New Clause 14 - Requirement to register foreign influence arrangements

National Security Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 18th October 2022.

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“(1) A person who makes a foreign influence arrangement must register the arrangement with the Secretary of State before the end of the period of 10 days beginning with the day on which the person makes the arrangement.

(2) A ‘foreign influence arrangement’ is an arrangement with a foreign principal pursuant to which the foreign principal directs the person—

(a) to carry out political influence activities in the United Kingdom, or

(b) to arrange for such activities to be carried out in the United Kingdom.

(3) ‘Foreign principal’ means—

(a) a foreign power,

(b) a body incorporated under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or

(c) an unincorporated association formed under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, other than an association of persons where each person is a United Kingdom national,

but does not include a person within subsection (4).

(4) Those persons are—

(a) a specified person;

(b) a body incorporated under the law of the Republic of Ireland, or an unincorporated association formed under the law of the Republic of Ireland;

(c) an international organisation.

(5) The requirement in subsection (1) does not apply to a foreign power.

(6) The requirement in subsection (1) does not apply to—

(a) a recognised news publisher, or

(b) a person who makes a foreign influence arrangement with a recognised news publisher where the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the arrangement is the publication of news-related material.

(7) Subsection (1) applies in relation to a foreign influence arrangement made before the day on which this section comes into force as if, for the words from ‘10’ to the end, there were substituted ‘3 months beginning with the day on which this section comes into force.’

(8) A person who fails to comply with subsection (1) commits an offence if the person knows that the arrangement in question is a foreign influence arrangement.

(9) In this section—

‘international organisation’ means a person (other than an individual) which—

(a) is governed by international law,

(b) is set up by, or on the basis of, an agreement between two or more countries, or

(c) is recognised under an agreement between two or more countries and is specified by the Secretary of State in regulations;

‘news-related material’ and ‘publish’ have the meaning given by section 50(5) of the Online Safety Act 2022;

‘recognised news publisher’ has the meaning given by section 50 of the Online Safety Act 2022 but as if, in subsection (2)(e) of that section, ‘in the United Kingdom’ were omitted;

(10) Regulations under subsection (9) may specify a person or a description of persons.”—

This new clause requires registration of arrangements with foreign principals to carry out political influence activities in the UK. Political influence activities are defined in NC15.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 15—Meaning of “political influence activity”.

Government new clause 16—Offence of carrying out political influence activities pursuant to unregistered foreign influence arrangement.

Government new clause 17—Requirement to register political influence activities of foreign principals.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

New clauses 14 to 17 relate to the primary registration requirement, which is the requirement for political influence activities to be registered where they are either to be carried out, or arranged to be carried out, in the United Kingdom at the direction of a foreign principal, or to be carried out by a foreign principal.

Before I get into the effect of these new clauses, I want to be clear and up front that the UK is welcoming of open and transparent engagement from foreign Governments and entities. Governments around the world, including the UK, should seek to advance their interests through the lobbying and influencing of other states—after all, that is what diplomacy is. Where this is conducted openly and transparently, it is welcome and plays a vital part in our democracy and public debate, as well as being essential to international relations and civil society.

The primary registration requirements under this scheme will play a critical role in encouraging that openness and transparency, while simultaneously deterring foreign powers that wish to pursue their aims covertly through the use of agents and proxies. It can only be right that the UK public and our democratic institutions are protected from covert influence and are better informed as to the scale and extent of foreign influence in our political affairs. Again, each of the new clauses is substantive so, as with the previous group, I will take each in turn.

New clause 14(1) requires a person to register with the scheme where they are in an arrangement with a foreign principal to carry out political influence activities within the UK, or where the person is to arrange for such activities to be carried out. The person must register within 10 days of the arrangement being made. I covered several relevant points of detail in my speech on the equivalent provision under the enhanced registration scheme relating to foreign activity arrangements, which we have already discussed today. I will not repeat those explanations, but will instead focus on key points of difference.

First, subsections (5) and (6) clarify who is not “a person” for the purpose of defining a foreign influence arrangement and who the requirement does not apply to. I have already explained, in our discussion on the previous group of new clauses, why a foreign power is not required to register, and the same principle applies here. In addition, the requirement to register does not apply to a recognised news publisher or a person who makes a foreign influence arrangement with a recognised news publisher where the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the arrangement is the publication of news-related material. The practical effect of this aspect of the new clause is to ensure that domestic and foreign news publishers cannot be in a registerable arrangement with a foreign principal, and nor can a person—for example, a freelancer—where the foreign principal is a recognised news publisher and the arrangement concerns the publication of news-related material.

