National Security Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 16th November 2022.
Amendment proposed: 60, page 181, line 6, at end insert—
“Modern Slavery Act 2015 (c. 30)
9 In Schedule 4 to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (offences to which defence in section 45 does not apply), after paragraph 36B insert—
‘National Security Act 2022
36C An offence under any of the following provisions of the National Security Act 2022—
section 1 (obtaining or disclosing protected information);
section 2 (obtaining or disclosing trade secrets);
section 3 (assisting a foreign intelligence service);
section 4 (entering a prohibited place for a purpose prejudicial to the UK);
section 12 (sabotage);
section 13 (foreign interference: general);
section 15 (obtaining material benefits from a foreign intelligence service);
section 16 (preparatory conduct).’”—(Tom Tugendhat.)
Question put, That the amendment be made.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
It remains for me to thank enormously my right hon. Friends the Members for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) and for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland), who did so much to get the Bill to the right place; my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has very graciously left me to get on with this; and all the Members who have been so helpful.
My great thanks go to the intelligence and law enforcement agencies in particular. Their extraordinary courage and skill have earned more than my admiration, respect and gratitude for many, many years, but never more so than in the last few weeks, in which I have been privileged to serve them.
It is worth pointing out very quickly one or two elements of the Bill that I have not yet had the chance to touch on. Let me make it absolutely clear that there is no possibility—no way, no desire, no intent—that any area in this Bill, or in any other that this Government would pass, would in any way diminish the unqualified right not to be tortured. That is an absolute right that this Government and, I know, other Governments, would all hold to. I should be absolutely clear that not only is there is no desire in this House for that to change, but there is no such desire in any of the services and agencies with which I have had the privilege of discussing it.
What our Government, our agencies and those who hold office in our name all know very well is that they are defending our rights and freedoms when they defend the rule of law. They are absolutely championing the values and liberties that matter to us. In the Bill, we are evolving from trying to stop spectaculars such as the tragedies that hit on 9/11 to employing spectrometers—finer points of detection—to try to ensure that we eliminate risks that come in different ways. That is why I am so grateful to them all for the advice and help they have offered to ensure that the Bill is structured as it is.
I should make it quite clear that the Bill has opened up an area in which we will need to go further and in which I am glad the Prime Minister has asked me to go further: the defence of democracy. Our democracy in this country has sadly been under attack for too long. We are not alone; we know that our friends in other parts of the country and other parts of the world have faced similar attacks and similar areas of influence. I am delighted that the taskforce that the Prime Minister has asked me to lead will get on with its work very shortly, updating the integrated review and helping to ensure that this country is ready for the changes in the threats that we face so that the ultimate sovereignty of our people—the right to choose—is guaranteed and defended long into the future. That means that we have to set up not just powers to empower those agents who work in our name, but the guardrails to defend that right.
I am very glad that the Bill includes such provisions as the requirement for the Attorney General’s consent—the Advocate General’s in certain cases—to make sure that none of the powers is abused in any way. I am delighted that we have got that in the right place, because we know, sadly, that abuse is always possible.
I will end with the words of Ken McCallum, the director general of MI5, who today was very supportive of not only the Bill but many of the measures that his service has been carrying out. He has been inspirational in his leadership of his service and his defence of the United Kingdom, so I am delighted by his welcome for the foreign influence registration scheme, describing it as
“a modern power designed to tackle a modern threat”.
He is absolutely right, and the scheme is essential. For those reasons, I am grateful for the support we have had from the hon. Members for Halifax (Holly Lynch) and for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), and other Members across the House.
I rise to confirm that the Labour party supports the Third Reading of this Bill.
It is the first job of every Government to defend our national security from hostile states that wish to do our country harm, and from malign actors and extremists who want to undermine our democracy and everything we stand for. That is not a principle that divides us along party lines; it unites every Member of this House. It is why throughout the Bill’s passage we have worked with the Government to get the detail right and to defend our shared interests, and why we will continue to do so.
Our world-leading intelligence and security agencies do incredible and unseen work, day in, day out, to keep us safe. We pay tribute to them and thank our brave officers and staff for their service. I also thank those in policing, the Home Office and the intelligence community for the way they have engaged with me and other hon. and right hon. Members involved in scrutiny of the Bill.
