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I was interested in some of the comments that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor) made about Prevent’s work. I have an open mind about whether it constitutes core business for our security and intelligence services. The footnote also states that concerns had also been expressed to an ethical counsellor about

That is a most interesting part of the report. However, I am not confident that an individual operative in our intelligence and security services would be treated fairly. I do not believe that sufficiently robust systems are in place to ensure that, by going to the ethical counsellor, operatives would not be disadvantaged in their career or worse.

Mr. Mates: This is a serious and sensitive matter. What more can the Government or anybody in the security services do but provide somebody from outside who has complete access to all the security services, to whom anybody can come anonymously, who does not report back unless there are issues that the client wants to be reported back, and to whom such a person can unload any worries he may have in a very sensitive area about things he may be asked to do? This all came about as a result of the Dr. Kelly incident. I hope the hon. Gentleman agrees that this was a good thing to do, although he is saying it is no good. We have seen all the people who have been involved in this work; they do it conscientiously and I have no reason to think that they do not do it well. I know that those in the security services are very glad of this safety valve.

Andrew Mackinlay: I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s intervention, because he has amplified on the work of the ethical counsellor. I invite him and his colleagues to beef this up a bit more in their next report, because Parliament should be told. I cannot be blamed for not knowing or understanding all these things, because I am not in on the club. My duty here is to probe and try to tease out some of the information, so if he thinks that the work of the ethical counsellor is very positive and that I have probably underestimated its status and veracity, and the great contribution it makes to reassuring staff, I invite him and his colleagues to amplify on that in their next report.

The backdrop to my comments is my deep unease about the stewardship of some of our security and intelligence services, particularly in relation to human resources, as I believe they are called, and their job of vetting. Paragraph 68 makes reference to what might be known as the Max Mosley case. I do not want to go over that, but as a Member of Parliament and a member of the public I found it breathtaking that an operative of the Security Service could have been so closely
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involved in this sting operation in relation to Max Mosley, given the nature of it. Clearly, the Security Service was also concerned about the situation subsequently, but the case raises questions about how good its positive vetting was. It was seriously flawed, which is why the case is demonstrably an example of where the organisation was complacent until this happened. Of course, there was also no desire to answer questions about this issue in the House. There comes a point where people are straining to argue that a national security consideration is involved and so the matter cannot be discussed. There should have been much more parliamentary discussion about the nature of positive vetting, rather than of the particular instance itself, because it did show that the organisation was not so very good on these matters as it would like to pretend.

Earlier I intervened, rather testily, in relation to paragraph 92, and we were assured by the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) that he was totally satisfied that the redactions—these dot, dot, dots—were absolutely necessary. I am not going to let this go, because I find it fantastic that the retirement age for senior staff, which has remained the same, has been deleted. That is breathtaking in the extreme, and I think it takes the mickey out of Parliament and diminishes the effect and nature of this report.

This may not have been understood, so I readily acknowledge, again, that the report contains some very interesting issues, which I welcome. Reference was made earlier to paragraph 94. I am not sure that we all understood what impact the floods had on GCHQ, although if it has been discussed in the House before now, I apologise. It is amazing that the floods in 2007 disrupted GCHQ’s work so drastically and dramatically. Indeed, it is alarming. Of course one cannot always foresee floods, but somebody, somewhere—no doubt they have retired early—should have been on the ball. It is amazing that such disruption could have taken place. We should be told how and why that happened. What were the consequences? Were people disciplined? Were they asleep? What happened was a serious threat to our country’s capacity to analyse and absorb intelligence, to listen and then to advise our Government and our security and intelligence services. It could have happened at a time of international crisis.

There is a section on page 30 of the report, in paragraphs 111 and 112, about media relations. That interests me, because I understand that there are persons who act as interlocutors or intermediaries between the security and intelligence services and the press. The big national newspapers will have the name of someone whom they can approach—I imagine that it would be a retired security or intelligence officer on a stipend or per diem. He or she will then check things out with the security and intelligence services and come back to the paper, so that there is some way of insulating the press from face-to-face contact with operatives.

