All 4 Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay contributions to the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021

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Tue 13th Jul 2021
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Telecommunications (Security) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments

Telecommunications (Security) Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in the debate on these amendments, which seek to require regulations and codes to reflect advice provided by technical advisory boards and a judicial commissioner. The amendment to Clause 2, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, requires any regulations made under new Section 105D to reflect advice provided by the existing Technical Advisory Board to the Home Office and a judicial commissioner. Similarly, the two amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, would require regulations to reflect advice provided by a new technical advisory board and a judicial commissioner.

Each of these amendments concern regulations made under new Section 105D and codes of practice issued under new Section 105E. I appreciate that noble Lords are seeking to ensure that any regulations and codes of practice are appropriate and proportionate before they are made or issued. However, there are several difficulties with what they propose. First, Clause 2 already requires the Secretary of State to make these measures only when he actively considers that they are appropriate and proportionate, under the wording of subsections (2) and (4) of new Section 105D. To ensure that is the case, the Secretary of State would have to consider relevant advice, which could include technical security assessments provided by the National Cyber Security Centre. The noble Baroness, Lady Merron, asked whether the advice would be published. As is usual practice, we would not publish advice given to the Secretary of State on the new framework, but we will consult on the code, and we feel that is the best and appropriate way in which to draw together the views of all relevant parties and their expert advice.

Advice to the Secretary of State could also include relevant representations by public telecoms providers. To reassure the Committee on this point, we have received helpful feedback from telecoms providers on the illustrative draft measures that were published in January. DCMS continues routinely to engage with telecoms providers about this Bill and telecoms security more widely.

Similarly, Clause 3 requires that any codes of practice are finalised only after consultation with affected providers. The process of consultation, when taken together with the fact that codes can only give guidance on legal obligations and not expand their scope, as noble Lords noted, means that any final codes in effect will be appropriate and proportionate. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, asked whether it was enforceable by law. It is guidance, not law, but the code has certain legal effects, as set out in Clause 3. In that context, further advice from a technical or judicial panel would therefore be unnecessary.

We understood the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, to refer to the Technical Advisory Board to the Home Office. That board provides advice regarding the reasonableness of obligations imposed on telecoms providers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. Each of these amendments risks confusing two separate sets of security arrangements.

Section 227 of the Investigatory Powers Act provides for the Prime Minister to appoint the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and judicial commissioners. The role of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner is to authorise and oversee the use of the investigatory powers, in the public. The Investigatory Powers Act regime is not comparable with the new framework set out by this Bill. Oversight of the Investigatory Powers Act regime by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner is considered appropriate because of the potential intrusion into the private lives of individuals as a result of the use of covert powers.

The powers to make regulations under this Bill are very different to those in the Investigatory Powers Act. They are focused on protecting public telecoms networks and services by improving the security practices of telecoms providers—so those two sets of arrangements should not be confused. Indeed, there are specific provisions in the Bill designed to ensure that it does not adversely affect lawful activity carried out by law enforcement authorities and the intelligence services under the Investigatory Powers Act. The judicial commissioner would therefore be the wrong body to advise the Government on the Bill’s regulation-making and code-issuing powers. For those reasons, the Government are not able to accept these amendments, but I hope that that explains why and reassures the noble Lords sufficiently for them to be content not to press their amendments today.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I thank the Deputy Chairman and apologise for speaking across him. I am a bit intrigued by the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, on the subject of legal enforceability. He is correct to say that, as new Section 105H states, the

“provision of a code of practice does not of itself make the provider liable to legal proceedings”

—but it would not be liable only when the provision was not in force in time or when it was not legal. However, you would not bring a legal case anyway when it was not relevant or in force, so, to all intents and purposes, where the code is in force and relevant, it is legally enforceable. Therefore, it is legally enforceable.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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First, if I may, I will take back the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, about new Section 105H under Clause 3; I will write to him to, I hope, alleviate any concerns and confusion. There are certain legal effects set out; I will write to him to clarify the point about legal enforceability.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for his appreciation. Part of the confusion here may be that two technical advisory boards are mentioned in these groups of amendments. As I think he noted, the one set up under RIPA has a different function, but we are certainly not being dismissive of the points that have been raised. Indeed, as I said, we have spoken to the industry and received helpful feedback from telecoms providers on the illustrative draft measures that were published in January. We will also be glad to look at the information that he mentioned—the views that have come his way—to make sure that these are reconciled; if he is happy to share them, we will look at them and come back him.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. In view of the pandemic restrictions on the numbers that might sing in a choir inside, it is dangerous now to say that we are singing from the same hymn sheet—as the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, will recall from her time at the Dispatch Box. I do not know whether we would count as amateur or professional, so perhaps I could venture in that direction, but there is a sense among noble Lords of wanting to strengthen the Bill by ensuring that the Secretary of State has the best technical advice.

I thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, for his response. However, I take from it that a technical advisory board is not required. I share the confusion that was referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. On the one hand, in the previous set of amendments, we were advised that this is so technical that it is not appropriate for a particular aspect of parliamentary scrutiny, yet suddenly, it seems, it is not quite as technical but we need further advice. I am reminded of the words of the then Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove, who we will recall commenting in a debate over Brexit that we have “had enough of experts”; I suspect the Minister will have picked up from the amendments today that we feel we have not had enough of experts. I hope he will reflect on the fact that these amendments seek to assist the Secretary of State, and to assist this Bill to do the job it is here to do to very best effect. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, for these amendments. As before, it is a pleasure to follow their contributions and that of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll.

On the codes of practice and Amendment 10, I understand the importance of not wanting to put undue burdens on businesses. We should make particular reference to the exceptionally difficult and testing times that businesses and the economy have had to suffer over the past year due to the pandemic. Obviously, a balance needs to be considered. We have to ensure that if the codes are going to be used, they are the most effective way of implementing security measures. How will the Government consider the impact of codes on businesses? For example, will there be specific consultation about undue costs in respect of businesses?

The concerns that we have heard in this debate give a further nod to concerns about lack of parliamentary oversight, which is missing from the codes. I again say gently to the Minister that by giving parliamentarians the opportunity to provide scrutiny there might also be the ability to review the impact on businesses.

Amendments 16, 17 and 21 would ensure that Ofcom’s new powers in the Bill were subject to requirements in Sections 3 and 6 of the Communications Act 2003. Section 3 focuses on the general duties of Ofcom, while Section 6 focuses on reviewing regulatory burdens. It would be helpful to hear from the Minister whether the Bill has been deliberately drafted for the new powers to fall out of scope of those sections in the Communications Act and, if so, why.

What review process will be faced in respect of Ofcom’s new powers? It is very important that, when new powers are given, there is an opportunity to review, reflect and amend, and to keep a close eye on whether those new powers are doing the job intended.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I thank the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, for these amendments, and all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. The amendments focus on the need for the regulations and code of practice to be proportionate, and to ensure that the duties of Ofcom are carried out in a transparent and similarly proportionate way.

I turn first to Amendment 10, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Fox. This amendment to Clause 3 seeks to ensure that codes of practice are necessary and proportionate to what they are intended to achieve, and do not place an undue burden on telecoms providers. The Bill already includes provisions in Clauses 1 and 2 to ensure that security duties placed on public telecoms providers in the primary legislation and specific security measures set out in regulations must be considered to be appropriate and proportionate by the Secretary of State. The code of practice will provide the technical guidance on the steps that public telecoms providers should take to meet their security duties. I certainly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, about the extra—and indeed extraordinary—work that providers have done over recent months to keep us all in contact during the pandemic.

