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Baroness Blatch: I understood that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, was to be spoken to with this amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Amendment No. 6 is to be spoken to with Amendment No. 3. At the moment we are concerned with Amendment No. 2. Perhaps that gives the Minister a moment or two more to consider the very direct question I am putting to her. Can she give the Committee an assurance that, when the Security Service is called in under the provisions of Clause 1 of the Bill, it will have no powers that are not available to the police?

Baroness Blatch: Is the noble Lord still speaking to Amendment No. 2? The debate has continued for so long that I thought that we had moved on.

The powers that the Security Service has now are not being extended in the Bill. What the Bill will facilitate is that the existing powers of the Security Service will be applied in a new area of activity. Therefore the powers will not be the same. As I have already made clear, the Security Service, for example, has no powers of arrest; the police services do have powers of arrest. Therefore there is already a distinction in that particular area. The Security Service will use existing powers--no additional ones--and will act in support of the police services.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That is what I feared. So the situation is much more serious than it appeared. We are back to George Bush and his ambiguous election promises.

What we need is not an assurance that the Security Service is being given no new powers over those that it presently has; we want an assurance that when it acts in support of the activities of police forces--in other words, in dealing with the criminal law in this country--it does not have powers that the police do not have. We need to know that there will not be a new body of law enforcement officers coming in to do work which in the past has been done by the police, with powers about which we do not necessarily know, because the Security Service is a secret service, that are not available to the police. We know that the police have powers that are not available to the Security Service. We want to be assured that the Security Service, when acting in support of the police, has no powers that the police do not have.

Baroness Blatch: That sounds a very convoluted way to put the point. But I can give the noble Lord the assurance that the Security Service will have no powers that the police do not have.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am satisfied with that answer. I am grateful for it. It is of enormous importance

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in a civil liberties sense to know that those who perform functions which have been the functions of the police in this country will be subject to the same rules and the same restrictions on powers as are the police. I am enormously grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No.3:

Page 1, line 9, at end insert--
("( ) In carrying out its function under subsection (4) above, the Service shall be subject to the provisions of Part IX of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Police Complaints and Discipline)."").

The noble Lord said: This is a related but separate amendment. It is the amendment being discussed in conjunction with Amendment No. 6 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. It is complementary to Amendment No. 2. Once we have established that the Security Service, in performing these functions, has no powers which the police do not have, it is rational to say that it will be subject to the same procedures as those set out in Part IX of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984--police complaints and discipline--which set up the Police Complaints Authority.

To make sure that I am perfectly well aware of it, the Minister will tell us that the Intelligence Services Act 1994 establishes both a commissioner and a tribunal for the Security Service. I take it that the roles of the commissioner and the tribunal are in no way affected by the Bill; in other words, all the other activities that the Security Service has always undertaken will be subject to the provisions of the Intelligence Services Act.

Without again getting into the new power argument, we are now talking about a new function for the Security Service. It operates alongside police forces in activities which, when carried out by the police, are subject to the provisions of Part X of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which established the Police Complaints Authority. I do not mind whether it is by way of my amendment or the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers; we are simply looking for an assurance that the Police Complaints Authority has the same responsibility for all those who undertake those actions, not just the police. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: I am happy to respond to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. The objective of his amendment, in my view as in his, is the same as that of Amendment No. 6, which I intend to move.

On Second Reading, substantial anxieties were expressed on all sides of the Chamber--notably by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, who is present today, the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, who is not in his place, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, as well as myself--about the arrangements for dealing with complaints. But they

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were barely referred to by the Minister in reply. Principally, the noble Baroness drew attention to the existing arrangements and did not take account of what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has referred to as the new function of MI5. In other words, she referred to the roles of the Police Complaints Authority in dealing with complaints against the police and of the Security Service's tribunal and commissioner in continuing to carry out their different duties in respect of the Security Service.

However, there is a new situation. I hope very much, whatever the noble Baroness says in reply, that she will recognise that. The object of the Bill provides for the Security Service and the police to work together. Yet there will be two totally different ways of dealing with complaints. The matter was explored at some length in another place. Some very interesting exchanges took place. For example the Minister was asked:

    "If somebody complains to a police force and is unaware that the Security Service is involved and it becomes clear to the police that it was a Security Service matter, will the police tell the complainant that the Security Service is involved?"

