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Why are these provisions being brought forward? It is primarily because of the experience in the Binyam Mohamed case in 2010. The Government's concern, which I understand, is that the courts should not require the disclosure of information supplied in confidence to the security services of this country by the security services of our allies. There are two points here. The first is that the provisions that we will be debating in Committee, Clauses 13 and 14, are not confined to information supplied in confidence by a foreign intelligence service when disclosure would damage our relations with that service. The second and perhaps more fundamental point is that there is absolutely no material-the noble Lord, Lord Lester, made this point-to suggest that courts allow or order the disclosure of confidential information that has been supplied to the security services of this country by our allies. The courts have a record of recognising, rightly, the vital importance of protecting national security and the sources of information that go towards it.
It is vital to recollect that in the Binyam Mohamed case the Court of Appeal, the final court that heard the matter, made it clear that the only reason why it was ordering publication of the relevant information was that that very information had already been publicly disclosed by reason of an order made by a court in the United States. The three judges in the Court of Appeal-Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice; Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls; and Sir Anthony May, the president of the Queen's Bench Division-stated expressly that they would not have ordered publication in defiance of the statement made by the United States authorities that disclosure of the information would damage national security there and a statement by Ministers here that disclosure would damage our national security because of the need to maintain a relationship of trust with the United States, even though the court was highly sceptical of those claims, but for the fact that that very material had been published by reason of a court order in the United States. If this is the basis of the concern of the security services, which presumably are responsible for asking the Government to bring forward these measures, they simply have not learnt the basic lessons from the Spycatchercase.
The Minister sought to assure and reassure the House that Clauses 13 and 14 would not prevent claims by litigants who allege that they have been the victims of serious wrongdoing. What he ignores for that purpose, though, is that without the disclosure of the information such claims cannot in practice be pursued. That is precisely why in 1973 the Appellate Committee created the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction that is the subject of Clauses 13 and 14.
On the case made so far by the Government, the provisions of Part 2 of the Bill regarding both CMPs and Norwich Pharmacal orders are, I suggest, unnecessary and unfair, and will undoubtedly damage the ability of the courts to give judgments that are fair and are seen to be fair.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: Before the noble Lord sits down, he has referred several times to my noble and learned friend as the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate is now an officer in Scotland; my noble and
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Lord Pannick: I am very grateful; I was carried away with enthusiasm for the merits of the debate. I apologise to the Minister, and I hope that that was the only error that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, could find in the points that I was making.
"The British Civil Service plays a crucial role in modern British life. It is there to implement the policies of the Government of the day, whatever their political complexion, and its permanence and political impartiality enables exceptionally rapid transitions between Governments.
Most civil servants are dedicated and hard-working, with a deep-seated public service ethos, but like all organisations, the Civil Service needs continuous improvement. I want today to set out the first stage in a programme of practical actions for reform.
In 2010 we inherited one of the largest Budget deficits in the developed world, and, despite success in improving Britain's financial standing, we still face significant financial and economic challenges, as well as rapid and continuing social, technological and demographic changes. The Government have embarked upon a programme of radical reform of public services to improve quality and responsiveness for users and value for the taxpayer.
In order to succeed we need a Civil Service that is faster, more flexible, more innovative and more accountable. Our Civil Service is smaller today than at any time since the Second World War, and this has highlighted where there are weaknesses and strengthened the need to tackle them.
We need to build capabilities and skills where they are missing. We need to embrace new ways of delivering services. We need to be digital by default. We need to tie policy and implementation seamlessly together. We need greater accountability, and to require much better data and management information to drive decisions more closely. We need to transform performance management and career development.
Today Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service, and I are publishing a Civil Service reform plan, which clearly sets out a series of specific, practical actions to address long-standing weaknesses and build on existing strengths. Taken together, and properly implemented, these actions will deliver real change. They should be seen as the first step on a programme of continuing reform for the Civil Service.
This is not an attack on the Civil Service, and nor have civil servants been rigidly resistant to change. The demand for change does not come just from the
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This action plan is based heavily on feedback from civil servants, drawing on what frustrates and motivates them, while many of the most substantive ideas in this paper have come out of work led by Permanent Secretaries themselves. Reform of the Civil Service never works if it feels like it is being imposed on civil servants by Ministers, and neither would it succeed if the Civil Service was simply left to reform itself. Because we want this to be change that lasts, we have discussed these proposals widely, including with former Ministers in the last Government to draw on their experiences and ideas.
The Civil Service of the future will be smaller, pacier, flatter, more digital, more accountable for effective implementation, more capable, and more unified, consistent and corporate. It must also be more satisfying to work for. These actions, therefore, must help to achieve this.
Under published plans, the Civil Service will shrink from around 500,000 to around 380,000 by 2015. It is already the smallest since World War II. Sharing services between departments will become the norm. This has been discussed for years-it is now time to make it happen.
Productivity also needs to improve. For too long, public sector productivity was at best static, while in the private services sector it improved by nearly 30%. Consumer expectations are rising, and there is, as we have been told, no money. The public increasingly expect to be able to access services quickly and conveniently, at times and in ways that suit them.
We are conducting a review with departments to decide which transactional and operational services can be delivered through alternative models. Services that can be delivered online should be delivered only online. Digital by default will become a reality, not just a buzz phrase.
We should no longer be the prisoner of the old binary choice between monolithic in-house provision and full-scale privatisation. We are now pursuing new models: joint ventures, employee-owned mutuals, and new partnerships with the private sector. MyCSP, which manages the Civil Service Pension Scheme, became the first joint venture mutual to spin out of government recently, and provides a model for future reforms.
The Civil Service culture can be slow-moving, hierarchical and focused on process rather than outcomes. Changing this would be very hard in any organisation. We can make a start by cutting the number of management layers. There should only exceptionally be more than eight layers between the top and the front line, and frequently many fewer. This helps to speed up decisions and empower those at more junior levels. Better performance management needs to change
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Management information in government is poor, as the NAO and the PAC, the Institute for Government and departmental non-executive board members have all vigorously pointed out. By October this year, therefore, we will put in place a robust and consistent cross-governmental management information system that will enable departments to be held to account by their boards, Parliament, the public and the centre of government.
We will make clearer the responsibilities of accounting officers for delivering major projects and programmes, including the expectation that former accounting officers can be called back to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee.
The current arrangements, whereby Ministers answer to Parliament for the performance of their departments and for the implementation of their policy priorities, will not change. However, given this direct accountability to Parliament, we believe that Ministers should have a stronger role in the recruitment of a Permanent Secretary.
We will therefore consult the Civil Service Commission on how the role of the Secretary of State can be strengthened in the recruitment process of Permanent Secretaries. The current system allows the selection panel to submit only a single name to the Secretary of State. At other levels, appointments will normally be made from within the permanent Civil Service or by open recruitment. However, as now, where the expertise does not exist in the department, and it is not practicable to run a full open competition, we are making it clear that Ministers can ask their Permanent Secretaries to appoint a very limited number of senior officials for specified and time-limited executive and management roles.
By common agreement both inside and outside the Civil Service, there are some serious deficiencies in capability. Staff consistently say in surveys that their managers are not strong enough in leading and managing change. In future many more civil servants will need commercial and contracting skills as services move further towards the commissioning model. While finance departments have significantly improved their capabilities, many more civil servants need a higher level of financial knowledge. As set out elsewhere in the plan, the Civil Service needs to improve its policy skills, and to fill the serious gaps in digital and project management capability.
By autumn we will have for the first time a cross-Civil Service capabilities plan that identifies what skills are missing and how gaps will be filled. For the first time, therefore, leadership and potential leadership talent will be developed and deployed corporately.
In 1968, the Fulton commission identified that policy skills were consistently rated more highly than skills in operational delivery. This is still the case today. We will establish the expectation that Permanent Secretaries appointed to the five main delivery departments will have had at least two years' experience in a commercial or operational role. We will move over time towards a more equal balance between those departmental
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A frequent complaint of civil servants themselves concerns performance management. They feel that exceptional performance is too often ignored and poor performance is not rigorously addressed. In the future, performance management will be strengthened by a Senior Civil Service appraisal system that identifies the top 25% and the bottom 10%, who will need to show real improvement if they are to remain in the service. Departments are already introducing similar appraisal systems for grades below the Senior Civil Service.
The Government are committed to ensuring that the Civil Service will be a good, modern employer and continues to be among the best employers in the country. Departments will undertake a review of terms and conditions to identify those that go beyond what a good, modern employer would provide. We will also ensure that staff get the IT and security they have been asking for so that they can do their jobs properly.
Another key goal is to improve and open up policy-making so that there is a clear focus on designing policies that can be implemented in practice. Too often in the past, policy has come from a narrow range of views. Whitehall does not have a monopoly on policy-making expertise and in the future open policy-making will become the default. We will create a central fund to pilot policy development commissioned from outside Whitehall.
I repeat that this plan is just the first stage in a programme of reform and continuous improvement. It responds to concerns expressed by Parliament, Ministers and former Ministers but, most importantly, civil servants themselves. None of the actions in the plan is in itself dramatic and none will matter unless it is properly implemented. But together, when implemented, they will represent real change. I will oversee the implementation of this plan. As the paper sets out, Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service, and Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, will be accountable for its delivery through the Civil Service Board.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and therefore giving us the opportunity to comment on it. The Civil Service is key to the provision of public services. Thus, whether we are ensuring the country's security, educating its children, raising taxes, paying benefits or safeguarding the vulnerable, plans for how to achieve high-quality services and their delivery rely enormously on the staff who create and deliver these. The structures, recruitment, training and management of this cadre of staff are a vital part of our delivery of services to the citizenry. The more effective we are in developing and implementing polices, the more we can achieve in improving the lives of all. That means getting value for money out of every pound spent,
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For that reason, we welcome the Statement, much of which we should be able to endorse, particularly the aim of focusing on outcomes rather than process, a less hierarchical structure, a pacier-I like that word-regime, speeding up decisions, empowering those working at more junior levels and an emphasis on managing change. All these, and other parts, are to be welcomed, but perhaps the Minister will answer just a few questions on the Statement.
First, while welcoming taking advice from a wider section of stakeholders, experts and academics that there may be in Whitehall, how does that sit alongside the Conservatives' endless attacks on our similar use of consultants when we were the Government and used them for exactly this purpose? Secondly, does the Minister accept that amending policy as it is implemented-learning from mistakes, in the wise words of Sir Terry Leahy in today's Guardian-is also vital to any project? That is much harder if there is any split between the external blue-sky thinking and the implementation process. We can see that with the introduction of universal credit where there is a horde of little devils who dwell in the detail. We see it in the Dilnot commission where its hard policy thinking now needs robust resource and policy advice to combine ideas with practical politics. We will look carefully at the suggestion of piloting policy development outside Whitehall.
Thirdly, given that the public service is about delivery-whether collecting taxes, paying out pensions, running courts, staffing our national borders or overseeing financial services or the Insolvency Service-does the Minister acknowledge that this often means sufficient staffing, whether at Heathrow or GCHQ? Will he reassure the House that the cut in numbers will not leave empty seats just where they are most needed?
Fourthly, will the Minister outline the discussions he has held with stakeholders, trade unions and others on these proposals? Is it to be a top-down initiative or a genuine collaborative effort to improve the quality and value for money that we get from this public resource? We know that morale is low, with 30% of the top echelons having left. Will these plans promote or reduce the staff's confidence in their own profession and, in the words of the Statement, make the service "more satisfying to work for."?
Fifthly, are there proposals within this to ensure a more diverse Civil Service, particularly in extending well beyond Oxbridge and the south-east, and increasing gender and ethnic diversity? Sixthly, while applauding the proposals for training and developing "leadership talent", this costs money, especially as the Government have closed the National School of Government. Will the Minister tell us what budget has been set aside for this implementation and what impact assessment has been made of the proposals? Seventhly, what will success look like with these reforms? How will the Minister measure whether the plans achieve their ends?
