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Sir Peter Emery: Before my right hon. Friend leaves that subject, will he consider a matter that I do not think has arisen in the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee? Security matters are of considerable importance to the work of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is responsible for looking at the conduct of the Foreign Office. The Committee, of which I am a member, will hear from the head of MI6 later this month but our invitation to security services involved with the Foreign Office has been declined.

Should not Select Committees be able to co-operate with the intelligence and Security Committee, so that, when a Select Committee is unable to obtain information, the matter could be passed to that Committee with its special relationship with Government? The Intelligence and Security Committee could then report to the Select

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Committee, so that the Select Committee would not be debarred from information that might be vital to its inquiry.

Mr. King: I shall speak about our role in oversight at the end of my speech; it may be relevant to my right hon. Friend's point.

A matter of particular interest--it has been the focus of the Committee's work this year and previously--is internal security in the agencies. The story has not been entirely happy on either side of the Atlantic. The most spectacular betrayals have been in the US--they led to the betrayal of British agents, too--but, as the Foreign Secretary said, and as the Committee identified, failures in security are no longer a result of ideological commitments. A deep commitment to the communist cause was the background to the famous British traitors and spies of earlier generations. Now, people are more likely to be seeking funds because they have financial or personal problems. The United States has also suffered as a result.

Secrets must be protected within an agency. People who give information to intelligence agencies are risking their lives. They will not do so if they believe that the agencies cannot be trusted not to disclose their name, address or background. One does not have to live in Northern Ireland to know what happens to people who inform. People will not take risks unless they are confident that the information and their identity will be protected. That is why that matter must be taken so seriously.

In some cases, we have lost information and secrets have been divulged--there has been a straight betrayal with the passing of information. People have breached their contracts, and the Official Secrets Act, in return for money. Staff have become disaffected because of grievances of one sort or another. The Foreign Secretary referred to two recent cases. People may, or may not, have been seeking payments from national newspapers for information or hearsay. Some cases have been the result of lax internal discipline and a failure properly to safeguard and classify information. Whatever the reason, all the cases matter.

The Committee has been trying not to chase after individual hares but to consider the fundamental issues that must be tackled. We have been, and will continue to be, critical of the agencies' attention to matters as elementary as personal security, such as random searches of people leaving buildings and ensuring that documents are secure. We have mentioned that problem in three successive reports. The most spectacular and awful CIA traitor carried shopping bags full of documents away, but no one checked or searched him. The result was the destruction--and execution--of the CIA network in the Soviet Union at the time, which endangered the life of Mr. Gordievsky, who was bravely passing on information.

We must not forget personal security and the boring business of continual vigilance, random searches, checking on people's concerns and taking an interest in people's personal circumstances. If an agency employee is divorced or has marital or financial problems, that may be a matter of national security concern. It is a difficult balance to strike. Agency employees are entitled to reasonable personal privacy. We cannot make their lives totally intolerable. With the benefit of hindsight, we can

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see that incidents in this country and in the United States have shown that someone should have realised that there were problems and identified them. That is why the report deals also with recruitment, as care must be taken to ensure that people are suitable for employment in the agencies in the first place. Employees should be monitored so that stress and personal difficulties can be identified before they pose serious problems. There should be proper counselling.

If all else fails, people should be entitled, as far as possible, to the sort of employment rights that others expect to enjoy. I am glad that the Government have responded positively on that. That is why we recommended the setting up of some form of tribunal to replicate as closely as possible an ordinary industrial tribunal. It might have a lawyer as chairman, with the membership including an employer and a trade union representative. Surely and certainly in this country we can find people patriotic and trustworthy enough to hear any secret that the Committee can hear and deal with it in such a tribunal without prejudicing the information.

The Foreign Secretary and shadow Foreign Secretary mentioned files, but I shall leave that subject to my colleagues, as many have taken an interest in it.

GCHQ has considerable capabilities and it is no secret that they have increased substantially. New challenges exist, since new technology is also available to some pretty nasty and dangerous people, not least drug traffickers and some of the big new organised criminal gangs. GCHQ must have accountability structures that ensure that systems authorising the proper interception of communications match up to the new challenges. We must also ensure that the privacy of the individual, to which all law-abiding citizens are entitled, is properly protected.

