Queen’s Speech: New ‘Spy Asbos’ to stop foreign agents targeting key sites in Britain

·2-min read
Prince Charles reads the Queen’s Speech as he sits by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in the House of Lords chamber (Getty Images)
Prince Charles reads the Queen’s Speech as he sits by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in the House of Lords chamber (Getty Images)

New “Spy Asbos” are to be introduced to stop foreign agents targeting key sites in Britain.

The measure is included in the National Security Bill in the Queen’s Speech published on Tuesday.

Ministers pledged it would be the biggest overhaul of state threats legislation for a generation to give MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the police greater powers to protect Britain.

Currently, police may be limited in being able to take action to arrest suspected spies and bring them before a court.

However, the bill introduces new civil measures to use as a “tool of last resort where prosecution of a hostile actor” is not possible.

Laying out more details of the “Spy Asbos”, the Queen’s Speech documents stressed that they would include the ability to restrict a state threat actor from access to certain “places, or where they can work and study”.

The new power would aim to prevent any harm from being done where there is no other option to prosecute or disrupt the activity.

Other key elements of the bill include:

* Reforming existing espionage laws (Official Secrets Acts 1911, 1920 and 1939) to provide effective legislation to tackle modern threats.

* Bringing in new offences to tackle state-backed sabotage, foreign interference, the theft of trade secrets and assisting a foreign intelligence service.

* Introducing a Foreign Influence Registration Scheme requiring individuals to register certain arrangements with foreign governments to deter and disrupt spies being deployed in the UK.

* Providing powers to allow state threats to be tackled at an earlier stage, by expanding the ability to prosecute people for preparing activities, and for other offences that are committed by those acting for a foreign state to be labelled as state threats and sentenced accordingly.

* Restricting the ability of convicted terrorists to receive civil legal aid and ensuring that terrorists cannot gain civil damages which might fund terrorism.

Overall, the bill aims to boost Britain’s ability to “deter, detect and disrupt” state actors who target the UK, prevent spies from harming its strategic interests and preserve society’s integrity.

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