Finally, public servants serve us all. Sometimes they can do that best when they say, "No Minister". Will the Minister assure us that nothing in these proposals will undermine the ability of senior civil servants-say, fear of dismissal or loss of income-to advise a Minister that a brilliant-sounding scheme might be hare-brained? The impartiality of our Civil Service will be in jeopardy if the people at the top of our policy advice and implementation profession only say, "Yes Minister".
We look forward to examining the detail of these proposals. Where the Government get it right in the need to modernise and improve our Civil Service, we will stand by with our advice and support. We look forward to further discussions on this.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the noble Baroness very much for her cross-party welcome for these proposals. Indeed, much in them builds on and extends the experience of the previous Government. As she will know from watching the exchanges in the Commons, a number of former Ministers also welcome the proposals and regretted that in one or two respects they did not go further. I shall do my best to answer her questions. The search for an effective and efficient Civil Service is constant, and one has to return to it every few years. The demands on the Civil Service are rapidly changing. The digital revolution is an enormous challenge for the Civil Service and for all of us. Those changes are part of what is driving this whole process.
Perhaps I may say as a former academic and think-tanker that outside advice from academics and think tanks comes far cheaper than management consultants. I say that partly with bitter regret at how cheaply I sold myself on occasions to government. However, that is part of what is intended. As the plan sets out, there is a preliminary budget of £1 million for piloting this access for outside advice. I assure the noble Baroness that we are thinking not so much about going back to the consultants who provided their extremely expensive advice but about drawing on outside think tanks and the wealth of academic advice that we have in this country and elsewhere. Again, the previous Government did a certain amount of this; indeed, in the Cabinet Office only yesterday I met an academic whom I know very well and who I know was actively engaged in advising the previous Government.
In terms of ideas and implementation, we are already piloting some delivery models and this is very much a process that we will be pursuing. Those following this will know that the idea of mutuals is being tested. There is already some evidence that it improves the morale and therefore the effectiveness of those involved, and it will be taken further if it proves successful.
Something that we are also always looking at is whether we are sufficiently staffed in the right places. Sometimes you find that you have too many staff in one area and not enough in another. Those of us familiar with the BSE scandal will remember that part of the problem was that not enough staff were left in place for the contingencies that took place. It is a constant problem.
On consultations, I simply repeat that there were very wide consultations inside the Civil Service. Some of us were a little frustrated that more civil servants
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As far as the diversity of the Civil Service is concerned, I think that our predecessors, the Labour Government, did extremely well with this, particularly regarding the number of highly talented women in the Civil Service. The departments that I am aware of also have a much higher number of people from different ethnic minorities. I asked a rather senior ethnic minority civil servant what he would say to a young woman of Chinese origin in the Civil Service-a former student of mine-who asked me whether there were any barriers to getting to the top. He said he had not noticed any. I compliment our predecessors on how far they moved on that and assure them that we are continuing very much along that line.
In terms of the budget for implementation, this plan builds in the promise that there will be at least five days of training per year for officials. Civil Service Learning is setting out how this will be done using a range of different providers inside and outside the Civil Service.
We are constantly looking for metrics and measures of success. Management information systems are of course best for measuring the achievement of success, and improving management information systems is a vital part of this.
Finally, I turn to the independence of and challenge for senior civil servants. I can only quote what a senior civil servant who is a very good friend of mine said to me many years ago. He said that at a certain level a competent senior civil servant should always have at the back of his mind that he could move before telling Ministers his thoughts. That was under the previous Government. I think that a number of senior civil servants would say the same but we are always looking for robust and independently minded civil servants who will express their thoughts to Ministers. Of course, the other side of that is that Ministers need to accept that their relationship with officials has to be on that basis.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, it so happens that this evening the Public and Commercial Services Union is holding its annual parliamentary reception in the Strangers' Dining Room, so I went along to talk to its members. I found that they were very concerned because they believe there is the possibility of hundreds of redundancies and they do not seem to have had very much consultation or negotiation. I promised them that I would faithfully represent them as far as consultation is concerned.
Criticism in certain areas of public work has indicated a lack of public acceptance, but members pointed out that, rather than fewer public servants, in many instances there is a case for having more. They pointed out, for example, that at airports there were very long queues because there simply were not enough staff. That is
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Public service is very necessary to ordinary people. If you are very rich, you do not rely on public services, but if you are not very rich you do. Therefore, an effective public service is something that we expect the Government to provide. From what the officials of this union told me-and one must remember that they represent 280,000 public servants-it is quite clear that they do not feel they have been consulted or had the opportunity to negotiate on what is a very substantial plan. Is the Minister making arrangements for this union and other unions in the sector to be properly consulted and properly involved before we proceed with what seems to be a very large upheaval within the provision of public services?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I can promise the noble Baroness that there is a constant dialogue with all the unions. I am sorry that the PCS feels it has not been consulted sufficiently but I am well aware that the dialogue goes on. I am also well aware that people in all sectors of society have contact with the public service. If the noble Baroness has read the Times today she will know that there are some rich people who prefer not to hear from HMRC, but HMRC is indeed determined that they should hear from it.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, it is true that managing change and driving though radical policies can prove difficult. It is also true that there are areas where the private sector can and does deliver good-quality public services at competitive costs. We should not be opposed to moving the boundaries between public and private sector delivery of public services where it can be justified or in testing payment by results as a way of promoting greater efficiency and value for money for the taxpayer. However, for the past 140 years we have benefited from a public service selected on merit and political neutrality. As someone who stood down from government last month, I can say that I found civil servants civil, hard-working and helpful. Does the Minister agree that we should not approach public sector reform with a mindset of "public sector bad, private sector good"?
I do not think there is evidence that the public sector yet has in place the kind of legal, contractual and commissioning expertise to make sure that the taxpayer is going to be properly protected or the quality of service required guaranteed. Does the Minister agree that it is essential that the reforms have built into them full and proper systems of parliamentary accountability? We must ensure that, in commissioning externally sourced policy-making, we do not fall into the habit of commissioning external consultancy almost as an alternative to ministerial decision-making.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, as we all know, a number of processes are under way. This Government are also committed to decentralisation as far as possible, and one reason why the central Civil Service will shrink is that more decisions and areas of policy delivery are being put down to the local level. Some of
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On the question of parliamentary accountability, there is less in this plan on the details of accountability than there might otherwise be because there has been a deliberate decision to await the study of the House of Lords Constitution Committee on that very area. That will feed into further consultations on how we strengthen accountability to Parliament. However, noble Lords will be aware that the role of Commons parliamentary committees in particular in relation to the Civil Service has strengthened over the years. I was reading the Osmotherley Rules earlier today and began to look at how they may need to change further as part of this. That is the sort of thing that the Constitution Committee will be considering.
Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, the Statement paid lip service to the quality of the Civil Service but it sounded to me-as, I am afraid, it will sound to many civil servants-like a litany of criticisms. Will the Minister accept from me that, while proposals for improved performance by the Civil Service are always necessary and welcome, it is essential to their success that the Civil Service should be led and not just driven-as the Statement said-and should not be reviled and unattributably dumped on when Ministers' policies run into difficulties?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I strongly agree with that. I am very conscious-again, I make a non-partisan remark-that there have been occasions under successive Governments over the past 50 years or more when some Ministers have occasionally wished to blame their civil servants for things not happening. I would be extremely upset if the noble Lord interpreted this plan as being an attack on the Civil Service. We have emphasised very strongly that that is not the case and that it has come out of a partnership between Ministers and the senior Civil Service with extensive consultation. We value the quality of leadership within the Civil Service. I am one of the many within government who have serving and former civil servants as close members of their family. It matters very much for the quality of our society, our public services and our country as a whole that we have the best-quality Civil Service working for government and the state as a whole. We very much hope that this plan strengthens that.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I very much support much of what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said. Although it is perhaps not a series of attacks, the Statement rather dodges along a line that opens it to
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I merely repeat that this is not intended in any sense as an attack on the Civil Service and we very much value its quality. A certain amount will be achieved by putting more on to the digital level, and this is well under way. Members of this House may remember our discussions about universal benefits and the extent to which that scheme will enable us to provide those sorts of payments and services more efficiently with fewer staff. That is the sort of reduction that we see coming through. We plan for more services to be provided in partnership with local authorities and through third-sector organisations. We are already experimenting with that sort of model.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, perhaps I should remind the House that in a former life, quite a long time ago, I was the general secretary of the First Division Association, which represents senior civil servants.
In the Statement, the Minister said, "We need a Civil Service that is faster, more flexible, more innovative and more accountable". No one could argue with that as a general statement, but the whole issue is about how that is to be achieved. I do not think that the Minister properly answered the question of the noble Lord, Lord King, about how you achieve a reduction of 120,000 civil servants in less than three years-only two and a half years. Is there going to be a system of compulsory redundancy and, if so, has that been costed? To what extent will there be a charge on the public purse for compulsory redundancies? Those are crucial questions when we are arguing about something that ought to be costing less money.
The real point at issue in the Statement arises in relation to the future appointment of senior civil servants. It stresses the importance of political impartiality but we are told that the role of Secretaries of State will be strengthened in the recruitment of Permanent Secretaries. It is the duty of civil servants to maintain the confidence in their impartiality not only of Ministers but of those who may become Ministers after a general election. How does the noble Lord reconcile the appointment process, which includes politically appointed Ministers, whereby politically impartial civil servants can pass over to a new set of Ministers? Will there be a
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It was also said in the Statement that it may not be practical to run "full and open" competitions. When will it not be practical to do so? How will the diversity of the Civil Service and the opportunity for women and people from ethnic minorities to break into the Civil Service ranks be maintained in those circumstances? At the moment, they come in through open competition.
Lastly, the Statement says that, "Ministers can ask their Permanent Secretaries to appoint a very limited number of senior officials, for specified and time-limited executive and management roles". This is an important point. There was such a fuss in 1997 when two politically appointed people were, under Privy Council terms, given executive and management roles. I have to say that the Conservative Party going into opposition went ballistic about it. What will be done about this? Will it be done under Privy Council terms, and will those contracts be terminated on a change of Government? Those are very specific questions.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, as the plan states, the proposals on the role of Secretaries of State in very senior appointments are to be discussed with the Civil Service Commission. The proposals have been discussed with former Labour Ministers, and there have been criticisms from former Labour Ministers in the other place that these proposals do not go far enough. We have not committed ourselves fully on this, and there is therefore a dialogue to be had about the future relationship between the appointment of permanent secretaries and the role of Secretaries of State. Jack Straw said in the other place that he did not find our proposals terribly surprising because on three occasions he had insisted on having an active role in the appointment of permanent secretaries. So although we are not entirely moving from one world to another, we are discussing how much further we should move along a continuum.
On the scale of reduction under way, departments are already engaged in processes which will reduce numbers without compulsory redundancies. I will write to the noble Baroness if substantial compulsory redundancies are on the way. However, seven out of 10 civil servants are involved in the big five delivery departments: the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, HMRC, the Ministry of Defence and the UK Border Agency. Many of them turn over at a rate which I anticipate enables us to avoid very substantial compulsory redundancies, but if I am incorrectly briefed on this I will write to the noble Baroness afterwards.
