organisation of Parliament or if they are involved in seeking to change industrial practices in this country or to negotiate a better deal.
The right hon. Gentleman says that that should set all our minds at rest. Some of us ask whether it would have excluded or prohibited the investigation into CND, or some of the other investigations operated by the Security Service. The right hon. Gentleman will not give us direct answers. In Committee, hon. Members on both sides tried to devise a legislative method to get round the difficulty, and I think that an appropriate and sensible method was devised. I say that particularly in the light of what the Home Secretary said a few minutes ago—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is such a considerable parliamentarian that I hestitate to interrupt him, but he is now dealing with matters that are not contained in the Bill. I must caution him about that.
§ Mr. Foot
Let me say with the greatest deference, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I understand the problems of ruling on Third Reading debates. I have attended a number of such debates, on different sides of the House. Nevertheless, what is in the Bill is certainly a matter for Third Reading debate, and I am discussing what is in the Bill. Provisions that should be in it are not in it, and I am certainly criticising that, but I am also criticising the form in which the Home Secretary has left what is in the Bill. Let me underline that by repeating what the Home Secretary said a few minutes ago. He said that language as clear and unequivocal as possible was used to define the nub of the Bill, and that is what I dispute.
Hon. Members from both sides of the House put it to the Home Secretary that if he wanted to win the consent of the House and create a security measure that commanded national support, the language should surely be made clear. There were two or three ways in which that could be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has one suggestion; the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) had another. Various hon. Members suggested different methods, but we all wanted a clause to define some of the activities that would not be dealt with by the Security Service.
I shall read the right hon. Gentleman's reply, because I think that it is relevant to the Bill. I had asked him, why did the Government notseize the opportunity to remove some fears by incorporating such a provision, in their own words if they wish? If, as he has said, that is what the Home Secretary means, why does he not say it in the Bill?We said that time and time again. I ask hon. Members to note the Home Secretary's answer. He did not push the proposal aside and say that it was of no importance; nor did he say that it could not be done. He said:The Bill sets about the problem in a different way. It sets out to say what the Security Service can do rather than what it cannot do. It uses the Harris definition, which the right hon. Gentleman so dislikes, of subversion and the restrictions to damage to the United Kingdom as a whole, and the other restrictions that I have spelt out. Although, as is the custom in statute, the Bill approaches the question by saying what a 763 Government can do, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will find that it arrives at the same conclusion."—[Official Report, 17 January 1989; Vol. 145, cc. 218–222.]
The Bill does not arrive at the same conclusion, however. If we do not take the opportunity to insert a clause covering all the matters that will not be properly investigated by any security service, the opposite will be the outcome. These matters are bound to come before the courts, perhaps a good deal more frequently than in the past, because no one will know exactly what the law is. Some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Thanet, South, have had close experience of the wretched way in which the law has operated in the past, but neither the hon. Gentleman nor anyone else in the country has any guarantee that its operation will be any better in the future.
When matters investigated by Government security officers came before courts and judges in the past, at least there was some chance of arguing the matter, and some of these cases were won. The argument against the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was won, as were some others. However, when the question comes before the con is now, they will quote what is in the Bill but I am afraid that it does not provide the protection required. They will not quote what the Home Secretary said to me in his reply, when he said that the Bill is intended to say exactly what he has said.
The Government will not change their mind easily—they will not do it on Third Reading—but I hope that, when a clause designed to protect proper free debate in this country is introduced in the other place, the Government will not have the insolence to come back here and throw it out.
§ Mr. Robert Boscawen (Somerton and Frome)
This debate has been rather extraordinary, because right through the proceedings at which I have been present the underlying theme has been that the Opposition are deeply concerned about the way in which the Security Service has worked, because they believe that all the time there has been a sinister plot to undermine Left-wing activists. Nobody, however, has mentioned any action taken by the Security Service against the National Front or the extremists of the Right-wing. The Opposition have an underlying fear that there is a sinister plot which has been maintained by the secrecy of the Service under Governments of different complexions. Whether it has been a Labour or Tory Prime Minister, that sinister plot has been there. Opposition Members fear that their telephones are being tapped and people have been looking into what they have been doing, which has been the purpose of the Security Service. I believe that the Opposition are not that important. The Security Service has more important things to do than to study Left-wing or Right—wing activists.
§ Mr. Boscawen
The Security Service has an important job to do, and it must do it as efficiently as it can, as hon. Members have agreed, especially the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). The question asked in this debate has been whether it will do its job more efficiently if the House has a window into that job. I do not believe that to be so.
The security services are not perfect. They make blunders and mistakes and from time to time they are 764 bound to employ the wrong people. The biggest failure of the Security Service and the special branch of the police—it cannot be laid at the feet of any individual—was to allow the head of Government, most senior Ministers of that Government and the senior people in that party to be within an ace of being destroyed in the Brighton bombing a few years ago. Had that been successful, that failure of the Security Service would have destabilised whatever party had been in power for a long time. Such actions must be the most important matters into which the Security Service must look.
Perhaps agents of a foreign power intent on invading or destroying this country by military action may be an important factor, but I do believe that it is as important for the Security Service to counter the evil intentions of terrorism and such actions that could destroy stable government and could change the policy of the Government.
§ Mr. Buchan
The hon. Gentleman is describing exactly what was happening when they did not have any supervision. We are suggesting that we should have supervision to stop such things occurring.
§ Mr. Boscawen
I am not suggesting that supervision in the way proposed will stop it in any way. I do not see how it can. How will the Security Service become more efficient in carrying out its job by spreading its secrets a little bit wider and making them known to some worthy people in this place? My main criticism about the Opposition's proposal is that, if they are told all the operational secrets and the purposes of the Security Service's investigations, what good will they do? If they are told those secrets, I believe that we are spreading the knowledge of those operations and the purpose of the Security Service's investigations far too wide. I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), however experienced he may be, that It is an insult to the House not to be able to devise a system for overseeing the Security Service. I believe that it would be an insult to the House if we were not able to show a little more wisdom than that. The wisdom is that there are some things that we should not know too much about, because the more people who know about them, the less effective the Security Service will be, and the more likely it will be that the sort of outrages committed in this country in recent years will escape detection.
The old thrust of the Opposition's argument, which is to try to spread the secrecy of the Security Service to the knowledge of a lot mere people, worries me. If I were asked to go on to a Select Committee, if it were set up, I should be worried because I am bound to learn things that I would not want to know.
§ Mr. Boscawen
I know that there are willing recruits to that Select Committee on the Back Benches—they are all queuing up to be on it—but my experience is that there are certain things that, if one does know, and one has to keep them to oneself, one would rather not know. I believe that that is true of the House as a whole. That would not be a good Committee to be on. One would be stuck with that information and knowledge, which one would know one could not impart—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I must bring the hon. Gentleman to order. We are on Third Reading and we can debate in this House only what is actually in the Bill. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is wandering on to issues which are not in the Bill.
§ Mr. Boscawen
I accept that what is proposed by the Opposition is not in the Bill, and I am delighted that it is not, because it would worry me greatly. I believe that it would reduce the effectiveness of the Security Service, which is in the front line in trying to prevent the sort of actions that we have seen in the past few years.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
As I have sat here, I have realised that the point of a Third Reading is to deal with the Bill as it is and not with how it should be. Nevertheless, it still leaves many questions to ask about the way that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be carried out by the Home Secretary of the day. As I want to pursue that point, I shall not proceed with my argument that I regret that parliamentary accountability of some sort, which should have been discussed between both sides of the House, is not being followed.
I want to make it clear that I regard bringing MI5 under the law as an important step forward.
When I read about officers burgling their way across London I realised for the first time that MI5 should be brought under the law. I am glad that that has happened. I believe that the use of a commissioner is a step forward. I will bear your instruction in mind, Madam Deputy Speaker, and not discuss what should be in the Bill, even though my right hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) have cogently argued that there are deficiencies in the drafting of the Bill.
There are seven clauses and a number of schedules that the Home Secretary must operate and they will be in his left or right-hand drawer when deciding whether to agree to a warrant. He and the Prime Minister must operate the measure. I repeat, however, that, sometimes, there is a great misunderstanding about the place of MI5 in the Home Office. It is not a Department, nor is it in wide commission—only the Home Secretary and one or two others have dealings with it.
About two years ago I remember—I shall be writing books about it soon—I was at a memorial service in Jerusalem. I was standing above the city and listening to the moving service when a man came up to me and said, "Thank you for protecting my life and getting a decision in Cabinet." I said, "Don't thank me, I didn't know you existed." The man then went. I asked the special branch man who was protecting me who he was, but the man had gone. If that man thought that all such issues were discussed in Cabinet, he should think again. For that reason it is important that the Bill is drawn up correctly and cogently.
We are not dealing with a normal political issue. On those grounds I want to consider parts of the Bill and some of the issues that have arisen as a result of reports in newspapers and wider discussion. The hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) spoke about six of his fellow Members being the subject of investigation. If those people had been members of the Labour party, I too would have 766 raised the matter. He said that those people had been fingered, or whatever, by MI5. I must ask myself whether those people would try to subvert the constitution.
§ Mr. Rees
I doubt that.
I read a report in a newspaper about this matter. We have all learned to discount the complete accuracy of newspaper reports, but it raised new information. How did it happen that six Members of this House were fingered by MI5? Perhaps there was a visit to an embassy and an expansive young man or woman talked as though he or she were more important than was the case. Perhaps a young official at the embassy took up what they said and made it more important than it was. That is the way it sometimes happens. Immediately, that information was written down, signalled out or whatever, and picked up.
If the Security Service felt it necessary to go to the leader of the Conservative party to report on six Members, and given that it has come to light only as a result of our debate, those Members should be told. They should be given the chance to explain what it is they are supposed to be guilty of. It is only as a result of public discussion that this information has come out. What usually happens—I speak with some experience of listening around—is that people visit countries on the other side of the iron curtain for business or other reasons and there are always those who will make a meal of it in some foreign security service. The moment that is done, that person's name is damned—maybe for the wrong reasons.
