CONSIDERATION OF LORDS AMENDMENTS
Dr Lewis: In support of my right hon. Friend [Sir Edward Leigh], it will come as no surprise that I would simply say that, whether one trusts this expert or that expert, or this or that Committee Chairman – that is what is known in philosophical terms as the appeal to authority – I am happy to rely on the argument that I put forward, which is that, if we create a list of things that agents cannot do, we invite terrorists to use it as a checklist to test their own membership for spies and infiltrators.
Sir Edward Leigh: Of course I agree with that, and I wanted to make that point as best I could. It is quite a weak argument to say that, because certain people who have been in authoritative positions make a certain argument, that it is therefore a clincher in argumentation. Actually, the point put by my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East was far more powerful, frankly. He was adducing a specific example. If it is laid down in statute that a covert agent cannot take a particular action, that is an invitation to terrorist or gangster groups to have an initiation ceremony based precisely on what is forbidden by Parliament. I thought that that was a completely unanswerable argument.
Mr David Davis rose –
Sir Edward Leigh: But if my right hon. Friend wants to defeat it, let us hear it.
Mr Davis: I knew my right hon. Friend would liven up the debate. The test is not the test of authority. It is an empirical test. America, Australia and the other Five Eyes all have these limitations, and their intelligence agencies seem to work perfectly well.
Sir Edward Leigh: So he says, but I am no expert.
Dr Lewis: Just because an ally has a system that may leave its agents vulnerable to exposure and death, that does not mean that we should copy that.
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The Solicitor General (Michael Ellis): ... Let me take this opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) for the important oversight role that his important Committee plays and in particular for his remarks about the difficulties concomitant on placing, or seeking to place, limits in a Bill such as this – he articulated those with typical clarity. Those points were also well made by the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), as is usually the case. As we know, both right hon. Members contribute insight from their roles on the Intelligence and Security Committee.
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[For Julian's earlier speech in this debate on Lords Amendments to the Bill, click here.]