To help ensure that technical guidance in the code of practice is appropriate and proportionate, Clause 3 requires the Secretary of State to publish a draft version of the code of practice before it is issued, and to consult on its contents. This public consultation will take place after the Bill has attained Royal Assent; it will enable the voices of telecoms providers of all sizes—as noble Lords rightly pointed out—the wider sector, Ofcom, and any other affected groups to be heard and taken into account before the code of practice is finalised. Subsequent versions of the code of practice, which will be revised as technology evolves and new threats emerge, will also be subject to the same process of consultation before being issued.

An impact assessment is also being conducted for proposed secondary legislation to be laid as part of the new framework, which will take into account the initial cost assessments from providers to ensure that the framework is balanced and proportionate. The precise make-up and design of each provider’s network remains a commercial decision. The Bill makes it clear that providers are responsible for the security of their own networks and services; providers also remain responsible for deciding how they recover their costs. As such, we expect the costs of ensuring adequate security to be met by individual providers.

I turn to Amendments 16, 17 and 21, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. These seek to apply Sections 3 and 6 of the Communications Act 2003 to Ofcom’s duties and powers under Clauses 5, 6 and 19 of this Bill. Section 3 of the Communications Act sets out Ofcom’s general duties; these include a duty on Ofcom to have regard to the need for transparency, accountability and proportionality when carrying out its functions. Section 6 of the Communications Act requires Ofcom to review the burden of its regulation on telecoms providers. These are all principles that we think are essential to the functioning of the new security regime created by this Bill. I am glad to repeat the reassurance given by my noble friend in her letter, which the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, mentioned, that Ofcom is already bound by its general duties in Sections 3 and 6 of the Communications Act when carrying out its security function under new Section 105M, and when using any of its powers in this Bill. This will include Ofcom’s power to carry out an assessment of public telecoms providers’ compliance with their security duties under Clause 6 of this Bill, and powers for Ofcom to give inspection notices under Clause 19. As my noble friend said in her letter, if Ofcom fails to carry out its security functions in line with these duties, it could be subject to legal challenge.

The provisions in the Bill already ensure that the regulations, code of practice and duties of Ofcom are proportionate. Therefore, we do not think that these amendments are necessary, and we hope that noble Lords will be happy not to press them.

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that—he pierced through the gloom of the afternoon, giving an assurance that existing duties of Ofcom will cover the new powers.

I think we have a Pepper v Hart situation that works for the other aspects on the code of practice. It is not just the regulations and the duties and powers of Ofcom that are subject to it; the way in which the code of practice will be drawn up is covered also by the duties under Sections 3 and 6 of the existing Act. I very much hope so, and I need to take away and read what the Minister had to say.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, as we start Report, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, to his new ministerial role. I am sure we all look forward to working with him.

I remind the House that national security must be the first duty of any Government, which is why we welcome the intention behind the Bill. As we have said repeatedly throughout the passage of the Bill, we believe that there are a number of issues with the Bill that need to be addressed, including parliamentary oversight of the new powers, which this group focuses on. As Comms Council UK said, the Bill represents an

“unprecedented shift of power from Parliament to the Minister in relation to how telecoms networks operate”

and that

“the Minister will be able to unilaterally make decisions that impact the technical operation and direction of technology companies, with little or no oversight or accountability.”

With reference to Amendment 1, I shall not repeat the arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox. Suffice it to say that we on these Benches appreciate and wish to stress the importance of parliamentary scrutiny, which we have stressed throughout the passage of the Bill.

I thank the Minister for tabling Amendments 3, 4 and 5. They are very similar to our Front-Bench amendments in Committee and reflect a key recommendation from the Delegated Powers Committee. I thank the former Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, for her work on these amendments. As noble Lords will remember, the Delegated Powers Committee called the powers in Clause 3 unacceptable and called for the negative procedure for the new telecoms security codes of practice. This important change from the Government ensures adequate parliamentary scrutiny, which is a welcome step forward.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Fox, for the amendment standing in their names, and I thank the noble Baroness for welcoming me to the Dispatch Box in my new role.

The question underlying this group is whether the new telecoms security framework will have proper scrutiny. Noble Lords have proposed ways to strengthen that scrutiny throughout the passage of the Bill and your Lordships’ Constitution Committee and Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee have made their own recommendations, and I thank those committees for their work.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, invited the Government to make a trade-off, a choice, in his words, between

“a loose definition of ‘security compromise’”

and

“a very tight way of agreeing the codes of practice.”—[Official Report, 13/7/21; col. GC 487.]

With that in mind, I turn first to Amendments 3, 4 and 5 in my name—although I should stress, as the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, kindly did, that they also represent the work of my predecessor, my noble friend Lady Barran. We both listened to the arguments put forward in Committee and these amendments represent her views as well as mine.

We have carefully considered the concerns raised and, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, invited us to do, we have proposed how to make that trade-off. The government amendments we have brought forward today affect Clause 3. It provides the Secretary of State with the power to issue and revise codes of practice. The code of practice is a fundamental building block of the new telecoms security framework as it will contain specific information on how telecoms providers can meet their legal duties under any regulations made by the Secretary of State.

In its report on the Bill, the DPRRC noted the centrality of codes of practice to the new telecoms security framework. The committee drew attention to the statutory effects of codes of practice and their role in Ofcom’s regulatory oversight, and because of those factors, the committee recommended that the negative procedure should be applied to the issuing of codes of practice. The noble Baroness, Lady Merron, tabled amendments in Committee to implement that recommendation. We are happy to do that. Our amendments today require the Government to lay a draft of any code of practice before Parliament for 40 days. Your Lordships’ House and the other place will then have that period of time to scrutinise a code of practice before it is issued.

We think that these changes strike the balance that noble Lords have called for today and in previous stages. I hope these government amendments demonstrate that we have listened and are committed to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny across all aspects of the framework.

Amendment 1, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, would apply the affirmative procedure to regulations made under new Section 105B in Clause 1. It would require the regulations to be laid in Parliament in draft and subject to a debate and vote in both Houses.

I share the noble Lords’ desire, echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, to ensure that Parliament has a full and effective scrutiny role in this Bill, but I fear we disagree on the best way to achieve it. The only powers in the Bill that are subject to the affirmative procedure are delegated, or Henry VIII, powers that enable the amendment of penalty amounts set out in primary legislation. The Bill currently provides for the negative procedure to be used when laying the statutory instrument containing the regulations.

In the context of these new powers, the use of the negative procedure is appropriate for three reasons. First, Parliament will have had to approve the clauses in the Bill that determine the scope of regulations—Clauses 1 and 2—and the regulations will not amend primary legislation. Secondly, evolving technology and threat landscapes mean that the technical detail in regulations will need to be updated in a timely fashion to protect our networks. Thirdly and finally, as I noted in Committee, the negative procedure is the standard procedure for instruments under Section 402 of the Communications Act. The negative procedure delivers the right balance between a nimble parliamentary procedure and putting appropriate and proportionate measures in place effectively and efficiently to secure our networks.

The two noble Lords will also be aware that the changes they propose in their amendment are not ones that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee made. I accept that they are keen to explore avenues for scrutiny of this framework, but that committee made its recommendation for increasing the scrutiny of this regime, and the Government have brought forward our amendments to accept it. For these reasons, we are not able to accept the noble Lords’ Amendment 1. I hope that they will be content with what we have proposed in our amendment, and may be minded to withdraw theirs.

