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Registration scheme to tackle foreign spies expected

The Home Office has confirmed that Britain is planning to force those working for foreign governments to sign a central register in an attempt to counter hostile spy activity.

Reported in The Times, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to formally announce the proposal in the Queen’s speech next month, making it a criminal offence not to declare work in the UK on behalf of a foreign government.

The report claims that the foreign agent registration scheme, which had previously been announced by the Home Office, is part of the government’s intentions to strengthen powers to evict and prosecute spies operating in Britain for hostile states such as Russia and China. This would be seen as a follow-up to the government’s response to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s 2020 report into allegations of Russian interference in British politics.

The Times report says other changes being prepared for 11 May would include an update to the Official Secrets Act so it can be used on state actors working from abroad, such as cyber hackers targeting Britain at the request of aggressive states.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office recently joined US counterparts in declaring that it was ‘highly likely’ that Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, SVR, was behind the so-called SolarWinds hack, a major cyber attack on the west.

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