The information about Members of the House has been a turn-up for the books, because it is not only the Labour party that was supposed to be involved in such things, but members of the Government Benches. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent has said, the weakest part of the Bill is how it deals with subversion. That has been the weakness of the Maxwell Fyfe directive and was apparent as long ago as 1972 when the director-general of MI5 gave evidence to the Franks committee about subversion. I have always been extremely concerned about this matter because too much subjective slandering occurs.
In Right-wing circles it is too easy to say that someone is a Communist, but it also happens in the Left—it used to happen far more. The word "Fascist" comes to too many lips too glibly. "Communist" and "Fascist" are descriptive words that should not be used because there is no proof. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent has said, it is not good enough to have the Home Secretary's words about what subversion means. The Maxwell Fyfe directive of 1952 states:It is essential that the Security Service should be kept absolutely free from any political bias or influence and nothing should be done that might lend colour to any suggestion that it is concerned with the interests of any particular sectionand so on. That did not do much good, and I suggest that the words of the Home Secretary will not do much good either.
In the 1970s there were those—I do not have enough evidence to know, absolutely, where the information came from—who were engaged in denigrating the then Conservative Prime Minister. I remember the stories, and the bits of paper that I now collect are all on the same theme. The information denigrated some Conservative Members and, of course, Labour Members.
767 The Bill talks about the Security Service, but there is no doubt that, at least in the 1970s, other branches of Government were involved in the game. It is all finished now—I have checked most carefully—but there is no doubt that the Army information service and those associated with it in Lisburn in Northern Ireland, played their part. They provided lists of possible successors as Conservative Prime Minister and gave their weaknesses and strengths. The information provided was such illiterate rubbish that it makes Bulldog Drummond look as though he had obtained a first-class degree from a prominent university.
We should remember that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) set up a DS department within the Ministry of Defence to deal with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I found that indefensible. The moment one has a DS department in MOD it can talk directly with other Government Departments. That should not have been allowed. The Bill refers to MI5 and the Security Service, but does it refer to other people in Government service? We may have to return to this matter shortly.
It is important to consider the role of Ministers once the Bill becomes an Act. Home Secretaries come and go. We are dealing with non—political issues and it is difficult for any Home Secretary to check all the information that should be brought to his notice.
I shall give another example. A year or two ago I was on holiday in Spain and I was sitting on the beach reading The Times. I had driven down to a nearby village to buy it. It reported a story in a Sunday newspaper that a member of MI5 used to vet applicants for jobs, or people who work, at the BBC. The Times report said that the newspaper had been in touch with the Home Office and the press officer at the Home Office and said that that was exactly what had happened in 1979 when I was in office. That was news to me, so when I got back I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary and said that I had known nothing about it. Shortly afterwards 1 received a letter saying, "That is absolutely correct. You did not know because we checked our briefing notes and you were never told." I was supposed to be responsible for broadcasting and for MI5 and I was the only bloke in the country who did not seem to know about it.
It has all stopped now. The BBC does not use such vetting and it was certainly never used in the IBA companies. But it enables me to ask the Minister how any Home Secretary can know the full extent of what is going on when his position is so transient. There is not even a relevant department. I am against a Ministry of security or whatever it would be called, but the Bill should provide that information should be passed on to successors if they are from a different political party. It is most important that that should be done and it is not done.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
My right hon. Friend regularly gives us confessions. I am beginning to think that he has learnt more out of office than in office. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the BBC senior personnel management have a military background and that that area is still a favourite recruiting ground for the BBC personnel department?
§ Mr. Rees
That may or may not be the case. I am concerned that if there is a case for positive vetting in any organisation it should be for those who deal with a particular job concerning a wartime situation or 768 something similar and that there should not be vetting by MI5 of people's political views and the programmes that they produce.
§ Mr. Winnick
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the story had not appeared in The Observer in August 1985—perhaps the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) should note that I read it while I was on holiday in Yugoslavia and not in Spain—and if there had been no disclosure then or later, it is quite likely that such vetting would have continued?
§ Mr. Rees
No doubt that issue will be raised in the debate on a different Bill in a few days' time.
I cannot comment on the new type of warrant because it did not exist in the past. It is right that there should be warrants. I am certainly not clear how they will work or how they will stand in a court of law, if for some reason they affect a decision in a court of law. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) asked the Home Secretary about tapping the telephones of Members of Parliament and received the correct answer from the Home Secretary. Are there any limitations on the use of the warrants? If there are limitations on the warrants used for interception, are there any limitations on these new warrants, for whatever purpose they are used? I believe that the next changes in legislation will be on warrants.
This Bill has been brought about by events. The story from Wright has brought about the Bill. All Governments are driven by catastrophes about which something has to be done. Perhaps it is inevitable. I believe that the next changes will have to be made on warrants. However, I have to pull back because I do not want to discuss what ought to be done.
We need a Security Service to fight against espionage and international terrorism. I hope that MI5 and special branch know far more than we learn in the papers about the rest of the Semtex that was not discovered at Clapham. I hope that they have a great deal more information on that, because it would benefit the country. Nobody on either side of the House should do anything but applaud when the Security Service, special branch and the ClD break through, but it was luck that produced the discoveries at Clapham.
I am concerned about subversion. I do not really know what it means, but it is a subjective feeling in all of us. I used to believe that it had something to do with whether someone was in touch with a foreign embassy or was carrying out the orders of a foreign embassy, but I do not believe that that alone is enough. It is very important that any Home Secretary considers very carefully the matter of subversion.
As for the security services, I found the two or three members with whom I have had close dealings to be excellent officers, who knew what they were talking about politically. They had experienced a wider career than most people and their knowledge was first class. I had trust in them, but obviously others do not see it in that way. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) once said that if one reads the Daily Mirror or The Guardian one is regarded as a subversive. That aspect has to be considered, as no piece of legislation gets it right. That was one reason why, in the 1950s, when Lord Attlee was considering the subject he smarted at what he knew about the Zinoviev letter and for that and other reasons wanted an inquiry into the security services at the time.
769 Subversion cannot be determined subjectively. Espionage and international terrorism can be determined subjectively, but it is too easy to make mistakes about subversion. That is one reason why I would prefer a general oversight by the House, with people appearing before Members of Parliament. We learn to appreciate each other, whatever our political views. There would be a learning process the other way when we found out what is the balance of the use of the Security Service and what changes have been made in the past year. Of course that should be for general discussion. I do not want to know the details of the missions or bandy them around.
One reason why that man in Jerusalem was right is that I had taken a decision because it protected people's lives. We would not wish to do anything here that would put anyone's life at risk, but we have every right to find out in general what the Security Service is doing, because, if only marginally, things have gone wrong. We have every right to examine the Security Service in the way that I would suggest, but I fear that I would be incurring your wrath, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I pursued that argument. The Bill has many defects, and because of those defects and not because of the step forward that it represents, I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
It is difficult for Ministers to say much on Third Reading. However, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister of State talked almost in terms of Home Office press releases rather than to the substance of the Bill. Tonight the Home Secretary advised us that the commissioner could tell the Home Secretary if his definition of national security under the warrant was correct. When challenged where that was to be found in the Bill, the Home Secretary would not give way. The difficulty about a number of measures is that the Home Secretary seems to be captivated by his press releases and does not use his analytical talents when he addresses the Bill.
I do not want to be uneven-handed, and I move to the Minister of State's ability to be just the same. When we considered what the Bill did or did not contain, we discussed warrants and whether they should be judicially issued. Many hon. Members will recall that debate. A compelling argument that has been advanced by the Minister of State, based on the Bill, is that there can be no judicial issue of warrants because that would extend the circle of secrecy; people would not know on what basis the warrant had been issued because they would not have the expertise, or access to the information. Then, doing a pirouette, he told us that any Secretary of State may issue a warrant. First the Minister of State said that judges would not have the expertise to issue warrants and therefore that they were not suitable, but within seconds he announced that any Secretary of State might issue a warrant, even if he had no experience, knowledge or understanding of the matter.
That is the intellectual thrust which informs this Third Reading debate. I am mindful that we are discussing what the Bill contains. It contains a duty, placed on the security services, to guard national security. What is national security? One would ordinarily expect, when reading a Bill, 770 to find a definition of such a term. From what the Home Secretary has told us, we know that national security is what the Home Secretary determines it to be. The House should be cautious of a definition that gives any successor of the current Home Secretary such overwhelming powers to determine what national security should be. During this century, other states in continental Europe have used the term "national security" to do horrific things to human nature and the soul of people. How can a democratic House of Commons accept a definition of a function that is anything that the Home Secretary determines it to be, without any redress? But that is what the Bill says.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Clause 1(2) makes it patently clear what the protection of national security means. It particularises national security. It refers toprotection against threats from espionage, terrorism and sabotage, from the activities of agents of foreign powers and from actions intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by industrial, political or violent means.How can my hon. Friend persist in saying, as he has before, that there is no definition of national security? What it means is patently clear from the text.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I am grateful that that issue has been raised. Had my hon. and learned Friend been a Member of the Committee, he would have learnt that those are merely illustrative of some of the functions that the Security Service may address. However, those functions are not exclusive, and that is the matter which causes concern. If they are not exclusive functions, the House should consider what functions the Security Service may look into. This power may be used in a malign way. We should be cautious about accepting on Third Reading the provisions of this Bill, as unamended in Committee.
The Home Secretary has made much of the fact that the commissioner may look over his shoulder—if I have misunderstood him, I hope that the Minister of State will draw my attention to the clauses in the Bill that deal with this matter—and identify something as not being in the interests of national security. We are giving the Home Secretary a clearly unreviewed function to determine what is national security. We are providing something along the lines of what was contained in the Interception of Communications Act 1985. The House knows that, by and large, that was a travesty.The Times called it a travesty. That measure was designed to meet the contentions that were placed in front of the European Court of Human Rights, when we were found wanting over the telephone tapping of an antiques dealer in Sussex.