Baroness Browning: I attended many courses at the National School of Government over the years, and I always reminded it that it was the best in the world. However, I recognise in the report today the need for change within the Civil Service, and I welcome it. Having had 15 years out of Government I returned last year to ministerial office, and I recognise some of the needs here, particularly in changing the culture. However, in making the changes that are needed, particularly in terms of management within the Civil
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, my noble friend is right to point out that a number of things fit together here. Extending the role of Parliament in holding the Government and the Civil Service to account, which is part of what the Constitutional Committee will be discussing, will be continuing with what has evolved over the last 20 years with the relevant Commons committees. The question of the management skills of Ministers is very much a cross-party thing that we all need to discuss a great deal more. We do not currently train Ministers. We also need to discuss the changing role of the Civil Service itself. One point I did not answer for the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, was the question of the impact of these proposals for ethnic minorities and women. I remind the noble Baroness that for the first time, some six months ago, we reached the point at which there were more women than men at the level of Permanent Secretary. That is a real breakthrough. We have also had our first ethnic minority Permanent Secretary. Having a close female relative rising up the Civil Service, I hope this is a trend which will go further.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: I welcome parts of the Statement, and I welcome the conversion of the Minister who made the Statement in the other place. He was the man who was in charge of the Next Steps programme in the 1990s, which broke the Civil Service down into smaller pieces and split it up. He is now happily seeing the errors that were made, and bringing parts of it back together again.
I am concerned about the way in which we keep moving forward with changes in public service operations without actually speaking to the customers or the taxpayers. This is another example where the default position will be open policy making, where in fact the taxpayers and the citizens have not been involved one iota in this exercise. If they had been, we would have heard more complaints. I have a former connection with the Inland Revenue as I was the general secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation. If you go online now, you do not necessarily get answers to internet inquiries; if you go on the telephone, as was recently published, you wait longer for a reply from the Revenue than you did two years ago; and if you come into the country, you queue longer at one and two o'clock in the morning. In so many areas of the departments the Minister has just mentioned the Civil Service is falling down. Now we are faced with a cut from 500,000 down to 380,000 civil servants within the space of three years, on top of the other changes
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I hope there will be a way in which we can look at how we measure efficiency. Take two building societies, A and B, and put them together. Get a new computer system, cut the number of staff employed, and you can say that you have increased the company's efficiency. Invariably, in practice you find that the customer suffers and waits longer for services from that combined building society. We have tried to bring the same principles to bear within the Civil Service. I hope we can have a clearer definition of what efficiency means. I am not against changes, or reductions in numbers, provided that ultimately the service will be better. However, there is nothing in this statement to prove that it will be.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I accept that challenge. The effectiveness of these proposals will indeed need to be challenged precisely in terms of how they impact on the quality, effectiveness and speed of delivery, and the satisfaction of the citizens who are receiving those services. Before we close, I remark that this is also part of a long process of change in the Civil Service. The proposals in the plan for bringing together some core services across Whitehall-the management of major projects, human resources, digitisation-are also part of trying to make a more economical and unified Civil Service. As I have observed in the five departments I have worked across since I joined the Government, there are real cultural differences between a number of departments across Whitehall, and we will benefit from bringing departments together, rather more into a single corps. We have also been looking at the estate of the Civil Service, and making a number of changes which make for more effective use of that estate. This will also provide a number of efficiencies and savings. However, I accept the challenge that a number of noble Lords around the House have made, which is that the impact of all of this will be seen in the quality of the services that are provided, we hope, with much greater productivity, efficiency and effectiveness in three to five years' time.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, as we continue the Second Reading debate on the Justice and Security Bill, and at the risk of sounding boring, I feel duty-bound to remind noble Lords that speeches from Back-Benchers are expected to be kept within 15 minutes. When I remarked on this earlier, I should have stressed that exceptions to those guidelines are made on occasion, rather than frequently.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, as we return to the debate on this very important second reading, I need to begin by saying I am not a human rights lawyer. I am not a lawyer at all. I have had no
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My interest in this area comes about because I am the treasurer of the All-Party Group on Extraordinary Rendition. I am also a trustee of Fair Trials International. Therefore in my rather amateurish and non-legalistic remarks, I want to focus on what seem to me as a layman some of the dangers and challenges of Part 2 of the Bill. My experience in those two particular roles is that the processes of international justice, or perhaps I should say, justice with an international aspect, do not always proceed as smoothly or as even-handedly as we all would wish.
The issue of partial access to information and the inability to check its veracity causes me concern because of what happens at Fair Trials International. The average FTI case usually involves someone of modest means being somehow swept up in the proceedings. By definition, the proceedings are normally abroad and the partial sharing of information and the inability to challenge their veracity comes about because the defendant does not understand what he is being accused of because it is in a foreign language, which means that he cannot test the truth of the case against him. All too often, once the full facts are laid out and once everyone knows what is being complained of, the defence is able to ensure that the case falls away. I want to ensure that in the Bill we are not creating circumstances in which these sorts of events become prevalent.
My second general concern stems from the fact that in my professional life I have worked in the City and I have spent some time as a regulator. The regulator of financial services has to create a balance, not on the époque-like matters that we are discussing this afternoon, but on the level of regulation. Too much regulation will be very expensive in money or management-time terms, will discourage innovation and will diminish the reputation of the financial community of this country over a period of time. On the other hand, too little regulation, with a free for all, no standards of behaviour and lower market confidence, will have the same effect. So I quite understand that a balance has to be struck.
However, the danger in real life is that regulators are, by their very nature, risk averse. An innovation that never happens reflects no discredit on a regulator but a failure does: it is public, it is controversial and it damages reputation. There is an inevitable tendency to raise the bar. In effect, there is always a danger of what we call regulatory capture. As we go through the Committee stage of the Bill, I want to be convinced that there is not an equivalent of regulatory capture taking place in this area.
My third general point, which is more specific to this Bill, is that I am currently undertaking a review of the Charities Act for the Government and there have been strong suggestions from certain quarters that charities in the United Kingdom are raising considerable sums of money which are to go overseas for purposes that are less than charitable. That is a serious accusation. The fact that donations in this country, no doubt enhanced by gift aid, should end up in the hands of
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As a result of this Bill, if I read it correctly, we are going to surrender, or certainly substantially amend, the right of citizens to hear and to challenge all the evidence presented by the state against them in the High Court and substantially amend the right of victims of kidnap, rendition, torture and other unlawful abuse to obtain evidence from the state to help to prove their case. That right applies only where the state has been involved in, or has facilitated, the commission of the wrongdoing.
If we are to surrender those two substantial matters, why are existing processes for the public interest immunity certificates suddenly inadequate? I understand that the system of PII has been operating for more than 50 years without significant government complaint. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, in applying the PII system, the courts have a raft of weapons that they can deploy to keep confidential the sensitive features of government evidence while permitting the essentially relevant parts to be disclosed. These include hearing parts of a case in camera with both parties represented; the use of confidentiality rings; redacting the sensitive parts of documents to which the noble Lord referred; allowing evidence to be gisted; and directing informers or secret agents to give evidence anonymously behind screens. My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay in his remarks earlier said that there were residual issues which were not covered by these provisions. I understand that and I obviously will stand corrected by him. I look forward to having a chance to discuss what those residual issues are. The report from the special advocates, who I assume know a bit about this area and certainly a great deal more than I do, says in paragraph (7):
"There is no fundamental difficulty with the existing principles of public interest immunity ... which have been developed by the courts over more than half a century and which enable the courts to strike an appropriate balance between the need to protect national security (and other important public interests) and the need to ensure fairness. Nor is there any sufficient evidence that the application of these principles has caused insuperable logistical difficulties in any particular cases".
My second broad concern is the assertion that CMPs are being used. A judge will still be able to weigh up the strength of the evidence before deciding whether a CMP may be used. I understand from what my noble friend was saying earlier from the Front Bench that it is a procedure which could be described as PII light. When I see the use of the words "must" and "must ignore" in Clause 6, it seems to me that the judge will have relatively little discretion. Reviewing evidence and making an assessment seems to me to be one thing-that is the PII procedure-but presumably
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My concerns on this point are further increased by the lack of transparency about CMP procedures and the extent to which they will be used. I can find no provision for closed judgments to be opened up at a later date, when secrecy is no longer required, so that the public can see how they worked; I see no requirement for notice to be given by the Government that a CMP will be sought; and I see no requirement for any reporting of the number of requests for and granting of CMPs. These are the pieces of information which should at least shed some light on this difficult area and go some way to reassuring us and the general public.
My third and final point is to repeat what has been said by other noble Lords about the Norwich Pharmacal case in Clause 13, where I believe that subsection (3), which defines "sensitive information", is extremely broad and frankly could be used to cover almost any sort of information that the Government of the day might find it helpful to include.
I want to reassure my noble friend that I am not nihilistic about the Bill, nor am I naive about it. I do not think that the world is an entirely sunny place. Nor do I think that it is filled exclusively with friendly people of a sunny disposition. Further, I certainly do not wish to belittle, demean or hinder the activities of our security services. I am profoundly grateful to those men and women who are prepared to devote their careers and sometimes their lives to keeping me, my family and the country safe. Those men and women also have civil liberties that need protecting, which is why I still remain to be convinced that the balance of the Bill is right.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am not a lawyer and I have searched my mind about whether I have ever seen an official secret in my life. The answer is that I do not think that I have. In Northern Ireland, we had Cabinet minutes which were heavily redacted and the contents had appeared in the papers before I read them anyway. I do not count that as having seen any official secrets, so perhaps I am disqualified from contributing to this debate.
I recall that in the past, not that many years ago, the name of the director of MI5 or MI6 was an official secret. We were not even to know that such people existed. That has moved on now and it is much more possible to have some element of knowledge and scrutiny of the security services. Of course, the threats in the intervening years have become more international and more serious, and to deal with them has required more international co-operation. I say that in the context of how anybody would look at the Bill.
I regret that the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, will speak after me because I would have liked to have known what she had to say before I contributed, although I had a little chat with her a few minutes ago
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I want to talk mainly about Part 2 of the Bill. This is not a specialist issue just for lawyers: it is central to our country and to the way that the rule of justice operates. It is constitutionally a significant change. It undermines the principles of open justice and natural justice. I welcome the concessions that the Government have made between the Green Paper and the Bill, but I contend that there are still weaknesses.
I served on the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I was rotated off about three weeks ago, so I am not as up-to-date as I would like to be, but I recall that when we published our report on the Green Paper it was embargoed. The Deputy Prime Minister made a passionate statement criticising the Green Paper. I assumed that he had somehow got hold of a copy of the embargoed report because the timing was too close to be coincidental, but be that as it may. I also welcome the report of the House of Lords Constitution Committee.
Clearly, there must be concern about the anxieties in the United States and other countries that we might reveal information given to us in confidence. On the other hand, we have had examples where the Americans themselves have not been that good at keeping secrets. Indeed, there was one instance in addition to the one quoted. In the Yemen case, the Americans leaked or revealed the fact that one of our people had given valuable information from Yemen. That endangered the safety of that individual. I say that only to demonstrate that the Americans themselves are not always as good at keeping to the principles that we are told are the basis for this legislation.
I welcome the fact that inquests will be excluded. I welcome the fact that the Bill will confine itself to national security material and that SIAC's jurisdiction will include the possibility of JRs regarding citizenship and exclusion from the UK. However, there is something I do not understand. If someone has lived in this country for some years and then applies for citizenship, why is that aspect covered by the secrecy implicit in the Bill? Surely, if a person has been here for years, we know that he or she is here and we are onto them. Indeed, there is an argument that we should keep quiet and see what else we can learn from them. If we start challenging their entitlement to citizenship, albeit in a secret court, we are actually giving the game away. I do not understand the argument there. Perhaps the Minister can reveal it.
The key issue is the secret hearings and the CMP material inherent in Part 2 of the Bill. Of course, the problem is that the Government may use and rely on closed material even though other parties are not allowed to see it. To quote again from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Kerr, who has been quoted before:
I understand that the courts traditionally are reluctant to challenge the Government on national security matters and if the Government say that it is a national security matter, the courts will normally accept that. The effect of the Bill will be largely to replace PII with CMP where the Government want that to happen. In truth, the Bill preserves the PII process in cases involving national security where in the Government's words it is more appropriate. But as the Bill stands, it is the right of the Secretary of State-his exclusive discretion -to decide which way to go. I think that that is more power than should be the case. I do not believe that the Government have fully demonstrated the case against PII.