I would like to know more about that. I do not particularly mind the press talking to the security and intelligence services or vice versa, but it is unacceptable when they talk to the press, but not to ordinary Members of Parliament. There needs to be some oversight of the system, because I have reason to believe that carrots and sticks are used, with rewards for journalists when
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the security and intelligence services want to leak something. I simply do not believe that certain leaks are accidental and unauthorised. Some of them are authorised. Sometimes they are deliberate and on a few occasions they are done with malice, with the intention of rubbishing people who are irritants to the security and intelligence services.

More light should be shed on the ground rules for when the security and intelligence services talk to the media. Furthermore, I do not want the Chamber or the Committee to lose sight of this point: in a democracy, how can we justify the security and intelligence services talking to the press when they do not talk to Members of Parliament? We all know that, apart from the Intelligence and Security Committee, there is no interface between ordinary Members of Parliament and the security and intelligence services, unless they want an hon. Member to do their bidding. I find that extremely worrying and unhealthy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South talked about the Prevent programme, which is referred to in paragraph 116 and which I found most interesting. I am not sure that the programme is the core business of the security and intelligence services, but I have an open mind about that. I hope that we hear more about the programme’s work next year and about whether it represents good value and use of scarce resources, which we are told—and I accept this—are essential to combating the threat of terrorism and so on.

In paragraphs 120 and 121, we are told about the ministerial arrangements for oversight of national security, international relations and development. The Cabinet Secretary tells us:

To give some context, that means in relation to what recently went before, when there was a committee chaired by the Prime Minister that met only three times in about one year. Full marks to Ministers and the Cabinet Secretary for meeting much more frequently, but perhaps we ought to know more about what was not happening just two or three years ago. The Committee that is reporting to the House today has been in existence for some time. Was it aware of this shortcoming two or three years ago? Did it report it to us? If it did, and if that had an impact on the Prime Minister, full marks to it. It would be interesting to have that position amplified.

I find it somewhat surprising that an individual, Jane Knight, is named in paragraph 135 of the report. She was until recently the professional head of intelligence analysis. I think that you have presided over these debates for a number of years, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have heard all the arguments about redactions, and you have probably heard me complain about how, when I asked the name of the Clerk to the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Prime Minister refused, in two parliamentary replies, to tell me what it was. I then found the answer in the civil service yearbook. This afternoon, we have heard all the arguments about why we need redactions, yet this poor lady, Jane Knight, is named in the report. I would have thought that that was highly irresponsible, because everyone will now know that, until recently, she was the head of intelligence analysis. Why is her name included, when all these other matters that are seen to be of paramount importance require redactions involving having dots everywhere, and when the Prime Minister will not answer a Member
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of Parliament’s question? I think that this is indicative of the sloppy culture among some of the people who have oversight of our security and intelligence services.

If Members think that that is wrong, let me move on to stewardship. I give full marks to the Committee for its comments on SCOPE in paragraph 147 on page 40. I hope that some of the press will look at this. I am dismayed at the poor attendance here, but I have a sense that not many people are exercised by our debate this afternoon, and that not many have looked at the report. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd and his Committee should be given full marks for paragraph 147. I have listened carefully to what he and others have said on this matter, and if people look at the Official Report tomorrow, they will find that they have been very gentle with the Cabinet Secretary and the security and intelligence services in relation to SCOPE.

The report states that SCOPE is

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South told us about this, and she was refreshingly candid and clearly very distressed. I invite hon. Members to read her speech tomorrow in the Official Report. This is a monumental scandal. The programme cost millions upon millions of pounds of scarce resources, and I think that members of Her Majesty’s Opposition have been too gentle about this as well. I am sorry that I am having to provide the opposition here. There should be a major demand for more information about this, because all that money was wasted.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South told us, all this happened against a backdrop of her and others being reassured that the programme was all on track. Then, all of a sudden, as the report states

that is, the Committee—

and millions upon millions of pounds—

The Committee goes on to quote the Cabinet Secretary as saying

This should be a matter for a major inquiry, and people should be sacked for it. It is a classic example of the culture in the country: the bigger the mess-up, the greater the cost, and the higher the rank of the person who presided over the mess-up, the greater the rewards. I have no doubt that the Cabinet Secretary will, in time, be awarded a seat in the House of Lords, and that some of the other people who presided over this either already have gongs or will have their names advanced on a subsequent honours list. If it had been a small man on a small amount, he or she would have been sacked. We should bear in mind the unprecedented language used when my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd says in his report:

I repeat, appalled—

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He goes on to reassure the House:

I think that reporting on the matter in the coming year is not sufficient. There should be a separate and immediate inquiry into this matter by the Committee, and the House of Commons should be allowed maximum disclosure.

