National Security Bill becomes law

On 11 July, the National Security Bill became law after being passed by both Houses of Parliament and securing Royal Assent

This new act brings together vital new measures to protect the British public, modernise counter-espionage laws and address the evolving threat to our national security.

With this new legislation, the UK is now a harder target for those states who seek to conduct hostile acts against the UK, which include espionage, foreign interference (including in our political system), sabotage, and acts that endanger life, such as assassination.

The new powers will help ensure that the UK remains the hardest operating environment for malign activity undertaken by foreign actors.

Russia remains the most acute threat to the UK’s security, though we have seen interference from China including to communities here in the UK, and Iran has made concerted efforts to kill or kidnap British or UK-based individuals.

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said:

"We are facing growing threats from foreign states. Over the past years we’ve seen attempts to harm our people, damage our economy and undermine our democracy.

"Iran’s recent attempts to kidnap or kill people living in the UK are beyond contempt, and a fundamental violation of our sovereignty.

"The National Security Act provides the tools to expose this type of activity and hold those responsible to account."

The National Security Act overhauls our outdated espionage laws and will provide our law enforcement and intelligence agencies with new and updated tools to deter, detect and disrupt modern-day state threats. For the first time there is an offence of foreign interference, meaning it will now be illegal to engage in conduct that interferes with fundamental rights, such as voting and freedom of speech, that are essential to the UK’s democracy.

These powers will apply to an individual acting on behalf of any state, which means the UK will be better equipped to tackle the full spectrum of malign activity, whether in the form of disinformation, cyber-attacks, electoral interference or even physical attacks, including the barbaric use of chemical weapons.

Director General of MI5, Ken McCallum said:

"We face state adversaries who operate at scale and who are not squeamish about the tactics they deploy to target people and businesses in the UK.

"The National Security Act is a game changing update to our powers.  We now have a modern set of laws to tackle today’s threats."

The act also introduces a new Foreign Influence Registration Scheme (FIRS), which criminalises those acting covertly for states which pose the greatest threat to our national security and strengthens the resilience of UK democracy by bringing transparency to foreign political influence.

The scheme has been created to tackle covert influence in the UK, it is split into two parts: the political tier of FIRS makes any political influence activity undertaken at the direction of a foreign power registerable; and the enhanced tier – which is designed to target those countries that pose a risk to the safety or interests of the UK – will require registration of arrangements that are entered into with a specified foreign power, or entity controlled by a foreign power. Failure to register when required will be a criminal offence.

Home Office
The Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat MBE VR MP