In conclusion, the Government were asked to make a trade-off. Through the passage of this Bill, we have been invited to provide greater opportunities for Parliament to scrutinise this regime. We have listened to those concerns and we have brought forward an answer. We feel that our amendments maintain our flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing technology environment and give your Lordships’ House and the other place a greater say in its operation, so I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, it was remiss of me not to welcome the Minister formally; I have welcomed him personally, but not formally. Also, it was helpful that he was the Whip during the process thus far, and I should also welcome the new Whip to his seat. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, for their contributions. The fact that this has been a short debate does not mean to say that it is not an important one. The reason it is short is because we have had the same debate so many times on so many different Bills, with not just this department but others. That is why it is an important issue and why, when the Minister says that we should strike a balance, we agree, but we think the balance is in the wrong place. That is why I am unable to withdraw this amendment and I should like to test the will of the House.

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Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for tabling Amendments 2 and 7 again on Report. I will not take up much time discussing them, not least because the Labour Front Bench tabled similar amendments in Committee better to understand what advice the Secretary of State will receive and where it will come from when making regulations under Clause 2. As the noble Lord said, we must ensure that the Secretary of State receives advice from the best experts, not just those who support the Government.

As the former Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, focused only on the incompatibility of a similar board set up by the Investigatory Powers Act, can the Minister today simply answer this question: without such a board, where will the Secretary of State receive advice, and from whom?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for his welcome, and both him and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for retabling these amendments. We share the noble Lords’ ambition in this area. We also want to ensure that the telecoms security framework is informed by world-leading expertise, and that all those affected by the framework have appropriate mechanisms to shape it. The noble Lords’ amendments seek to establish a technical advisory board to advise the Secretary of State on matters of telecoms security. They also state that the Secretary of State should give due consideration to this new board’s advice, and that of a judicial commissioner, before making regulations or codes of practice.

I agree with the noble Lords on the importance of the Secretary of State having access to expert advice in the exercising of these new powers. I hope I can reassure them that she can already call upon sufficient advice through existing structures, and that I can demonstrate why, as we have explained previously, these amendments are not necessary, while giving the greater detail that the noble Lord asked for.

It is worth emphasising the level of expertise that DCMS itself retains, both on the telecoms sector and on security policy. DCMS is the lead Government department for the telecoms sector and has telecoms experts embedded in it. The department has established security and resilience teams with suitably cleared individuals, including people with substantial experience in national security. More widely, the department has established procedures through which it can draw upon further expertise across government and industry. Inside government, for example, the National Cyber Security Centre undertakes regular risk assessments of current and emerging threats, and those assessments are used to inform government policy. Regulations and the code of practice made through this Bill will be informed by the NCSC’s assessments. The Government also have fora in which they discuss emerging threats and new technological developments with the industry. The NCSC’s information exchange is one example. This is a trusted community of security professionals from across the telecoms sector who come together on a quarterly basis to discuss and share information on security issues and concerns.

The noble Lord’s amendment also calls for the new board and the judicial commissioner to be consulted before the establishment of new regulations and codes of practice. We share the noble Lord’s view on the importance of consultation. That is why the Bill is clear that any code of practice must be consulted on before it is introduced. However, we still differ in our opinions on who should be consulted. The consultation requirement in the Bill will enable those directly affected by the code of practice, as well as those with an interest in it, to comment and raise concerns without the need for a technical advisory board to be established. Of course, if your Lordships’ House supports the government amendments today, the code of practice itself will be subject to scrutiny both in your Lordships’ House and in another place. Furthermore, we published an illustrative draft of the regulations in January for the purpose of early engagement with the industry, and the feedback it has provided has been invaluable in our development of the policy. We continue to engage regularly and closely with public telecoms providers and trade bodies, ensuring that any concerns are effectively communicated to us. I remind noble Lords that the Secretary of State can make these regulations and measures in a code of practice only where she actively considers that the measures are appropriate and proportionate under the wording of new subsections 105D(2) and 105D(4).

To conclude, I thank the noble Lords for bringing their amendment back. As I have said, I share their ambition to create a robust, well-informed and evidence-led framework for telecoms security. We believe that we already undertake extensive engagement with the affected groups and bodies. The Bill sets out consultation requirements but even if it did not, the Government have strong relationships with those in the sector and would continue to seek their input. That is where the advice referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, would come from, as well as from across government, the NCSC and others I have mentioned. For the reasons I have set out, we are not able to accept this amendment and I hope the noble Lord will therefore withdraw it.

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Moved by
3: Clause 3, page 5, leave out lines 13 to 16 and insert—
“(2) Before issuing a code of practice under section 105E the Secretary of State must also lay a draft of the code before Parliament.(2A) If, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve the draft of the code, the code may not be issued.(2B) If no such resolution is made within that period, the code may be issued.(2C) If the code is issued, the Secretary of State must publish it.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment applies a negative resolution procedure to the power to issue a code of practice under section 105E.
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Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Fox, for tabling this amendment and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for his remarks. It certainly is key that Ofcom is able to do the job that it has been entrusted to do. On the matter of providers, I would say that their primary duty has to be to ensure that the networks are secure. We should expect no less from them. I will be very interested to hear how the Minister responds to the points that have been made in respect of this amendment.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I thank the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Fox, for tabling this amendment to Clause 13. I know the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in particular, has taken a keen interest in this area, not just in this Bill but in previous ones as well. I am grateful for the way that he set out the debate again today.

Clause 13 makes provision to ensure that the Competition Appeal Tribunal applies ordinary judicial review principles to appeals against certain security decisions made by Ofcom. Under such principles, those decisions can be successfully challenged only where they are unlawful, irrational or procedurally unfair. In setting the standard of appeal in this legislation, we must find a balance between giving telecoms providers a way to challenge Ofcom’s decisions should they be unfair and ensuring that the regulatory regime is effective and efficient.

Ofcom, as an experienced telecoms regulator, believes that changing the standard of appeal to judicial review principles for certain security decisions has the potential to make the regulatory process quicker and more efficient. The Government agree. We want to avoid either Ofcom or telecoms providers spending months in court.

It was never the intention of Parliament to set the standard of appeal, as it is now, to

“duly take into account the merits of the case”,

as this was dictated by EU law. In 2017 the Government changed the standard of appeal for reviewing decisions by Ofcom from a full merits approach to ordinary judicial review principles via Section 87 of the Digital Economy Act, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, will well remember.

However, as EU law continued to apply, the Competition Appeal Tribunal subsequently decided that it had to apply a modified approach to

“duly take into account the merits of the case”.

In essence, this has prevented the provision in the Digital Economy Act, which had been approved by Parliament, taking effect. That rather unhappy outcome would continue to be the case for certain security decisions under the Bill should this clause not stand.

To be clear, Clause 13 applies the judicial review standard only to decisions such as those relating to the issuing of an assessment notice, which should be routine and quickly handled rather than being continuously delayed. It is not being applied to decisions about penalties such as those under Section 105T. Public telecoms providers will still be able to appeal those decisions as they do now, and the tribunal will

“duly take into account the merits of the case”.

Ultimately, we want public telecoms providers to spend their time addressing the security of the network. We do not want them to attempt indefinitely to delay an Ofcom decision by bringing cases against the regulator that do not stack up. We are not breaking new ground by changing to this standard of appeal. Judicial review principles are the normal standard by which most decisions of government and public bodies are legally reviewed.