That was the purpose of the Bill. What were the commissioners able to review? They could review something only if an innocent citizen, by some form of osmosis, came to the conclusion that the security services had acted. The Home Secretary fairly said that, under the Official Secrets Bill, no one may, under penalty of imprisonment or the possibility of imprisonment, mumble a word that a crime, fraud or improper act has taken place. The idea of the innocent citizen referring something that he does not know about—and if anybody tells him about it, that renders that person liable to imprisonment—to the commissioners is an extraordinarily obtuse way of trying to bring about the protection of individual rights and a correct balance within our society.
This is not a credible Bill for a Conservative Government to introduce. Conservative Members should be cautious about it. Our worry about the powers of the 771 state and our anxiety that they can be used in malign ways are respectable arguments. The Bill does not meet those arguments. I welcome—as did the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley)—a statutory basis for our intelligence and security services for domestic purposes. That is admirable. I have not heard one person criticise it. High Court judges believe that, to the ordinary citizen, burglary is a criminal offence. They are nervous about placing our security services in an unprotected position in front of the courts without a proper mandate or a proper warrant system.
The constraints that are provided by the Bill are insufficient. Insufficient regard is paid to ministerial responsibility and accountability. The Bill pays no regard to the rule of law and it does not acknowledge the right of lawful dissent, a right that is fundamental to our democracy.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Like the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who has just spoken, and the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), I started from the position that to bring the Security Service within a statutory framework seemed, on the face of it, a step forward. However, as one has listened to the debate—and today to the Home Secretary's speech—my initial view has considerably changed.
The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South, who speaks with great authority as a former Home Secretary, did not get it quite right when he said that he wanted to bring the Security Service under the law. The fact is that the Security Service has always been under law. The question is whether the law is enforceable. That the Security Service has always been under the law has been repeatedly stated in the courts. It was stated by Lord Denning in the Profumo inquiry. It was stated by Sir John Donaldson, the Master of the Rolls, in an important judgment in the Wright case—the Attorney-General v.The Guardian. Parliament has been considering whether we are changing the situation in a way that strengthens and enhances individual liberties by statutory means or whether we are stemming the effectiveness of the control over the operations of the Security Service.
In many ways, the present position is safer than that which the Bill provides. In the case of a transgression by the Security Service, the citizen has the right to take his case to the courts. The position was well spelt out by Sir John Donaldson. In the case to which I have referred, he said:It may be that the time has come when Parliament should regularise the position of the service. It is certainly a tenable view. The alternative view which is equally tenable is that the public interest is better served by leaving members of the service liable to prosecution for any breach of the law at the instance of a private individual or a public prosecuting authority but may expect that prosecuting authorities will exercise a wise discretion and that in an appropriate case the Attorney General would enter a nolle prosequi justifying his action to Parliament if necessary.He went on:It is not for me to form or express any view on which is the most appropriate course to adopt in the interest of the security of the nation and the maintenance of the rule of law.
The most troubling aspect of Ministers' interventions in our debates has been their unwillingness to address the important point about the maintenance of the rule of law. If the rule of law means anything, it must mean some 772 certainty in knowing the difference between what is permissible and what is impermissible. The Bill does not provide for that, because its definitions are imprecise. Above all, it does not define the function of the Security Service. In a sense, that did not matter in a common law situation. If a security officer transgressed, bugged or burgled his way around the country, he could have been taken to court. That is no longer to be the position. A complaint will now go through the new statutory procedure, which rules out appeal to the court. A security officer has a narrower defence for a wrongdoing than he had before the introduction of the Bill.
§ Mr. Maclennan
That is undoubtedly the case, but if a member of the Security Service is argued, or found by the tribunal or the commissioner. to have acted contrary to the provisions of the statute, in that the warrant was defective in some way, that is final. Under clause 5(4), there can be no appeal to any court if the matter has been considered by the tribunal or the commissioner. That is cutting the rights of the citizen.
Far from congratulating the Home Secretary, as he invited us to do at the conclusion of his speech, we should take strong issue with the narrowing of citizens' rights in the manner which the Bill provides. It is deeply disturbing. I would not have been disturbed if the Bill had defined its terms and the functions of the service in a clear and not so all-embracing manner. Once again, when he was considering what is meant by the protection of national security, the Home Secretary said that everybody knew what it meant and that the phrase appeared in several statutes. He said that we must rely upon him or his successors. He said that the language of the Bill is as clear and as unequivocal as possible. Merely to use the term "national security" and treat it as though its meaning were pellucid is to treat hon. Members as though they were innocents abroad. The phrase is capable of being interpreted by a Home Secretary in many different ways.
It is not correct to suggest, as did the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said in an intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), that the phrase is defined by the particularisations which appear in the clause merely as examples. The Bill gives considerable power to be exercised by the Security Service in the issuance of warrants by a Home Secretary, or by any other Secretary of State if the Home Secretary is not available, regardless of knowledge of the matter. Such great powers cut the freedoms of our citizens, and they should not exist with so little control.
The Bill's provisions on supervision have been discussed at this and other stages of the Bill's passage. The provisions for supervision of the issuance of warrants by a commissioner, who is a man appointed by the Home Secretary and holding high judicial office, do not cover more than they purport to cover. They do not cover more than the issuance of warrants and the handling of complaints, as set out in schedule 1. They do nothing to strengthen the effectiveness of the scrutiny of the Seem-Ay Services to protect it, as many hon. Members would wish, 773 from the kind of outrage of which former servants such as Bettaney were guilty as recently as three years ago. We are doing nothing to strengthen the Security Service. We are doing nothing to increase the protection of the individual from abuses of power. We are not providing a proper channel of appeals.
Some of these matters are likely to go before the European Court of Human Rights. The Bill is a response to pressure. It may be argued that there is an inadequate domestic remedy. The Bill is not an improvement on the law as it stands. For that reason, I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) was right to remind the House that the Bill began its parliamentary journey with a quite substantial measure of good will on both sides of the House. The hon. Gentleman certainly supported it. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) seemed to make a genuflection in the direction of its support. I certainly gave it my willing vote on Second Reading. But all that good will has been disdainfully dissipated by a charade of a two-day Committee stage.
I call it a charade because, during its proceedings, my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench systematically flouted the usual parliamentary conventions, to the extent of completely refusing to accept or even reconsider in another place a single amendment, irrespective of its merits. In blunt language, the Bill was given the bum's rush by the Government. The Home Secretary will live to regret it.
One good reason is that, instead of removing the Security Service from the arena of political controversy—surely we all want that—the Bill leaves it in the crucible of political and parliamentary argument and debate. The desirable objective of taking the Security Service away from political controversy could have been achieved if there had emerged, as there started to, a broad cross-party consensus that the Bill was on the right lines.
The Home Secretary's Third Reading speech mysteriously kept concentrating on what he called the deep divisions in the House that caused him to realise that there was no hope of solidarity on this Bill. In fact, any fair-minded observer who listened to the Committee would have been amazed at the genuine degree of agreement between such diverse sections of the House as my hon. Friends the Members for Torbay (Mr. Allason), for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and myself on one side, and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), the right hon. Members for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and several others I could name, on the other, all of whom seemed to be moving broadly in the same direction. It was my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench who were left in far from splendid isolation.
Having started with this consensus on his side, the Home Secretary steadily and inexorably lost it as the Bill progressed, because of his intransigence. It takes a remarkable parliamentary footballer to begin with the ball at his feet in the goal mouth with no goalkeeper in sight and, instead of scoring, to dribble the ball all the way back to his own goal mouth with most of the players, including 774 those on his own side, shouting "foul", "offside" and "Let's have a replay." The analogy of football is not wholly invalid. A replay of the Bill is exactly what is likely to happen in the not-too-distant future. I cannot predict who will force it; perhaps, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland said, it will be the European Court of Human Rights picking a quarrel with the sweeping definitions of the functions of the Security Service in clause 1. Perhaps it will be the next scandal to emerge in the Security Service.
This is a world in which Murphy's famous law—if something can go wrong, it will—seems to apply in spades, and it will not be too long before trouble boils up. Perhaps it will be a future House of Commons with a majority of one sort or another of such slenderness that the current buzz phrase, "elective dictatorship", will not be applicable. Whatever the cause, the argument about the statutory basis for the Security Service will be back on the political agenda soon, because the Bill has been left in the category of unfinished business as a result of Home Office ministers failing to accommodate any point of view other than their own.
As far as Parliament is concerned it is, to put it mildly, unusual for a major Bill to pass all its stages without amendments of any kind, especially when amendments have been moved in a responsible and constructive fashion by major parliamentary figures such as a former Home Secretary, a former Foreign Secretary, a former Defence Secretary and others with experience in this area.
The Bill cried out for amendments, not only in places in which policy differences prevail, such as oversight, but in quite small non-controversial areas. For example, when we came to the part of the Bill that dealt with warrants, I thought that my hon. Friend the Minister of State was left with egg all over his face. To mix my nutritional metaphors, he made a complete Horlicks of his explanation of why the Bill did not follow the much more precise and accurate rules on warrants in the Interception of Communications Act 1985. The arguments about a staff counsellor, which I was able to draft in the exact words of the Prime Minister, were rejected on the baffling ground that there was no need for such an amendment, even though the Prime Minister thought it necessary to introduce such a staff counsellor by means of a written parliamentary answer.
As these amendments were rejected by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in that tone of unconvincing bonhomie which reminded me of a minor character in John Le Canes novels, Roddy Martindale, I asked myself what we are to make of all this in the cold light of day. Has the Home Office grown so complacent that it sticks up a notice on Queen Anne's Gate saying, "No hawkers, no gypsies, no unsolicited circulars and no parliamentary amendments"? Or has the Home Secretary suddenly moved his Department into a fairyland in which perfect legislators bring forward perfect legislation and they all live happily ever after in a silver-lined cloud of self-satisfaction with no amendments?
