Justice and Security Bill: Lords second reading

20 June 2012

Members of the Lords discussed the main aspects of the Justice and Security Bill during second reading, the first opportunity for them to debate the aspects of the bill, yesterday (Tuesday 19 June)

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Liberal Democrat) introduced the bill and outlined its potential role resolving the 'competing demands of liberty and security'. He said the bill will address three issues, including the hearing of security-sensitive civil cases, intellectual property law with claims outside the UK and independence of the intelligence community.

In his speech, Lord Beecham (Labour) expressed that the House of Lords has expertise of the 'highest order' when examining this complex bill. 'This House is not lacking in expertise... including as it does eminent legal practitioners, former senior members of the judiciary and others with ministerial, political or professional experience of the intelligence and security world,' he said. 

Lord Thomas of Gresford (Liberal Democrat), who declared an interest as a practising barrister, said he would turn his attentions to the second part of the bill and outlined the main themes of that section. 'Part two of this bill is primarily concerned with actions brought by an individual against the state for damages for human rights violations such as torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, false imprisonment, illegal renditions, or complicity in such violations in other jurisdictions,' he explained.

Past and present members of the Intelligence and Security Committee also contributed to the debate, including the Marquess of Lothian (Conservative). He said: 'I welcome the bill which, although not long, deals with rather a large number of important issues that have been in need of being addressed for some time'.  

About the bill

The first reading of the Justice and Security Bill took place in the House of Lords on 28 May 2012. The bill proposes:

  • Strengthened oversight by Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Headquarters and other activities relating to intelligence or security matters.
  • To expand the statutory remit of the ISC and allow Parliament to have a more substantial role in ISC appointments.
  • For closed material procedure in relation to certain civil proceedings in the High Court, the Court of Session or the Court of Appeal. Also to extend closed material procedure for cases containing sensitive information and connected purposes.

Background information on the bill

What is second reading?

Second reading is the first opportunity for members of the Lords to debate the main principles and purpose of the bill and to flag up concerns and areas where they think changes (amendments) are needed.

Before second reading takes place, a list of speakers for the second reading debate is opened and interested members add their names to it.

The government minister, spokesperson or a member of the Lords responsible for the bill opens the debate.

Any member can speak in the debate so this stage can indicate those members particularly interested in the bill - or a particular aspect of it - and those who are most likely to be involved in amending the bill at later stages.

Second reading debates usually last for a few hours but sometimes stretch over a couple of days.

Next stage: Committee stage

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the bill takes place during committee stage. Any member of the Lords can take part.

It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.

The day before committee stage starts, amendments (changes) are published in a marshalled list – in which all the amendments are placed in order. Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (groupings of amendments) is published on the day.

During committee stage every clause of the bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit – or guillotine - on discussion of amendments.

Further information

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