I mentioned in my opening remarks on FIRS that these requirements are deliberately state and sector agnostic, and that it is the responsibility of all sectors to demonstrate transparency and accountability, but with exceptions for where existing obligations apply. This is one such example. We have a proud tradition in this country of upholding the freedom of the press. Indeed, it is our obligation to ensure that journalists are empowered to carry out their legitimate activity independent of state involvement. We do not consider it appropriate to replicate this safeguard for the enhanced measure. Unlike the primary registration requirement, specifying an entity for the enhanced assurance measure will be reserved for where the Government have determined that a greater level of scrutiny is needed to protect the safety or interests of the UK. As such, we do not consider it appropriate to replicate this safeguard for the enhanced measure.

Secondly, the clauses use different terminology from the enhanced registration requirement. The definition of arrangement requires there to be direction from a “foreign principal”, rather than a specified foreign power or entity subject to foreign power control, as is the case under the enhanced registration requirement. The definition of “foreign principal” in subsection (3) includes

“a foreign power…a body incorporated under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or…an unincorporated association formed under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom.”

I will not dwell on why the requirement applies to a foreign power, as that should be obvious. Instead, I want to address the importance of this definition capturing any foreign entity rather than those subject to foreign power control, as it is perhaps one of the most complex areas of this scheme.

We know that foreign powers deploy their influence through seemingly private or independent entities. This can be achieved through formal links with such entities, which may include shares, subsidies or financing, voting rights, or through other obligations to collaborate with the state. It can also be achieved through informal links, such as understandings or verbal agreements. There are also entities that are ostensibly private, yet nonetheless act to further a foreign power’s interests.

It is our intention to apply the registration requirements to all of those types of entity by requiring foreign influence arrangements to be registrable where made with any foreign entity. This is the approach taken by the Foreign Agents Registration Act in the United States, and it was the ambition of Australia’s foreign influence transparency scheme before its parliamentary passage. The Australian scheme’s definition of “foreign principal” was amended by its Parliament to require a formal connection between an entity and a foreign Government for activity to be carried out on its behalf to be registrable. Such a connection would need to meet technical criteria of ownership or control, or a formal obligation to act in accordance with the directions or wishes of the foreign Government.

I encourage the Committee to read the Australian Attorney-General’s Department’s submission to the ongoing review of FITS by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. The submission, which is available online, explains that the technical definitions that I have just described, as imposed by the Australian Parliament, have undermined the ability of the scheme to meet its objectives in relation to such entities. That is because it is not only difficult for the public to understand when the definitions apply, but because the information on an entity’s ownership and governance is not readily available to the public or Government, making it incredibly challenging to enforce the requirements to an evidential standard. Put simply, it would be unreasonable for us to expect members of the public to know the ownership and governance structures of an entity such that they could assess whether it is controlled by a foreign power, for the purposes of registration.

We are in the fortunate position of being able to learn from the Australian experience. We must be grateful for the candour expressed in the submission that I have just mentioned, and I thank our Australian partners for their advice and guidance on these points as we have developed our own scheme.

I will briefly mention who the definition of foreign principal does not apply to, as outlined in subsection (4). The definition excludes a person specified under the enhanced measure, to avoid the duplication of requirements, as well as a body incorporated, or an unincorporated association, formed under the law of Ireland, for the reasons I gave earlier. It also excludes international organisations.

Similar to the principles that I set out earlier regarding our obligations relating to the protection of diplomatic, consular and routine Government-to-Government activity, we do not intend for the scheme to undermine our obligations relating to the United Kingdom’s relationship with multilateral organisations. That is why international organisations are not included within the scope of the definition of foreign principal.

The definition of foreign principal is also clear that it does not include an association formed under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom where it is made up entirely of UK nationals. It cannot be right that we would treat such an association as “foreign” for the purposes of this scheme.

Finally, I will briefly summarise the procedural elements of this new clause. The requirement is to register a foreign influence arrangement within 10 days of it being made, or otherwise before that activity is carried out. As we intend for there to be a public register associated with this registration requirement, prior registration of arrangements provides the benefit of informing the UK public as to who the person is acting under the direction of. This is important because it may not be obvious to the targets of such activity and so offers some opportunity for members of the public to be informed prior to an influence activity taking place. As I mentioned in relation to the foreign activity arrangements, it also offers an opportunity to enforce the requirements of the scheme prior to an attempt to carry out covert influence activity.

