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In the recent report, the Committee succinctly sets out the details of two to three years of unnecessary financial turmoil. The Committee is tactful, but essentially the Foreign and Commonwealth Office unilaterally reduced its contribution from £7.1 million to £3.1 million, and BBC Monitoring has now been transferred to the Cabinet Office as its sponsoring
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Department. I should like to put on the record that the stance taken by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office towards BBC Monitoring was deeply disappointing, and that it is a matter of regret that the FCO could no longer be entrusted with this tremendous national asset. It is my sincere hope that the new Foreign Secretary will recognise the importance of BBC Monitoring, particularly in the context of two of the major issues facing her Department and the people of this country: the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased threat from international terrorism.

All those who worked on behalf of BBC Monitoring deserve credit for the fact that the present situation is not as bad as it could have been. Other contributing Departments are making up some of the financial gap left by the FCO, and funding this year has increased slightly to £24.6 million, although it is set to fall again in 2008-09 to £23.4 million. However, while the situation is not as bad as it could have been, it is not as good as it should be. If we consider the significant and welcome increases in funding to the agencies in recognition of the increased threat that we face, and if we consider the enhanced recognition of the importance of open source material to the work of the Government and their agencies, it is my view that we should also be seeing a growth in the resources and the work of BBC Monitoring. Instead, the funding shortfall will mean the closure of 69 posts. I realise that not all of those posts are currently filled, but I suggest that these cuts are taking us in the wrong direction. That does not strike me as a sign that we are looking after this asset entirely in the way we should be.

I am pleased that the ISC has made a commitment to continue to monitor the arrangements for this important service, and I trust that Ministers will recognise the case for increasing the resources available to BBC Monitoring in the years to come, to reflect the increasing importance of the service and the growing demands placed upon it.

The report is a little bit soft in its attitude towards the Ministerial Committee on Intelligence Services, known as the CSI. The Committee on which I served took the view that the CSI should meet regularly, although not necessarily every week or month. The report points out that Ministers consider issues such as Afghanistan in different Committees and are properly briefed by the agencies, and I do not doubt that. Nevertheless, we were convinced that there was a case for regular, if not frequent, meetings. We were particularly impressed by the equivalent arrangements that we saw in Australia.

I am pleased to say that I can pay tribute to the Government for their decision on the Wilson doctrine. I do not think that anyone in the Chamber was in the House in 1966 when Harold Wilson set out his doctrine, although I had the privilege of serving in his Government subsequently. The doctrine stated that there would be no interception of telephones belonging to Members of Parliament. As the House will know, the interception of communications commissioner recommended, on the basis of the new regulatory powers that came into operation in 2000, that that undertaking should be abandoned, and the Prime Minister gave due consideration to that recommendation, as he was duty bound to do. I
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congratulate him—and the Committee on the role that it played in this—on the fact that that proposal has been abandoned. There is no question of the Wilson doctrine being changed and Members’ telephones will not be intercepted by the Government of the day.

8.27 pm

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): When this Committee was first mooted many years ago, I had grave reservations about it. I thought that it would be dangerous and damaging to the security services. Having read this report thoroughly and looked at the others, however, I now have to say that the Committee has made a major contribution. It has acted responsibly in carrying out its remit, and we should be grateful to it and to the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) for their work. Having said that, I have real worries about certain aspects of the report, including its structure. If I have time, I also want to talk about the costs involved.

I should perhaps declare an interest. I have had some dealings with terrorism in the past, and with the agencies of our enemies—principally the KGB, for reasons that I will explain in a moment. I served in Northern Ireland, where it was pretty clear who the enemy was: it was the IRA. I also served with the British Army of the Rhine in Berlin, defending the border there. The enemy there was pretty clear: it was the Russians and the KGB. We used to go round the Soviet sector in British military mission cars, and the KGB used to come over to our sector in their spy cars. There were pretty clearly drawn lines about who could do what.

I was a little involved in 9/11, in that I was in New York just after the event. Driving into the city, where I had worked many years ago, the orange horizon and the missing buildings made an indelible impression on me. I was staying in mid-town, and I remember the awful smell and the roar of the emergency vehicles and rubble trucks as they drove up and down at night. I had not realised how badly all that had affected me until I tried to make a speech about it to the Market Bosworth Rotary club. I found my eyes filling with tears, and I could not continue with my speech.

Later, in the spring of 2004, I was involved in the launch of the British Memorial Garden Trust UK Ltd, a charity formed to support the building of the memorial garden to the 67 British victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which is currently being built in New York. The launch took place in this House, appropriately, I think, in the Churchill room. Although I am no longer involved in the project, I would ask that the House recognise that a small number of people, on both sides of the Atlantic, have worked extremely hard to complete the garden, due in the spring of next year, and to raise the necessary funding of several million pounds. I am sure that I speak for the whole House in extending to them our wholehearted support and best wishes.