Parliament has already decided that the standard of appeal for similar decisions under the Network and Information Systems Regulations 2018 should be ordinary judicial review principles. That is consistent with our policy approach in this Bill. Therefore, the Government feel that Clause 13 should stand part of this Bill as it will contribute to the efficiency of the regime and ensure that regulatory decisions are not unduly delayed. It will also ensure legislative consistency. I hope that reassures the noble Lord and that he will be content to withdraw his objection to this clause.

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I am afraid it does not particularly reassure but there will be many other occasions on which we can raise the nature of judicial review, its continual erosion, the Government’s approach to judicial review and their dislike of being challenged. This is fairly thin territory on which to be debating a very large issue in terms of the future of judicial review. I am sure that my other legal colleagues will be more than able to dispute some of those issues. There are many other fish to fry of even greater importance on this Bill so I will withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lord Fox, for tabling and signing this amendment relating to telecoms diversification. I hope that, during my remarks, I can convince them and other noble Lords that the Bill is not the right place for this amendment for two reasons: first, diversification extends well beyond the security focus of the Bill; and, secondly, legislating for a reporting requirement would be limiting and inflexible as our diversification work evolves. I will also outline the progress made against the diversification strategy, in both government policy and industry outcomes, to seek to reassure noble Lords that progress is being made in this important area.

The Bill will create one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world. It will protect our networks even as technologies evolve, future-proofing our critical national infrastructure. Throughout the passage of the Bill, there has been a great deal of debate about how diversification can help to support more secure and resilient telecoms infrastructure. While our work on diversification is intended to support our security and resilience ambitions, not all diversification is necessarily relevant to security and resilience.

The telecoms diversification work that the Government are undertaking moves the market forward by broadening the supplier base in many ways which fall beyond pure security measures; these include boosting quality, innovation, competition and choice within our critical networks. It is for this reason that we have consistently argued that it would be limiting for our 5G diversification strategy to appear on the face of this Bill. Legislating for a reporting element within the Bill, by the same token, would also be restrictive.

Furthermore, as the market and technology evolve, our desired outcomes and areas of focus will evolve too. For example, in the short term, a successful outcome could be a third major vendor in the mobile market. However, once open radio access networks are ready for deployment at scale in urban areas, our measure of success might be the level of interoperability within our networks.

At the moment, we are focusing efforts on diversifying the radio access network, which is where the most critical security and resilience risks are found. In future, a focus on other elements of telecoms infrastructure, including fixed networks, will be necessary to ensure all risks to the ways in which we communicate are tackled. Committing to reporting on specific criteria would limit us to reporting against the risks as we find them today; it would not afford us the flexibility that diversification requires.

While the Government cannot accept this amendment, I hope to reassure noble Lords that our work on diversification progresses—and at pace. The Government’s plans to diversify the market were set out in the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, which was published in November last year. We also established a diversification taskforce, chaired by my noble friend Lord Livingston of Parkhead, who of course has a wealth of experience in this field having served as the chief executive for BT Group. The taskforce’s role is to provide expert advice to the Government on this important agenda.

The taskforce set out its recommendations in the spring and many of its members have agreed to continue providing expertise as part of the Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council, which had its first meeting last month. Work is already underway to implement many of the taskforce’s recommendations and good progress has been made on the priorities set out in the strategy. For example, research and development was highlighted as a key area of focus, in order to promote open interface technologies that will establish flexibility in the market and allow a range of new, smaller suppliers to compete in a diverse marketplace.

That is why DCMS was delighted to announce the launch of the future radio access network competition on 2 July. Through this competition, up to £30 million will be invested in open RAN R&D projects across the UK to address barriers to high-performance open deployments. This competition is part of a wider programme of government initiatives to foster an open, disaggregated network ecosystem in the UK. This includes the Smart Radio Access Network Open Network Interoperability Centre—or SONIC Labs—a facility for testing interoperability and integration of open networking solutions, which opened in June. A number of leading telecoms suppliers are already working together through this facility.

The Government also continue to work with mobile operators, suppliers and users on a number of other important enablers for diversification, for example by developing a road map for the long-term use and provision of legacy network services, expected to be announced later this year. Alongside this, the Government have led efforts to engage with some of our closest international partners, through both multilateral and bilateral mechanisms, to build international consensus on this important issue. Through the UK’s G7 presidency, the Government made the first step in discussing the importance of secure and diverse supply chains among like-minded partners, and the foundational role that telecommunications infrastructure such as 5G plays in underpinning wider digital and technology infrastructure.

We have also seen movement in the market towards diversification objectives. The industry has taken steps to adopt open radio access networks, such as the European memorandum of understanding, co-signed by Telefónica and Vodafone. Furthermore, organisations such as Airspan, Mavenir, NEC and Vodafone have now announced UK-based open radio access network facilities. This demonstrates that the industry is working alongside the Government here in the UK to drive forward the change needed in the sector. That was further evidenced in Vodafone’s commitment to deploy 2,500 open radio access network sites using equipment provided by leading suppliers, including Samsung and NEC. This is the largest deployment of its kind anywhere in Europe and an important first step in delivering the goal of more open networks.

These commitments show a genuine and significant change in the diversification of our mobile networks. I hope they also demonstrate why placing strict legislative reporting requirements on this area of work would be premature. We are at a point of rapid exploration and experimentation in this work, and I hope that noble Lords would not want to inhibit that work before it has had time to mature.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, asked about the committee report. It will not fall to me to respond to that report, as I perhaps would have done in my previous role as a Whip covering the Foreign Office, among other departments. We will, of course, reply to it in full in due course. He also asked about Newport Wafer Fab. As I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, I am not able to comment on the detail of commercial transactions or of any national security assessments on a particular case. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and, as part of this, the Prime Minister has asked the National Security Adviser to review this case. Separately, work is under way to review the wider semiconductor landscape in the United Kingdom. The National Security Adviser’s review is ongoing, drawing on expertise from across government as necessary. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to take further action if needed. The Government are, of course, committed to the semiconductor sector and the vital role it plays in the UK’s economy.

For the reasons that I have set out, therefore, I am not able to accept this amendment. I hope noble Lords have been reassured by what I said, and that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I am, of course, disappointed that the Minister cannot see that this amendment seeks to strengthen the Bill. It gives the Government an opportunity to showcase all the things of which the Minister has apprised the House. It is important to look at this proposed new clause. It would require the Secretary of State to report on the impact of the diversification strategy, something of which the Government are proud, and it allows for a parliamentary debate, something I would have hoped the Government would welcome, but this is clearly not the case.

As the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Alton, have indicated, the absence so far of an effective plan to diversify the supply chain is what makes us concerned about security in this country. The Bill is the opportunity to put that right. Therefore, I feel it is only right and proper, in the interests of the security of the country, that we press this matter to a vote and test the opinion of the House.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, veterans of the National Security and Investment Bill—I am not sure there are any—will recognise this amendment: it is exactly the same argument that was put forward then. The response from BEIS was to set up a unit, within BEIS, that the relevant Minister said would have the necessary clearance to review potential national security information. It was quite clear to those in your Lordships’ Chamber at that time that that group of people would not get to see the sort of information that the ISC is cleared to see. We are in the same situation now. The Minister will say that there are people in his department who, if necessary, will be able to see the relevant information. That will not be the case and to some extent, those in the Minister’s department making decisions that refer to national security issues will be flying a little bit blind. If this is not recognised, that is regrettable. This is a really important area of security, and decisions should be made on the best available information, with the best available people reviewing that information. The clue is in the name: this is the Telecommunications (Security) Bill, and it is the Intelligence and Security Committee that is best able to review that information. That is why I support the noble Lord’s Amendment 9.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his kind words of welcome and for tabling this amendment. The important matter of parliamentary oversight has been raised a number of times in both your Lordships’ House and another place. I welcome the opportunity to clarify further how appropriate oversight of the Bill’s national security powers will be provided for both in this Bill and through existing mechanisms. The noble Lord’s amendment would require the Secretary of State to provide the Intelligence and Security Committee with copies of a directional notice when such documents, or parts of them, are withheld under Section 105Z11(2) or (3) in the interests of national security.