An offence under subsection (8) is committed where a person who fails to comply with the requirement to register knows that the arrangement is a foreign influence arrangement. This goes to my point earlier about ensuring that there is a higher bar to meet than the enhanced measure for an offence to be brought. Therefore, the test for this offence provides a key safeguard against criminalising the unwitting or those who could not have been aware of the requirement.

It is important to reiterate that it is not the Government’s intention to obstruct or interfere with a legitimate activity where persons and sectors are trying to comply with the transparency requirements. We see the offences as providing options where there is an intention to engage in covert arrangements and evade these registration requirements.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood 2:30 pm, 18th October 2022

New clause 14(9) includes definitions that refer to “the Online Safety Act 2022”, but that is a Bill, not an Act, and it is not on the statute book, is it?

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood

Is it correct for this Bill to make reference to another Bill as being an Act of Parliament when it is not?

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

It is not entirely unheard of to make reference to other legislation that is going through at the moment. Should there be issues, then there may be obstacles, but—

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

The Minister needs to clarify—he can do so in writing, if he wants—whether that Bill is going through. It has been stayed, has it not? It has been pulled, so it will not even go forward. Therefore, I think we need some clarification.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

That is simply not correct. It is going forward. [Interruption.] I commit to writing to hon. Members should there be any changes, but the Bill is still going forward.

New clause 15 defines “political influence activity” for the purposes of the scheme’s primary registration requirements. This relates to new clause 14, which we have just considered, as well as the other new clauses in this group. The overarching aim of the definitions in this new clause is to ensure that activities are registrable if they intend to affect political decision making, proceedings and those with the right to engage in UK electoral processes. I will break that down into four points: three points governing the relevant activities, which include lobbying, public communications and disbursements; and one covering the intended purpose.

Lobbying, for the purpose of this scheme, is defined under proposed new subsection (2)(a) as “making any communication to” a listed person. Capturing “any communication” is important in this context, as we do not want to provide an easy way for those engaged in state act threat activity to avoid the requirement to register by adopting a different means of communication. The listed persons include His Majesty’s Government and devolved Ministers; Members of the legislature; officers, trustees or agents of a registered political party; candidates at national, devolved or local elections; and senior officials or special advisers. We recognise that there are existing rules and regulations to ensure transparency and accountability around such activity. They include the provisions of the Lobbying Act 2014, as well as codes of conduct for those listed, including Ministers, officials, special advisers and Members of the legislature.

The foreign influence registration scheme will offer an extra layer of protection against those seeking to engage in covert lobbying for foreign powers directly, or indirectly through other foreign entities. These offences and penalties reflect that. They will require people to be transparent about who they are acting for, and will inform the public of the nature and scale of foreign influence in UK’s political affairs.

The persons listed in this new clause have been identified as those most likely to be of use to foreign powers in effecting change in our political system or proceedings. The primary registration requirement under FIRS will not only hold those persons to high standards while they are in public office or service, or engaging in our proceedings and elections, but will seek to protect them from those who would seek to influence them covertly. Of course, it may be necessary to amend the list and adapt it in the light of the trends and behaviours we see; that is why we propose including an ability to amend the list by regulations, so that the scheme is future-proofed against emerging threats.I remind hon. Members that for lobbying to be in scope of the scheme, it must be at the direction of a foreign principal, and must be for a political purpose. It is hoped that that constraint will ensure that the scheme delivers its objectives without unnecessarily bringing a wider range of activities within scope.

Public communications activity is registerable under proposed new subsection (2)(b) where it is not already reasonably clear that it is made at the direction of a foreign principal. This applies to the dissemination, or production for publication, of information, a document or other article. The ability to mobilise public opinion can be a powerful means of engaging with our political system and effecting change. The intention behind this limb of activity is to ensure that the public are aware of who is behind a communication that may influence the way they exercise their rights in this country, or the way they engage with our political system. It is to guard against those who seek to manipulate public opinion for the benefit of foreign powers and to the detriment of UK interests and security.

I emphasise, however, that a public communication is registerable only where it is not already reasonably clear that it is made at the direction of a foreign principal. Where a foreign principal is itself undertaking the activity—we will come to that shortly—that would already be clear to the public. A foreign charity making a public communication in its own name would not need to be registered. However, where a foreign charity directs a public relations firm to make the public communication, that firm would have a choice: either it makes it reasonably clear through the communication that it has been directed to make that communication by the foreign charity, or it registers that arrangement with the scheme.