Perhaps we should take a more sombre view of all this and remind ourselves of Lord Acton's famous aphorism about power tending to corrupt, and reflect that it may be coming true in a House of Commons in which there is a majority of over 100. Either way, it is bad for Parliament and for Government, and perhaps bad because, when the Official Secrets Bill comes to the Floor of the House we shall be given the same contemptuous treatment—no 775 amendments accepted because they are all terrified of a Report stage. That would be a disgrace to parliamentary proceedings.
I solemnly warn my right hon. and hon. Friends that if they think that they have had trouble so far on this Bill—it has been good-natured—they will have much worse trouble if they take the same haughty line.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)
I did not quite catch my hon. Friend's reference to Roddy whoever-it-was, but perhaps he will give me chapter and verse from the Le Carre novel in due course so that I can seek to identify myself. May I reassure my hon. Friend—I hope to bring a smile to his face—that my right hon. Friend and myself have already tabled at least one amendment to the Official Secrets Bill, so that will ensure a Report stage on that measure.
§ Mr. Aitken
I am delighted to give a smile to my hon. Friend. If we are to have a Report stage on the Official Secrets Bill, that is a great deal better than has happened on this Bill.
I shall return now to the Security Service Bill, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I know that you wish us to stick closely to Third Reading rules. Two areas remain in which the cauldron of political controversy will continue to bubble because of the Government's short-sighted refusal to accept any amendments. The first relates to the functions of the service and to the definitions of those functions. At first glance, many of us felt that clause 1(2) implied that the Security Service would in future limit its activities to espionage, sabotage, terrorism and attempts to overthrow parliamentary democracy.
Even my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) fell neatly into that trap, not having attended the Committee stage to any great extent, when he thought that the clause somehow defined the activities of the Security Service and limited it to those provisions. However, he was absolutely wrong, as we discovered in Committee. Of course, we wanted a hopeful sign that the Security Service would no longer engage in dubious fishing expeditions of the kind that Mr. George Wigg persuaded the service to indulge in when he was in some way in charge of the Security Service in the 1960s, with results that were at times deeply unfair to some of his colleagues in this House. In fact, it meant no such thing.
The phrase "the protection of national security" has never been defined. It can be extended far beyond the mere illustrations given in clause 1(2). That is a grave defect in the legislation and one to which the House will undoubtedly wish to return.
Secondly, the oversight argument will not go away. We had a full day's debate on that, so there is no need to go over old ground. However, it was illustrative of the Home Secretary's approach to the oversight case that in his reply last Monday he made no reference to the outstanding speech by the right hon. Member for Devonport. Indeed, my right hon. Friend made only glancing references of the most cursory nature to the speeches made by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South, by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay, by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, and by many other hon. Members. That was a surprising and uncharacteristic departure from the usual courtesies of a wind-up speech, especially when there was no real pressure of time.
776 My right hon. Friend's failure to recognise that the call for oversight will only redouble in volume and intensity when the story of the next Blunt, Bettaney or Burgess hits the fan-as it surely will-is a great mistake. A "no oversight" Home Secretary, like a "no amendment" Home Secretary, is at best short-sighted and at worst, a fundamental error of judgment.
The Bill could have been a parliamentary success story for the Home Secretary, with congratulations from all sides for crafting a Bill that would stand the test of time and put the Security Service on a secure footing. Instead the Bill should be retitled the Security Service (Temporary Provisions) Bill. It will not last and that is why I shall vote against its Third Reading.
§ 9.8 pm
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I am pleased that the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) will vote against it the Bill and I hope that he will be joined by other Conservative Members. Like my hon. Friends, I shall vote against it because there has been no improvement since Second Reading.
As it stands, the Bill makes only cosmetic changes. It provides no effective remedy against the serious complaints made against the Security Service and we should not forget that we are so concerned because of the complaints and disclosures made by a former official of MI5, Cathy Massiter. No one has denied that she was speaking the truth. There have been no Government allegations that she was lying. As I have said before—I repeat it today—I believe that Cathy Massiter is an honourable person. By the manner in which she revealed matters which had gone on, but which should not have gone on, she has performed a public duty and a public service and we should be very pleased that we have people like her—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. We are now straying from Third Reading. That is a result of my tolerance in allowing the hon. Member for Walsall, North (M r. Winnick) to stray so far. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would come back to the matter before us.
§ Mr. Winnick
The need for a security service, whether it is MI5 or a similar organisation, was never questioned during the course of the Bill. Everyone recognises that it is necessary to have an organisation for the protection of national security. That is set out in the appropriate clause, clause 1(2). The need for national security and related matters and the need for the defence of the realm is recognised in all parts of the House. We know what goes on in dictatorships, but it is unlikely that there is any democracy that does not provide for some sort of protection and does not have some sort of security service. It is the other part of the clause that gives rise to a great deal of controversy.
I am certainly in favour of opposing anything that would overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy. As I said repeatedly in Committee, I am keen that our democratic system should be permanent. I would be the last person to do anything or be in favour of anything that would undermine it. Equally, I am against targeting and spying on those who are active in organisations such as the 777 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or in campaigns for civil liberties and who have no wish whatever to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy.
One of my reasons for voting against the Bill was echoed by the hon. Member for Thanet, South. Protest, advocacy and dissent are the very life blood of parliamentary democracy. That is the basic difference between a democracy such as ours and a dictatorship. In a democracy one can protest, advocate and dissent if one disagrees with the Government of the day and one will not be penalised, put away or punished in any way. Some hon. Members have spoken about the reasons for the Bill, and the name of Wright has been put forward.
I wonder whether we would have such a Bill if it had not been for the complaint brought by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) and Patricia Hewitt to the European Court of Human Rights. No doubt when that case is before the court the Government's answer will be that some improvements have taken place, and they will give the Bill as an illustration of the progress that has been made.
Clause 2(2)(b) says:that the Service does not take any action to further the interests of any political party.
On the face of it we should be quite content about that, because it is obviously right that the Security Service should not further the interests of any political party. The same words, more or less, were in the Maxwell Fyfe directive of 1952. It was described at the time as a Security Service that would be completely politically impartial. How seriously can we take the claim of political impartiality when we know that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), when he was Secretary of State for Defence, decided to ask the Security Service to target CND? What kind of political impartiality existed then? Did the right hon. Member for Henley take into account the Maxwell Fyfe directive, or did he say to himself that there should not be any distinction between the Security Service—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. More than once, I have had to remind hon. Members that debate on Third Reading is very limited. I regret having to remind the hon. Member for Walsall, North yet again.
§ Mr. Winnick
I defer to your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was speaking about clause 2(2)(b), which says quite clearlythat the service does not take any action to further the interests of any political party.
§ Mr. Winnick
I was trying to illustrate that that was already in the Maxwell Fyfe directive of 1952 and did not prove at the time the point that we should like to see proven.
I said that the basic difference between a democracy such as ours and a dictatorship is that in a democracy protest, advocacy and debate are permitted and are part of everyday life. Like my hon. Friends and me, many believe that such views and actions should not be undermined by the Security Service. I believe strongly that Parliament itself should be able to scrutinise the Scrutiny Service. No 778 doubt, as the hon. Member for Thanet, South said, the debate about that will not be ended by the passing of the Bill.
National security should not be a disguise for narrow political interests, or scoundrels or rogues, be they those like Wright or any similar person, to undermine the parliamentary democracy and civil liberties about which we are concerned and which we are determined to defend. The matters that have come to light must cause us the maximum amount of concern and disquiet. What a pity that, throughout the debates on the Bill, neither the Home Secretary nor the Minister could bring himself to admit that mistakes and abuses have occurred. It would have been better if they had frankly admitted that. That is yet another reason why we are so concerned about the Bill and why we do not believe that its enactment will avoid the mistakes and serious abuses that have occurred in the past.
I am sure that the Secretary of State wishes that MI5 was not such a source of continuing political controversy. I understand the feeling in Government circles, and certainly on the part of the Home Secretary, that MI5 should not have such a high political profile. If the Bill had been amended, MI5 would have a far lower political profile in the future, and it would not be the subject of so much continuing controversy. I regret that, since the Bill's introduction, we have not been able to make the necessary changes and reforms that would have largely avoided the abuses about which I have spoken. Unfortunately, the Government were not willing to concede anything, having introduced the Bill for the reasons I have explained.
No matter how much the Home Secretary and other Ministers hope that this matter will go away, MI5 will continue to be the subject of controversy. The Opposition will raise the matter whenever we have the opportunity because we strongly believe in democracy and civil liberties. I have already said that it is necessary to have a Security Service, but one that is accountable to Parliament. That is the essence, I believe, of a parliamentary democracy, and I regret the Government's attitude throughout the proceedings on the Bill.
§ Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)
In my misplaced optimism—call it inexperience or perhaps ignorance—I rather hoped and assumed that, in Committee, the Government would actively pursue many of the constructive ideas put forward by both sides of the House. Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom on this subject, and I was terribly disappointed, inexperienced though I am as a parliamentarian, by the Government's attitude.
I have at least one contribution to make, which I hope will clear up the mystery created by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I think deliberately, when he rejected the opportunity to introduced parliamentary oversight. He chucked out the idea of a committee of Privy Councillors, rejected the idea of a detailed report from the commissioner and declined to take up the quite sensible suggestion to extend the role of the commissioner. Cogent examples and arguments were put before him. I could not understand why he was so unwilling to share the burden of his responsibility, particularly when other examples had been given—Canada was identified as a classic example. I now know why.
The Home Secretary said that Canada had its own solutions and we should examine the problems that face 779 this country. There are great parallels between the two countries. Canada endured the bombing of an Air India jet and had to take appropriate measures thereafter. Canada also has considerable loyalty problems. Security Service officers in Canada say that one of their great challenges is that Canada is such a cosmopolitan community and there is no such thing as a born Canadian. People have different backgrounds and loyalties.
