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Baroness Blatch: The amendment affords me the opportunity to state clearly what the position of the Security Service will be in exercising its new serious crime function, as there has been a certain amount of ill-founded speculation on the point.
The Security Service does not have, and never has had, any executive powers. Officers of the Security Service have no powers of arrest nor are they able to exercise any of the other powers that the police may, in certain circumstances, exercise such as the power to stop individuals and search them. That will continue to be the case under this Bill. The Bill confers no new powers on the service--it merely allows the service to exercise its existing powers in a new area.
It has always been the case in connection with the Security Service's existing functions that though the service may gather intelligence, at the moment when executive powers need to be exercised, such as an arrest or stopping and searching an individual, the matter is passed to the police for action. That will continue to be so when the service is acting in support of the law enforcement agencies against serious crime.
The codes of practice which the Secretary of State is required to issue by virtue of Part VI of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act govern the exercise of powers by the police such as arrest and stop and search. Since, as I have explained, the Security Service has none of the powers, the exercise of which the codes regulate, I hope the Committee will accept that there would be little point in applying them to the Security Service and that the first element of the amendment is therefore unnecessary.
Some have referred to the fact that one of the codes of practice regulates police searches of premises and it may be helpful if I were to clarify the position. The code of practice in question relates to searches authorised by a search warrant issued by a court. The Security Service may obtain from the Secretary of State a warrant authorising entry on, or interference with, property but these covert operations are very different from the kind of searches covered by the code of practice. As the Committee may be aware, the police too can carry out intrusive operations but when they do so, they are governed by a separate set of guidelines issued in 1984 rather than the code of practice in question.
Continuing in the same vein, may I say that I also believe the second element to be unnecessary. Part VIII of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act contains general provisions that apply across the board and, so
As I mentioned at Second Reading, the Security Service in connection with its existing functions has considerable experience of gathering evidence in a form that can be presented in court. Security Service officers are also increasingly being called upon to give evidence in court. Let me assure the Committee that the Security Service is subject to all the normal rules of court and the laws of evidence apply to the service as they do to any other body or individual.
Perhaps I may say to my noble friend who raised the issue of police surveillance operations, that we have accepted the desirability of moving away from the existing administrative arrangements, although we believe that they have served us well up to now.
We have accepted that a statutory system would be preferable, but we need to look carefully, with the police, at the alternatives. There are some highly complex issues here and we are determined not to inhibit their operational effectiveness in this area. It is important to emphasise that the present Bill covers only one discrete element of the package of action against organised crime which the Prime Minister announced last October. Its scope is deliberately limited to a single issue that can sensibly be tackled in isolation. It is concerned only with the functions of the Security Service. We need to settle the question of police surveillance operations in the context of broader decisions including, of course, the details of the new national crime squad and the new arrangements for the National Criminal Intelligence Service. We are working on all those issues with the Association of Chief Police Officers and will make further proposals as soon as possible. In the light of what I have said on the amendment, I hope that it will not be pressed.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I raised this matter on Second Reading in relation to a case involving a criminal defendant, a Mr. Kahn, a convicted heroin dealer, which is at the moment before the Appellate Committee of this House. The issue is fundamental. I had hoped to receive a letter from the noble Baroness following the Second Reading, as she did not deal with the matter in her reply, for totally understandable reasons. However, I received no such letter.
The question which has been raised in the debate is that MI5 and the police operate under totally different procedures. MI5 requires a warrant signed by the Home Secretary, the police operate under non-statutory Home Office guidelines.
Lord Renton: Will the noble Lord permit me to intervene? He said that the matter is being considered at the moment by the Judicial Committee of this House. Therefore, it is sub judice. It is not only contrary to
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Nothing I say will necessarily influence the noble and learned Lords who are considering the case. I am discussing the issue of policy involved and merely pointing out that in the case of Mr. Kahn the matter is before the Appellate Committee of this House. The fundamental question which has been raised by the Association of Chief Police Officers repeatedly with the Home Office is whether the system should be perpetuated. Kahn merely illustrates the problem.
