Clause 45 - National security

Subsidy Control Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 2nd November 2021.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

Clause 45 exempts subsidies given for the purpose of safeguarding national security from the subsidy control requirements, in order to protect the UK’s valid security interests. That is in line with the approach of the national security exemptions in other UK legislation, such as the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 2018.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Scottish National Party, Aberdeen North 3:45 pm, 2nd November 2021

It would be useful to know how widely national security is defined. Are we talking about subsidies specifically relating to, for example, new military equipment, or to much more tangential things, such as for an organisation that provides server capacity for one of the security services? How tangential can something be in order to be covered by the clause? If the Minister cannot answer, I would be grateful for an answer at some point, in writing or through the method of interpretive dance, if that is what he prefers, because it would be helpful for us to understand this. This is a brief clause, but I am concerned that that definition could be drawn too widely. I just do not know because I do not have enough information.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (International Trade)

The clause makes it clear that subsidies given to safeguard national security are not subject to the subsidy control regime. This is an important principle that must be interpreted without prejudice in the light of our international commitments; I am sure the Minister agrees with that. We are pleased to see it in the Bill.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

In answer to the hon. Member for Aberdeen North, national security is a term with a long history in domestic legislation. It covers no more than is required to safeguard the UK’s genuine national security interest in a way that is fully compliant with the UK’s wider international obligations, including trade and co-operation agreements. It is customary in international agreements, such as our free trade agreements, that we reserve the right to protect valid security interests. That is the beginning and end of the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 45 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.