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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I must confess that I am somewhat puzzled by the purpose behind this amendment. It seems to be confusing the purpose of the independent Security Service Tribunal, which exists to investigate complaints against members of the Security Service, and the independent Intelligence and Security Committee--the ISC as it is known--which exists to provide a measure of parliamentary scrutiny of the work of all the intelligence agencies.

We discussed the issue of complaints against the Security Service at some length during the previous stages of the Bill and will no doubt do so again when we come to discuss the new clause that has been tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Rodgers. I am sure therefore that the House is already somewhat familiar with the mechanisms that exist for dealing with complaints that are made against the Security Service. I do not want to go over the same ground again, but let me just remind the House that the Security Service Tribunal, which was set up for this very purpose, consists of three senior members of the legal profession, who are independent of the Security Service.

If the tribunal upholds a complaint, it can order the Security Service to discontinue an inquiry, destroy all records relating to that inquiry and order that redress be given to the complainant. Not only that, but the tribunal is obliged to make a report on the matter to both the Security Service Commissioner and the Secretary of

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State so that, should the complaint be symptomatic of a wider problem in the service, the necessary remedial action can be taken.

On the other hand, if the complaint is not upheld, the complainant is told only that. There is good reason why the tribunal does not give reasons for its decisions. As things stand, the unsuccessful complainant does not know if he has been the subject of a legitimate inquiry by the Security Service or if the service has taken no interest in him. It would be most unfortunate if potential targets of the service were able to use the complaints procedure to confirm, or otherwise, that the service had taken an interest in them.

That is the role of the tribunal. The Intelligence and Security Committee is a committee of senior parliamentarians, including my noble friend Lord Blaker, which has the remit of examining the "expenditure, administration and policy" of the intelligence agencies. It was certainly never envisaged that the committee should have any role to play in the complaints process and I must say that I am at a loss to know what the ISC would be expected to do with all the information that this amendment envisages it would receive from the tribunal, including, incidentally, information on all the complaints that were not upheld. It also seems odd that the tribunal should be required to give reasons for its decision to the ISC when, for the very good reason that I have outlined, it does not give them to complainants.

The Security Service Tribunal and the ISC are two important--but distinct--elements of the accountability arrangements that govern the work of the Security Service. They both have important tasks to perform and both do so, if I may express an opinion, efficiently and effectively. However, it is important to realise that these functions are separate and it would be unwise to confuse the two. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is reassured and will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I did not intend to press the amendment, so the second part of the Minister's hopes will indeed be fulfilled. However, I am not at all reassured by her remarks. The point about the tribunal is that its proceedings are entirely secretive--very much in contrast to the work of the Police Complaints Authority.

I should not mind quite so much if the tribunal were secretive where issues of national security are concerned; but the tribunal is secretive in all cases. As the Minister said, complainants or persons under investigation are not informed about what is going on. Again, I quite understand if that happens for reasons of national security. But we are now talking about functions in support of the activities of police forces. We are talking about the investigation of serious crime. We are talking not about the generality of the work of the security services but about their work in support of the police. In those circumstances, the analogy for the complaints procedure ought not to be the secretive complaints procedure for the Security Service, but the more open complaints procedure of the police.

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Perhaps I have the protocol wrong in suggesting that Parliament, through the Intelligence and Security Committee, should be the point at which these matters become available to outsiders--which those senior parliamentarians are--so that they may comment upon them. No doubt the amendment is defective in that way. Most amendments are. However, the principle behind it, that complaints procedures for the functions under the Bill should be more comparable to those of the Police Complaints Authority, is still valid. It will be dealt with in later amendments. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 3:


After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Annual report of Intelligence and Security Committee

(". At the end of section 10 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994, there shall be added--
"(8) In its annual report the Committee shall report separately on the activities of the Security Service under section 1(4) of the Security Service Act 1989.".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, again, this amendment relates to the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee. It makes a quite modest demand which I shall introduce very briefly; namely, when the committee produces its annual report it should give separate consideration to the activities of the Security Service which are performed under Section 1(4) of the Security Service Act, which is implemented by Clause 1 of this Bill.