GCHQ is a massive organisation with extremely sophisticated equipment. It has to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week without a second of interruption. That is the nature of its undertaking. However, it is planning to move, and not all transfers of public or even Government activities have been a seamless robe. The organisational challenge of the GCHQ move is massive, as the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has pointed out, and the Committee makes no apology for drawing the Government's attention to that fact.

Oversight has been a process of evolution. The Committee is a strange animal--like no other Committee in the House. It is a Committee of parliamentarians, but we report not to Parliament but to the Prime Minister, who tables our annual report for debate here. We are not a Select Committee and we have our origins in the Intelligence Services Act 1994. The Committee was established at the same time as it was first admitted we had the Secret Intelligence Service, and the SIS and GCHQ were given a statutory basis, barely four years ago, which seems incredible when one looks back through the history of the CIA's activities.

The two agencies came in from the cold. They were perhaps fearful that parliamentarians might not be entirely reliable: that they would become caught up in party political warfare or point scoring between Members of Parliament and that secrets would leak out. Committee members realised that, whenever a Bill is enacted, the

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legal arrangements set out therein are only the bare bones on which one has to build. We have taken the trouble to study other oversight bodies. The American system is massive. The Inspector General of the CIA has a staff of 140. Its former director, Jim Woolsey, told me that, during his three years in office, there was not one day when he did not have to give evidence on Capitol hill to one committee or another. We did not want to follow the model of oversight on that scale.

One or two countries are still managing to proceed heroically with no oversight whatever: one of them is not far from the channel tunnel; but I understand that it is considering the matter at present. Others set up oversight committees to which they appointed all the difficult squad who had made speeches about intelligence agencies and did not believe in them in the first place. The intelligence agencies made jolly sure that they told those people nothing, so there was inadequate oversight and open warfare.

We have recognised that we work within the ring of secrecy. We inevitably, have, a close relationship with the agencies, and I hope that we have established a measure of mutual respect, but not a cosy relationship, as that would prevent us from doing our job. We expect to be told everything and to have every question answered unless there are clear and obvious reasons--of national security or secrecy, as narrowly defined as they can possibly be--why such information should not be made available.

We do not expect the agencies to hide behind a narrow interpretation of the law, because to do our job we need the clearest possible picture. We try to ask only what is relevant to our purposes, and I believe that we have succeeded in ensuring that the information is kept secret. We have sought not to destroy or undermine the agencies but to ensure, in their own best interests, that their performance at all times matches the standards that the public expect of them.

The public often see the agencies as sinister bodies that are out of sight and out of ministerial control, operating in a world of their own. Public support can be fragile: on the occasions that the Foreign Secretary mentioned, there were banner headlines thanking God for our security services, and people were full of praise, but when something goes wrong and there is an allegation of a mistake, misunderstanding or compromise involving the agencies, people are quick to believe the worst.

Our job is to try to bring some balance and ensure that we can investigate when there are serious grounds for public concern. That is why we have proposed an investigative arm: in certain circumstances, we need the ability to verify. When a situation arises that gives serious cause for public concern, the public often react to a statement by the head of an agency by saying, "He would say that, wouldn't he?", and if Ministers merely repeat an assertion from an agency head whom the public suspect of putting his agency's interests first and defending its position, the necessary public reassurance is lacking.

We shall not be able to help matters unless we can say that we have investigated the allegations, with full access to all the relevant information, and that we are satisfied either that a charge needs to be answered or that the charge is merely malicious and unfounded. Then we can speak with the unanimous, all-party voice of our Committee, which will carry the authority that the agencies are entitled to expect.

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I am grateful for the Government's positive response. We shall see how we go, because I well understand the nervousness and uncertainties, but I believe that an investigative arm is the correct next step in the development of oversight. It will be good for the agencies and attract public support and give our reports the authority that they need to meet any circumstances that may arise.

Oversight is the heart of our work. We need to have appropriate openness and oversight of a world of activity that is necessarily secret and essential to our country's ultimate security. We have made a start down that road; I do not pretend that we have reached the end of it. That is the sensible way of proceeding, and I believe that the existence of the Committee and its successive reports will create some public confidence and awareness that there is accountability in the agencies, that they serve our country well and that the systems under which they operate are appropriate to their activity.

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