Dr Julian Lewis: Can the Minister explain one difference between the situation that has applied in the past and the situation that will apply in the future if the Bill goes through as it is? We are now legislating to make properly authorised criminal conduct lawful, rather than continuing with the current position whereby MI5 or another authorising authority is able to argue that it would not be in the public interest for prosecuting authorities to prosecute properly authorised criminal conduct, but there is no guarantee of immunity. What we are now saying is that they are not breaking the law, rather than, as in the past, that they were breaking the law, but that it was against the public interest to prosecute. Why the reason for that change?
[The Minister for Security (James Brokenshire): The right hon. Gentleman, the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, makes an important point when he draws that distinction. I say to him that, under the current regime, the Crown Prosecution Service will consider the prosecution of a properly authorised CHIS as perverse. So in essence, the Bill will offer no practical difference in the application of the power, because obviously the conduct will have to be properly authorised, as it does now. If something has not been properly authorised, then clearly the authorisation will not have effect. Where CHIS conduct is outside that authorisation, there will be no impact on the ability to prosecute. Public authorities tightly limit the scope of CHIS criminal conduct, so this will not provide a licence to commit crime outside those stringent limits. In reality, the practical difference between providing a defence and making conduct lawful is limited. Indeed, we say that the provisions actually reflect broader provisions within the current legislative regime, governing all other aspects as well. There is a distinction, which the right hon. Gentleman makes, but in practice, we do not see that there is the fundamentals difference that perhaps some might wish to paint into it.]
[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]