I understand that the key benefit of the PII procedure is that there can be balance. The courts can balance one consideration against another. That is surely its particular strength. If we are throwing that out, that is a retrograde step. Do we have to have the alternative of the Secretary of State saying either that PII is okay or we have to have CMP? I wonder whether there might not be a way in which the strength of PII and the benefits of CMP as alleged could be put in such a way that the court itself could decide which of the two methods to use. I am not sure how well that would stand up, but I put it forward to the Minister as a possibility that might get the Government off the hook.
That seems to be very wide indeed. I understand national security, although it is vaguely defined. But if we are talking about damage to the international relations of the United Kingdom, all sorts of things damage our international relations, even a leak about something that a British embassy is doing. I wonder whether that is going too far and if we dropped that the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction approach would still apply more happily.
I turn briefly to Northern Ireland. While it is good that inquests have been excluded from the Bill as a whole, there is still a range of civil proceedings in Northern Ireland dealing with the legacy of the conflict that will be affected by the introduction of CMPs. I give three examples. There are possible challenges to the PSNI, possible concerns about decisions by the historical enquiries team and possible miscarriages of justice. Some of the issues in Northern Ireland are very serious. We have already had difficulties with the Finucane case with too much secrecy causing lack of confidence in the system. I wonder whether we are not getting into rather difficult terrain by applying this approach to some of the sensitive issues in Northern Ireland. I noted with interest the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that there should be a disclosure judge as well as a Diplock judge. I do not know enough about that, but that is another option worth considering.
I notice that the Government for the first time retain the right to use intercept evidence in CMP cases. Given all the arguments that we have had about intercept evidence, I still believe that we should find a
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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I am happy to join the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts and Lord Dubs, in being one of the outsiders contributing to this debate. It has such an important nature that it is important that those who are not lawyers as well as those who are take a substantial part in it.
In many ways, what has happened to the Bill is a great credit to some of the recent changes that have been made in Parliament. The fact that we have had a brilliant and succinct report from the Constitution Committee and a very full, factually based and sensible report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights says a great deal about the way in which committees are now beginning to complement and in many ways strengthen what has been something of a weakness in the House of Commons: its ability to scrutinise legislation going through Parliament. These two committees have served us extraordinarily well and I think it would be appropriate on this occasion for me to pay a passing tribute to the shade of the late Lord St John-Stevas for having made such a major and significant contribution to our constitutional development.
The Deputy Prime Minister deserves a word of praise. Having intervened fairly early in the process of considering the Bill, he was able almost immediately to challenge two elements of the Green Paper that were particularly disturbing: one of those aspects being the particular right of Ministers to decide whether a court should be held in closed session; and the second being, in my view at least, the attempt to include inquests within the scope of the CMP. I think he deserves recognition for having intervened and drawn attention to these two particularly extreme and in many ways odious provisions of the Green Paper.
Having said all that, I am also delighted with the strengthening of the position of the Intelligence and Security Select Committee-on this I think I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell. The decisions that it should choose its own chairman and that it should be accountable to Parliament rather than just to the Prime Minister are significant steps in gaining much greater accountability over the whole area of intelligence. For reasons that I will come to a little later, that is vital.
On the Bill itself, I have to admit that the state of the judiciary, as well as the care taken by the Select Committees of Parliament, has been impressive. I share the view of my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill that the judiciary has consistently behaved with extraordinary integrity and real commitment to the
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One aspect that is perhaps particularly important is the limitation of the introduction of the CMP into civilian proceedings. As has already been mentioned in the debate, it is quite striking that the special advocates could not have been clearer in their views that any further extension of the CMP into civilian proceedings would be unacceptable and would contribute very little to the quality of judicial statement and conclusion in our country. Given the pressures on them, it seems quite remarkable that they achieve near unanimity in a bold and strong statement about their position on the Bill. We have to pay careful attention to this because, as we know, virtually every currently practising lawyer who has had direct experience of the CMP in his or her own proceedings was deeply clear that it was a very unfair procedure and that steps to make it fairer were very difficult to attain. Also very clearly indicated was their view that a much stronger case needs to be made even in the field of national security and certainly beyond it in looking very hard at the CMP proposal.
In many ways the special advocates also regarded public interest immunity as a more satisfactory safeguard for the claims of those who came before the courts. Such cases became particularly difficult-this was mentioned in debate-where claimants invoked the Norwich Pharmacal precedent whereby information had to be disclosed, as my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace pointed out, originally with regard to intellectual property. However, as it was extended from intellectual property and ingeniously used as a way to get access to sensitive security matters, it obviously presented the Government with a very serious difficulty. Under present practice, it meant the Government withdrawing cases altogether rather than risking disclosure. This could lead to an unjust outcome. The former Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, is clearly particularly exercised about the possibility of injustice here. I wonder whether he would agree that judges must be consulted on the balance of interest in deciding whether a court should accept the CMP and whether he could be asked to explain openly their reasons for giving such a decision.
The Government's response to the Green Paper was far too cavalier on the essential principles of natural and open justice. Even in the redrafted Bill, Clause 13 defines "sensitive information", which I know has now been somewhat changed to "national security information", far too loosely and ranges far too wide. What my noble friend Lord Lester had to say about this was absolutely right. It therefore provides for unacceptable and unaccountable executive power by including within the definition a certificate by the Secretary of State if he or she considers that disclosure might damage the interests of national security or the international relations of the United Kingdom. This latter condition-I share this worry with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs-is usually interpreted by the media as being damaging to our relations with the United States, but it might also of course include damaging
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I therefore ask my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness whether the Government are absolutely sure that other countries, not including the United States, could not object, for example, to there being a decision to allow this material to be used if they found it offensive to their view of themselves regardless of whether they had a commitment to the human rights of other human beings and whether they had a proper commitment to laws that establish the freedom and independence of courts. There are a large number of countries-I could mention some but for reasons of diplomacy I will not-that are very close allies of the United Kingdom and that have virtually no commitment to the rule of law. What, therefore, is the position meant to be if they then use this part of the Bill to claim that they should not have been forced or compelled to make any revelations at all.
I turn briefly to the concept of security itself, which has become an autonomous noun-a self-justifying concept. Security may be understood as securing the health and safety of innocent citizens. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, made this his central definition of security, but I find it very difficult to do that. The concept of security should also be understood as securing the liberties and freedoms of a democratic society, not in principle contradicting them. I find it very hard to believe that security is strongly established if it is set in contradiction to these basic values. There is a worrying inclination to move in that direction: to treat security, as I said, as an autonomous noun-as something that has a right to itself other than that fundamental right of protecting individual liberty and safety and the basic values of a democratic society.
After 9/11-I should probably now declare a rather modest interest as a member of the governing committee of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard-some measures were taken that gave security precedence over any other values and rights. Among some of those precedent measures were measures that went quite directly contrary to what most of us would regard as the fundamental principles of being a law-abiding society. I am a little disturbed by our debate having paid so little attention to what I have to say is one of the shaming dimensions of intelligence: the whole story that has emerged about extraordinary rendition and the misuse of intelligence to bring about results and ends that are simply not compatible with those basic values.
I strongly argue that one of the great concerns that we ought to share is the continuation of the existence of Guantanamo Bay, despite the general intentions of President Obama to get rid of it when he was first elected in 2008. We should also be disturbed by the appalling story of extraordinary rendition by the CIA, which, deeply regrettably, some British intelligence was involved in and which has not yet fully emerged into the light of day.
I shall say this very carefully: an American President under increasing pressure from Congress, particularly a Congress of somewhat extreme views about how
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I conclude by saying that it is rather ironic that the Government have not proposed the use of security-cleared lawyers in such cases. In this the United States has shown strength by insisting that such security-cleared lawyers can be trusted in the recent habeas cases of two people who are being retained at Guantanamo Bay. The US has been willing to accept, as we have not, that security clearance is a sufficient and substantial safeguard. We seem disinclined even to look at the possibility, but I would add it to the list of options referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, as one of the various alternatives. This is one that we might want to look at.
Another might well be the one proposed by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, which draws on the Diplock court principle and priority, with the idea of a separate judge having particular responsibility for the levels of disclosure. The judge would have to satisfy him or herself that there had been no failure to disclose where necessary, but equally whether there should be any insistence on disclosure that runs contrary to natural justice and natural law. Finally, one other prospect might be looked at carefully. It was mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick-the more extensive use of various forms of redaction as a way of dealing with the problem.
There are several options before the Government, all of which should be carefully considered because one or more of them are preferable to the direction that we are moving in under Clauses 6 and 13. I hope that the Government will give serious and detailed consideration to these proposals because, with amendment, the Bill will make a useful contribution. Without amendment, it will stand as something that should not be allowed to pass into law.
Baroness Berridge: My Lords, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. When we were considering the Green Paper and now the Bill, I seemed always to have had in mind the statue of Lady Justice at the top of the Old Bailey, but when seeking to balance the various injustices in these situations I have come to conclude that her scales need at least seven pans.
First, the Government assert that they are not able to defend themselves and are forced into the settlement of claims. I agree with the Lord Chancellor that that is "extremely unsatisfactory". Secondly, the Bill would have the claimant and the lawyers in the corridor of the court and evidence seen fully by only one party. Thirdly, in civil proceedings there can be an appeal on the facts, but if, as the Government assert, these cases are so saturated in intelligence information that most of the judgments are secret, people will be less able to appeal and correct decisions.
Fourthly, there is the exclusionary nature of PII where the evidence is not considered by either side. Fifthly, there are apparently strike-outs of meritorious
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However, Lady Justice is usually blindfold, which is apt in this situation as your Lordships cannot observe a CMP in full. That is, the hearing has one party excluded. I trooped down to the Royal Courts of Justice in the February Recess to watch a control order case. I spent nine years as a civil advocate and I can spot a court case when I see one, but this did not feel like a court case: namely, a case in which parties try evidence before a judge. It was more like manoeuvrings, with the open advocate, the special advocate and the judge trying to assist to ensure that enough of the allegations were known before the whole thing-the trial of the allegations and most of the evidence-was held in secret behind what I discovered are literally the locked doors of the court. The controlled person was not even there. When I queried that, I was told that it is not unusual because, "there is not really much point". What I saw worried me and convinced me that the best people to determine this issue were those who have actually done these hearings, which will not necessarily be the most experienced practitioners, judges or academics.
That leaves three groups: those I will call the CMP judges, whose views are not known to Parliament; David Anderson, the independent reviewer; and of course the special advocates. David Anderson QC accepts that CMPs have the capacity to operate unfairly, especially if there is no gisting of the evidence. The last group are the most experienced, and they are not at all convinced. In fact, "inherently unfair" has been their consistent criticism of CMPs. Again, I agree with the Lord Chancellor when he said that the,
It has been suggested that the special advocates underestimate the effectiveness of CMPs, but that is unusual for any group of lawyers, especially one that includes 22 QCs, not because they are arrogant but because they are really excellent at what they do; QC is a top brand. I would like to see the Government gain the support of these independent advocates before being prepared to support such a fundamental change to our judicial process. I might add that these lawyers, the special advocates, will secure more work if we have more CMPs, and that is a rarity in my experience.
On the injustice of evidence excluded under PII, I join the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, but I would be grateful if my noble and learned friend the Minister could set out the statistics of how many cases in the past have led to the successful exclusion of all material, and how many have led to the partial admission of material in open court, such as that achieved so ably in the 7/7 inquest. Further, was this technique
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Moving on, it is hard to see how to ensure the future development of PII in national security cases when under this Bill the judge would be required to accede to an application if there is any national security information relevant to the case, even if he considers that the case could be tried using the existing PII rules. I suspect that we will find amendments tabled during Committee on the Bill. Will less information be available in the public domain than there should be? I think there is a danger that closed material procedures will restrict it.