Providing this choice offers a practical option to prevent all public communications for foreign principals from needing to be registered. By its very nature, a communication to the public is visible to the public; it therefore achieves the transparency aims of the scheme, so long as it is clear who it is for. We do not think that same rationale applies to the lobbying and disbursement limbs of political influence activities, which are naturally less visible to the public.

Thirdly, I will address disbursement activity. Under proposed new subsection (2)(c), this includes

“distributing money, goods or services to UK persons”, and “UK persons” is defined in the Bill as including

“(a) a United Kingdom national;

(b) a body incorporated under the law of a part of the United Kingdom;

(c) an unincorporated association formed under the law of a part of the United Kingdom.”

As with public communications, targeted incentives can be a key method of deploying influence—for example, through the provision of money or hospitality.

The intention behind this limb of activity is to ensure that the public have greater visibility of how that influence is deployed by foreign principals. Under electoral law, political donations from or on behalf of individuals not on the electoral register, such as foreign donors, are prohibited, but the disbursement of money, goods and services to mobilise sections of the public for a particular cause is not. The definition of “political influence activity” in this scheme is cast more widely than the scope of electoral law.

For example, if a foreign principal was to distribute funds to organisations in the UK with the intention of influencing a Government decision, that would be covered by the foreign influence registration scheme. If foreign principals make or direct such disbursements that are not regulated by electoral law, with the intention of affecting the way in which a UK person exercises their democratic rights or how they engage with the UK political system, the Government are of the view that such activity should be transparent. That is to strengthen our resilience against those who seek to manipulate or mobilise the public for the benefit of foreign powers and to the detriment of the United Kingdom’s interest and security.

Finally, there is the purpose of the activity that makes it registerable. Whether the activity is lobbying, a public communication or disbursement, the purpose, or one of the purposes, of it must be to influence a matter or person listed in proposed new subsection (3). Those matters and persons include: the conduct of a UK election or referendum; a decision of the UK Government or Ministers in the devolved Administrations; the proceedings of Parliament or the devolved Administrations; the proceedings of a registered UK political party; or a Member of Parliament or the devolved Administrations.

The list is intended to limit the circumstances in which registration is required to circumstances in which there is an intention to influence UK political decision making, proceedings and those with the right to engage in UK electoral processes. The list is sufficiently broad to capture all the areas that we think require greater scrutiny, while maintaining proportionality. The measures should give the Government and the public greater clarity on the scale and extent of foreign influence in our political and governmental processes, while strengthening their resilience against covert foreign influence.

New clause 16 is the corresponding offence for the primary registration requirement to that which we discussed in the previous group of new clauses relating to the enhanced registration requirement in new clause 12. I will not repeat all the points I made earlier. New clause 16 makes it an offence to carry out a political influence activity, or to arrange for it to be carried out, pursuant to a registerable foreign influence arrangement that has not been registered. The main difference between this offence and that under the enhanced registration requirement is that this would require a person to know that they are acting pursuant to an arrangement that is not registered. As I explained earlier, we have deliberately created a higher bar for prosecution compared with the enhanced measure. It would need to be evidenced that a person knew an arrangement was unregistered and yet continued to carry out the activity.

New clause 17 is the corresponding registration requirement to that which we discussed in the previous group of new clauses relating to the enhanced registration requirement in new clause 13. Again, I will not repeat all the points I made earlier. New clause 17 requires foreign principals to register their political influence activities that are to be carried out in the UK. This prevents there being an obvious gap in the requirement to register, and will support the scheme’s objective of strengthening the resilience of the UK political system against covert influence. As with the enhanced registration requirement, foreign powers would not be expected to register under FIRS, so this requirement will apply only to a foreign entity that is to undertake political influence activities within the UK. The requirement will also not apply to a recognised news publisher for the same reasons that they are not required to register a foreign influence arrangement.

An offence would be committed if the foreign entity fails to register their political influence activities, and they know that the activity in question is not registered. Again, as I explained earlier, we have deliberately created a higher bar for prosecution, compared to the enhanced measure. I ask the Committee to support these new clauses.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:45 pm, 18th October 2022

I thank the Minister for giving us a comprehensive understanding of this group of new clauses. Before I talk about them, it is crucial that we have clarity on the outstanding issue of when an arrangement has been registered, because new clause 12 creates an offence of undertaking such activity before it has been registered. I put on record that the Minister was not able to respond to that point and said that he would follow up in writing.