What made Canada so different from the United Kingdom? What was the spike upon which the Home Secretary was determined to impale himself? It is that the Canadian intelligence community does not have a foreign intelligence gathering group. I have subsequently discovered that the advice given to him was that, if he was to give way on oversight—to allow any supervision of the Security Service—it might lead to the supervision and oversight of another organisation that successive Governments have declined to admit exists in peace time. That is the sole reason why the Home Secretary has been so obstinate. 1t is uncharacteristic of him because usually, with great courtesy, he takes—
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
My hon. Friend is making a generalised point about another service. Is he saying that there is no supervision? Under the Bill, legal duties imposed upon the Secretary of State, the commissioner and the director general would be required to be assessed and interpreted by the courts. Therefore, there is supervision by judicial review if a person wants to challenge the basis on which the functions are carried out. Surely my hon. Friend recognises that.
§ Mr. Allason
I regret that my hon. Friend was not present during our two days in Committee. We outlined all the different opportunities for parliamentary oversight. The Home Secretary obstinately resisted this point all the way through. In essence, he said that everything was fine, there may have been one or two problems in the past and we were placing great trust in the Home Secretary. He said that he had wide shoulders and could bear that burden.
When the Home Secretary talked about the past he spoke of "ill—defined" legality. The Bill—if it does nothing else—at least gives the Security Service a cloak of legality. The pressure from both sides of the House has been not just for legality but for a measure of oversight.
§ Mr. Lawrence
If my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary does not wish to concede anything on oversight on the secret service because he does not want to concede oversight on another branch of the security services, will my hon. Friend say why he thinks that would be a bad reason?
§ Mr. Allason
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) characterised the Home Secretary as King Canute because he opposes something that has been widely and successfully introduced around the world, in New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Sooner or later there is bound to be a measure of oversight. Those who were in their places throughout the consideration of the Bill in Committee will recall the continuing argument that there should be some improvement in the existing system.
We know that everything has not been entirely satisfactory in the past. Mention has been made of the contribution to this continuing debate of Mr. Macmillan, and his role in the Profumo affair was one of profound ignorance. He was never aware that Stephen Ward was an 780 agent of the Security Service. That ignorance, which has been argued for by at least one of my hon. Friends, cannot be sustained. There have been numerous incidents where it has been shown that the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have been unable to keep their finger on the day-to-day operations of the Security Service.
It has often been said that the lesson that is never learned from history is that people never learn things from history, and we know that history has a tendency to repeat itself. I have no doubt that we shall be debating these issues again with a view to having some parliamentary oversight or scrutiny, or to make the Bill acceptable to the European courts.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)
I do not know whether the Home Secretary was in his place on the Government Bench when the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) said that Home Office Ministers behaved abominably on Monday and Tuesday of last week—they treated the House with contempt and, therefore, the country as well—because they wanted to preserve MI6 from any following investigation. The Home Secretary might want to comment on that.
I believe that that attitude of boorishness stems from the fact that they ignored the warning of Francis Pym some years ago, which was based on the size of the majority that the Tory party might gain in the then general election. He warned of what the consequences would be. We have seen this boorishness on issue after issue. The Government have treated the House with contempt. I have been a Member of this place for 20 years and never previously have I encountered the behaviour that I saw on Monday and Tuesday of last week, on an issue that to a great extent had brought both sides of the House together.
It is our concern that we have an effective secret service. We are concerned also that it is placed under proper democratic control and supervision. Faced with that concern, the Home Secretary still resisted even the mildest of amendments which were designed to introduce some supervision. The right hon. Gentleman should be warned. The people of England have not yet spoken. Incidentally, the people of Scotland have spoken, and the Government might learn a lesson from that.
This is not an isolated Bill. It is one of a series of measures that have limited freedom of speech in every possible way. That has applied to the BBC and the press, and it will be the effect of what will be the new Official Secrets Act. That legislation stems from the exposure of the security services' failure. It has arisen in part from the Wright case. Agitation for change stemmed from that issue and many others. The Government spent two foolish years dragging a senior civil servant through the courts, which humiliated him and the nation in the eyes of the world. Eventually the final decision was reached that the public interest should be taken into consideration, and that was right. Everybody expected that to happen. Unfortunately, the public interest is ignored in the Bill. The inadequacies of MI5, including those of the past, have not been properly denied by Peter Wright, and that is one of the inadequacies of the book. It is regrettable that the Government have not taken the opportunity to put the organisation under proper control.
We are concerned with the failure to bring the secret service—MI5 and the other security services—under 781 proper democratic control. The seriousness of that failure is magnified when we consider the looseness of the definition. Opportunities were presented, not to alter the guts of the Bill, and MI5's role, as the Secretary of State defined it, by adding words such as "protest" and "dissent". The same would have been true if what the Home Secretary had said had been put in legislative form. Why in heaven's name should he come to the House, make a speech saying what the Bill is about and then flatly refuse to put what he says into legislative form? That is but another example of the Government's boorishness.
We are witnessing the end of the sovereignty of Parliament, and we are halfway through the sovereignty of the Executive. Its sovereignty has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished. We are put at enormous risk when we allow that to happen.
We are told that the Bill is based on the Maxwell Fyfe directive, but it is infinitely weaker. I understand that he jotted his five points down on a napkin when he was away from the office for lunch for an hour. In regard to political control, he said that it was essential that the Security Service should be kept absolutely free of any political bias or influence and that nothing should be done that might lend colour to any suggestion that it is concerned with the interests of any section of the community or with any matter other than the defence of the realm. The Home Secretary claims to have incorporated that argument in the Bill, but he has not—he has weakened it significantly. Clause 2(2)(b) provides:that the Service does not take any action to further the interests of any political party.The thrust of Maxwell Fyfe has been thrown out of the window.
We do not believe that the security services are entirely the paid servants of the Conservative party, even though some of their actions might imply that they are. Those of us with experience at the other end of the process are in no doubt, however, about the bias of their thinking. I do not know of any example of MI5 bugging the boardrooms of directors in the City. We know of their bugging people who want more democracy in Britain, or want to change our war policy, or who want to demonstrate on the streets in support of their jobs. We do not yet know of any time when boardrooms have been bugged—
§ Mr. Buchan
Indeed. We were presented with an opportunity to bring the service under control. The Home Secretary says that we cannot copy Canada because it is different, or America because it has a different political structure, or France or Germany. We are now the only western democracy which has failed to bring its Security Service under any kind of supervisory control. We are not arguing that we should copy the example of others. What we want, and what the Bill fails to provide, is some democratic supervision.
Resisting that, when the Franks committee dealt with a much more sensitive situation, is an insult to every hon. and right hon. Member. The Home Secretary is saying that only the Home Secretary can be entrusted with the information, and that it can be reported to the Prime Minister. He is wiping off 649 other hon. Members, including you, Mr. Speaker. We cannot leave supervision 782 with the Executive—it has too much power. That power should be diminished. We should make a start on that later this week when we discuss the Official Secrets Bill.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
We are witnessing, not the break-up of parliamentary democracy as we know it, but a number of hon. Members going right over the top. Apart from possibly, the hon. Members for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) and for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), who appeared to complain that we are making illegal something which he shamefully says went on in the past—namely, that the Security Service concerned itself with the interests of a political party—which is an odd way to behave when we are changing the law for the better, one can conclude from the debate that there is a fair amount of common ground.
Hon. Members on both sides agree the objectives of the Bill. They are to establish a clear framework of statute, defining in law the functions of the service and the responsibilities of Ministers, and providing for the first time a statutory remedy for members of the public who have complaints about the security services. This is a recognition of the public anxiety inside and outside Parliament and a substantial step forward in protecting society generally and the rights of citizens who are involved in the Security Service in particular.
In general, the criticism seems to have been that much more should be done to provide an oversight which is completely independent of the Government, more accountability and a more dependable remedy for those wronged. Hon. Members have called for more definition of functions—a wider definition and more functions. Only the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) seems to think that the Bill provides too much and that we should remain as we are. He says that clause 5(4) means that there is no longer a recourse to the courts. It does not mean any such thing. It cannot. The Bill provides for new institutions—the tribunal and the commissioner—and the restriction governs only them. The provision does not mean that security matters cannot be raised in the courts as they can at present. It means that the decisions of the tribunal and commissioner alone shall not be questioned by any court. Obviously, it would be remarkable if any other provision were made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) took me to task for not agreeing with what he said about the meaning of national security. He says that the Bill should spell out in even more detail what is meant by such understandable words as espionage, terrorism, sabotage, parliamentary democracy and political, industrial and violent means. Why should it be more specific? What more would be achieved? We could go on for ever defining ever more closely and still the courts would be asked for an interpretation of some sub-meaning of some other sub-definition of some general word used in the clause. I do not know what my hon. Friend is trying to do. Perhaps he is trying to whittle away completely the protections enshrined in the Bill, with which most people broadly agree.
Are the calls for more and wider definition practical? In all the circumstances, are they sensible? My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has resisted all the blandishments, however persuasively and enchantingly 783 they have been offered, and I am sure he is right, because two problems of substance lie in the way of the bold reformers.
First, we are talking about a secret service. Strange as it may seem, its activities must remain secret or there is no point in them. One does not have to speak evilly against one's colleagues as unreliable safeguarders of secrets, as people who can harbour malice, as people capable of political bias, or as being incompetent, or because they chatter to journalists, perhaps in the most convivial circumstances, and journalists piece together bits of information and reach conclusions. Such observations would be wholly unworthy and out of place in this House. But in reality, the more people who know a secret, the more likely it is to get out. That is the most important reason why a Select Committee with oversight, or even a Select Committee of Privy Councillors, would be inappropriate.
The second problem is volume. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South requested that the Bill should contain more reference to what should be done in a case such as Bettaney's. There should be more consideration of recruitment, training and functions. So much goes on in the secret service, at such a rate and with such complexity, that it would be well nigh impossible for any Member of Parliament to follow such matters with the closeness that they require and not put his foot in it. Such matters are of particular importance because they often affect the very lives of the people concerned. It follows that Parliament is not the most efficient or appropriate body to supervise the Security Service, and that the Government are entirely right to resist the amendments.