As I understand the Bill, the difference between closed material procedures and public interest immunity is illustrated using an extension of the example cited in the Constitution Committee's report of an aircraft accident where the family ended up suing the Government. Let us imagine that we have gone into a closed material procedure and it becomes clear for the first time, behind closed doors, that cockpit video footage exists. That footage is played behind the closed doors. It is akin to the footage that many noble Lords will have seen from a recent inquest into a friendly fire incident that was leaked to the Sun newspaper. Is there any way in which the judge, in a closed material procedure, can balance the interests and pierce the wall of the closed material procedure to put that video into the public domain, given the level of intense interest both in the press and among the public since they know of its existence? As I understand the Bill, that would not be possible. Of course, the claimant may win the claim and the judge may use the powers under Clause 7 to enforce concessions on the claimant, but the public and the claimant will never see that video.
Civil claims are not always about winning or money but about knowing the evidence that establishes the allegation. The same is true for the press, as Ian Cobain, the Guardian journalist who gave evidence to the committee, said. His allegations were viewed as conspiracy theories by the Government, but documents disclosed in court proceedings have sadly proved otherwise. As I understand the Bill, CMP applications are ex parte, so there will never be cases in which the press should be represented to argue the open justice issue. Also, apparently meritorious claims are struck out as the intelligence is so central that it cannot be tried. As I understand the Bill, a claimant is not helped as only the Secretary of State can apply for closed material procedures.
What of confidence in Lady Justice herself? I rely here on the words of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, that it is perception that matters. We do not legislate in a vacuum and there is concern about the level of trust that the public have in institutions-except, I think, in the monarchy and the judiciary. On "Thought for the
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Before I am accused of being a fantasist, I pray in aid evidence from the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sue Akers. Her witness statement to the Leveson inquiry is as follows:
"Alleged payments by journalists to public officials have been identified in the following categories: Police; Military; Health; Government; Prison and others. The evidence suggests that such payments were being made to public officials across all areas of public life. The current assessment of the evidence is that it reveals a network of corrupted officials".
Your Lordships will remember better than I the West Midlands serious crime squad. I am not a doomsday merchant, but one has to think about what happens if this system goes wrong. Who will do the public inquiry? Not, I think, a judge-not because they lack the integrity but because what is being asked of them is beyond the capacity of any human being if both sides are not there to bring forward the evidence and to rebut one another's claims. Human beings are fallible. Home Office officials have been known to use the power to redact documents to cover up Home Office mistakes. MI6 was found to be incompetent at checking where its seconded staff were for over a week. How will all this not be less challengeable if behind closed doors?
Finally, I ask the Government to consider very carefully the implications of the following scenario. What will be the position under this Bill of the trial in which the right honourable Jack Straw MP is currently sought to be added to proceedings in his personal capacity over allegations from a Libyan military official that he authorised his rendition to Libya? The Government are an existing party to these proceedings and a CMP would be eminently possible. Is Mr Straw going to sit in the corridor outside a locked court? Imagine that Mr Straw loses the claim and has to pay £500,000 damages, and all that is done behind closed doors. He has also previously had security clearance, so he will potentially have knowledge to rebut these allegations from his direct experience, which he will not be able to use.
Baroness Berridge: I welcome that correction from the noble Baroness, but I think that the majority of the point still stands. Do your Lordships trust the Twittersphere to carry this information properly without muddying the waters with potentially inaccurate party political accusations? "The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government changed the law and Jack Straw, the former Labour Foreign Secretary, had to pay damages"-is that fewer than 140 characters? Will this enhance confidence in our judicial process?
Civil justice, with its disclosure provisions, is often the only avenue open to individuals to get the details of what has happened. This should not be underestimated.
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Lord Judd: My Lords, the House owes a very deep debt of gratitude to the noble Baroness for an extremely courageous and hard-hitting speech. With her background, we would all do well to listen very carefully to what she has to say. I also put on record my own admiration for the continued work of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. As a former member, I know just how much time and hard work is involved in that committee, and the whole House should be grateful to its members for all they do. I wish there was more evidence that the Government gave higher priority to dealing with the arguments put forward by the Joint Committee on Human Rights when participating in debates of this kind-this is not a party point because, frankly, it was also true of the previous Government.
The relationship between democracy, security, human rights and law is always very complex and intricate. Secrets are inevitable if we are taking security operations seriously. The crucial issue in a democratic society is who decides what should be the secrets and where the ring-fences should be placed. There will be checks and balances-they are inevitably needed-but this is a crucial issue that needs very careful scrutiny. I get worried by talk of trade-offs. I do not think that "trade-offs" is the right term. Human rights and certain fundamental principles of law are non-negotiable. There may be exceptions, but that is not a trade-off. The moment you start talking about trade-offs, you are suggesting that certain human rights and principles of law are not absolute. They should be absolute.
I am glad to see the remit of the Intelligence and Security Committee being extended. I am also cautiously optimistic about greater accountability to Parliament. Of course, ideally that committee should be accountable to Parliament. If, as we examine them, the terms of the legislation suggest that parliamentary accountability is being strengthened, this will be important.
Obviously, I am not a lawyer. My background is totally different. Therefore, I hope that the House will forgive me if I flat-footedly walk around as a lay man in the debate, but sometimes the lay men should be heard. For me, the starting point is: what kind of United Kingdom do we want to live in? I think all of us here would agree that the quality of justice was very central to the kind of United Kingdom in which we want to live. We would like to have a model with which we are happy and which can be a model for the world. When we prattle and preach about the responsibility of other nations to implement the rule of law, it starts with our own demonstrable commitment to upholding those principles.
What are those principles? Habeas corpus is obviously central-no person ever being detained without knowing for what reasons they are being detained and what is being alleged against them; that is absolutely crucial. Justice being seen to be done-not in corners or in secret clubs or secret arrangements, but manifestly,
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It has been a hard struggle to move forward on those principles. We only have to think, in this anniversary year of Dickens, of what was happening in Britain in the 19th century. We have come a long way since the 19th century, and we are the trustees of the outcome of that struggle. It could all too easily be thrown away.
We must also be aware of the issue of counterproductivity-this is something we must never forget. We live in a complex society. I use the word complex again, but complexity is central to life in my own estimation. It is so easy inadvertently to strengthen the wrong elements in society by alienating important sections of the community which become subject to the manipulation of extremists and others. We must fall over backwards not to make that mistake. I believe-and I am somebody who was nurtured in the Second World War, when we stood very firm on these principles -that the more acute the nature and size of the challenge, the more important it is to stand firm by the principles of the society we are defending. That is the hallmark of confidence and real strength.
I am afraid-and I must say it-that too often I see evidence of retreat and erosion in the face of terrorism and extremism. Each retreat represents a victory for the extremist, and we must never forget it. It also creates corrosive precedents. What should always be exceptional can too easily become convenient. We should strive always to deal with offences, however grave, within the normal judicial system and the normal procedures of our penal system. It would be disastrous if it became established over time that in this country we had first-class law available to some people and second-class law available to others.
I am afraid that sometimes we are rather good in Britain at refusing to face up to the harsh realities of what we may be generating. If we have special courts and special advocates, and if there are powers to withhold information-in effect on government say-so-when does the detainee become a political prisoner? What is the absolute dividing line between a detainee and a political prisoner? We very often use language about political prisoners in reference to others societies, but we must ask some very honest questions here about ourselves. We ought to listen to the special advocates on this. I remember that when I was on the Joint Committee on Human Rights the special advocates gave evidence to us. It was very powerful to see how unhappy they were about their lot and how they felt that they were being expected to perform in a way that was absolutely alien to their training as lawyers in this
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I have listened with fascination in this debate to those who are pre-eminently well qualified to comment on what is before us. It seems to me essential that all the time we are considering the Bill and putting it under scrutiny, we should have four questions in mind. First, does it regenerate and uphold a resolve and unshakeable commitment to open justice? Secondly, does it strengthen the means to deal convincingly and effectively with allegations of serious state wrongdoing? Here of course I have in mind torture and rendition in particular. Torture is an abomination. It is cruel to the people tortured, it is damaging to the people doing the torturing, and it is a total contradiction of everything we say that our civilised values are about. It is easy to say that, but are we taking the action that is demanded if we are serious in that judgment? Thirdly, does the Bill convincingly counter the dangers of manipulation of court proceedings by government, especially when government action goes against the considered wisdom of the judge? Fourthly, does the Bill effectively reverse what I believe to be a disturbing and accelerating trend towards curbing the ability of the public to hold the Government and their agencies to account through the courts? Here I cannot help making a comparison with another Bill that has just gone through this House: I am still dismayed by the way in which we have limited the availability of legal aid in our society. What are we doing to the quality of justice in the United Kingdom?
Let me conclude simply by saying that it is arguable that the 20th century saw a high point in the development of quality UK justice in the context of democracy. It will be a tragedy if the 21st century becomes one in which, by a weak and sad reversal of those considerable achievements, we produce an inferior system of justice. We must not let the extremists and the terrorists win.
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven: My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of Reprieve, an NGO campaigning against the death penalty and secret prisons around the world. It was involved in the Binyam Mohamed case. I start by acknowledging two things. First, the Bill is a significant improvement on the Green Paper that preceded it, and a very welcome improvement. Secondly, there may be a very limited category and number of civil cases in which closed proceedings may be necessary to ensure that justice can be done in circumstances where, if there were no closed proceedings, material critical to the fair resolution of an issue would be excluded from the court's consideration. This, of course, could include fair resolution in favour of the claimant as well as in favour of the defendant. I would expect this to be a very small-exceedingly small-number of cases.
My question for the House is whether the Bill as currently drafted achieves an appropriate balance between delivering justice in that very small category of cases and the wider public interest in enjoying a justice system that is open and public. Will the Bill deliver that very small-exceedingly small-number of cases, or might it deliver rather more; indeed, too many?
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Public interest immunity has served us very well over many years and judges are very experienced in the exercise of this jurisdiction. It enables a party to the proceedings to invite a judge to conclude that any given material, while relevant to an issue in the case, should be withheld from that case on public interest grounds. Naturally, those public interest grounds can include national security grounds. In conducting this exercise, the judge is required to balance the public interest in protecting sensitive material from disclosure against the private litigant's legitimate interest in seeing material that may assist his case or undermine the case of his opponent.
I am not aware that it has ever credibly been suggested that judges in our courts are inclined to get this balance wrong. My own experience over many years, including during the five years that I served as Director of Public Prosecutions, is that our judges do not get this balance wrong, despite what American intelligence agencies may quite erroneously believe. Some aspects of the Bill appear to have been included because of what almost everybody accepts is a misapprehension on the part of a foreign intelligence agency.
At present, the Bill requires the Secretary of State merely to consider public interest immunity and presumably to reject it as a suitable mechanism before going on to apply for a close material procedure. This is not enough. I urge the Government to take the opportunity represented by this legislation to strengthen, rather than undermine, our PII jurisdiction. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights has said, it should be placed on a statutory footing to strengthen confidence and to increase clarity. Such a reform could include, among other things, the test to be applied when national security material is the subject of a PII application.
I also believe that it would strengthen the integrity of any CMP were it to be invoked only following a full PII process. In other words, the judge would be invited to rule, in accordance with traditional PII principles, that the relevant material sought to be withheld could properly be withheld on public interest grounds. Having made that ruling, the court would then go on to consider, again on conventional PII principles, the extent to which a redacted form of the material, or a summary, could safely be disclosed consistent with the public interest.
Finally, if at the conclusion of this conventional PII process a party wished to go on to apply that the court should go into closed session to hear any remaining material permitted to be withheld under PII, only then would the court be empowered to accede to that application to the extent that it felt a fair trial would be impossible in the absence of factoring that material into its consideration of the issues in the case.
