The National Security Bill is an essential tool to keep the British public safe

The nature of the threat to the UK from foreign states may change, but it is ever-present. In recent years it has become even more sophisticated and varied.

The government will provide all possible support to intelligence services and law enforcement to deal with it. One of our tasks is to ensure that the legal framework in which they operate is up to date.

The whole country has been united in outrage over high profile cases such as Salisbury when Russian agents entered our country to commit murder. In January, I made a statement in the House of Commons about individuals who engaged in political interference on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party and targeted members of parliament. Of course, there are many other threats that cannot be made public.

We call hostile activity by foreign countries “state threats”. To defeat the hostile activity that threatens our people, our property, our economy, our democracy and our freedom, we must be even more sophisticated than those who would harm us.

Therefore, we must give those who protect us from these harms the tools they need to prepare, plan, and take action to protect us. They may never achieve public recognition for this work, but we all owe them immense gratitude for their courage and persistence.

Protect data and infrastructure of foreign states

Like them, I will do everything in my power to protect our country from those who would seek to harm us. That is why I am introducing the National Security Bill, which will better arm us against state threats and keep us at the forefront of the global intelligence community.

The bill will make it an offense for the first time to be a clandestine foreign spy on our soil. We will introduce a new offense of foreign interference, to disrupt unlawful interference activities carried out for or on behalf of foreign states.

A new sabotage offense will be introduced to respond more effectively to state-sponsored attacks on sites, data or infrastructure critical to the security and interests of the UK.

This national security bill is essential for those on the front lines of deterrence and disruption. It will include tougher laws and updated tools for our law enforcement agencies, as well as new investigative powers and capabilities.

Foreign Influence Registration System

These new offenses and those we are bringing into the modern era are accompanied by an increase in the existing maximum penalties. It is vital to give our courts the power to put behind bars longer those who would harm us.

The bill will introduce a foreign influence registration scheme, requiring individuals to register certain agreements with foreign governments, in order to deter or disrupt state threat activity in the UK.

The bill also repeals and replaces existing espionage laws, many of which were primarily designed to counter the threat of German spies during the First World War era.

Modern laws to reflect a modern world

It is essential that we have modern laws to reflect how the world has changed since then and to reflect how modern technology can be used to cause harm.

In doing so, it creates a series of new offenses covering the harmful activities we see today. It will create a modern set of offenses making it illegal to obtain and disclose sensitive information and trade secrets, whether in the name or on behalf of a foreign state.

It will also allow for much earlier intervention in state threat activity, criminalizing conduct in preparation for state threat activity, meaning arrests can be made at an earlier stage. before damage is done.

When determining the sentence for offenses not covered by the bill, judges will be required to consider any connection to the activity of state threats and to consider the seriousness of it when pronouncing of a penalty.

There is also a new range of measures to deal with those who pose a threat but have not been able to prosecute. The use of these measures will of course be subject to rigorous checks and balances, including by the courts.

An indispensable tool in the fight against hostile actors

But we need to be better able to pursue potential threats and not wait for a hostile actor to target this great country and carry out another terrible attack.

And there are measures to combat the persistent threat of terrorism and those who abuse our legal systems. These will restrict convicted terrorists’ access to civil legal aid and deprive them of civil damages where these could be used for wrongful acts.

The national security bill is not our only tool, but it is a vital tool. No one, at home or abroad, should doubt that this government will do whatever it takes to keep the British people safe.

Priti Patel is Home Secretary

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