It feels as though there has been a surge in hostile states seeking to infiltrate our political discourse. They are prepared to allow years for their efforts to bear fruit, in an attempt either to align our values with theirs or to sow division and polarisation across our country. That has become more salient following Russia’s abhorrent invasion of Ukraine.

Only days ago, a report from a German newspaper stated that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is looking into the case of two civil servants who

“are involved with energy supply in key positions” and are suspected of having Kremlin links, and I think a further and even more serious report from Germany has just broken. The allegation is that these individuals were advocates of Russian gas and highly supportive of Nord Stream 2. If confirmed, this case would represent exactly the type of security breach we have to protect ourselves against. Without wanting to repeating myself, there is just a single line in new clause 15 on the meaning of “political influence activity” by way of explanatory note. It is a crucial but operationally complex area.

I want to pull out subsection (6) of new clause 14, which explicitly states that the requirement to register a foreign influence arrangement does not apply to “a recognised news publisher” or

“a person who makes a foreign influence arrangement with a recognised news publisher where the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the arrangement is the publication of news-related material.”

Many civil liberties organisations and the National Union of Journalists have expressed concern over the need to ensure press freedom in relation to this Bill. That is absolutely right, and the Minister quite rightly put his strength of feeling about that on the record. But how do we protect ourselves and ensure transparency when blatant mouthpieces for hostile states present as news outlets, or when someone on the payroll of a hostile state seeks to place their pro-regime opinion pieces or articles in mainstream media? We have had assurances from officials that there are circumstances in which people in such situations may still have to register, and I would be grateful for clarity from the Minister on that.

Further to a point that my hon. and right hon. Friends have made, we gave one of the Minister’s predecessors some grief in discussion on Government amendment 9, which meant that this Bill would amend the “Online Safety Act 2022” by making online interference a priority offence. That was certainly a very welcome measure, but we said at the time that it was presumptuous to amend an Act when it was still a Bill in the Commons. Members might remember that the Online Safety Bill was on the Floor of the House while we debated it in this Bill Committee, so not to have made the change directly in the Online Safety Bill was somewhat cack-handed.

In subsection (9)(c) of new clause 14, we are referred once again to the “Online Safety Act 2022” for definitions. As things stand—I heard the Minister’s comments—what has happened to the Online Safety Bill is a bit of a mystery, and it seems to have been paused indefinitely. The last time it saw the light of day was that day in the Chamber, when we were in this Bill Committee. Can the Minister confirm that we will see that Bill again, and that the definitions in these new clauses will remain unchanged? Can he confirm that he is committed to ensuring that there is a future for making disinformation a priority offence, whether in that Bill or this? He will be aware that there are national security considerations in the Online Safety Bill that are of interest to him and to me, so we have an interest in ensuring that that Bill emerges once again.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood

Does my hon. Friend agree that for this clause to be accurate in referring to the “Online Safety Act 2022”, that Bill, which seems to have disappeared for now, has to have Royal Assent by the end of the year?

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We thought that that was quite an aspiration at the time, but now it is looking even more unlikely. I just make the point to the Minister that that needs consideration to make sure we do not lose the definitions, or something more substantial under Government amendment 9.

Government new clause 15 defines “political influence activity” for the purposes of the new registration scheme. Members will be aware of the Security Service interference alert sent from MI5 to MPs and peers back in January regarding Christine Lee. The alert stated that Lee knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist party. The warning read that the UFWD was seeking to covertly interfere in UK politics by establishing links with established and aspiring parliamentarians across the political spectrum and cultivating relationships with influential figures. Can the Minister confirm that such conduct would need to be registered under these new clauses?

Proposed new subsection 3(a) states that

“the conduct of an election or referendum in the United Kingdom” falls under the criteria of political influence activity. This is a welcome inclusion and reflects the evidence provided to the Committee by several of the expert witnesses we heard from at the start, which feels like a lifetime ago—it was certainly four Chancellors ago! One of the expert witnesses was former deputy national security adviser Paddy McGuinness. He stated,

Vladimir Putin’s intent, which is to have us off balance—is that if the Russians do hack into a political party’s servers and mess about within them, and maybe mess with the data or interfere, or if they play games with a technology platform that people rely on for information and put out information, and we decide as a result that we cannot trust a referendum or an election, they succeed. That is success for them, so I think what really matters in this space is the ability to measure the impact that state activity has on the democratic process we are looking at, and…that there is bright transparency so we know who is doing what.”––[Official Report, National Security Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2022; c. 24, Q48.]

