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Counter-Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 9th October 2008.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 3:30 pm, 9th October 2008

I think I understand where the noble Baroness is coming from. However, I do not think that the amendment would achieve her objective. It seeks to insert:

"At the request of the intelligence services for specific information".

We believe that would remove the certainty of those individuals who think they know something that they should tell the intelligence services to enable the latter to do their job from doing so in the knowledge that they are acting lawfully. While they could still do so, relying on common-law principles, it is illogical to create a disparity between those being asked by one of the services and those wishing to volunteer, without being asked, information to one of the services. I believe this amendment would create such a disparity. This could lead to the interesting game of someone telephoning the MI5 information number and saying, "I have some information that I want to tell you but I'd be most grateful if you could keep asking me for different specific pieces of information and I'll let you know when you've asked the right question". The intelligence services would not know what to ask for.

There is no good reason to differentiate between those who have been asked by the intelligence services for information and those who wish to volunteer it. In each case the information can be equally important to preventing an outrage or bringing a terrorist to justice. We should be encouraging and facilitating our citizens, and others, to co-operate with and help the intelligence services to do their work by providing information. For that reason I ask the Committee to resist this amendment. As I say, I do not believe that it would achieve the objective which the noble Baroness seeks.