The scheme would be: first, consider the relevance of the material to issues in the case-normal PII; secondly, consider the extent to which its disclosure might damage national security-normal PII; thirdly, consider the extent to which redaction or summary can cure the problem-normal PII; fourthly, in appropriate cases after that process, rule that the material may be
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I turn to the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction and Clauses 13 and 14. These are far too widely drawn for the following reasons. Clause l3 relates to "sensitive material". The listing of this category of material as deserving of special protection is an unfortunate throwback to the excesses of the Green Paper. Worse, whole swathes of material are deemed to warrant, without any further consideration, the tag of "sensitive", so that they are automatically and absolutely excluded from disclosure. This includes any material emanating from the intelligence services in the widest sense.
Of course, some material emanating from the intelligence services, though certainly not all of it, may be "sensitive", but that is the wrong test. It has been abandoned in the rest of the Bill and it should be absent from Clause 13. The test should be the extent to which a disclosure would be damaging to national security, as it is elsewhere. Even then, there should be no automatic carve-out. The power to withhold this material should be subject to a judge's ruling on the merits, as it is in the case of an application for a CMP. It should be the same test.
Even worse, Clause 13(3)(e) allows the Secretary of State to specify that any other material may be excluded if its disclosure in his judgment could damage national security or damage the interests of our international relations. The exercise of this exceedingly broad executive power is reviewable by a judge, but not on its merits and only on JR principles; that is, the judge can reject the Secretary of State's certification only if he finds its exercise to have been "irrational". This test does not provide adequate supervision over such a sensitive exercise of ministerial power, undermining, as it must be, of important principles of open justice.
The Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction can sound a dry and technical subject, but, as my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill has pointed out, it exists in cases where a great deal may be at stake, including the very life of the complainant who may, for example, be residing in a foreign prison and potentially facing sentence of death, as was the case with a number of Guantanamo Bay inmates. As things stand, the courts will make a Norwich Pharmacal order only where the party against whom it is sought has become mixed up in wrongdoing and where the interests of justice require it. Are we now to say that, however mixed up in wrongdoing the party against whom disclosure is sought may have been, and however strongly the interests of justice may demand disclosure, the behaviour of the wrongdoer, if it is an intelligence agency, shall be afforded total and automatic protection in all third-party
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I accept that, in cases in which national security issues are genuinely engaged, some adjustment to the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction may be appropriate, but the solution is emphatically not entirely to exclude certain bodies from its range. The solution may be, as I think the JCHR indicated, a presumption against disclosure in national security cases in the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction, overturnable by the judge if, in his or her view, serious injustice is likely to occur in the event of non-disclosure.
Even in the field of national security, I do not believe that it is in the broader public interest to move to a scheme where the interests of justice are entirely exiled from the equation so that they cease to exist as a check against the abuse of state power.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, having had some experience of matters relating to national security involving many of the considerations inherent in this Bill, I absolutely recognise the importance of protecting intelligence sources, intelligence methodologies and those agents who have the complex and often difficult task of running the sources who are often engaged in the very issues on which they provide intelligence.
Such activity is of course regulated but much of it occurs in real time and in situations in which the Security Service necessarily exercises a degree of discretion -for example, about the involvement of sources in crime or terrorism. The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, referred to where things go wrong. In Northern Ireland, there is a body of evidence about such circumstances. Examples are sources being funded to make trips to other places to buy arms and munitions for the purposes of terrorism, and sources who admit to murder not being prosecuted for those murders because the important thing is to retain their services as sources, the consequence being a lengthy career in serious crime, which could have been prevented. A balancing of the public interest, or even the administration of justice, with their ongoing activities might have led to different state action from that which occurred.
I mention that because it is important that, as far as possible, there should be no provision that enables the Government to withhold intelligence or other sensitive information relating to national security in a manner that prevents a litigant asserting and proving his case if our current situation with regard to the operation of government and the rule of law is to be maintained and, hence, our national security is to continue to be protected. Introducing further limitations to judicial oversight and involvement, as proposed in the Bill, cannot be welcomed where alternative measures can be taken that will better serve the interests of both openness and justice. In that context, it might be useful to consider the references of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, to the disclosure judges and their activities in Northern Ireland.
There are mechanisms for the accountability of the Security Service and anti-terrorist policing, to which we have reference in the Bill, but I think that, with respect, the current arrangements cannot inspire great confidence because of the very limited resources and opportunities for access afforded to those who are charged with the responsibility. Great atrocities, both here and in the United States, have led to calls for examination of what happened-for example, with the Omagh bomb 14 years ago or with 9/11. The reality is that the intelligence services do not operate alone; they operate with the police and other statutory agencies. Sometimes there has to be a public inquiry, and we have seen several in Northern Ireland. In such circumstances, there will be consequential disclosure and such inquiries may well be in the interests of national security, so we cannot start with the assumption that everything has to be protected.
I welcome the exclusion of inquests from the Bill. However, I should like the Government to explain why inquests should be excluded but civil actions for damages against the Government taken by the loved ones of those who have died should be subject to the possibility of a CMP. The response cannot simply be that Article 2 does not apply to civil actions. The perception is that the effect of that provision is that the Government might be influenced in their decision to withhold information because to disclose information would be very costly in terms of the damages that they might have to pay. Of course, the claimant may not know the extent of wrongdoing which may have led to death or serious injury and may therefore be inclined to settle for a sum which does not reflect the extent of wrongdoing. I heard the Minister say that without CMPs the Government would have to settle cases which they could otherwise defend because they must protect national security. It is possible that the perception outside your Lordships' House will be that the Government are creating, perhaps unwittingly, a damage limitation mechanism exercised by virtue of this provision.
It is important in dealings with other Governments that our Government should not become complicit by omission or commission in any wrongdoing by those Governments. The removal of people to places where torture and inhuman treatment is likely on the basis of security intelligence is risky, to say the least. I have referred previously in this House to the case of Maher Arar, who was transferred by the Americans to Syria on the basis of intelligence obtained by torture. Mr Arar spent a year in Syria tortured by the Syrian authorities before he was released to return to his homeland of Canada-the Syrian Government and the Canadian Government both acknowledging that he had had no involvement at all in al-Qaeda. There are lessons for us in such cases.
We must have proper arrangements for the transmission of intelligence between countries in the interests of each country's national security, but we must also acknowledge that countries have a wide moral responsibility to share intelligence to protect life. It is important that the United Kingdom does not bow to threats of non-sharing but, rather, asserts clearly the integrity of the judiciary in the United Kingdom and the fact that there has been no breach of security and
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Central to the rule of law in the United Kingdom are presumptions of openness and fairness. It is, in part, confidence in the rule of law which allows us governance. The Select Committee on the Constitution said in its third report:
Those basic principles should not be diminished-and that is what the Bill will do-unless it is absolutely necessary. The Supreme Court in Al Rawi concluded that such measures would require "compelling evidence". The necessity and proportionality of the measures in the Bill must be considered if your Lordships are to decide whether to approve the Bill or its individual clauses.
If we look at the response of those with significant experience in the area, we see that the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am now a member, states that, even with special advocates, CMP,
It does not accept that replacing PII with CMP is justified. Special advocates have said that CMPs are inherently unfair: they do not work effectively and they do not deliver procedural fairness. The Court of Appeal, commenting on the special advocates procedure, said that even it is "inherently imperfect" and,
If we examine the proposed CMP, we see that much of the judge's discretion and authority, which currently exists under the PII procedure, is negated by the CMP. The power all lies in the hands of the Secretary of State, who can apply for a declaration and then make the applications. The court must grant the application. The court may not even consider whether a PII procedure would be a better alternative. Once that is done, there will be consideration of individual pieces of evidential intelligence, but the reality is that the special advocate procedure does not permit full challenge of the material presented. Once the special advocate has seen the material, he can have no further discussion with the litigant; he has no responsibility to the litigant. That would be fine were it not for the complexity inherent in the assessment and examination of intelligence. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Kerr, stated most compellingly in Al Rawi-this has been referred to repeatedly-
Nothing in the CMP procedure would equate to any attempt to carry out the balancing of interests in
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Will the Minister consider the introduction of some provision to mitigate the inherent unfairness of the Bill, whether by way of disclosure of material to legal representatives or in redacted form, as suggested?
I support the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Lester, about the effect of the Bill on the Norwich Pharmical procedure. There continues to be no definition of national security-something which alternatively mystifies and occasionally benefits those who are required to make decisions in the interests of national security. It is also important to bear in mind that nothing is absolute. Even the identity of sources may be revealed, as was clearly demonstrated in the comments of Lord Chief Justice Carswell in the Northern Ireland case of Scappaticci. He stated, in the context of the "neither confirm nor deny" policy, that the Minister,
"A decision maker exercising public functions who is entrusted with a discretion may not, by the adoption of a fixed rule of policy, disable himself from exercising his discretion in individual cases".
We must accept the reality that there are cases in which the general rules about non-disclosure of intelligence material will have to be disregarded. It happens now, for example, if somebody is murdered and a source can give vital evidence about the murder but revealing the source would compromise him as a source. This will happen and he will then be repatriated to a new existence-something which he may not find particularly palatable, but it deals with the problem and with the requirements of justice. It is also the case that intelligence-gathering methodology has evolved. What might have been required to be protected even in 2006 may no longer require protection in 2012. It may be that the Minister will assure me that such consideration will always be part of the making of decisions about whether to apply for a CMP or whether simply not to make an application.
There is no definition of what this damage might consist of, or of what objective criteria should be used to determine whether disclosure would cause such damage. There is a very clear proportionality and human rights issue here. Issues of the protection of national security are not new. We have long been engaged in battles to preserve and protect our national security, and I use that term in its widest sense. Procedures for dealing with the problem have evolved in a very measured way and the PII system is probably a very good example in this context.
Finally, why did the Government choose not to put PII procedures on a statutory basis, as many have recommended, in an enhanced form but, rather, to move towards the extension of the CMP, which has been described in such negative terms by so many of great distinction who have served this country so well? At this point, I endorse the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, regarding the introduction of a statutory PII process with the possibility of, in very exceptional circumstances, a closed material process. This would surely meet the objectives.
Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships long as I have just one central point to make, but as it relates in part to the media I must first declare my interest as director of the Telegraph Media Group and draw attention to my other media interests in the register. I slightly wonder whether I should follow the example of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and declare that I, too, am a flat-footed layman, somewhat intimidated by the assembly of the great legal minds that have graced this debate.
As we have heard in many eloquent speeches, the Bill goes to the heart of some fundamental constitutional principles and, indeed, human rights: the duty of government to safeguard the state and its citizens and, consequently, their right to life; the right of defendants to a fair trial, based on information on which they have had a chance to comment; and the demands in a free society for open justice, fully and fairly reported on, and indeed scrutinised, by an independent and robust media.
In the debate on the gracious Speech, I raised some concerns that, based on the Green Paper which foreshadowed the Bill, this legislation would end up undermining some of those vital principles and expressed a great anxiety, which was echoed in the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, at,
It is to their great credit that the Government listened to the widespread concerns expressed by the media and many others about the Green Paper's proposals and likely impact in this area and have acted so decisively to deal with them in the Bill before us. That is warmly to be welcomed and it shows quite how important consultation is in such legislation. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, made that point earlier.
I am particularly grateful to my noble friend the Minister of State for his courtesy in writing to me after the debate on the gracious Speech to reaffirm the Government's strong commitment to open and transparent justice and to outline, as we have heard a number of times today, how their proposals relating to CMP with significantly strengthened judicial control would provide much needed safeguards. I understand that his most helpful letter, dated 11 June, about the media aspects of this legislation is in the Library of the House. Those safeguards will go a long way to
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I still have some areas of concern, such as the power under Clause 11 allowing the Secretary of State to make an order that would extend CMPs to any court or tribunal, with, as I understand it, important procedural provisions contained in rules of court not subject to the same detailed scrutiny as primary legislation debated in this House. It is crucial that such a move, entailing a substantial departure from our tradition of open justice, will be permissible only in the rarest of cases. I am sure that is what the Government intend and it would be helpful to have confirmation of that.