The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said that the conduct of the Franks committee on the Falklands proved that parliamentary scrutiny of a substantial nature could work, but, for a start, few Members have the integrity, good sense and reliability of the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), who can be entirely trusted not to open his mouth—perhaps in a bar, under pressure from his colleagues or under any other kind of pressure—and vouchsafe any of the secrets that he has learnt.
Moreover, the Franks committee was a single inquiry into a single subject, which was under the eyes of the press for as long as it endured. That is not the same as continuing supervision by a continuing body. The eyes of Parliament and the media are not constantly on the functioning of such a body. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) even suggested that the Franks committee was not given all the information, in which case setting up such a committee would be a waste of time.
It is obvious that no form of oversight can guarantee no errors, but there is some sense in having as much oversight as is reasonably possible consistent with the need for secrecy and for a body that is more reliable, because more constant, than any body of Members of Parliament can be. To the question, "Is there some serious deficiency in the oversight protections in the Bill?" I have to answer that I can see none.
It is ridiculous to suppose that the additional methods of oversight in the Bill do not close the gap considerably between the free hand that it appears that the Security Service used to enjoy and an enforceable obligation to behave correctly. Not only is there the director-general, with a statutory duty to ensure that the rules are followed—and why should we assume that such people are 784 incompetent, malicious or unable to follow the requirements laid on them?—but there is the Secretary of State, who must authorise all the warrants. There is also the Commissioner, a senior judge who can review the Secretary of State's use of his authority. The Secretary of State must then report to the Prime Minister, and the report must be laid before Parliament.
There is also a tribunal consisting of three to five of the most distinguished kind of people in our society—lawyers, the most dependable, reliable, important and splendid people—to receive and consider complaints about the activities of the Security Service. They will have power to order the ceasing of inquiries, to order the destruction of records and to order compensation. It is wholly unrealistic to conclude that the Government could reasonably do more than they are doing to strengthen accountability, without at the same time threatening the secrecy that is the essence of the secret service.
Opposition Members in particular have consistently shown concern about the member of the Security Service who cannot complain about any wrongdoing that he or she sees within the service—the whistleblower. That whistleblower may be prosecuted, under the Official Secrets Act, if he complains in a way that is against the interests of his superiors. I can understand that concern, but the breach of the Official Secrets Act will involve doing something "without authority". The whistleblower can go to the staff counsellor, who is an independent body set up with the particular end in mind of helping the whistleblower by giving that authority. If he does not want to do that, he can still go to the Minister. If he does not want to do that, he can still go to the Secretary of State. If he does not want to do that, he can still go to his Member of Parliament.
His Member of Parliament can go to the Prime Minister, and his Member of Parliament can say to the Prime Minister-I do not believe that the Prime Minister would not listen to any hon. Member who said this to her—"I have a constituent who is very concerned about something that has happened to him as a servant of the state in the Secret Service, which was grossly wrong arid improper and may be criminal. Will you give him the authority to tell you what it is?" It is unthinkable that that authority would not be given. If that authority were given, there would be no breach of the Official Secrets Act. The concern, therefore, for the whistleblower, while it may be in the past have been justified in some cases, need not be justified when one bears in mind the functions that we as Members of Parliament in this place can legitimately perform. I believe that that criticism of the vulnerability of the whistleblower is therefore unfounded.
I continue with this thought. One's attitude towards this Bill depends upon one's attitude to the Security Service. If one believes that it is a wild animal to be caged, to be watched at every moment of the day by keepers, arid that it cannot possibly work unless Members of Parliament have something to do with it—dabbling and poking away in case this animal escapes from the cage;and devours the innocent public—of course it is an unsatisfactory Bill.
But is this not the closer approximation to the truth? The Security Service is a body of thoroughly decent people, using their ingenuity to protect us from espionage, subversion, terrorism and threats to the economic well-being of the United Kingdom. It is not perfect, but it operates as near perfectly as any human machine dealing 785 in secrecy can. The public appreciate that, even if Opposition Members do not. During all the discussions, I have received no more than two letters opposing this legislation, from which I conclude that the people who sent me here do not distrust the Security Service or this Bill. Nor do they wish to see the Service opened up to the eyes of the world.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
I found the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) acutely depressing. It is no wonder that not many of his constituents have written to him and protested because, frankly, it would have been a waste of time for them to have done so. I felt that it was depressing, because, once again, the hon. and learned Gentleman-like a number of Conservative Members this evening-has effectively sold Members of Parliament short. He said that we are not responsible enough to be exercising some form of accountable control over the Security Service.
§ Mr. Banks
I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman, because I shall be short and sharp on this point, which is a reasonably good description of myself.
I believe that the Bill, unamended, creates as many problems as it seeks to resolve. I do not think that it has sincerely sought to resolve many of those problems. It is vague in its definition. We have heard that said in good speeches from the decent Tories that remain. I pay tribute from this vantage point to the hon. Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) for at least speaking out for freedom, because there are not many Conservative Members who are prepared to do that.
The Bill is vague in its definition. It is a lawyer's paradise—perhaps that is why the hon. and learned Member for Burton is so enthusiastic for it to reach the statute book. The definitions in the Bill mean precisely what the Home Secretary means them to say. Therefore, that means that this Bill could have been drafted by Lewis Carroll, because it will leave MI5 in Wonderland. It gives inadequate safeguards to our people. The Home Secretary ventured to give us a number of proposals that he said would answer our fears, but, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have recounted, when we sought to push him to include those safeguards in the Bill, which would then go some way to meet our objections, he steadfastly refused.
We all know that what is said on Second Reading, in Committee or what appears in the Official Report, will have no bearing or influence on any judges who are subsequently called upon to interpret the Act. Therefore, the words of the Home Secretary were not worth the breath he used to utter them.
In the end, MI5 will be left as a barely regulated state within a dangerously centralised state—that is the way the Government are leading us. There is no chance of a judicial review of the issuing of warrants. I find that totally unacceptable. The idea is that we cannot trust the Commons, we cannot trust the courts and, in the end, we 786 cannot trust the people. Whom can we trust—the Home Secretary of the day and no one else? A bunch of apologists behind the Home Secretary?
§ Mr. Banks
No, I will not give way.
I do not believe that the freedoms of our country are safe in the hands of Conservative Members or in the hands of the Home Secretary. I consider that this is a weasel Bill full of weasel words and, in that sense, it is appropriate that it should be passed by a weasel Government.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
I shall speak for no more than five minutes, but I should like to start with a correction to my speech of 16 January at column 103. I implied that Dr. Adrian Tibbetts had been entrapped by a British National party member, Mr. Peter Maranchenko, in conjunction with the special branch. In fact Dr. Tibbetts was at home and had nothing to do with this matter. It was his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Tibbetts, who were entrapped. I want to make that absolutely clear.
That correction also illustrates the value of having such things on some sort of record that can be challenged by the people about whom comments are made. If comments are made behind closed doors the consequence, just like the consequences of the Bill, is that there is no opportunity for those comments to be challenged. Such remarks can stick. If files are drawn up by members of the security services, without any democratic check by this place, which would provide some accountability, such a stigma can grow and fester without the possibility of correction.
One reason why I shall vote against this shoddy little measure is that there is no definition as to who can issue warrants to burgle. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) repeated the name of the Home Secretary on several occasions—as have other hon. Members—but the truth of the matter is that the legislation does not give power to the Home Secretary because the power to issue warrants is given to any Secretary of State—ten, 12 or however many there might happen to be. Those warrants to carry out a serious criminal act do not have to be in writing to be undertaken.
This is a shoddy piece of legislation that will not easily fasten round the neck of the Home Secretary. He does not even have the responsibility that is normally ascribed to Secretaries of State. That lack of responsibility was brought out only in the debate in this House. The House was mistaken to allow the Committee stage to be taken on the Floor of the House. It would have been far more effective if consideration had been undertaken in a Committee upstairs because there would have been much more time and much more analysis of the reasons for the Government putting forward the various clauses.
People describe the security services as undertaking heroic deeds. It is possible that individuals may do so and may have their lives put at peril. If that is the case, they are heroic, but we also know that, by the very nature of their job, members of the security services must lie, cheat and deceive. To allow that to take place with the added authority of a warrant to burgle, issued by the Secretary of State without any accountability, is to put serious power into the hands of people who have the ability to lie and cheat, allowing them to burgle and even to kill, if accounts in various newspapers have been accurate in the past.
787 That is a heady combination. Democratic accountability is a tried, tested and practised means of ensuring that the heady mixtures which the security services can distill behind closed doors are held in check. Democracy is about checking things. The Bill does not do that and that is why I hope that hon. Members will vote against it tonight.
§ Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)
One thing that became apparent during the Committee stage of the Security Service Bill was the yawning gap between the legislature and the Executive on this important issue. Quite frankly, it appears that the Government are contemptous of the House of Commons. That contempt manifested itself in the fact that the Home Secretary has ignored the will of the House on issues which are fundamental to the operation of our national democracy and the protection of the civil liberties and basic freedoms of people in this country.
The Bill has been rushed through the House of Commons by the Government deliberately in such a way as to minimise any discussion and consultation. The rigidity of the Home Secretary in not conceding fundamental points that are important to hon. Members on both sides of the House was partly aimed at avoiding a Report stage. That was designed to stifle full and open discussion on the legislative framework in which the Security Service should operate in future.
One important consequence of the Government's appalling attitude is that the Security Service, a very powerful and insular organisation which conducts some of its business outside the law of the land, is being allowed to continue its operations without any form of effective democratic accountability. It will continue with inadequate restrictions on it in regard to possible abuses of the civil liberties and freedoms of the British people. It is a very sad picture, and when in future we talk about Britain being a democracy, we should think about the way in which the Government have dealt with the Bill. In my view, the Government verged quite dangerously on being anti-democratic.
Another thing that became clear in the early stages of the Bill is that the existing system of so-called parliamentary accountability is totally inadequate. The arrangement is based on the Home Secretary being inside the barrier of secrecy and the understanding that he should monitor the Security Service on behalf of Parliament. When we ask questions about the Security Service, more often than not we are told that information cannot be made available for security reasons. The upshot is that Parliament has not a clue as to what is going on.
