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Council of Europe and Western European Union

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): The United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Assembly of the Western European Union is as follows:

Leader:Rt. Hon. John Prescott MP
Full RepresentativesSubstitute Representatives

John Austin MP

Rt. Hon. Lord Anderson of Swansea

Mr Christopher Chope OBE MP

Mr. Tim Boswell MP

Bill Etherington MP

Mr. James Clappison MP

Paul Flynn MP

Rt. Hon. Ann Clwyd MP

Mr. Mike Hancock CBE MP

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas MP

Baroness Hooper

Mr. Nigel Dodds OBE MP

Baroness Knight of Collingtree OBE

Mr. Nigel Evans MP

Chris McCafferty MP

Baroness Gale

Rt. Hon. Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Mr. John Greenway MP

Mr. Humfrey Malins CBE MP

Mr. Oliver Heald MP

Mr. Alan Meale MP

Mr. Doug Henderson MP

Mr. Edward O’Hara MP

Mr. Jim Hood MP

Lord Russell-Johnston

Mr. Bob Laxton MP

Lord Tomlinson

Rt. Hon. Denis MacShane MP

Dr. Rudi Vis MP

Mr. Khalid Mahmood MP

Mr. Robert Walter MP

Mr. Mark Oaten MP

Mr. David Wilshire MP

Paul Rowen MP

Mrs. Betty Williams MP

Security (Annual Reports)

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I have today laid before both Houses the annual reports of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose (HC 659); the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy (HC 947); and the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson (HC 948).

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) established the regulatory framework for the use of a wide range of investigatory techniques. It sets out the purposes for which the powers can be used, the public authorities which can use them, the authorisation procedures which they must follow, and the use that can be made of the material obtained. It also provides for an appropriate oversight regime and a means of redress through the independent investigatory powers tribunal. The reports which I have laid before Parliament today set out how the RIPA investigatory powers have been used during the periods covered.

The Government continue to believe that the existing system of authorisations, inspections and other safeguards set out in RIPA is appropriate, and welcome the valuable oversight role discharged by the Commissioners appointed under RIPA. The independent oversight which they provide is vital in ensuring that the various powers are used appropriately and only when necessary and proportionate.

The Interception Commissioner’s report notes that the investigatory powers tribunal reached determinations
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on 83 cases during the period covered. The tribunal did not uphold any complaints during this period.

A great deal has been done already to improve public authorities' awareness of the obligations placed on them, and to ensure that proper consideration is given to necessity and proportionality. We recognise, however, that there is always more that can be done. The Government are reviewing those public authorities that have access to these powers to ensure that they have a continuing and justifiable requirement for them. On completion, the Government will list the authorities that can use each of the powers and the purposes for which they can use them, and set out revised statutory codes of practice, which Parliament will have the opportunity to debate.

I am grateful to Sir Christopher, Sir Paul and Sir Peter, and to their support staff, for their work on these thorough reports.

National Security Strategy

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): On 19 March, I published the United Kingdom’s first ever national security strategy. It set out how we proposed to address and manage an increasingly diverse but interconnected set of security challenges and some of their underlying factors including climate change, competition for energy, poverty, and globalisation. The aim is to safeguard the nation, its citizens, our prosperity and our way of life, against a constantly changing security environment. I want to update the House on arrangements for support to the National Security Committee and proposals for parliamentary oversight of the delivery of the strategy.

As envisaged in the national security strategy, the Government will be establishing a national security forum. We want to promote a constructive and informed dialogue with experts, stakeholders and the public to understand the security challenges we face and how we need to tackle them. The forum will have a core group of 12 publicly appointed members reflecting the broad range of the subject areas in the national security strategy. It is likely to include people with a range of experience and expertise in these issues; and in addition to this core group we will create a register of up to 100 expert associates who could be called upon to provide advice in specific areas. The purpose of the forum will be to provide expert advice to the National Security Committee (Cabinet Committee on National Security, International Relations and Development (NSID)). It will be invited to focus on the published strategy to inform the annual updates, although it will be able to commission its own research subject to agreement of its programme by NSID.