The threat posed by hostile states is on the rise. The annual threat update given today by Ken McCallum, the director general of MI5, was a daunting assessment of the breadth and nature of the threats facing the UK. However, we remain concerned about clause 27 in particular and some of the details of the Bill, and we will continue to work with the Government and all those in the other place to find resolutions to those outstanding issues.
Labour supports the Bill because we could not take national security more seriously. We know that our democracy can be defended only when our agencies are equipped with the powers and tools they need, and when we can all have confidence in the procedures and oversight that accompany them.
I, too, thank all colleagues for their involvement and engagement in the Bill, even if we could have done with a little more time for that today. I also thank all the officers and staff of the Home Office and the agencies for their engagement. They have persuaded us of the merits of large parts of the Bill, if not quite all of it. I want personally to thank my right hon. Friend Stewart Hosie for keeping me right on lots of these issues, and my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry for her detailed work with the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
We do need a Bill of this nature—in fact, a Bill of this nature is long overdue. There are still dangers—as I said on Report, we have to make sure that we do not criminalise people the Bill is not intended to criminalise or leave loopholes for people who should be criminalised, and that we rein in some of the more excessive powers—but the Government have listened to some of our concerns and responded positively to some of the amendments. I just encourage them to listen more as the Bill proceeds.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Further to the announcement from the Chair on the result of the Education Committee elections, I would like to put on the record my thanks to the Clerks who organised today’s elections and to all colleagues who voted in them. I recognise that a number of excellent candidates ran for the post of Chair of the Committee, and I pay tribute to all of them for the respectful and constructive tone of their campaigns.
Nothing can be more important for the future of our country than how we educate and support our children. I pay tribute to the excellent work of my predecessor, my right hon. Friend Robert Halfon, in holding Ministers to account for that. I am grateful for the support of esteemed colleagues in all parts of the House in allowing me to follow in his footsteps.
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I also put on the record my grateful thanks to the staff of the House for the conduct of the Transport Select Committee election earlier today? I am very grateful to have won the support of colleagues throughout the House. I pay tribute to the other candidates. I think the election somewhat taxed the arithmetical skills of the counters a little more than the election for the Education Select Committee, as it went through all the rounds of the contest. We had a good-natured and humorous campaign. I should mention in passing my hon. Friend Karl McCartney and his innovative and tuneful campaigning style.
I very much look forward to chairing the Committee. Transport affects all our lives and all our constituents. I look forward to digging deep into the many issues and challenges that are coming forward. In the two hours or so since the result was announced, I think I have received about 20 different requests for the Committee that I look forward to fielding. Again, I offer my grateful thanks to all colleagues.
I thank the new Chairs of the Education Committee and Transport Committee for their points of order. I am sure that everyone in the House will have appreciated their kind words, not least those about the other candidates in the elections. I congratulate both hon. Gentlemen. I am sure they will have an enjoyable and interesting time carrying out the very important job of scrutinising the Departments, which I know everyone in the House appreciates—Ministers particularly appreciate that work. Many congratulations, and thank you also for your kind words about the staff of the House and their facilitation of the elections.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you might be able to advise me on a slightly more sombre subject. In a question earlier today, the Immigration Minister responded to a concern raised by Greg Smith—I have been trying to find him to say that I was going to raise this issue—regarding the absconsion of a gentleman who it subsequently transpires from press reports has been accused of a very serious assault of a young refugee child in my constituency. The Minister said he would investigate the matter and come back to the hon. Member. Can you advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how I can ensure that, given that the matter took place in my constituency—we were not aware at the time—I get an update on the issue as well?
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The reports of the case are very serious and raise some questions about how the Home Office has handled this case. We do not know the full circumstances at the moment, but could you use your good offices to ensure that the Immigration Minister updates us and fully investigates this case?
I thank the hon. Lady and the right hon. Lady for their points of order. Obviously I do not know the background to this case, but I can see that it is a very serious issue. Government Ministers are present and I think the Minister for Security may wish to intervene.
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that I speak for the Immigration Minister and the Policing Minister when I say that they will both look into it very carefully. I am sure they will return to answer these questions.
I thank the Minister; that is extremely helpful. I know that it will be fed back that this has been raised, that it is a serious issue and that the House would like some further information about what has happened since.