In reality, I believe that the Home Secretary does not always know what is going on in any depth and we all rely on the permanent secretaries and the chiefs of MI5 to operate the service without any effective external scrutiny. I believe that that arrangement has been rejected by many of our allies because they believe that external scrutiny and accountability is necessary as a safeguard against abuse, corruption and inefficiency. More positively, however, experience in these countries has shown that the security and intelligence services operate much better when there is some external oversight.
Our debates have also shown that the Home Secretary—I should add that I am talking not just about this Home Secretary but about previous ones too—does not seem to 788 be interested in what is going on within the Security Service. They seem to have given up trying to counter the influence of the M15 senior management and the permanent secretaries. That is a strong statement. 1 notice that the Home Secretary commented that that was based on—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be read the Third time.
§ Mr. Randall
I was commenting on Cmnd. 8787, the Falkland Islands review.
What is the solution? At the moment we have scales— with all the permanent secretaries and the MI5 chiefs on one side and the Home Secretary, almost on his own, on the other side. As we know, the Home Secretary is busy with a huge range of responsibilities and has little spare time. Also, he does not have under his control a structure that would enable him to formulate policy to counter all the influences that are weighted against him. The answer, therefore, is to put Parliament on the same side of the scales as the Home Secretary.
If the Home Secretary were properly accountable to Parliament—the Labour party believes that a Select Committee is the best mechanism for achieving that accountability—the pressures from Parliament would serve to bring more balance than is possible under the existing arrangement. The Home Secretary would have more clout over the MI5 establishment than he has at the moment because both he and MI5 would feel obliged to respond to parliamentary pressures. With this approach, I believe that everyone wins—M IS, the Home Secretary and Parliament.
As for the duration of debate, two main areas of policy were considered during the Committee stage. The first was accountability, both of the Security Service and of the Home Secretary. Essentially, it was all about the best mechanism to achieve better accountability. The second main area of debate related to protecting civil liberties, along the lines proposed when new clause 4 was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). It proposed that nothing in the Act should be done that undermined the right of protest, advocacy or dissent. Amendment No. 47 contained the same phrase but it was more specific and limited because it contained a definition of threats to national security. However, it permitted people to take part in protest, advocacy or dissent.
To return to accountability, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) moved new clause 73, which advocated that the Security Service should come under the scrutiny of the Select Committee but that it should remain under the authority of the Secretary of State. New clause 5 was tabled by the Labour party to illustrate the scope of the Select Committee.
When he commented on new clause 5, I believe that the Home Secretary showed a terrific lack of faith and trust in the Members of Parliament who would serve on the proposed Select Committee. He also demonstrated the Prime Minister's lack of confidence in being able to select 12 Members of Parliament—just six from either side of the House—who would be sufficiently reliable and trust 789 worthy to serve on the Select Committee. The Home Secretary thinks that it is impossible to select six Members of Parliament from either side of the House who could be trusted not to leak secret information. It seems also that the Home Secretary believes that it is impossible—
§ Mr. Whitney
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) continuing the debate that we had in Committee instead of taking part in a Third Reading debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is correct. I was contemplating that very matter a moment ago. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) must stick to Third Reading and not go through amendments that have already been debated in Committee, but not made.
§ Mr. Randall
I am commenting on what is in the Bill, not on what we would like to have in it.
Nevertheless, the Home Secretary showed a lack of faith in hon. Members being able to be relied on to suppress the publication of information via a Select Committee that would be against the national interest. Frankly, I cannot see why hon. Members are supposed to be such a potential threat to the security and wellbeing of the country, as so many of them become Foreign Secretaries, Home Secretaries, Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, and Defence Secretaries. Added to that list are the Ministers of State in each Department. All hon. Members with office must be trusted with secret information, as part of their day-to-day responsibilities.
According to the Government's arguments, when an hon. Member becomes a member of the Government, he or she suddenly undergoes some sort of physical or mental change that mysteriously makes them less of a security threat. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) actually agreed that a metamorphosis takes place when an hon. Member becomes a member of the Government—that he or she suddenly becomes safer and more reliable as soon as the new appointment is announced.
That is a load of nonsense. I cannot accept that a Select Committee is unworkable on the ground that hon. Members cannot adhere to the necessary rules of secrecy under which a Select Committee would have to work. From my experience, when people are given responsibility, they rise in stature and become—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I ask hon. Members to listen to the hon. Gentleman's speech or, if they are not wishing to listen, to leave the Chamber.
§ Mr. Randall
There were some long speeches in the debate. I appreciate that hon. Members want to be away. I am cutting out a lot of my speech. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) almost did a filibuster. That is why we are running late tonight.
The Home Secretary's assertion on the point about hon. Members' reliability was not only wrong but insulting. I am convinced that I could easily select six hon. Members from both sides of the House who could do the job admirably and would have the necessary personal attributes.
§ Mr. Randall
The Minister of State says, "Name them." That is for another occasion.
The Home Secretary has used the argument merely to reject amendment No. 73 and new clause 5. He was told by MI5 that it did not want any form of accountability. I am sure that the word "resist" was written in bold letters on the briefings that were provided for him.
The Home Secretary is not his own man when it comes to decisions on these matters, partly, as I have already said, because he does not have under his control a structure which enables him to formulate policy.
The other long debate in Committee was about civil liberties and, in particular, an individual's right of protest, advocacy or dissent. New clause 4 and amendment No. 47 were prominent in that debate—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We really must not go back to the Committee stage. We are dealing with the Third Reading.
§ Mr. Randall
I consider that I am in order for the Third Reading.
There appeared to be an overwhelming feeling in Committee that, as currently presented, the legislation does not protect the rights of individuals to protest advocacy or dissent without the Security Service regarding such people as a threat to national security and recording that information in its files and possibly using it in a way that could be detrimental to the interests of the people.
I will not go into any detail, but I refer to Hansard of 17 January. It was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). There, the Home Secretary found it necessary to make a statement on the meaning of clause 1(3). I only wish that he had included that as part of the legislation; he would have won a great deal of good will had he done so.
The Bill is inadequate as it stands, as it will be for the courts to interpret the definitions within it. They will accept the legislation at face value, and will not look up Hansard to see what the Minister really meant. We believe that this matter is of such importance for the protection of civil liberties and the freedom of the individual that a positive statement implying a restriction on the powers of the Security Service is vital. I hope that the House of Lords will give that careful consideration.
What makes the Home Secretary think that the service will take any notice of a ministerial statement in Hansard on the meaning of the protection of national security, which is for the courts to interpret? If the service is to respond to anything, it must be to the contents of the Bill—that is important. The reason why we wanted the Bill changed to include a statement of what the Security Service is not allowed to do is not that we are against the service or anything silly like that. It is because we believe that the Bill is out of balance. How can we be confident that the senior management of MI5 has the slightest concern for protecting the civil liberties of the people of Britain? A number of scandals in the past have damaged MI5's reputation. That destroys the trust that some members of the public have in the service and can have a bad effect on staff within it.
I should have liked the Home Secretary to accept amendments Nos. 4 and 47. Many of us who appealed so passionately to him on Tuesday evening think that he should have accepted those amendments there and then.
791 There was unquestionably a great feeling of disappointment at the stance that the Home Secretary adopted on this important issue.
In Committee I told the House that I believed that the Security Service should adhere to three important criteria. First, it should be efficient and effective in its operations. Secondly, it should use—
§ Mr. Allason
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Should not the hon. Gentleman restrict his remarks to what is in the Bill rather than to what is not?
§ Mr. Randall
I shall be as brief as I can.
It is clear that the operation of the British security and intelligence services seems to be out of step with developments taking place in other countries throughout the world. The general move seems to be towards more openness and external scrutiny. In some instances that has happened in response to abuses and corruption. At present there seems to be no inclination on the part of the Security Service to promote such changes, and it would appear that the motive behind the introduction of the Bill had nothing to do with modernising the service and making it more accountable. It had to do with meeting the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights in the context of alleged abuses of civil liberties by MI5, and the alleged lack of effective remedies for those who feel that their rights have been abused.
Reviewing the progress of the Bill, I must conclude that it is a wasted opportunity. It does little for the people of this country and little to improve the Security Service. One thing is clear, however: external scrutiny of the service is on the political agenda, and it will not go away.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)
I shall be as brief as I can be, consistent with replying fully to the debate. It is a great pity that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall), who has been assiduous throughout our proceedings on the Bill, chose not to refer to this afternoon's Third Reading debate, but referred merely to the Committee Stage, when and where he got the chance.
All hon. Members who have addressed themselves to the issues this afternoon have said that whatever criticisms they may have of the Bill, they welcome the fact that the Security Service will be put on a statutory footing. There was one exception to that, the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who, pursuing the unworldly approach of the Social and Liberal Democratic party, thinks that the situation is much better left alone.
This Third Reading debate has allowed the House to take stock of the principles upon which the legislation is founded. In my brief reply to the debate, I shall begin and end with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). He addressed one particular question to me, which I must answer, about economic well-being. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave an example earlier which seems entirely reasonable. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook sought today to draw us into further precision about the operations that might become necessary under the provisions.
I do not think that the House really expects to go into operational details of the workings of the Security Service. 792 Indeed, I cannot responsibly provide or appear to be providing a list of Security Service targets, actual or hypothetical, from this Dispatch Box. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook knows well that the phrase "economic well-being" is taken from the European convention on human rights. It has been approved already by Parliament in the restrictive form in which it appears in the Bill. That provision is essential for the country's well-being.
I turn now to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) who, with my hon Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), has addressed himself to the issues although we disagree on the fundamentals of the Bill. He had made a criticism this evening of alleged pirouetting by the Minister of State at the Dispatch Box. My hon. Friend—[Interruption.]—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I appeal again to the House to listen to the speeches. If hon. Members below the Gangway wish to carry on private conversations, they should do it outside.