I have detained the House on other occasions about the Wilson doctrine. I remind Members that it relates to the fact that in the 1960s Harold Wilson made it quite clear—he was a victim of bugging and unauthorised surveillance by the security and intelligence services, which abused their power—that there should be no listening in to what were then the landlines of MPs’ telephones. An important issue that many people failed to understand was that when it came to the “overriding consideration” of national security, Wilson’s doctrine stated that the matter must be reported to the House at the earliest opportunity.

About three years ago, there was an attempt by people in the intelligence services to get Tony Blair to alter the Wilson doctrine; to his credit, he said no. The Committee itself raises the Wilson doctrine in the report, but fails to tell us how much it probed into it. Particularly in the light of events surrounding what happened to the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), I think that we need to be constantly reassured. I believe that this involved a serious attack on MPs and parliamentary institutions, so we must be reassured that there is no slipping in the determination of this Prime Minister to ensure that the Wilson doctrine is adhered to and brought into line with all the modern communications systems that now exist. I hope that when the Home Secretary replies, she will be able to provide some reassurances on this matter.

I particularly mentioned the hon. Member for Ashford because paragraphs 162 and 163 deal with the Official Secrets Act. We discover in paragraph 163 that the Home Secretary apparently told the Committee

whereas there had previously been some talk about reviewing the Official Secrets Act. The most recent events—probably happening after the report had gone to the printers—have shown that there is actually a need to modernise the Official Secrets Act. I very much welcome the fact—I was always confident about it—that charges were not brought against the hon. Member for Ashford. I was also confident from my knowledge of the law that there were would be no prosecution of the man who leaked the information either. He committed a professional offence and it was certainly right for him to be dismissed from the civil service. Particularly in the light of even more recent judgments, however, there was never any prospect of a prosecution—and prosecuting the hon. Member for Ashford would have been wrong.

I put it to the Home Secretary, “Why don’t you get real?” and recognise that it would be prudent for the House to revisit official secrets legislation, not with a view to ensuring a prosecution against an MP next time, but in order to ensure that the Act deals with the people
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who actually pose a serious threat to our national security rather than those who are a source of political embarrassment?

I have asked questions about the circumstances referred to in paragraph 177—the leaving on a train of top-secret Government papers by a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee. We were first told that the matter was being investigated, but the House, the Committee and I were then told that no real discussion could take place because there was going to be a prosecution.

A prosecution took place on 28 October 2008, and the person involved, who I take to be an MI5 employee, was subsequently fined. I do not want to labour that point, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd and his colleagues on the Committee were promised that once the matter had been exhausted in the courts, with some dispatch, they would be acquainted with the circumstances and allowed to investigate. However, to quote the report:

that is Sir David Omand. I do not think that the Committee is a proper parliamentary Committee, but that quote shows contempt by Sir David for it. He has not bothered to write to the Committee, or to invite it in. It is the Committee saying that. The court case was concluded on 28 October. That is simply not good enough.

I am not surprised about Sir David Omand, because he is arrogant. However, I want to place it on the record that it is appalling that the Committee is being treated in such a way. We have been told by Committee members that their resources are inadequate for their investigations. I sat here muttering to myself that knowledge is power, and the Committee will not be given more resources. If it is to be given more resources, the Home Secretary can announce it this afternoon, but I bet she will not. However, the resources should be available if the Committee is to discharge its functions as it sees fit. Until such time as there is a proper parliamentary Committee, it is wholly wrong that it should be denied the necessary resources. I hope that the Home Secretary will reply to that at the Dispatch Box

I have a little ceremony: when I leave this place and go down to the pizza restaurant by Millbank tower, I pass Thames house and, to the dismay of my wife, pause, look up at the camera and say, “I am watching you too.” I intend to go on doing so as long as I am in this place, and I do not care if I get ridiculed. We are threatened by not having sufficient oversight and control of our security and intelligence services. Some in those organisations are brave, skilled and diligent people, but some are arrogant and abuse power.

4.58 pm

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