Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Knights: The point which interests me in this matter is not so much the inclusion of the commissioner or the Security Service people in the appointment of the officer who is to be the link but, as has already been said, that the Home Secretary has already indicated that it will be the officer who is in charge of the NCIS. That officer, under present circumstances, as I understand it, cannot be a chief officer of police. He can only be a former chief officer of police, because he will give up his command as a chief constable when he takes up that post.

If the Home Secretary has already decided who that will be, there does not seem to be much point in consulting someone else before he is appointed. He is the only one who can be appointed. There is no choice if that is where it is to lie. But the whole situation raises, and it will raise later when the legislation to make the NCIS a statutory body comes before this place, the question of what supervision there should be of its activities. At that stage we shall need to consider whether similar arrangements should not be made for a committee to supervise its work in the same way as the work of the security services is being supervised now. That is where the real arguments will come as to the position of the officer in charge of the NCIS.

Baroness Blatch: Although superficially attractive, I have to confess that I am somewhat puzzled by the intent behind this amendment. It seems to me that it would not enhance the Bill and runs the risk of damaging the standing of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Clause 1(2) requires the director-general of the Security Service to agree arrangements with a designated person so as to ensure that the activities of the Security Service in connection with its new serious crime function are co-ordinated with those of the police and the other law enforcement agencies that it will be

10 Jun 1996 : Column 1522

supporting. That is an important safeguard which is designed to ensure that in the serious crime field the Security Service acts only in a supporting role and does not act independently. The agreed co-ordination arrangements will cover questions such as tasking and how the Security Service's contribution can best be meshed with the work in this field that others are already doing.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made it clear all along that it is his intention to designate the Director-General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS as it is known) as the person with whom the Director-General of the Security Service must agree these co-ordination arrangements. That reflects the key role which all the players have agreed that NCIS will undertake and which I outlined in opening the Second Reading debate on this Bill. Indeed, ideally we should have liked the fact that the designated person will be the Director-General of NCIS to be specified in the Bill. Unfortunately, that is not possible since NCIS currently has no statutory footing. The Committee may be aware that part of the next element of the Government's package of measures, which I have already made clear this afternoon, against organised crime will be to put NCIS on a statutory footing.

The noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Knights, made the important point that some of the detail of the supervisory arrangements will have to be thrashed out during the course of that next piece of legislation. Nevertheless, despite, any uncertainty in drafting terms that may exist, the Government have been in no doubt that the Director-General of NCIS will be the designated person. So far that proposition has received all-party support and I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and others should call it into question by suggesting that prior consultation is required before the designation process can take place.

I am also concerned that the noble Lord should be seeking to involve the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee in this way. The Intelligence and Security Committee exists to,

    "examine the expenditure, administration and policy",
of the intelligence agencies. It is an all-party group of senior parliamentarians and my noble friend Lord Blaker is a distinguished representative of this place.

One of the great strengths of the Intelligence and Security Committee is that it is independent of both the Government and of the intelligence services whose activities it oversees. It can therefore be relied upon by the Members of another place and of this place to carry out its duties effectively and without fear of being compromised. I have every confidence in the ability of the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Tom King, MP. His integrity is beyond question.

Nevertheless, I question whether there is not a danger that the independence of the committee would be called into question if it were to become involved in operational issues which could have a direct bearing on the work of the Security Service. Indeed, a much more likely scenario is that the committee will want to

10 Jun 1996 : Column 1523

examine the effectiveness of the Security Service's work in its new function, including the co-ordination arrangements. We believe that seeking its advice or influence in that appointment would run the risk of compromising its independence.

For that reason, and on the basis of the firm undertaking which has been given and which I am happy to repeat--that the designated person will be the Director-General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service--I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, perhaps I make it clear from the outset that I am not casting doubt--indeed, my party has never cast doubt--on the intention of the Home Secretary to appoint the Director-General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service as the designated person under Clause 1 of the Bill. I cannot understand how the Minister read that into what I said or into the amendment. We accept that the appointment will be that person.

However, there will be future appointments, and we suggest that since the role of the Director-General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service is expanded by the Bill--in other words, in addition to running his criminal intelligence service he also has the responsibility, which is laid down in Clause 1, of defining arrangements for co-ordinating the activities of the service in pursuance of Section 1(4) with the activities of police forces--there is therefore a Security Service role as part of that person's terms of reference. It seems a minimal involvement of the parliamentary scrutiny of the Security Service which is provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee for the chairman of that committee to be involved in the appointment. That does not mean that the chairman will be involved subsequently in the activities of that committee; only that when the appointment is made, parliamentary involvement and the role of the Security Service should be recognised--

Lord Renton: The noble Lord has gone a bit further than his amendment. It properly refers to consultation; the Secretary of State should not be required to do more than consult. To go into the matter of greater responsibility is going beyond his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not intend to go beyond my amendment. It is a minimal amendment. There is a small amount of parliamentary involvement in a very hierarchical way. Only the chairman is involved and not his committee; and he is involved only in a consultative capacity; and he is involved only at the time of the appointment of the designated person.

I am surprised that the Minister reads so much into my small amendment, but it is not one that I wish to press at this time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10 Jun 1996 : Column 1524

5.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 23, at end insert--
("(3C) The Secretary of State shall by order appoint a special police authority to exercise the relevant functions under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1993 in relation to the arrangements made under subsection (2)(c) above."").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 5 refers to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Knights, in addressing the previous amendment. I agree that the more important matter is to which police authority the National Criminal Intelligence Service, and indeed the national crime squad, should be responsible.

In our lengthy debates on the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill 1994 we secured considerable changes to the original government proposals. We secured that there should be a continuation of the tripartite system of control of the police which had served us so well. In every respect--except the control of the Metropolitan Police, where unfortunately the Government changed their mind--the Government agreed that we should continue with the tripartite system, with local authority involvement and with local responsibility for the objectives and conduct of police forces in this country. For that reason, we believe that there should be a comparable body for the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the national crime squad, particularly as the director-general is to be the guardian at the gate, so to speak, for the intervention of the Security Service in policing matters.

I believe that even the Home Secretary now accepts that there is a need for a body to which NCIS should report and that is one of the reasons why legislation has not been brought forward to provide the statutory basis for NCIS and why to that extent the Bill is incomplete. In the amendment I have referred to the body as a special police authority, without spelling out in detail its composition. However, I believe that it should include representatives of chief police officers and local police authorities so that the national police work is tied back into the systems and accountability of local police activity.

Clearly, this is a probing amendment. If it found favour with the Government, no doubt there would have to be a considerable amount of drafting in order to establish the constitution and powers of such a special police authority. However, I hope that by presenting the matter in this simple way it raises the issue adequately, meets the longer term objectives of the Home Secretary in this package of legislation and finds favour with the Government. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page