As regards enforcement, this amendment would also require the Secretary of State to provide the committee with copies of notifications of contraventions and confirmation decisions. Further, it would require the provision of reasons for giving urgent enforcement directions when withheld under Section 105Z22(5), as well as the reasons for confirming or modifying such directions when withheld under Section 105Z23(6).

We thoroughly agree with the need for effective scrutiny of the use of the Bill’s national security powers—that is why we have included measures to facilitate parliamentary oversight of the use of those powers. The Bill requires the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament copies of designation notices, designated vendor directions, and variations or revocations of either, unless doing so would be contrary to the interests of national security. We would expect in the vast majority of cases to lay copies of the directions and notices before Parliament. However, on very rare occasions there may be instances where the Secretary of State chooses not to do so because laying the documents would be contrary to the interests of national security. This would only be done in extremis.

We have already demonstrated our commitment to transparency with the publication of the illustrative draft designated vendor direction and designation notice last November. Indeed, it is in the Government’s interest to publish such documents as it sends a clear message to industry of our intent to use the powers in the Bill where necessary. However, while the presumption is to publish the directions and notices, it is right that we have the option to protect the UK if our national security could be put at risk through their publication.

It is worth noting that, under Section 390 of the Communications Act 2003, the Secretary of State is required to prepare and lay before Parliament annual reports on their functions under that Act. Those reports will show when the Bill’s national security powers have been exercised, whether or not copies of directions or notices are laid before Parliament. This will ensure that Parliament will always be made aware of the Secretary of State’s use of the national security powers to issue designated vendor directions and designation notices.

Having thus been made aware, the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to request relevant information from the vital organisations it already oversees, such as the National Cyber Security Centre. Moreover, the ISC will be able to request such information at any time from the NCSC in relation to its assessment of high-risk vendors. The noble Lord is right to point to the importance of the committee. Given the cross-party support he enjoys, he knows better than most, as a former Security Minister, the important work it undertakes. The ISC will be able to do the work I have just outlined in line with its remit, as set out in the provisions of the Justice and Security Act 2013 and accompanying memorandum of understanding.

At Second Reading, the Noble Lord, Lord West, noted that the ISC had made a request for its memorandum to be formally reviewed. I understand that the chairman of the ISC has written to the Cabinet Office on these matters and that they are under consideration. Discussions and decisions regarding any changes to the ISC’s remit are of course for the Cabinet Office and the ISC to agree. That is the appropriate route for the ISC’s remit to be considered, not this Bill.

As I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, however, the advice of the security services will not be the only factor that the Secretary of State will take into account when deciding what is proportionate to include in a designated vendor direction. As well as the NCSC’s advice, the Secretary of State will consider, among other things, the economic impact, the cost to industry and the impact on connectivity of the requirements in any designated vendor direction. Those go beyond security matters and indeed fall under the work of DCMS; therefore, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is best placed to consider those wider impacts. Hence, that is the appropriate body to oversee the Government’s use of the powers to issue designation notices and designated vendor directions, including where those directions and notices are not laid before Parliament. The Government will work with the committee to ensure that it has access to all the information it needs to carry out that oversight.

Those are the reasons why the Government cannot accept the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord will be content to withdraw it on that basis.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for a generally helpful reply and for his engagement with the amendment itself, my remarks and those of the noble Lord, Lord Fox. It is helpful when a Minister engages with a debate, rather than just reading the words in front of him. The Minister did that, and that is to be welcomed.

The Minister offered reassurance on many of the issues that I raised—and they are issues. The debate has in some ways gone beyond the Bill itself and will help the debate within government about how to resolve the issue of national security and parliamentary scrutiny. Of particular importance was the Minister saying that the memorandum of understanding between the Government and the ISC is being reviewed. That MoU is crucial, and the debate we have had on this Bill and, indeed, this amendment, should inform the Government of the view of many in this House and beyond that the memorandum of understanding needs to be clarified and perhaps reviewed and changed. I ask the Minister to ensure that that review happens in the discussions that take place within government.

With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Coaker, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lord Fox, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra, for tabling these amendments, which relate to our national security strategy and engagement with our Five Eyes partners.

The Government’s first and overriding priority is to protect and promote the interests of the British people through our actions at home and overseas. That is a message central to our integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, and one that Ministers in the other place have repeated during the passage of this Bill. What I have heard very clearly in this short but powerful debate is that, regardless of party or affiliation, noble Lords across the House agree that we must do what we can to protect our national security interests.

That is precisely why we have introduced this Bill. It is why we have published the integrated review and why we have such close working relationships with our allies—not only in the Five Eyes but also among our European neighbours and beyond. So I welcome the spirit in which Amendments 10 and 11 have been put forward. I say that so that noble Lords will know that we share their instincts and ambitions in this crucial area, even though we cannot support these amendments today, as I will explain.

I start by addressing Amendment 10, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. This amendment would require the Government to publish a long-term telecoms security and resilience strategy, covering various topics, within six months of the Bill’s Royal Assent. It would require this strategy to be laid before Parliament. This amendment is similar to the one tabled by the noble Lord in Committee, except that here he has made additional reference to reporting on Ofcom resources.

As I have said, the Government take their responsibility to protect the British public very seriously. We welcome and share the noble Lord’s desire to ensure that this country is prepared to overcome future challenges to the security of our telecommunications. However, we have—as the noble Lord noted—already published and are implementing a number of strategies that will ensure that our national security in general, and the security of our telecoms networks and services in particular, are safeguarded.

I mentioned the integrated review. That overarching review sets out our commitment to security and resilience, so that that the British people are protected against threats. This starts at home, by defending our people, territory, critical national infrastructure, democratic institutions and way of life, and by reducing our vulnerability to the threat from other states, terrorism and serious and organised crime.

The noble Lord asked where the hierarchy lies. While the integrated review sets out our overall approach across government, the UK telecoms supply chain review guides our work on security and resilience in the telecoms sector specifically. The Government continue to implement the recommendations of the UK Telecoms Supply Chain Review Report, published in 2019. Alongside that, we continue our crucial work on supply chain resilience via implementation of the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, published last year, which we have debated during the passage of this Bill.

More broadly, the Government’s approach to telecoms security is informed by other cross-government priorities. In March we announced our intention to develop a comprehensive national cyber strategy as part of the integrated review. The cyber strategy will set out the UK’s approach to deterring our adversaries and ensuring that the technologies of the future are safe and secure. Furthermore, the Government intend to engage more widely with partners on the details of that strategy and publish it later this year, ensuring that our plans are aligned with funding decisions in the forthcoming spending review.

As set out in Committee, the Government are also in the process of developing a national resilience strategy that will provide a single, coherent approach to the way the UK approaches national resilience. That will be published in early 2022 and will provide a foundation on which to build a clear and co-ordinated approach to the whole range of resilience challenges.