That said, this is, in the scheme of things, an issue more of subsidiary concern on which I hope we will be able to get reassurances. I ask my noble friend the Minister to continue the Government's constructive dialogue, particularly with the media, that has to date been so effective and to discuss any further suggestions that may come forward for additional improvements intended to safeguard public oversight in this area.
This important Bill is a complex balancing act, as we have heard in so many contributions, between open and fair justice and the security of the citizen. Achieving such a balance between security and liberty, like trying to mesh together Hobbes and JS Mill-not a task I would wish to undertake-is fiendishly complicated. We have heard many concerns today and I have certainly listened to thought-provoking comments. I was struck by the speech of my noble friend Lady Berridge. However, from my vantage point, the Government are to be congratulated on listening to legitimate concerns and striking the balance with care. As a leading article in the Daily Telegraph on 30 May put it:
"We are facing a continuing threat from terrorists whose methods are ever more sophisticated, and the manner in which we counter those threats must be protected. This measure reinforces the rule of law without giving ground to those who would do us harm".
Those are sentiments with which I concur. At the start of this debate, the noble and learned Lord said that we should test this legislation by whether it is a sensible and proportionate response to the threats that our society faces. In my view, it passes that test.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I will confine my remarks to Part 1 of the Bill and the Intelligence and Security Committee's operations. I listened to the very reassuring remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who poured praise on the committee on the basis of his experience not only as a member but as one of those who engineered the construction of the committee. He was also able to watch that committee's operation in the early days, when people such as me from the awkward squad in the House of Commons were put on it in an attempt to reassure the public.
I was a member of the committee between 1997 and 2001, under the excellent chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater. In 1998, I set out in a paper to the then Prime Minister, Mr Blair, my provisional views on reform of the committee. Sadly, at that stage my views were rejected; they were a minority view that I had been pushing inside the committee. I wanted a committee of Parliament-not of parliamentarians-under a modified Select Committee structure, especially adapted to deal with the handling of national security issues. I should report that in the late 1990s there had been much discussion in the committee in private on whether we should go down the Select Committee route. I recall one particular day when we were discussing the amendment to the annual report from our committee, where we were hassling over the wording so as not to lead the public to believe that we were going to go down that route but to inform them that there was at least an argument going on within the committee on that matter-and that is 14 years ago.
The debate has now moved on. I hope to deal in Committee with some of the recommendations that I made at the time. However, the heart of my case today is that the model the Government are adopting is wrong. Some of the changes I welcome; but I regard the changes that are being made as essentially cosmetic. They will not meet the concerns of Members of the other House, or the expectation of the public, where they have an interest in these matters. Furthermore, the reforms might perhaps be counterproductive. Let us take the process of appointment. Under Clause 1(3) and (4), the Bill proposes that a person is not eligible for membership unless nominated by the Prime Minister. A member is then appointed by Parliament, effectively under a resolution of the House. At the moment a person is appointed by the Prime Minister on a recommendation of the Whips. I know that over the years members of the committee have tried to convince the public that they are appointed by the Prime Minister; the reality is that all members of that committee were appointed on the basis of Whips' recommendations, certainly in the House of Commons. The only difference under the Bill is that the House will have to approve, on a resolution-a rubber stamp-the Prime Minister's recommendations, which means a payroll vote, supported by the opposition Front Bench, backed up with an informal Whip, with bi-party guidance in support. It might even on occasions be a fully whipped vote.
As one of the Commons awkward squad, I was involved in challenging a Select Committee nomination, which very rarely happens in the House of Commons, certainly on only a few occasions over my 21 years there. One never has the support of the Whips, as a challenge is seen as an assault on the workings of the usual channels. What I am arguing, therefore, is that that is no great change.
On the wider issue of ISC operations, there are effectively no changes. On the block on ministerial membership, the length of service, the dissolution of the Commons, the resignation arrangements, quorum and membership cap, determination of procedures, reports, approval by the Prime Minister, and agreements on the remit between the agencies and committee, there is very little change. There is certainly little change on areas which will be set out from the Front Bench by
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"The position for the present ISC is that the Director-General of the Security Service, the Chief of the Intelligence Service or the Director of the Government Communications Headquarters (as well as the relevant Secretary of State), is able to decline to disclose information because it is sensitive information which, in their opinion, should not be made available. Paragraph 3 removes this ability for the Agency heads to withhold information. The ability to decide that information is to be withheld will instead rest (solely) with the relevant Secretary of State (for the Agencies) or Minister of the Crown (for other government departments)".
I am quoting from the Explanatory Memorandum. Well: Secretaries of State; ministerial responsibilities. I regret to say that my then right honourable friend Robin Cook is not here to defend his case today; but I was on the committee where Robin Cook had responsibilities in these areas. When he gave evidence to us on one occasion-it has never been made public before, but I am not breaching national security by saying what happened-we were appalled by how defensive he was towards the services. He was most unwilling to provide for us information which the committee felt that it was entitled to hear. That was the view of all members of the committee, including the chairman, at the time. Let us take the position of Michael Heseltine, for whom I have very great regard, in the early 1980s, when he was in pursuit of CND. Are we saying that people like that should be able effectively to veto information being given to the committee when the law provides that the committee has access to operational material? In other words, they would be able to say, "This material cannot be given to the committee". I have far more faith in the heads of service long before I am prepared to trust Ministers to take particular decisions as to whether the flow of information should be vetoed. To put it more bluntly, I have more faith in the Stephen Landers or the Baroness Manningham-Bullers of this world and in their decisions on these matters than ever I would have in the decision of a Minister of the Crown. Ministers of the Crown on occasions will make thoroughly political decisions; sometimes even their personal credibility might influence the judgments that they make. I think that it is an error of judgment to go down that route.
Under the question of access to operational material, let us take the definition of "sensitive" that might apply to the provision of information to the committee. I quote again from the Explanatory Memorandum on the Bill. Under the present arrangement:
"The position for the present ISC is that information is considered sensitive information, if (among other reasons) it might lead to the identification of, or provide details of, sources of information ... or operational methods available to the Agencies; or if it is information about particular operations which had been, were being or were proposed to be undertaken in pursuance of any of the functions of the Agencies. Paragraph 4 extends these parts of the definition of sensitive information ... to cover also equivalent information relating to any part of a Government department, or any part of Her Majesty's forces, which is engaged in intelligence or security activities".
I read that as meaning that under sub-paragraph (5)(a) and (b) of paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, we are giving a power perhaps to a junior Minister, perhaps even to a Parliamentary Secretary, to block access to operational material in any department if that Minister, adequate or inadequate, wise or unwise, perhaps even being manipulated, decides that the issue is either national security-sensitive or is not reportable to a departmental Select Committee. That is not a reform; it is a fudge.
In other words, at the beginning of a Parliament, perhaps on a change of government, new members of the committee, without any knowledge whatever of the internal dynamics of the committee which are important, of individual member relationships with the agencies, or of the kind of work to be undertaken, are to be asked to appoint a committee chairman. I regard that proposition as ludicrous. When I was first appointed to that committee in 1997, I would not have supported Tom King as chairman. As far as I was concerned, having just come through 17 years in Opposition, to me he appeared to be an abrasive former Cabinet Minister. However, within a matter of months, I realised that he was absolutely ideal for the job; he was perfect in the chair and I would have supported him all the way; but not at the time, after the general election in 1997. Yet under this arrangement, new members will go into that committee and they will be required to vote for a new chairman of the committee. That proposition is quite ludicrous.
The model is wrong. What is my alternative? For a start, it should be a committee of Parliament, not of parliamentarians. We are going partly down that route. The committee should be a creature of Parliament, not of the Executive. I still believe that it is a creature of the Executive because of the ministerial veto. It is not a Select Committee and yet the Labour Party has supported full Select Committee status right through since the debates of 1988, almost 24 years ago. My noble friend Lord Richard made an important contribution to the debate in this House and my noble friend Lord Hattersley, as the shadow Secretary of State at the time, made a similar contribution in the House of Commons, supporting the Select Committee structure. So why are we still arguing the toss after some 24 years? It is widely known that committee members wanted some change, but I do not know what change or even whether this is what they really want. Is real reform being blocked in Cabinet, or perhaps by some boys in short trousers in Downing Street, or is there some legal reason? What is the reason for the fudge?
I believe that the committee should be a Select Committee, meeting on the Parliamentary Estate, established under a modified Select Committee structure, approved by a special resolution of Parliament, with procedures specifically adapted to deal with the handling of issues of national security. It would have the protection of parliamentary privilege, which could be fully considered by the Joint Committee currently being established to deal with the issue of privilege. It could hold those who
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I turn to the issue of the handling of operational information and of sensitive material more generally. As I have said, I completely reject the idea that Ministers should effectively have a veto on the flow of such information to the committee. The chairman of the committee should have open, unrestricted access to all post-operational security material, described in the Explanatory Memorandum as,
It would be for the chairman in consultation with the agencies, not for Ministers, to decide on whether any operational information should be withheld from the committee for reasons of national security; or for the chairman in consultation with Ministers more widely where other Select Committee considerations were in mind. The chairman would decide. The chairmanship of the committee would then be crucial. Noble Lords will now see why I do not want it to be elected.
This model would change the entire dynamics of the operation of the committee. For a start, you could not elect its chairman. It would subtly change the nature and form of accountability. That appointment would have to be on the agreement of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and would be an appointment of trust. Malcolm Rifkind, the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, my noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton and others who followed could have done that job and been fully trusted by the agencies to be given access to that material. They would then be responsible for deciding what information the committee was given where issues of the veto arose.
I could go further, although I am still turning it over in my mind. I could argue that there are circumstances in which such a chairman could be given access to pre-operational material on the basis that it could not in any circumstances be disclosed to the committee. Post-operation, of course, it could then fall under the general heading of retrospective oversight and the chairman would then have the discretion, following consultation with the agencies. Noble Lords will note that I have excluded Ministers from the process. The discussions that regularly take place between the Government and the agencies would have no bearing on accountability to the committee. I am proposing a very different model, and I hope that the Government are listening.
When compared with many other countries, it is remarkable how much the British people hold the courts in high regard and respect their decisions. This is partly because our judges are seen as incorruptible, independent and wise, but the main reason is that court decisions are the result of a process that is fair and transparent. By "fair" I mean that the court will give no privileges to either side, even when one side is the state. This principle is known in European jurisprudence as "equality of arms" and is a very British concept. An important aspect of equality of arms is that each side has an opportunity to see the other side's evidence, to challenge it and test it, and to call evidence of their own to rebut it. The decision that is made after that process has been respected as one that we have good reason to respect.
What does transparency mean in this context? The principle of transparency entails that proceedings should be open to the public unless there is a very good reason why not. The court should make plain the reason for its decision. No matter how high our regard for the judge, it is very hard to trust his or her decision if you do not know how and why it has been reached.
Closed material proceedings are a big departure from the principles of transparency and fairness. The Government are proposing that, in civil cases where they are the defendant and are being accused of wrongdoing, they should be able to stack the proceedings in their favour on what is probably the deciding issue in the case. CMP is not just a secret hearing with the press excluded; the litigants and their lawyer are also locked out. The Government's lawyer would have a private meeting with the judge who will decide the case and give him or her so-called evidence that their opponent cannot see. I say "so-called evidence" because it will simply be assertions that have not been tested or challenged. It may be mistaken or could even be complete fiction. Even so, the Bill requires the judge to take this highly dubious information into account when reaching a verdict-a very one-sided arrangement that cannot in any way be described as fair.
What led to the creation of CMPs in the first place? They were introduced for Special Immigration Appeals Commission hearings involving foreigners for whom a national security deportation was being considered. Previously such appeals were held in total secrecy and, by comparison, CMPs were a bit less bad. We are now being invited to extend CMPs from this highly specialised application to civil cases, where the Government are the defendant and are being accused of wrongdoing.
However, that is not the end of this mission creep. Buried in the Bill, in Clause 11(2), is the power for the Secretary of State to amend the definition of "relevant civil proceedings" by statutory order, into who knows what areas of our justice system.