The Minister, in reply, said:

    "As I understand the present position, the police will investigate. If the matter does not concern a police officer, the police will inform the person that there is no case to answer in the context of any of their people and will give the complainant the leaflet that I described"--
to which I will refer in a moment--

    "pointing him in the direction of other sources to which he can make a complaint".

The matter was pursued. Questions were raised about exactly how a complainant would be told that a police officer was not involved and about the need to give the complainant a clear indication of the person to whom he should complain. The Minister replied:

    "I understand that that would not be the usual procedure".--[Official Report, Commons; 14/2/96; cols. 1026-27.]

In my experience, when Ministers--I include myself once upon a time--say, "I understand that", they really mean, "I don't understand this at all but this is what I have been told to say." That includes Ministers of both sides. I see that the Minister shakes his head. I have had long experience; it is a well known formula, which is popular with the Civil Service as well as Ministers. Ministers do not usually admit any doubt about understanding what is said. They say, "I know that", "I will" or "I do." If they say, "I understand that", they mean, "I don't understand what is going on but this is what has been written on a piece of paper and I am going to repeat it to the Chamber", whatever Chamber it may be.

That being the case, there is cause for concern. That concern grows at the mention of the leaflets. The Minister may have seen them; I assume that they are in the Library of the House. I expect that they are familiar to all other Members present today and that I alone am ignorant of them. Perhaps the Minister will be very obliging and send me a copy before we reach Report stage. But it is a rather curious procedure. The complainant complains and, after some interval, the police say to him, "Not me, guv. Take this leaflet and see if you can come up with somebody else. Cheerio."

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I am sure that that is not the proper patois on some occasions but the meaning is clear. It is a case of saying to the complainant, "We have had a look at it. It may have taken weeks or months. Indeed, I cannot remember when you made your complaint. I am sorry, old chap, but it was not us. Here is a leaflet. Go away and look at it".

It is a very interesting leaflet indeed. Again, according to the Minister in the other place, it contains a comprehensive list of alternative avenues of complaint. The complainant, knowing that it was not the police but not knowing who it was, is therefore left to go seriatim through a long list of other organisations to which he may complain before coming up with MI5.

I make ridiculous what I regard as a ridiculous procedure. Certainly, nothing said so far in either Chamber makes me feel confident that, however few they may be, the way in which complaints will be dealt with is consistent with the high standards that Parliament requires in such very difficult and sensitive areas. Whatever the Minister may say today, I hope that before Report stage she will come up with a better formula for dealing with the problem as we see it.

First, the amendment--Amendment No. 6, to which I am speaking principally--is right in principle in saying that there should be a single, simple channel of complaint. I believe that that is necessary to protect the public, the police and their present arrangements, and the Security Service too. In the absence of such procedures, the Bill--I am not one of its strongest supporters but, given the reservation I have mentioned, I wish it well--will come into disrepute because of its failure to deal adequately with complaints.

I referred to delay. What kind of delay does the Minister anticipate a complainant would suffer before the police came back with the answer that it was not a complaint against the police but a complaint against some other person unknown who may or may not have been involved?

Secondly, how can the Minister ensure that there is no conflict between the police and the Security Service when two persons may have been involved in a single event which led to the complaint? If those two persons, one being a member of the police force and the other a member of MI5, were each responsible for the cause of the complaint, how will the two complaints be dealt with in parallel? Thirdly, given all the experience we have of these sorts of uncomfortable arrangements between two services with different cultures, techniques and backgrounds, can we avoid buck-passing on the one hand or the alternative of collusion on the other, neither of which can be satisfactory?

Finally, it seems to me that one of the victims--I have referred to this but must emphasise it--of the arrangement spelt out in the Bill will be the Police Complaints Authority. We know that in some people's minds, though not in mine, it is not wholly above suspicion. But if the provisions of the Bill stand, how can we be sure that those who may have a legitimate complaint will believe that they can get it through the clear, relatively simple procedures now in place? How

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soon shall we find that the probity of the Police Complaints Authority is, fairly or unfairly, called into doubt? I ask the Minister to think again.

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