We welcome the fact that the registration scheme will go some way toward addressing these concerns, but I want to again make the case for new clause 3, because the Minister was not here for that debate. His predecessor gave us a commitment to look further at it. Alongside this new clause, new clause 3 would provide for an annual review on disinformation, with particular consideration of interference in elections. That would help with the transparency and awareness piece that needs to sit alongside the provisions. In a similar spirit, we want to tighten Government new clause 15 with our new clause 29 on the registration of former members of intelligence services, and with new clause 5 on ministerial conduct when meeting with representatives of foreign intelligence services. We will come to those.

I would be grateful for clarity on when we can expect the new clauses to come into effect, as we are hearing that it might be some time. Will we seek to backdate them to capture political influence activity already in motion? I think I heard the Minister say that he could not yet say when the measures would come into effect, and essentially the Government would not be rushed on that matter. I asked the relevant agencies the same question, and the working assumption seems to be that we will not backdate the requirements. I ask the Minister to consider looking at that again. Surely we stand to miss much political influence activity that is already under way—not even necessarily activity that has started and come to an end, but conduct that may have started some time ago. We would create a loophole whereby people could claim, as a cover for failing to register, that the activity predated the introduction of the scheme, whether or not it actually did, and could thus commit an offence under new clause 16.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I do not want to repeat anything the shadow Minister said, but I have a couple of short points. I am supportive of the goal of the political tier, though I am somewhat struggling with the design of the scheme. In debate on new clause 11, I asked questions about how the provisions would apply when intermediaries were used. It would be useful if the Minister could write on that, as I do not think we got an answer to that in his summing-up speech. The same concerns arise here. We have a lot of information to go away and take on board, but I am struggling to understand how these measures will apply in all sorts of situations. Lots of case examples will be essential if we are to get to the bottom of how this is going to work.

A simple example would be a case where an international NGO incorporated in another European country had a sister NGO in the United Kingdom. Both have employees of their own, some here and some in Europe. Both have Members, some here and some in Europe. How do all these provisions and this scheme apply to them if they have a month of action? An international NGO may take part in some direct engagement, so it would have to register that. What if it encourages its sister NGO to do that? What if either of them contact their members? The Minister has reassured us that employees would not have to register anything individually. It is not absolutely clear which part of the Bill makes that clear; it would be useful to know that.

I presume, as well, that members who are urged by an international NGO to email their MPs will not have to register any sort of activity like that. Again, it would be useful to know precisely where that is made clear in the Bill. Although I dare say we would all be quite happy not to have quite so many emails prompted by NGOs, equally, I do not think any of us would want them to have to register their schemes under the Bill. It would really be useful if we could get a handle on how the legislation will apply to these typical sorts of situations.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I want to start by addressing the point about disinformation, which is also about fake journalism. Hon. Members are absolutely right that that is a point that needs to be addressed by the Online Safety Bill, which I am sure is coming back—although I am but a Minister, so what would I know? I hope very much that it will. I accept that there may be a need for a drafting adjustment from “2022” to “2023”. I certainly anticipate that acts that are fundamentally propaganda activities rather than acts by journalists need to be covered by the Online Safety Bill.

It is also worth saying that any journalist who is not acting as a journalist but is instead acting as a lobbyist—some people do have dual roles—could perfectly legitimately not be covered as a journalist, but be covered as a lobbyist for certain elements of their activity. That is also important.

The applicable registration requirements will apply to arrangements that have already been entered into, but where the activity has not yet been commenced or completed. It will not be post-dated, as it were, but it will go from today forward, and therefore activities ongoing from the moment the Bill comes into force will be covered.

It is worth saying that the scheme will be introduced through regulations once the Bill has received Royal Assent. That will be done with the appropriate administrative and investigative resources that have been established. Existing arrangements will need to be registered within three months from the initial off.

It is also worth pointing out that although the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and I may sometimes share frustration about the volume of emails, neither of us would seek to silence legitimate campaigning by organisations. That is covered by the “public” element. If it is a public campaign—a campaign general to everyone and therefore not targeted at any one particular individual or asking one particular individual to act—it is not covered. It is already public, by definition, because we know who is doing it and who is paying for it.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 14 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.