Through his proposed Amendment 10 I think the noble Lord is seeking reassurance that the UK is working with our international partners to achieve shared objectives, and I am very happy to set out how we are doing that. The Government engage regularly with partner countries, including those mentioned in the noble Lord’s amendment: NATO and the Five Eyes allies. We are committed to a strong and deep relationship with our allies. We have held detailed and productive talks with partner Governments throughout the development of the Bill and will continue to do so as and when it is passed.

Similarly, the Government recognise that co-operation on international standards is vital to our joint efforts as we look to the future. We are working closely with the industry, the National Cyber Security Centre, Ofcom and a wide range of international partners to increase the UK’s influence and presence at major standards development organisations, such as ETSI and 3GPP.

Through his amendment the noble Lord is also, I think, seeking reassurance about the adequacy of Ofcom’s funding for its security arrangements. As the telecoms regulator, Ofcom will have a vital role to play in the compliance and enforcement arrangements for the new security framework. We are working with Ofcom to ensure that it has the required resources to meet its new responsibilities. Ofcom’s budget for telecoms security this financial year has been increased by £4.6 million to reflect that enhanced security role.

As I have explained, we will continue to ensure that our approach to telecoms security is kept up to date in response to the changes in threats and technology. For those reasons, I do not believe that Amendment 10 is necessary, and I hope that, when we come to it, the noble Lord will be content to withdraw it and to see that we are indeed working with our allies on this important area, as he rightly asked.

Amendment 11, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Alton, Lord Fox and Lord Coaker, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra, seeks to ensure that we take account of the actions of our Five Eyes partners. It would require the Secretary of State to review decisions taken by Five Eyes partners to ban telecoms vendors on security grounds. In particular, it would require the Secretary of State to review the UK’s security arrangements with that vendor and to consider whether to issue a designated vendor direction or to take similar action in the UK.

We certainly agree that the UK Government should engage with international partners, including our important allies in the Five Eyes alliance. That is what we have been doing throughout the drafting of the Bill and what we will continue to do once it has passed. Our Five Eyes relationship is robust, and the UK is committed to a close and enduring partnership. The Five Eyes intelligence and security agencies maintain very close co-operation, including regular and routine dialogue between the NCSC and its international partners. This dialogue includes the sharing of our respective technical expertise on the security of telecoms networks and the question of managing the risks from high-risk vendors. There are mechanisms already in place for the NCSC to share this and wider information with DCMS.

We also agree with noble Lords that the Government should consider the policies of our Five Eyes partners when developing our own security policies, and we do that. However, although we take the position of our Five Eyes partners into consideration, our international interests are not limited to the Five Eyes. That is why the approach we have taken in the Bill provides the flexibility for the Secretary of State to take into consideration a variety of relevant information, which includes but is not limited to assessments of our international partners’ policies. I reassure noble Lords that the Bill enables the Secretary of State to consider a decision by a Five Eyes partner—or, indeed, by any other international partner—to ban a vendor on security grounds.

Clause 16 of the Bill sets out a non-exhaustive list of factors the Secretary of State might take into account when she is considering issuing a designation notice. This illustrates the kinds of factors that the Government will proactively be considering on an ongoing basis as part of our work. The Government’s approach to national security needs to remain flexible and adaptable to future challenges. Every country’s approach to national security will be different; security measures taken in one particular country might not always be appropriate in another, for example due to differences in the composition of their telecoms networks or services.

The Government’s consideration of specific countries’ policies when developing their own national security policy should not therefore be mandated or set out in such a restrictive way in primary legislation.

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None Portrait A noble Lord
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The noble Lord means Third Reading.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, we are of course on Report; it has been a while since we were in Committee. Yes, the noble Lord is right: we do not feel that this amendment is necessary. I hope that I am setting out how the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to do what I think noble Lords want to do, not least, as I was just explaining, in Clause 16 and the non-exhaustive list of factors referred to there. Our objection is to setting out the Five Eyes partnership specifically and restrictively when there may be other countries and allies we speak to where she will also rightly want to take that into account. It is important that the Government have the freedom to determine their own national security policies so that they remain flexible and can respond rapidly to changing threats and challenges to our telecoms networks. The Government also need to be able to determine exactly how and when they engage with their Five Eyes partners and consider their actions when developing our policies.

Noble Lords are absolutely right to speak of the importance of the Five Eyes alliance; for more than 60 years it has been doing extremely valuable work for the people of this country and, indeed, for the other partner nations in it. But the Five Eyes alliance was not created through legislation and its importance has not relied on it being set out in statute either. In fact, it would be highly unusual to refer to such an alliance in legislation and we feel that this Bill is not the right place to create such an important national security precedent. That is why we are resisting it.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, suggested that if we had had such a provision it might have saved some time and effort in the past, in particular with reference to Huawei. The Government have always considered Huawei to pose a relatively high risk to the UK’s telecoms networks compared with other vendors. There has been a risk mitigation strategy in place since Huawei first began to supply equipment to the UK’s public telecoms providers. As he knows, in July last year, following advice from the NCSC, the National Security Council considered the impact of US sanctions in relation to Huawei and considered that further action was needed in relation to Huawei as the new US restrictions made oversight of Huawei products significantly more challenging and potentially impossible. That is an illustration of how the UK already regularly reviews security advice and requirements in response to international considerations and what other Governments are doing.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also asked about Hikvision. The UK is aware of reporting that has suggested links between Hikvision and human rights violations in Xinjiang. As he knows, the Government have spoken up at international organisations to condemn the ongoing situation in Xinjiang. In January, my right honourable friend the former Foreign Secretary announced a number of measures to help ensure that UK businesses and the public sector are not complicit in human rights violations or abuses there. Decisions on excluding suppliers would be made on a case-by-case basis by central government contracting authorities when undertaking procurements in line with the relevant regulations.

My noble friend Lord Blencathra raised China more broadly, and indeed the UK wants a mature, positive relationship with China based on mutual respect and trust. There is considerable scope for constructive engagement and co-operation but, as we strive for that positive relationship, we will not sacrifice either our values or our security. China is now a leading member of the world community; its size, economic power and global influence make it a vital partner in tackling the biggest global challenges, but it has always been the case that where we have concerns, we raise them, and where we need to intervene, we will.

In conclusion, I want to return to where I started these remarks. The Government view national security as their number one priority, as any responsible Government would. This debate has highlighted that there is broad agreement on the need for robust, strategic consideration of those issues. So, although I am afraid that we cannot accept the amendments in this group, I warmly welcome the intent behind them. I hope that I have reassured noble Lords sufficiently that we understand their concerns, and that they will be content not to press these amendments.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords from all sides of the House who have contributed to our debates during the passage of this Bill so far. Although that journey is not complete, their work has certainly helped us to interrogate the Bill and improve it. In particular, I would like to use this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lady Barran, who so expertly guided the Bill up to Committee; I was pleased to hear the tributes and thanks to her on Report a few days ago.

Throughout the passage of the Bill, the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, have helpfully challenged the Government’s approach from the Opposition Front Bench. I thank them for the constructive way they have done so and for their diligent approach, along with the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, from the Liberal Democrat Benches, who have also applied keen-eyed scrutiny throughout the Bill’s passage so far. Although we have not always agreed on the fine detail, it is clear that we all share the same ambition: to keep our telecoms networks secure.