The noble Baroness's reply, so far as I understand it, is that the Government will at some stage in the future propose legislation to deal with the problem. However, we are in the last 10 or 11 months of this Parliament. The next Session will begin in October or November this year and the prospect of legislation being carried onto the statute book is a matter of considerable speculation. Why is the issue not being addressed in the Bill? It seems to me to be profoundly unsatisfactory that MI5 should operate under one procedure and the police under another. The police have said to the Home Office consistently that they are deeply uneasy about the arrangement. So far the Home Office has appeared wholly inflexible, save to say that at some stage in the future, maybe in the last three or four months of this Parliament, it might introduce a Bill. That does not seem to me a satisfactory answer in any respect.
Baroness Blatch: It is improper for the noble Lord to have invoked the name of Mr. Kahn in the course of this amendment. Anybody reading Hansard will believe that all the noble Lord's following remarks had a bearing on that particular case. My noble friend's intervention was absolutely right.
We are not inflexible. We have made it absolutely clear that there are a number of issues to be dealt with. I hope I made the point clearly enough that this is a narrowly focused Bill, and that this particular issue and the measures in the Bill are freestanding. They do not preclude any of the legislation that may follow. I also emphasised a number of times that the powers of the Security Service are not being changed one jot by the Bill. Under the Bill the service will be able to employ its existing powers in a new area of activity. I believe the safeguard is there.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I am well aware of the fact that the powers of the Security Service are not being affected. The point put repeatedly by the Association of Chief Police Officers to the Minister's department is that it is highly undesirable that there should be two different procedures in dealing with cases of very similar character: one dealing with MI5 which means that the Home Secretary has to sign a warrant; the second being the police operating under non-statutory Home Office guidelines. As the Minister will be aware from her officials, this matter has been repeatedly put to her department. It fills some of us with a great deal of
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am sorry that my small amendment has been hijacked to some extent by those who wish to talk about warrants. I was not talking about warrants at all. I suggest that they are properly discussed in the context of Clause 2, and I shall offer the Committee an opportunity to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, will therefore forgive me if I do not respond to the points that he made, which are properly addressed in consideration of Clause 2. The same applies to that part of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, concerned with warrants and to the Minister's reply.
It is useful to have the reminder from the Minister of what I said at the beginning of our considerations today; namely, the Bill is only part of a package of measures concerned with increasing the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies. It is the package of measures that we wish to consider. For that reason we find it very difficult to consider constructively a small part of a package of measures put before Parliament without knowing what the remainder of the package is. We have to examine the part that we are offered and take it as all that we are legitimately able to debate. We cannot assume that the Home Office will produce any particular piece of legislation even if, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, rightly pointed out, there were an opportunity in the next Session of its going into law.
I am also not very happy with the Minister's repetition of the claim she made about there being no new powers for the Security Service. She said that, instead, existing powers are to be used in a new function. That means new powers--unless one is deliberately obscuring the issue, which I am sure the Minister is not. It is like George Bush saying, "Read my lips: no new taxes". He quite deliberately allowed it to be thought that there would be no increase in the level of any taxes, whereas literally what he said was that no new form of taxation would be introduced. When he broke his implied promise not to increase taxes he said: "I did not mean that at all; I simply meant that I would not introduce a new kind of tax". That was a deliberate piece of obfuscation. I hope and believe that the Minister is not a party to that. Existing powers applied for new purposes are in effect the same as new powers. There is no meaningful distinction so far as the scope of activities of the Security Service is concerned.
The Minister gave the assurances I sought so far as Part VIII of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act is concerned. At least, I think she did; I shall read her reply very carefully in Hansard. I understood her to say that nothing in the Bill supersedes or detracts from the coverage of Part VIII of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. She did not make the same assertion about codes of practice. However, I hope that she meant that the Security Service, when operating its intelligence
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