In advance of setting up the forum as a non-departmental public body, I will be establishing an interim forum in the early Autumn. For the interim forum only, the Government will appoint their members on advice from the Cabinet Office. Though an interim body, it will begin substantive work immediately. The Chair of the interim body will be announced shortly. The national security forum will be supported by a new national security secretariat in the Cabinet Office. Alongside that, a horizon scanning unit will be established which will co-ordinate the security-related horizon scanning currently undertaken in a number of Government
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Departments, with the intention of giving it an overarching framework and a more coherent output.

It is important that we have the right form of parliamentary oversight of the national security strategy and its delivery. There are already a number of Select Committees, and the Intelligence and Security Committee, who have an interest in the development and implementation of the national security strategy; and any new arrangement should not duplicate their existing scrutiny work. I propose therefore to consult the parliamentary authorities and the Opposition through the usual channels about the establishment and terms of reference of a Joint Committee on the national security strategy comprising the Chairs of the key departmental Select Committees with an interest in national security, and other Members of Parliament and Peers with particular interests or experience.

In March, I said that Government would publish a “national-level risk register setting out our assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different risks that may directly affect the UK”. We will be writing shortly to the Chairs of the relevant Select Committees with our national risk register and placing copies in the Library of the House. Its purpose is specifically to give the public information about risks to the UK from natural disasters, accidents and malicious threats over the next five years so that those who wish to can prepare for the consequences. The national risk register will be a key tool in the development of community resilience networks, another national security strategy deliverable, which the Cabinet Office will be taking forward in the coming months and is the next step in improving the UK’s resilience.


Dr. David Southall

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): On 20 February 2007 the then Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, announced a review of criminal cases in which Dr. David Southall had been a prosecution witness. The General Medical Council (GMC) had started a hearing to examine allegations that Dr. Southall had kept so-called “Special Case” (SC) files containing original medical records relating to his patients that were not also kept on the child’s official hospital file. These files relate to the period 1980 to 2000. Concerns had been expressed that in some of those cases criminal proceedings may have been brought but the existence of the files not revealed, resulting in their not being available for disclosure as part of the prosecution process.

It was not clear at that stage whether or not there had been any such failures to discharge disclosure obligations. Lord Goldsmith decided to assess cases in which Dr. Southall had been instructed as a prosecution witness to determine whether he had kept a separate SC file; and if so to determine what further review might be required.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) undertook that assessment, establishing a Project Board and a Review Team under the leadership of a Chief Crown Prosecutor.

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The Review Team

Dr. Southall provided all the SC files he held—a total of 4,344 files—in accordance with his undertaking to the GMC. Of the 4,344 SC files reviewed by the Team 82 were found to be linked to court proceedings of some kind. Of those, 40 were established to have been associated with a criminal prosecution conducted in this jurisdiction.

The Review Team then checked CPS records against these 40 SC files and identified a total of seven CPS prosecution files linked with a total of nine SC files. On reviewing these files in depth, the team found no grounds to suggest that there had been a failure to comply with the prosecution’s obligations of disclosure to the defence. Accordingly the Review Team has advised, and the Attorney-General and I accept, that there is no reason to indicate that any of these cases needs to be referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The ability of the Review Team to identify whether an SC file was linked with a prosecution, and then to locate the original prosecution papers, was constrained by a number of wholly practical factors. The team had to rely on the contents of the SC file for information suggesting that there may be linked criminal proceedings. In some older cases where there was such a link, the prosecution file no longer existed because of the application of the normal procedures for file destruction within the CPS after set periods of time. Differences between the methods of identifying SC files (which were linked to the patient) and CPS prosecution files (recorded by the name of the defendant) also made linking SC files to prosecution files difficult.

Nonetheless this review has been a valuable and worthwhile exercise. The Review Team has approached its task conscientiously and with care and thoroughness, for which the Attorney-General and I thank them.

The report makes a number of recommendations designed to reinforce the message that expert witnesses must fully understand their responsibilities in relation to the disclosure of information in criminal cases. These are explained in the CPS/ACPO “Guidance Booklet for Experts”. The report’s recommendations have been accepted and are being taken forward.

