My response to constituents who contacted me regarding the National Security Bill this month:
Thank you for contacting me about the Government’s National Security Bill, specifically clauses 27 and 79-83.
I completely understand and echo your concerns surrounding this Bill. Parts of this Bill overhaul and update espionage laws and create new measures to enable law enforcement and intelligence agencies to deter, detect and disrupt modern-day state threats.
I do support action to protect our national security and to deal with the threats to us from hostile state activity. As the Government’s own Integrated Review makes clear, threats to government departments, national infrastructure, British businesses and private individuals are growing and becoming ever more complex as states become more assertive in advancing their aims.
The Bill delivers on some of the important recommendations proposed by the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Law Commission. I welcome measures to update the range of espionage offences available to prosecutors to protect our national security from hostile state threats. Many of these changes are long overdue and the Government has too often been slow in reacting to emerging trends in hostile state activity, particularly in the wake of the 2018 Salisbury poisonings.
However, I too am deeply concerned about clauses 27 and 79-83 as they could allow Ministers to get away with providing tip-offs that lead to torture and murder. It could also prevent those affected from ever getting justice. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has warned the draft legislation risks unnecessary interference with human rights by over-extending powers relating to espionage offences and criminalising behaviour that does not pose a threat to national security.
The crossbench committee made up of MPs and Lords calls on the Government to amend the Bill to ensure its scope is better defined and it contains adequate checks on its application. The Committee further warns that restricting the award of damages and denying access to legal aid on the basis of claimants’ historic involvement in terrorism-related activity risks undermining both their rights and fundamental principles of equal justice.
Additionally, the Government has long promised a comprehensive foreign agents scheme but this key measure has been omitted from the Bill. It is vital that Parliament can scrutinise these measures, so I hope the Government will introduce them quickly.
I hope the Bill can be amended and strengthened in areas including enhancing measures dealing with mis/disinformation by hostile states on social media platforms; ensuring that there is appropriate scrutiny and oversight of new powers; and protections for key national infrastructure and companies with unique Intellectual Property from being subject to takeovers by companies with links to foreign states where it is contrary to the UK’s national security interest.
I pay tribute to those who work in our intelligence and security services, whose work is so often unseen. They work hard to defend our liberty and democracy from threats from all sides and do so much to keep us safe. Our democracy will stay strong only if we can defend it from threats.
Please be assured that the Labour Party will be supporting and moving amendments to ensure human rights are protected and not diminished overseas and will do everything in its power to ensure Clauses 27 and 79-83 do not become law.