Today, Interior Minister Priti Patel is introducing a new law aimed at combating foreign espionage and interference.
These proposals are aimed at providing law enforcement and intelligence agencies with tools to combat threats such as the use of cyber attacks, drones and “interference in our economy and democracy.”
MI5 Director-General Ken McCallum said Britain was “competing with states trying to undermine our national security and democratic institutions”.
The measures are part of the government legislative program announced this week.
Earlier, ministers published consultations on legislation “to counter state threats” after the Queen’s speech last year, which raised concerns about Amnesty International that journalists who print “unwanted leaks” could be criminalized.
Since then, there have been revelations about an agent of the Chinese government working in parliament, as well as renewed concern about Russia’s activities after the invasion of Ukraine. fears intensified about foreign intervention.
The government said the new bill modernizes anti-espionage rules dating back to World War I and “grows a threat to our national security.”
This will for the first time offend an undeclared foreign spy in the UK and introduce a new crime for foreign interference, “to thwart illegal activities of influence for, or on behalf of” another country.
The Home Office said the new sabotage crime would provide more opportunities to respond to threats such as drones and cyber attacks on sites, data and infrastructure that are considered critical to Britain’s security or interests.
The bill also criminalizes actions taken in preparation for threats to the state – in order to thwart them before causing serious harm and allow courts to impose much longer sentences for “crimes supported by a foreign state,” the government said.
Also among the proposals will be a scheme that forces people who have “certain agreements” with the governments of other countries to sign the “scheme of registration of foreign influence.”
Another potentially controversial measure is the introduction of “measures to prevent state threats and investigations” that will be used against people who cannot be prosecuted “as a last resort”.
In addition to measures against foreign states, the bill includes a plan to restrict convicted terrorists’ access to civilian legal aid to prevent its provision to persons “who could use it to support terror.”
Ms. Patel said: “The threat of hostile activity by states aimed at our democracy, economy and values is real and constantly evolving – that’s why the modernization measures included in the national security bill are so important.”
Mr McCallum, MI5 boss, said: “Laws designed to combat wartime espionage are not keeping up with the threats that MI5 is now facing.
“State actors are stealing not only the secrets of national security, but also our advanced sciences, research and technology. They are trying to secretly interfere in our democracy, economy and society. We see coercion and, as a last resort, a direct threat to life.” “