I also thank my noble friends on these Benches, particularly my noble friends Lady Morgan of Coates, Lord Vaizey of Didcot, Lord Holmes of Richmond, Lord Young of Cookham, Lady Stroud, Lord Balfe and Lord Naseby for their contributions. The scrutiny that has been applied has already resulted in legislation that will allow the UK to protect our telecoms networks for years to come. It would be remiss of me not to extend my thanks also to parliamentary counsel for their usual brilliance in drafting the Bill, and to the House authorities for ensuring that the parliamentary stages could take place so seamlessly, including during the challenging circumstances of recent months.

I close by thanking the officials within my department, most of whom have been working on this Bill for well over a year now. Their knowledge, organisation and patience has allowed me, and I hope all noble Lords, to understand and scrutinise with relative ease what is a technical but very important Bill. It is a large Bill team and I make no apology for listing their names; it illustrates the breadth of work that has gone into what is quite a technical Bill. I thank Kathryn Roe, John Peart, Byron Grant, Thea Macdonald, Euan Onslow, Alex Walford, Malcolm Campbell, Dan Tor, Rosemary Buckland, Chris Frampton, Charlotte Carew, Will Jones, Yohance Drayton, and our lawyers, Sean Murray, Martha Hartridge, Simon Gomes, Luke Emmons, Richard Lancaster, May Wong, Harriet Preedy, Julia Clayson, Sean Wilson and Matthew Smith. All of them have supported the passage of this Bill excellently.

As my predecessor said at Second Reading:

“The Bill will … protect our telecoms networks even as technologies grow and evolve, shielding our critical national infrastructure both now and for the future.”—[Official Report, 29/6/21; col. 707.]


I am encouraged that your Lordships’ House agrees that the Bill will achieve this, and I beg to move.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been my first Bill since I joined your Lordships’ House a little over six months ago. Some would say that I was thrown in at the deep end but in my view, I was simply given the opportunity to swim in rather warm and pleasant parliamentary waters. It has been fascinating and enjoyable and I am very glad that my first Bill has been such an important one for the security of the nation.

The Minister has of course been a constant throughout consideration of this Bill, and we saw his worth recognised as he was promoted from the important role of Whip to the Minister tasked with bringing the Bill home. I thank him for the courteous and professional manner in which he has conducted himself throughout, and I also express my thanks to the former Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran. From these Benches, we also express our gratitude to the Bill team, the clerks, the staff of the House—indeed, all those who have worked front of house as well as behind the scenes to make this Bill possible.

Throughout, it has been my pleasure to work with my noble friend Lord Coaker, who has brought his valuable experience and knowledge to proceedings. We have been blessed to have the highly professional support of Dan Harris, our excellent adviser who has guided and advised us throughout, to whom we express our thanks. Her Majesty’s Opposition strongly believe that our nation’s security is above party politics, and I thank all noble Peers who have worked cross party on this Bill.

New technologies have long transformed how we work, live and, of course, travel. Our experiences during the pandemic have upped the ante on the degree to which we rely on telecommunications networks. At the same time, it has reinforced how intertwined these networks are with issues of national security, including the top priority of any Government: to protect its citizens from risk. This Bill is a necessary step to protect us.

I am very glad to welcome the Government’s acceptance of our arguments that codes of practice, to be issued by the Secretary of State to telecoms providers, must first come before Parliament. However, the Bill raised key questions and concerns, especially given the absence of an effective plan to diversify the supply chain and in respect of our telecom security depending on strengthening our international bonds, in particular through the Five Eyes, involving the UK, the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his work on that issue.

I hope that the other place will give sympathetic consideration to the changes we have made on both those matters, and that the Minister will recognise that the amendments passed by your Lordships’ House make serious and important improvements to the Bill and have widespread support across the Chamber. My concluding wish for this Bill is that the Government will reflect and feel able to support these improvements to the Bill and the security they provide.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, before we pass this Bill, may I add to a comment to what the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, said? I express my thanks as well to everyone who was on the long list that the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, gave us, but also to his predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran. As Ministers, I do not think they could have been more helpful and more responsive to the points we made both in Committee and on Report.

My noble friend also mentioned the all-party amendment moved last week by myself and the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, which we also raised in Committee. It raises the need for reviews to take place when another jurisdiction—specifically, in this case, many of us cited the United States of America—had banned a particular company which was not banned in the United Kingdom but working within the telecommunications sector.

One example the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and I gave in our debates was Hikvision, which is banned in the United States. It makes the surveillance cameras that are used punitively against the Uighur people in Xinjiang but are also used in our own high streets and public buildings. That amendment called for a review: that when any such company is banned in another Five Eyes jurisdiction, it is to be reviewed in the United Kingdom. It is a very reasonable all-party amendment, but it was opposed by the Government. Before the Minister completes his remarks today, could he tell us what has happened to that amendment and how the Government intend to respond to it?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I was remiss in not adding to the long list of names I read out those of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra, who signed that cross-party amendment to which the noble Lord just referred. Of course, the amendment goes to the other place, which will look at it, the official record and the debate we had on it. I am sorry I was not able to persuade the noble Lord and my noble friend of it, but I will work with my colleagues in DCMS to make sure that they take into account the views of your Lordships’ House as expressed in the vote. I will not pre-empt the debates that will be had in another place, but I look forward to seeing what it sends us back in continuing that debate.

In the spirit which all noble Lords have mentioned today of wanting to see this important Bill on the statute book swiftly but with the proper scrutiny that both places want to give it, I beg to move.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 4, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 4A.

4A: Because the Commons consider it appropriate and sufficient for oversight and scrutiny of decisions made by the Secretary of State for DCMS in relation to telecommunications diversification to be conducted by the departmental select committee.
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, noble Lords will recall that this Bill will create one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and ensure the security and resilience of the UK’s telecommunications networks and infrastructure.

Amendment 4, which was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, and the noble Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lord Fox, would insert a new clause into the Bill. The clause would require the Secretary of State to report on the impact of the Government’s diversification strategy on the security of telecommunication networks and services, and would allow for a debate in another place on the report.

I ask that this House do not insist on its amendment for two reasons. Our first objection to this amendment relates to the flexibility necessary for diversification. The reporting requirement, which is based on the risks as we find them today, is restrictive and premature for a market and technology that is evolving and rapidly changing. Policy work is at an early stage, and the criteria for how we measure its success is evolving in line with our policy. It would not be suitable to set out specific reporting criteria in legislation.

The diversification strategy and any reporting on its progress must be flexible so that we can focus on achieving the greatest impact. As we hope diversification to be a short-term problem, enshrining it in legislation—a long-term solution—would be counterintuitive and unnecessary. We are currently focused on diversifying radio access networks, for instance, but that may change in the future.

The Government take diversification seriously. I reassure noble Lords that mechanisms are already in place, through Parliamentary Questions and Select Committees, to thoroughly scrutinise the strategy and its progress now and in the future. This is the appropriate method of scrutiny for an evolving, time-limited strategy.

Secondly, this is principally a national security Bill intended to strengthen the security and resilience of all our telecoms networks. The Government’s 5G telecoms diversification strategy has been developed to support that objective but it is not the sole objective of the strategy. In addition, the strategy is focused on a specific subset of the telecoms supply market, not the security of public networks as a whole.

From debates in your Lordships’ House so far, it is clear that this amendment intends to hold the Government to account on the impact of the diversification strategy on the security of public networks. We will be happy to provide updates on the strategy’s progress through existing channels, and are encouraged by the developments that we have seen since the strategy’s launch. The amendment would extend the Bill beyond its intended national security focus and creates an inflexible reporting requirement on a strategy that, as I say, will evolve as it fulfils this important work. That is why I ask your Lordships’ House not to insist on Amendment 4.