Of course, we have a good idea of how far the Government would really like to go in extending the scope of CMPs. The Green Paper sought to apply CMPs to all civil proceedings involving the Executive. Secret and unfair hearings, therefore, could have been invoked by a hospital trust fighting a medical negligence claim, or a local authority defending itself against a claim for maladministration. For now, the Lord Chancellor has rowed back on that ambition in
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What of the safeguards that the Government have trumpeted? We are told that the case judge will decide whether CMPs will be invoked, not the Minister. However, there is a disconnect between what the Government are saying on this and what is actually on the Bill. According to the Bill at present, judges will have their hands tied, with no discretion to consider the competing interests of disclosure in the interests of justice and national security. This, therefore, will effectively be a ministerial decision, with no effective judicial oversight.
What, then, is the problem that this Bill seeks to solve? The current system of PII certificates works well. It allows a balance to be struck between the requirements of justice and national security. If a Minister believes that disclosure could harm the public interest, he or she signs a certificate to that effect. The court then considers the issue, and the judge has a number of ways to handle the information in question. He can withhold it, release it, redact it before he releases it, protect the identity of the witness, and he has a number of other nuanced solutions. The PII system works well, and the Government have failed to bring forward a single example of where the PII system has led to a disclosure that has been damaging to our national security.
In fact, the Bill requires a Minister to "consider" the PII route before applying for a CMP, but the wording of this provision is so weak and easy to evade that, in effect, Ministers can and will demand CMPs without giving any serious consideration to the much fairer PII route. If this Bill is to proceed, before the Minister can ask for a CMP he should have to demonstrate to the court that for some reason a PII certificate will not do the job.
What do others think of this Bill? The House could do worse than listen to the views of the special advocates, specially vetted lawyers who are appointed to serve the court in CMPs. If anyone knows about the grimy details of this part of the justice system, they do. In a memorandum signed by 50 special advisers-which is basically all of them-they say that,
There you have it from the horse's mouth. No reason has been advanced and none exists for making part of our civil justice system inherently unfair. That is the opinion of the specialist lawyers with deep knowledge of this type of proceedings and with no axe to grind at all.
What, then, is behind this solution without a problem? Over the past few months we have been offered a series of spurious justifications for this draconian Bill, all of them without any evidence to support them that stands up to scrutiny. I put it to the House that this Bill has nothing to do with protecting national security or preventing the CIA from withholding intelligence from our agencies because they do not trust our courts, or with saving the Government from having to settle civil cases for large sums because they cannot use sensitive
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I put it to noble Lords that the real problem that this Bill is designed to solve is the justified embarrassment that the security agencies suffered when a recent civil case exposed their involvement in rendition and torture. In that case, the previous Government sought to conceal from the courts seven paragraphs that admitted what the Americans did to the litigant while he was in their custody.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend but that is not quite right. The previous Government attempted to provide that information to the United States Military Commissions, but were thwarted from doing so by the American intelligence authorities. What the British Government sought to do was entirely honourable and they did not seek to conceal it from our own court. I thought I should just place that on the record.
Lord Strasburger: I thank my noble friend for that. The Lord Chancellor has indulged in plenty of comforting rhetoric in an attempt to assuage the serious concerns that many people wiser than I have about this Bill. The problem is that there is a yawning chasm between his words and those in the Bill. For example, he assures us that the judge will decide whether CMP will be used but the Bill as currently worded makes clear that the judge's hands will be tied and will have little option but to grant the Minister's request for CMP, even if he or she believes that the case could best be tried using PII rules. The judge will not be able to adjudicate between the competing arguments of justice and national security.
As it currently stands, this Bill is a toolkit for cover-ups. As such it is a threat to our democracy and we have a lot of work to do to fix its serious shortcomings. I hope that my noble and learned friend the Minister will listen to the strong misgivings about this Bill around the House, among civil liberties campaigners and, particularly, the special advocates who have a much more balanced and independent view of these matters than the politicians and the security agencies.
I will listen carefully to the Minister's response today and in Committee. I hope that he is able to give me comfort to support a much-improved version of the Bill in the future but there is a long way to go.
Lord Faulks: My Lords, this Bill was always likely to be controversial and contributions so far have shown that that is the case. Part 2 has been a particular focus of attention. It is concerned with restricting the disclosure
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The Bill involves the extension of CMPs to include civil proceedings. It should be emphasised that CMPs are not of themselves a novelty and exist in a number of different contexts, as the Minister has described. The extension was presaged by the Green Paper, and the Government's proposals have been much commented on in the media and by various interested parties. The Government have acknowledged the contribution of those who commented on the proposals, not least the JCHR, of which I am now a member, although I claim no credit for that contribution as I was not a member at the material time. I am conscious of some of my distinguished predecessors on that committee. Contributors to the debate even included the Daily Mail, a newspaper that normally causes the party opposite to reach for their collective smelling salts.
In response to representations, the Government have made some important modifications to their original proposals. The most important seems to be that the CMPs will be appropriate only in the disclosure of evidence that would be,
rather than in criminal proceedings or disclosure that might damage international relations. I share with the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, some little confusion as to why inquests fall into a separate category. As the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has said, this may be to do with the jurisprudence in Strasbourg about Article 2 and its expanded approach. The questioning in inquests may be rather different than in civil proceedings or judicial review proceedings, or the Government, as a reasonable matter of political expediency, may have responded to public disquiet.
Be that as it may, there appear to me to be certain relevant questions about what remains of CMPs. Have the Government made their case for an extension of CMPs, and if so are there sufficient safeguards in the Bill to minimise any risk to justice? The problem with the current system is that the Government are between a rock and a hard place. They may take the view that in disclosing material that will damage the interests of national security, but using PII if the application is successful, they may not be able to defend proceedings without what may be crucial evidence in their favour. The result may be that there is an inappropriate compromise of a civil claim.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, says that the Government are apparently in favour of the settlement of proceedings. This is not what I detect from the anxiety behind this Bill; they are in fact against inappropriate settlements where evidence has not been adduced. On the other hand, if the PII application is unsuccessful and the judge in performing the relevant
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The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, says quite rightly that in the course of looking at the doctrine of PII, judges have developed a range of responses to mitigate the stark choice that is sometimes presented to the Government. The ingenuity of judges includes the redaction of material and anonymisation and other procedures, but sometimes-this has been the case in the past and will be so again-the Government are left with that stark choice, which I understand is the philosophy behind this part of the Bill.
I am naturally concerned by the comments about CMPs that have been made by the special advocates, some of whom I know well. Many of their points seem valid; in particular, I am unsure how a satisfactory assessment of prospects of success can be made in the absence of critical evidence. How, too, can cases settle on the basis of a proper assessment of likely outcome-and here I acknowledge the point made appropriately by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas? How is Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules to operate? I am also very sympathetic to their very understandable regard for their clients' interests, which they feel may be compromised by the lack of a free flow of communication between the special advocates and open advocates and by the risk that some relevant piece of information may remain unchallenged because of this lack of communication.
I am much less convinced, however, by the suggestion that PII is working well. I am entirely sure, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, pointed out, that judges are performing the balancing exercises wisely, but for the reasons I have given the operation of PII may on occasion simply fail to deliver a just decision.
The use of CMPs will inevitably be what has been described by the independent reviewer as a second-best solution. However, it is significant that David Anderson QC, in the course of his providing memoranda to the JCHR, was convinced that there was a need to have a CMP available as an option in civil cases, albeit that it might not be needed to be exercised on anything other than very occasionally, and I agree.
Special advocates, whatever their reservations about these procedures, are known to be tenacious in the defence of their clients and in challenging evidence adduced in CMPs. It must be recorded that a number of distinguished judges, not least the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, who is not in his place, have said that CMPs are capable of producing justice and are consistent with it. Other judges, such as the much quoted noble and learned Lord, Lord Kerr, have observed that the lack of informed challenge, based on instructions, may leave the judge with a significant disadvantage in assessing the cogency of relevant evidence.
While in theory that is undoubtedly right, experience of our judiciary tells me that if evidence is adduced under CMPs, judges are likely to be particular rigorous in assessing its value. For example, if what is adduced
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It is also worth observing that the extension of CMPs relates to civil proceedings involving claims for damages or judicial review, rather than to criminal proceedings, as we were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell. While all cases should be subject to a full and preferably open hearing, the extension provided by this legislation is not concerned with criminal charges with a potential for loss of liberty.
The relative roles of the judge and the Secretary of State were much discussed in the responses to the Green Paper. It is for the Secretary of State to make the application, and the court must then make an appropriate declaration. However, I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that under Clause 6(2) one would expect the judge to try and devise strategies and to be interventionist in order to have a mode of trial that can, if possible, avoid CMPs, which are perhaps a last resort-but a necessary last resort.
It is said that Clause 6(5), which provides that the Secretary of State must first consider making a claim for PII, is of very little force. However, I would expect the Secretary of State to need to satisfy a judge that there had been at least consideration of such an option, and an explanation provided as to why PII was not used. The rules of court that are to be made pursuant to Clause 7 require a judge to consider providing a summary or gist of the material that is not damaging, within the definition of the Bill. Presumably, it would enable the claimant to provide some comments on the relevant evidence. This would need to be carefully done, but it would provide a potentially important safeguard.
The role of the Human Rights Act is also of importance. Article 6-the right to a fair trial-is specifically referred to in the Bill and provides another safeguard. In fact, we had well established principles of fair and open justice long before the Human Rights Act came into force. However, if one is to view these provisions in Human Rights Act terms, it should be remembered that Article 2 of the convention places an obligation on the Government, as a public authority, to protect the life of their citizens. In focusing on litigants, we should not forget the rest of the population, whose well-being may well be jeopardised by the disclosure of sensitive material.
Such concerns also colour my approach to the removal of the Norwich Pharmacal remedy in relation to sensitive material. It is vital that we protect the sources of our intelligence and that we maintain the confidence of our allies who provide us with that intelligence. If there was any doubt about that, it was confirmed by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian. This remedy is concerned with cases in which foreign litigants want to see material
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We have heard a lucid analysis of the Binyam Mohamed case by the noble Lord, Lord Lester; and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, referred to it. It can be seen from an examination of that case law that the courts in fact showed a considerable degree of deference to the security services, and some of the concerns expressed by other countries may be rather lacking in justification. However, it has to be remembered that the Norwich Pharmacal power is unqualified. The Government do not have the choice that they have in relation to the CMPs, and if ordered to produce this material they have to comply with the order.
Whether or not the fears of the United States and other countries are unfounded, it is critical for the safety of our country in these dangerous times that we do not jeopardise that relationship. I appreciate that the Government are placed in a very delicate dilemma, and it seems that we should have profound sympathy with their response, albeit that modifications may be made in the rigour of that test, which will more satisfactorily balance the respective interests.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My noble friend may not be aware of the fact that in the Binyam Mohamed case, after the Norwich Pharmacal order was made, the court reserved the question of public interest immunity, but it never had to be decided because he was then released. It would not have been all or nothing. It is quite clear from the judgments that there would have been something. The courts, having decided Norwich Pharmacal, could then have decided on PII. I am not sure whether that is appreciated.
Lord Faulks: I entirely appreciate that. It is one reason why I suggest that there may be some modification to the test that we may ultimately arrive at, after having considered this matter in Committee. This Bill will be thoroughly scrutinised in Committee by your Lordships' House, and it is clearly right that it should be. I hope and trust that we can avoid hackneyed references to Kafka and the Star Chamber. I am sorry that in an otherwise lucid speech by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, he did not resist that temptation. The Government have a duty to protect us. This Bill is situated at the junction between that duty and the need to protect civil liberties and the integrity of the trial process. Please let us not forget the people of this country and those in the security services who labour silently on our behalf to protect them, in the course of our zeal to trumpet our commitment to the rights of litigants.
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