The report has several main thrusts. One of them is the efficiency and effectiveness of the security services, and the Committee has done a lot to improve the mechanism for working by following its remit of examining policy administration and expenditure. The agencies are also much more accountable now, certainly in relation to the use of resources. Reading between the lines, it must be said that financial
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management was not a big part of the work of the agencies in the past. Methods of redress of grievances, which were addressed by Butler and taken up by the Committee, have also been important.

If I may say so to the right hon. Member for Torfaen, the structure of the report is quite complicated. Obviously, there are the three main agencies, but many other subsections are listed, and it is sometimes hard to see how they tie in. I very much approve of the Committee’s attempt to try to find common ground between the agencies, to reduce duplication and costs. I echo the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Ben Chapman) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) about the combining of the posts of Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator and Joint Intelligence Committee Chairman. Reading the report, I got the feeling that the Committee was deeply uneasy about that—that it had taken advice and agreed to it, but was not too happy about it. I hope that the right hon. Member for Torfaen goes back and looks at that, and does not just accept it as read.

Another aspect of the report that alarmed me was the paragraph on the ministerial committee. From memory, the Intelligence and Security Committee remarked that the Ministerial Committee on the Intelligence Services had met only once in the last 10 years. What is going on? The ISC report qualifies that by saying, “It’s all right, guys and girls, because they talk to each other elsewhere.” That completely misses the point. The whole point of that committee is for Ministers of State and Under-Secretaries, not Cabinet Ministers, to get round a table, come up with some ideas and understand the real worries. Paragraph 76, on page 22, makes it clear that Ministers across Government need to have a clear understanding of intelligence. If the Minister for the Middle East is listening—I hope so, as we have talked and listened to each other over the years—I ask him to consider that, as it is a real concern. The report states:

Yes, there should be.

Another concern, which has not been mentioned, is that the occupancy of the new GCHQ building is up by 25 per cent. The building must be bursting at the seams. What is happening about that unexpected increase in manpower and personnel, which has completely thrown the planning process? I hope that the Committee considers that.

As for the clarity of the report, I was not really happy with its structure. According to the index, “The Intelligence Community” is dealt with on pages 5 to 11, and “The Agencies” on pages 11 to 21. Surely the agencies are part of the intelligence community. What is the purpose of that division? In the previous two Parliaments, I was the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and of the Statutory Instruments Committee, and one of the issues that we considered was how to achieve clarity in reports. If ever a report needed lines, diagrams and boxes to explain the different relationships, it is this one. In particular, on the role of the intelligence staff, I thought that sub-headings to make it clear that not everyone reports to SIC would be helpful.

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Acronyms are another issue. The report mentions SCOPE, which is not an acronym for anything, but it does not say what it means—it does not say that it is an IT intelligence system. Paragraph 75, on page 22, contains the following quote:

I wondered who “C” was. I thought that it must be short for CDI. Then I realised that it was CDI who had the regular meetings with C. I therefore turned back to the page of acronyms—there are 43, so it took me a few minutes to read—and C is not listed. Next time, can we manage to include C and SCOPE?

The antiquated terminology of commissioners is another issue. We have the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and, apparently, we also have commissioners in the security services. Those who have been in the House a while know that there are also Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, which is a code name for the senior Whips who sign all the Government cheques. When they are not beating Members over the head, they go back and sign Government cheques for £20 million. I do not like that terminology; it is misleading, and we should change it. We should call them directors, monitoring officers or ombudsmen.

Nowhere in the report is MI5 or MI6 mentioned—it is like an alien culture. The Home Secretary mentions it, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) mentioned it, everyone uses it; it is common terminology. The report should say that the Security Service is commonly known as MI5 and that the Secret Intelligence Service is commonly known as MI6, so that it is more readable.

In 1989, I was asked to take over the British Atlantic group of young politicians. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea, the Minister for the Middle East and the right hon. Member for Torfaen came with me, and we paid visits to Canada, America and so on. We then turned the whole group to face east, and took delegations to the east. Douglas Hurd, who was then Foreign Secretary, agreed to speak at a conference where there were 100 young MPs. I asked him whether we could use Lancaster house, because had had given it to me on another occasion. I went to Brussels on a SHAPE visit and sat next to a Russian chap in the bar. I said that I had a brief to find young politicians in Russia and bring them over here. I said that that was what the Foreign Office wanted and he said exactly what I wanted, “I am a KGB man and a spy, and I will help you out”. That was great; we had a good arrangement.