Recommendation seven is that the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) should consider whether to conduct a similar review in relation to possible disclosure failings in family court proceedings. DCSF have now considered this recommendation—they agree that there should be such a review and that they are the appropriate department to conduct it. The review will focus on the 82 SC files which the Review Team found were linked to court proceedings of some kind. Thirty six of these were definitely linked to family proceedings. It is to be noted that if a disclosure failure were detected, this may, or may not, have any impact on the case, bearing in mind the passage of time and the fact that the welfare of the child is paramount in family proceedings. However,
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DCSF will follow the recommendation of the Review Team and conduct a review of the family cases.

The Review Team’s report and recommendations (edited to preserve the anonymity of individual patients) have today been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Transport Personnel Review

The Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly): Last December I commissioned an independent review of personnel security across the transport sector. This followed Lord West’s review last year which focused on physical infrastructure and confirmed that, although it is impossible to eliminate every risk, a robust transport security regime is in place. The review of personnel security was conducted by Stephen Boys Smith who has now delivered his report. It contains a detailed assessment of current security processes and recommendations of where changes might be needed. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, it is not appropriate to publish it in full, but I have published a short summary of the report, and of its key recommendations.

The Government and the transport industries are committed to countering the threat from terrorism. The existing security regime encompasses a wide range of measures which seek to reduce the potential threat from insiders. These measures include both personnel security measures, such as background checks, and physical security measures, such as the searching and screening requirements. Many of these physical security measures apply to industry staff as well as passengers. For instance, the UK requires airports to screen 100 per cent. of staff working in the restricted zone, and has played a leading role in ensuring that this approach has been incorporated into European regulations, as well as promoting it elsewhere.

Stephen Boys Smith’s report acknowledges the effectiveness of the UK transport security regime, which overlaps multiple layers of security measures in this way. The report also points out that the more effectively the security regime mitigates external threats, the more likely it becomes that terrorists will look for vulnerabilities elsewhere. I therefore agree with the key message of the report: that there should be an increased focus on personnel security and that this should be informed by systematic analysis of the risks. This is consistent with work already in hand within the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy “CONTEST”, where personnel security is one of the workstreams.

The most important challenge will be to integrate fully a risk-based approach to personnel security into industry practices. This clearly cannot be delivered by Government alone. Only the industry has the detailed knowledge of its operations and systems that is needed accurately to identify the specific personnel security risks that it faces and how they might be mitigated. But the Government have a vital role to play in raising awareness of personnel security issues within the industry, providing guidance and support to the industry, and ensuring that full and rigorous assessments are carried out and that appropriate action is taken where vulnerabilities are identified.

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For this reason, I have asked my Department to ensure with immediate effect that industry’s attention is drawn to the advice which is already available (for example, that issued by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure), and to enhance the personnel security elements of our existing training programmes. Alongside this, my officials will urgently work up policy options over the summer for a cross-industry conference, to be held in the autumn. This conference will identify the most effective approaches to embedding risk assessment in the personnel security regime. The next phase will be for Government and industry to work together, including through ongoing working groups such as the National Aviation Security Committee, to ensure that the necessary risk assessments are carried out and a clear programme of work delivered. This will require sustained effort by all.

I agree with the report’s view that identity is a key factor in personnel security regimes and note its conclusion that ID cards are a useful addition to identity assurance. This endorses the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on 6 March that ID cards will be part of the identity assurance regime for airside workers, starting in 2009. Officials from the Home Office and my Department are currently in discussion with the industry about how best to do this.

I also accept the report's advice that, in the light of experience both in the Security Industry Association (SIA) and within some sectors of the transport industry, overseas criminal record checks are now a more viable option than they have been in the past.

While checks of this kind are primarily intended to reduce crime, they can also provide a useful additional check on an applicant’s integrity as part of the overall personnel security regime. I have therefore asked my Department to produce clear guidance, building on the approach taken by the SIA, to support those organisations whose risk assessments identify posts for which checks of this kind are necessary. Wherever such posts are identified, I would expect the industry to take rapid action, and my Department will be engaging closely with them over the coming months to ensure that this is the case.

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