I shall also speak to Motion B, which asks that this House do not insist on its Amendment 5, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 5A. As noble Lords will recall, Amendment 5 was tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Lord Coaker and Lord Fox, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to review decisions taken by Five Eyes partners to ban telecommunications vendors on security grounds. In particular, it would require the Secretary of State to review the UK’s security arrangements with that vendor and consider whether to issue a designated vendor direction or take similar action in the UK.

As I said on Report, I welcome the intention of the amendment. It demonstrates that noble Lords across the House take the security of this country and its people incredibly seriously. However, while we support the spirit of the amendment, we cannot accept it for four reasons.

First, this amendment is unnecessary as the Bill already allows the Secretary of State to consider the policies of Five Eyes countries. Clause 16 includes a non-exhaustive list of factors that the Secretary of State may take into consideration when issuing designation notices regarding high-risk vendors. That list illustrates the kinds of factors we will be considering proactively and on an ongoing basis as part of our national security work. A decision by a Five Eyes partner or indeed any other international partner to ban a vendor on security grounds could be considered as part of that process. The amendment asks the Government to do something that has been part of the Bill from the outset. We believe that our existing approach is the right way to continually consider the decisions of all our international allies and partners.

Secondly, the amendment is unnecessary because we are already committed to a close and enduring partnership with the Five Eyes countries. We engage with our partners regularly and, where relevant, consider their actions when developing our own policies. The Five Eyes intelligence and security agencies maintain close co-operation, which includes frequent dialogue between the National Cyber Security Centre and its international partners. This dialogue includes the sharing of technical expertise on the security of telecoms networks and managing the risks posed by high-risk vendors. Engaging with our partners in this way is at the very core of our national security work.

In another place, members of the Intelligence and Security Committee agreed that the amendment was not necessary as the existing intelligence relationship with the Five Eyes, and other international parties, is strong. The chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Dr Julian Lewis, said:

“We looked at Lords amendment 5 and we understood the temptation to flag up the importance of the Five Eyes relationship. We agreed ... whenever a serious objection is raised on security grounds by one of the Five Eyes partners, we take that with the utmost seriousness.”—[Official Report, Commons, 8/11/21; col. 119.]


The chairman of the DCMS Select Committee, Julian Knight MP, agreed and said that

“any Government worth their salt would take very seriously the approach of our closest security partners.”—[Official Report, Commons, 8/11/21; col. 117.]

Our third reason is that naming individual countries in legislation would be restrictive to the development of wider international relations and set an unhelpful precedent on national security legislation. The Five Eyes alliance was not created through legislation and it has not required legislation for us to develop and strengthen that relationship in the past. Moreover, we need to consider the policies of a wide range of countries, including those of our European neighbours such as France and Germany, and those of other nations such as Japan, South Korea and India, to name but a few. It is highly unusual to refer to specific countries in legislation in this way, and the amendment would set an unhelpful precedent for future legislation.

Finally, the amendment is impractical because of the many different ways other countries operate their national security decision-making. It may not be immediately clear when a country has taken a decision to ban a vendor, particularly if it relied on sensitive intelligence. It also may not be clear why a country has taken this decision, and it may not always be based on national security grounds. So, while I welcome the intentions behind the amendment, we cannot accept it and that is why I ask that the House does not insist on Amendment 5 either. I beg to move.

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones (LD)
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My Lords, I hope my noble friend Lord Fox has given his apologies to the Minister for being unable to be here due to a Select Committee engagement. However, that does not mean that on these Benches we are any less disappointed—or indignant, as I think my noble friend Lord Fox would put it—about the Government having turned down both amendments, which my noble friend signed. The Minister is developing a fine turn of phrase in turning down amendments that appear perfectly sensible. On Report he talked about sharing the ambition and warmly welcoming the intent and then said that they did not quite fit the Bill and the Government could not accept these amendments. It is rather baffling since both are built very firmly on the Government’s expressed intentions —indeed, ambitions—set out in the integrated review. That was very clear in our debates on Report. It seems that the Government’s motives are much more firmly based on resistance to scrutiny and the idea that, somehow, they would be constrained in their work on diversification by having to report, in the case of Lords Amendment 4. However, the words he used were:

“legislating for a reporting requirement would be limiting and inflexible.”—[Official Report, 19/10/21; col. 86.]

Having reread the debate and heard again what the Minister had to say, I still cannot understand the Government’s rationale for this.

The rejection of Lords Amendment 5 is equally baffling because the Minister talks again about the limitation of the amendment to a particular set of countries. Surely, one of the reasons we are where we are, and the Government had to backtrack on their treatment of high-risk vendors, is precisely that they were not in step with their other Five Eyes allies. Therefore, the Government are not even learning from experience. We are where we are, however, and clearly we are not going to take this further, but I believe that the Government will regret not accepting both amendments.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I certainly hear the disappointment and perhaps, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said, even the indignation of his noble friend Lord Fox, in his absence. I am sure that if the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, who is not able to be with us today, were here he would have had something to say as well. However, I hope to be able to reassure all noble Lords that the Government certainly have listened to and taken on board the points which have been made. Where we respectfully disagree, I would point to the fact that another place has disagreed as well, but, as I said in my opening remarks, we are very conscious of the spirit of scrutiny in which these amendments have been put forward. Noble Lords have wanted to ensure that the Bill does what the Government intend: to set up a framework to protect the national security of our country. We simply disagree about the practicalities of some of the amendments which remain at this late stage.

It may be helpful to say a little more about the opportunities for parliamentary oversight of the diversification strategy which noble Lords and Members of another place will have been able to take advantage of. Since its publication, Members of another place and noble Lords have had the opportunity to scrutinise and provide feedback on the strategy. The Science and Technology Select Committee in another place held an inquiry earlier this year on 5G Market Diversification and Wider Lessons for Critical and Emerging Technologies. The Government responded to the committee’s report in April, agreeing with its assessment of the scale of the diversification challenge and that there is a need to work swiftly to make early progress and build momentum as we work towards our long-term ambitions. We have not yet committed to a specific way of reporting progress, as policy work is at an early stage and the criteria for how we measure its success is evolving in line with our policy, as I said in my opening remarks.

However, we have made and announced a lot of progress on our diversification strategy already: for example, on our programme of targeted R&D support, including the future RAN open competition, the winners of which will be announced soon. We will continue to update on progress and are planning to launch further policy commitments at the same time as announcing the winners of that competition later this year. I know that noble Lords, if they agree with us and do not insist on their amendments today, will certainly continue to watch this issue vigilantly and find every opportunity to pursue these important issues in your Lordships’ House and through Parliamentary Questions and Select Committees, and it is right that they do.

I end by thanking again the Bill team and all officials who have been involved in the development of this important Bill. I listed them in full last time, so I will not try the patience of the Hansard editors by repeating their names but I will add one final name: Daniel Wilson, who has been of great support to me and my noble friend Lady Barran in working on this issue in private office.

I commend the Bill to your Lordships’ House. It will create one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and ensure the security and resilience of the UK’s telecommunications networks and infrastructure.

Motion A agreed.
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Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 5, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 5A.

5A: Because the Commons consider it inappropriate to specify the steps to be taken by the Secretary of State where decisions in relation to telecommunications vendors are taken on national security grounds by other countries.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I have already spoken to Motion B, and I beg to move it formally.

Motion B agreed.