The point is that east Europe has changed and a lot of our old enemies are now friends. There is a whole diaspora of spies out there and I suspect that they are available at a very cheap price. I hope that the right hon. Member for Torfaen is looking into ways of getting our former enemies to work for us. I believe that he has done a great job with the report, which takes our intelligence services forward in the right direction. One or two issues need to be addressed, but I welcome what has taken place.

8.39 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): Speaking as an MP with a large number of British Indian constituents, many of whom will have relatives living in
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Mumbai and its surrounding areas, may I begin by expressing my absolute horror and disgust at today’s terrorist bombings. I hope that none of my constituents has relatives involved in the tragedy. My sympathy and commiserations go to all those affected. It is yet another outrage, occurring during a week in which the man responsible for the Beslan murders in Russia has been killed. We can also think of other terrorist events and outrages all over the world.

As the report produced by the Committee chaired by my long-standing and right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) pointed out, there is a serious and sustained threat from international terrorism to the UK and its interests overseas, the most significant being from al-Qaeda and associated networks. The Foreign Affairs Committee drew a similar conclusion in our report, “The Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism”, published just a few days ago on 2 July.

The Intelligence and Security Committee states in its report:

Similarly, our Select Committee drew attention to the potential difficulties of moving towards either sanctions or military action. We also noted that the Iranian regime could respond in certain ways, including asymmetrically. The ISC report refers to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as another potential danger to the UK’s security and, once again, the Foreign Affairs Committee report strongly concurs. All three conclusions of the ISC echo the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Interestingly, there is another echo, which I find apposite. The ISC notes that the Secret Intelligence Service

The Foreign Affairs Committee has been calling on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—though possibly with less success than the ISC—for some considerable time to ensure that its senior managers have appropriate professional skills. If the Secret Intelligence Service can do it, surely the diplomatic service can.

I also concur with my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang), who referred to the budget for BBC Monitoring. Our Select Committee had concerns about the changes and the budget reduction, so I am pleased that the ISC has welcomed the fact that other stakeholders have made up the shortfall and come forward to ensure that the vital work of BBC Monitoring is continued for a planned period for the future. It was a matter of great concern to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the last Parliament, and we are pleased that a solution has been found in the short term.

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I want to point to one area where I am concerned about the ISC report. It relates to the following narrow and limited statement:

I raise that matter because for almost a year in the present Parliament and about six months in the last Parliament—going back to February 2005—the Foreign Affairs Committee has been putting questions about extraordinary rendition to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We had the frustrating experience of being told that we were not being given that information because it was going to the ISC.

I was therefore interested—perhaps my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen can correct me—that he said, I thought, that the ISC was about to begin an inquiry into this matter. We have been told by the Foreign Office for 18 months that, in fact, we were not being given the information because the ISC was carrying out that inquiry. I should be grateful for some clarification.

I want to be fair to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In our latest report, on the information that we have discovered from different sources, including from a more open approach from the FCO more recently, we concluded that there was no hard evidence of the truth of any of those allegations, but that is based on the limited information given to us, having been told that intelligence information would not be given to us, even on a confidential basis, because it was being given to another Committee.

I hope therefore that, when my right hon. Friend’s Committee comes to a conclusion on this matter, he will be able to report to the House that he has got to the bottom of it and found out all the facts of the matter, because the Foreign Affairs Committee cannot say, on the limited information that we have been given, that we have done so, even though we have found no hard evidence. I should be grateful to the Minister if he took up that point when he responds to the debate.

I drew attention to another concern in my intervention on the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). When the ISC was established in 1994 by the then Conservative Government, it was not a Committee of the House and its secretariat was based in the Cabinet Office. Its Chairman, despite his estimable qualities, does not sit on the Liaison Committee, for example, because he has a particular role. I believe that the time has come for the House to revisit that issue. In fact, the Foreign Affairs Committee produced a special report in March 2004, in which we said that the House should consider the following questions:

We received information from the former Foreign Secretary, the Leader of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who told us that

That is not satisfactory, and I should be interested if the Minister could tell me when he responds to the debate where in the proceedings on the 1994 Bill or in
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the Intelligence Services Act 1994 itself there is a statement that specifically supports that assertion.

Committees of the House, appointed by Members, in confidence and subject to various qualifications, should have the right to have access to intelligence material and should not be deprived of that access on the basis of a catch-all, whereby things are pushed off to the ISC, however good and estimable its members and however fine their recommendations, because that Committee is not accountable to us as Members, even though we are having the debate today. That Committee reports to the Prime Minister; it does not report to the House of Commons. I believe that that fundamental issue relates not just to the Foreign Affairs Committee, but to other Select Committees, and I hope that we can revisit it and that the House of Commons itself can consider the way forward in the future.

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