I imagine that the Intelligence and Security Committee will wish to do that in any case. Clearly, it is a matter of public interest how the Security Service performs those functions. I hope that this very small amendment will have the support of government and of members of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is justified in asking that the Committee's report shall refer to the activities under Section 1(4) of the 1989 Act as confirmed and extended by this Bill. My only doubt is whether the committee would be obliged to do that anyway. I have not considered from the legal point of view whether the amendment is necessary. However, the noble Lord's point needs to be covered in one way or another.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, as the only Member of this House who is a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, it is appropriate for me to say a very brief word on this matter. I cannot speak for the committee as a whole; I can speak only for myself. Indeed, I am a relatively new member. However, I am confident that the committee will carry out whatever burden or obligation is laid upon it by Act of Parliament. There is no question about that.

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Secondly, I wish to remove what may be an anxiety on the part of some noble Lords that the committee does not attach much importance to this subject compared to the other subjects with which the intelligence and security services deal. The committee, as one of its early acts, issued a special report on this whole subject of dealing with organised crime, which fully demonstrates that it takes the matter very seriously indeed.

Finally, if one imposes on the committee an obligation to report separately on the activities of the Security Service on this particular subject, why should not one impose a similar obligation in relation to the other activities of the Security Service or of the other intelligence and security services? They are all important. This one is important; but the others are, too.

Lord Knights: My Lords, I am a little doubtful about this amendment. My particular concern is that, as with the first two amendments, we seem to be laying up trouble for ourselves when we consider the other aspects of this package introduced by the Prime Minister later in the year. We are talking not only of the activities of the Security Service but also about the activities of the police service. If the Intelligence and Security Committee is to report separately on the activities of the Security Service in relation to this matter, later in the year will we be asking the Police Complaints Authority to report on the same activities of the police? The two cannot be dealt with in isolation. The matter should be dealt with as a whole in the Bill and this item should not be dealt with separately. The same remarks apply to Clause 1.

5 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Renton, we welcome the spirit behind the amendment. The Intelligence and Security Committee--the ISC--is an important element of the accountability arrangements that govern the Security Service and the other intelligence agencies. Not only that, because it is made up of parliamentarians, it is one of the key ways that the intelligence agencies remain accountable to your Lordships and to the members of another place. I know that members of the Committee, of whom my noble friend Lord Blaker is a distinguished representative of your Lordships' House, take their duties to "examine the expenditure, administration and policy" of the intelligence agencies very seriously.

I am confident that the ISC will want to carry out its responsibilities in regard to the Security Service's new serious crime function. Last December (at which point my noble and learned friend Lord Howe represented this House on the Committee) the committee published a special report on that very topic which concluded that the Security Service had distinct skills which it could bring to the fight against organised crime. It made similar comments in its annual report for 1995, which was published in March of this year. It gave a very clear hint that it would keep an eye on this issue when it said: "Our interest will be to see that the working arrangements for any such organisation enable the Agencies to pursue their supporting roles effectively".

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Having said that, I do not think it is right for us to tell the ISC, which is, after all, an independent committee, how it should carry out its functions. It may want to include a separate section in its annual report on the Security Service's serious crime work. Equally, it may want to make more general observations about the service's work across its functions. It may want to draw attention to a particular aspect of the service's work, or even a particular problem, that affects all of the service's functions. Similarly, it may want to draw comparisons between the Security Service's serious crime work and that of other agencies. It may want to report to the Prime Minister on the implications for the other functions of the Security Service of its work against serious crime. It may even want to produce a separate report on the issue, as it has done before. All of these matters could be made more difficult if the ISC was required to have a separate section in its annual report on the Security Service's serious crime work.

As the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, commented, why should that aspect of the Security Service's work be dealt with separately? More than that, these are surely matters for the committee and it would be wrong to tell it how to structure its report or to constrain it from presenting the information that it has in the form that it wants.

I have every confidence that the committee will give all due scrutiny to the Security Service's serious crime work, as it does to all other aspects of the work of the intelligence agencies. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already given a commitment in another place that the Prime Minister will always seek to publish as much as possible of any ISC report dealing with the Security Service's new function.

I hope that in the light of this the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will agree that it would be better not to tie the hands of the ISC in the way that the amendment proposes and that he will consider withdrawing it.


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