The threat from hostile states is growing, diversifying and evolving and is manifesting itself in several different forms. Our espionage laws date back to 1911 and have not kept pace with the changing nature of threats to national security.
The Government has introduced legislation, through the new National Security Bill, which aims to deter, detect and disrupt state actors who seek to harm the UK. The Bill seeks to reform existing espionage legislation to provide effective protection to tackle modern threats, and enact new offences to tackle state-backed sabotage, interference, the theft of trade secrets and assisting a foreign intelligence service. Crucially, it will also, for the first time, make it an offence to be an undeclared foreign spy working in the UK.
Furthermore, a Foreign Influence Registration Scheme will be introduced, requiring individuals to register certain arrangements with foreign governments to deter and disrupt state threats activity in the UK. This sits alongside new civil measures which could be used as a tool of last resort where prosecution of a hostile actor is not possible.
I am clear that the freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy, and I am committed to protecting the rights and values we hold dear as a nation. Reports that the legislation will somehow criminalise journalists who hold minister to account are incorrect. The media will continue to be free to do its job of speaking truth to power.