§ Mr. Patten
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills suggested that there was a logical inconsistency in the arguments used from the Dispatch Box when the issue of whether or not there should be judicial review of the warrant procedure was to be considered. He criticised the argument that to have judicial review meant that the circle would be widened. An additional reason why I believe that judicial review and intervention is not acceptable is the need for speed, which is often the case in terrorist issues in this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills then related that to the need, as he saw it, for no flexibility under the rule of my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department in relation to those who could and could not sign warrants. My hon. Friend seemed to think that there was an inconsistency in that line of argument. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) also raised that issue a moment ago. It is nonsense to say that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be shopping around to find people to sign property warrants.
The House must recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills raised an important point because the Security Service is under the authority of my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend has the commissioner at his elbow. Therefore, it is absurd to suggest that my right hon. Friend will make arrangements for the signing of property warrants at any stage that would cause the commissioner to suggest that they were being put in an incorrect framework.
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Gentleman did not give way, so I do not propose to give way.
No Home Secretary would knowingly lay himself open to findings by the commissioner that his powers had been abused in any way. It is only those Secretaries of State who are in an informed position who would take a decision of that nature and who would be approached. At an earlier stage of our proceedings, I pointed out that my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and for Scotland have obvious responsibilities in that area.
The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) did not seem to understand that which my right hon. 793 Friend the Home Secretary said earlier in the debate, that we have sought to explain fully to the House the way in which the language of legislation must operate on the work and judgments of Ministers and on the Security Service. He was stating the obvious and I should have thought, given the long parliamentary experience of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, that it would have been obvious to him.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not been offering statements of ministerial intent during the debate and then expecting a court to interpret them. We all know that courts address themselves to the language of statute and not to the language of Ministers. My right hon. Friend has offered not a statement of ministerial intent but an explanation of the consequences of the language of the Bill. There is no need to fill the Bill with a vast amount of declaratory material of one sort or another.
We benefited from listening to the speech by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) who welcomed the fact that the Bill will put the Security Service on a statutory footing. In answer to his question I can confirm that the Bill refers only to the Security Service. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman in response to his anecdote about the BBC that, as always, the fullest briefing is provided to Home Secretaries. There will be full scrutiny of the warrants provision by the commissioner.
My hon. Friends made some notable contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) showed his deep understanding of the need for the Security Service. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) put his finger on the plot mania that so often seems to run among the Members of the Left. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) clearly demonstrated the need, if we are to have a Security Service at all, to have secrets. My hon. and learned Friend was stating the obvious and I am glad that he chose to do so.
The understanding of my hon. Friends underpins the basic principles of the Bill. It places the Security Service on a statutory basis and this is a great step forward in the history of this place. It ensures that there are now new procedures for the authorisation of warrants and that those procedures will be kept under review by an independent commissioner. These steps about authority, control and review are important. As the long title of the Bill says, it establishes the criteria for investigations by a tribunal or, in some cases, by a commissioner of complaints about the service. No one can doubt that the mechanism for redress is suitable for the general public and that it will be regarded as suitable in a wider and European context.
The Bill is a significant reform and will increase and improve public confidence. It has to be seen in the context of the attitude of the Labour party to the security of Britain and to terrorism as a whole. Earlier in the debate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary contrasted the attitude of one Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who was asking for greater and greater preventive action against terrorism, with the attitude of Labour Front-Bench spokesmen to security overall. The Bill deals with the Security Service and that is why I want to give the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook one last 794 opportunity to withdraw the terrible slur that he cast upon the Security Service. That was referred to earlier in the debate.
Taking it in context, as reported in the Official Report, the right hon. Gentleman said—
§ Mr. Patten
This was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his opening speech. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said, in what I think is one of the most shameful statements made in the House:In truth, since the war MI5 has been one of the worst and most ridiculed security services in the western Alliance".—[Official Report, 15 December 1988; Vol. 143, c.1124.]That is disgraceful. I give the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity to take that back. It is clear that he will not withdraw that slur, which came from the deputy leader of a party that is seeking to form a Government at some future date. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman will not take that course.
The speeches made by my right hon. and hon. Friends, with the exception of only three of my hon. Friends who did not like the Bill, show that Conservative Members are solidly behind this important reforming measure. I invite the House to give it a Third Reading.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 276, Noes 214.798
|Division No. 44]||[10.25 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Butler, Chris|
|Alexander, Richard||Butterfill, John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Amess, David||Carrington, Matthew|
|Amos, Alan||Carttiss, Michael|
|Arbuthnot, James||Cash, William|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Chapman, Sydney|
|Ashby, David||Chope, Christopher|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Churchill, Mr|
|Atkins, Robert||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Baldry, Tony||Conway, Derek|
|Batiste, Spencer||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Cope, Rt Hon John|
|Benyon, W.||Cormack, Patrick|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Cran, James|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Critchley, Julian|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Curry, David|
|Body, Sir Richard||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Boswell, Tim||Day, Stephen|
|Bottomley, Peter||Devlin, Tim|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Bowis, John||Dover, Den|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Dunn, Bob|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Durant, Tony|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Dykes, Hugh|
|Brazier, Julian||Eggar, Tim|
|Bright, Graham||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Evennett, David|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Fallon, Michael|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Favell, Tony|
|Burns, Simon||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Burt, Alistair||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Butcher, John||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Lord, Michael|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Forman, Nigel||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||McCrindle, Robert|
|Forth, Eric||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Freeman, Roger||Maclean, David|
|French, Douglas||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Fry, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Gale, Roger||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Gardiner, George||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Malins, Humfrey|
|Gill, Christopher||Mans, Keith|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Maples, John|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Marland, Paul|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Marlow, Tony|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Gow, Ian||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Greenway, Harry (Eating N)||Mellor, David|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gregory, Conal||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Mills, Iain|
|Grist, Ian||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Ground, Patrick||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Grylls, Michael||Mitchell, Sir David|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Moate, Roger|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Hannam, John||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Harris, David||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Mudd, David|
|Hayes, Jerry||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Needham, Richard|
|Hayward, Robert||Nelson, Anthony|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Neubert, Michael|
|Heddle, John||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Hind, Kenneth||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Norris, Steve|
|Holt, Richard||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Howard, Michael||Page, Richard|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Paice, James|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Patten, Chris (Bath)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Patten, John (Oxford W)|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hunter, Andrew||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Price, Sir David|
|Irvine, Michael||Raffan, Keith|
|Irving, Charles||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Jack, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Jackson, Robert||Redwood, John|
|Janman, Tim||Renton, Tim|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Rost, Peter|
|Key, Robert||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Kilfedder, James||Scott, Nicholas|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Shersby, Michael|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Knowles, Michael||Speller, Tony|
|Latham, Michael||Squire, Robin|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Stevens, Lewis|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Lightbown, David||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Lilley, Peter||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wells, Bowen|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Wheeler, John|
|Tracey, Richard||Whitney, Ray|
|Tredinnick, David||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Trippier, David||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Trotter, Neville||Wilshire, David|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Wolfson, Mark|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard||Wood, Timothy|
|Waddington, Rt Hon David||Woodcock, Mike|
|Wakeham, Rt Hon John||Yeo, Tim|
|Waldegrave, Hon William||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Walden, George||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Waller, Gary||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Ward, John||Mr. Kenneth Carlisle and|
|Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)||Mr. Alan Howarth.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Dewar, Donald|
|Allason, Rupert||Dixon, Don|
|Allen, Graham||Dobson, Frank|
|Alton, David||Doran, Frank|
|Anderson, Donald||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Eadie, Alexander|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Fatchett, Derek|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Fearn, Ronald|
|Ashton, Joe||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Flannery, Martin|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Flynn, Paul|
|Barron, Kevin||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Battle, John||Foster, Derek|
|Beckett, Margaret||Fraser, John|
|Beith, A. J.||Galbraith, Sam|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||George, Bruce|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Blair, Tony||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Blunkett, David||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Boateng, Paul||Gordon, Mildred|
|Boyes, Roland||Gould, Bryan|
|Bradley, Keith||Graham, Thomas|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Buchan, Norman||Hardy, Peter|
|Buckley, George J.||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Caborn, Richard||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Callaghan, Jim||Haynes, Frank|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Henderson, Doug|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hinchliffe, David|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Holland, Stuart|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Home Robertson, John|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Clay, Bob||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Clelland, David||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Howells, Geraint|
|Cohen, Harry||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Corbett, Robin||Ingram, Adam|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Janner, Greville|
|Cousins, Jim||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Cox, Tom||Jones, Ieuan (Ynys MÔn)|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Cummings, John||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Kennedy, Charles|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Lambie, David|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lamond, James|
|Darling, Alistair||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Leighton, Ron|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Lewis, Terry||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Loyden, Eddie||Morgan, Rhodri|
|McAllion, John||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|McCartney, Ian||Mullin, Chris|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Murphy, Paul|
|McFall, John||Nellist, Dave|
|McKelvey, William||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|McLeish, Henry||O'Brien, William|
|Maclennan, Robert||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|McNamara, Kevin||Parry, Robert|
|McTaggart, Bob||Patchett, Terry|
|McWilliam, John||Pike, Peter L.|
|Madden, Max||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Prescott, John|
|Marek, Dr John||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Radice, Giles|
|Martlew, Eric||Randall, Stuart|
|Maxton, John||Redmond, Martin|
|Meacher, Michael||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Meale, Alan||Reid, Dr John|
|Michael, Alun||Richardson, Jo|
|Robertson, George||Straw, Jack|
|Robinson, Geoffrey||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Rogers, Allan||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Rooker, Jeff||Turner, Dennis|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Vaz, Keith|
|Rowlands, Ted||Wallace, James|
|Ruddock, Joan||Walley, Joan|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Sheerman, Barry||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Short, Clare||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Wilson, Brian|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Winnick, David|
|Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)||Worthington, Tony|
|Spearing, Nigel||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Mr. Allen McKay and|
|Stott, Roger||Mr. Ken Eastham.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to:
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.