New Clause 22 - Offence of providing false information

National Security Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 18 Hydref 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

“(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person provides information to the Secretary of State under section (Registration information) or (Information notices) in connection with a foreign activity arrangement, and

(b) the information is false, inaccurate or misleading in a material way.

(2) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person provides information to the Secretary of State under section (Registration information) or (Information notices) in connection with an activity which is required to be registered under section (Requirement to register activities of specified persons), and

(b) the information is false, inaccurate or misleading in a material way.

(3) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person provides information to the Secretary of State under section (Registration information) or (Information notices) in connection with a foreign influence arrangement,

(b) the information is false, inaccurate or misleading in a material way, and

(c) the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the information is false, inaccurate or misleading in a material way.

(4) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person provides information to the Secretary of State under section (Registration information) or (Information notices) in connection with a political influence activity which is required to be registered under section (Requirement to register political influence activities of foreign principals),

(b) the information is false, inaccurate or misleading in a material way, and

(c) the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the information is false, inaccurate or misleading in a material way.”

This new clause creates offences of providing false or misleading information in connection with the registration scheme.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Ceidwadwyr, North Wiltshire

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government new clause 23—Offence of carrying out activities under arrangements tainted by false information.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I turn to new clauses 22 and 23, which relate to the offence of providing false information and of carrying out activities under arrangements tainted by false information.

New clause 22 would create offences for where a registrant provides false or misleading information under the primary registration requirement or the enhanced registration requirement, or in response to an information notice. These offences are important to reduce the risk that the person is able to appear as if they have complied with the obligations under the scheme through the provision of false or misleading information. The delivery of the scheme’s objectives is undermined if a registrant is able to provide false or misleading information through registration or in response to an information notice without consequence. We should expect that those who seek to obfuscate their arrangements and activities will attempt to that, and we must be able to respond.

Such offences are not new or novel—indeed, they are common to requirements that place a positive obligation on members of the public to provide information. As with other offences we have considered, those that relate to the primary registration requirement have a higher bar for the prosecution to meet: that the registrant knows or ought reasonably to know that the information is false, inaccurate or misleading in a material way. By comparison, offences of the provision of false information in relation to the enhanced measure are to be strict liability. It should not be acceptable that such information is provided in relation to activity carried out for a specified foreign power or entity.

New clause 23 creates offences for carrying out activities under a registrable arrangement where false or misleading information has been provided in connection with the arrangement. I have already explained that the requirement to register an arrangement under the primary or enhanced registration requirements falls on the person who has made an arrangement with the specified foreign power or entity, or foreign principal.

We have also discussed the possibility that the registration of an arrangement could be made with false or misleading information: for example, where a person wants to appear as if they have complied with their registration obligations but is actively trying to conceal the true nature of their arrangements or activities.

These additional offences are important because they will allow for enforcement action to be taken against those who are acting pursuant to a falsely registered arrangement and are either complicit or in a position where they ought reasonably to know that the arrangement has been registered. As I explained in relation to the offences for carrying out activity pursuant to an unregistered arrangement, this will reduce the likelihood that unregistered activity is carried out, as well as providing a means of disrupting all levels of an organisation that has been identified as engaged in a covert arrangement or activity.

I want to reassure hon. Members that where an individual could not reasonably know that the information registered relating to the arrangement is false or misleading, they will not be prosecuted. It will be up to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether someone charged with an offence ought reasonably to have known about the false information. I commend the new clause to the Committee.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office)

It is right that new clauses 22 and 23 set out new offences that are created as a means of promoting compliance with the registration scheme. On that basis, we are satisfied that new offences are in order.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 22 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.