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18 Mar 2010 : Column 1052

Madam Deputy Speaker, I think that you have presided over similar debates, so you will remember how I have referred in the past to a "dotty document". Some years ago, there was a document that was almost 30 per cent. dots; now, the dots have greatly diminished and progress is being made. I rejoice in the fact that, at this stage, things are beginning to change and there is an argument for greater scrutiny. The very important thing that the Committee Chairman and even my good friend, the conservative right hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates), have acknowledged is that the new Committee needs a new home and the Cabinet Office should not provide its secretariat. However, I take encouragement from the hon. Member for Westminster-

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Kensington and Chelsea.

Andrew Mackinlay: Kensington and wherever, yes. Pentlands, isn't it? He spoke very well in saying that the Select Committee approach could be taken. If we are on a journey to that destination-I am sure, as night turns into day, that it is going to come about-there is the question of the secretariat of the Committee. The right hon. Member for East Hampshire talked about finding a new home at the Ministry of Justice. Why not leapfrog that so that the matter lies with the Clerk of the House of Commons? The secretariat may well need special accommodation, but that can be removed from the Charles Barry building-the parliamentary estate can be wherever one likes, with all the modern technology and security devices as regards eavesdropping, security of documentation and so on. It would be a wonderful leap forward if its location were vested in the Clerk of the House of Commons, with all the obvious reassurances to the intelligence community that there would be security. That could be achieved. Why go to the Ministry of Justice? Why not bring it to the legislature, which would be so healthy in reassuring those of us who feel concern as regards the democratic test in relation to these areas?

Surprise was expressed that when Baroness Manningham-Buller became a Member of Parliament, she expressed the view that the Committee could be a Select Committee. One of our colleagues, in the way that I interpreted the tone of his comments, seemed to be saying, "That's a bit much." He seemed quite hurt that she had never uttered that comment when she was on the other side and under scrutiny in the Committee. But it was not her role to do that. I just think it is wonderful that she now says that it can be a parliamentary Committee: what a healthy development that is.

I said that I wanted to deal with the nature of the Committee and our rubrics today, which are wholly inadequate in that we are being bounced into also considering the other document, the 2009-10 report. The other area that I want to touch on is the work that our colleagues have done, very enthusiastically and diligently, in terms of scrutiny. We have heard that some files were lost, and that is mentioned in some of the documentation. In using the term "files" I am referring to electronic data and so on. It is breathtaking and inexcusable that the intelligence agencies do this. I also have to tell the House that I find it unbelievable.

One of my colleagues remarked in response to something I said from a sedentary position, "The hon. Gentleman is sometimes funny, but that is not funny." I did not mean what I said to be funny; I was referring to the fact
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that there is a culture in the security and intelligence services-there always has been, and I believe that it endures today-that is really quite menacing and threatening to our democratic values. It does not apply to everybody, but there is a minority. This year, there have been inspired smearings of people such as the late, great Jack Jones and the late, great Michael Foot, trying to imply that they were somehow less than patriotic. We demonstrably know from archive material that that was being said, but I think that it is even being pump-primed today, for reasons we can only guess.

I believe that a very small minority of people in the security and intelligence services think they are omnipotent -that they can decide what is in the interests of the United Kingdom exclusively, without regard to parliamentary and other values. Let me buttress my case, because people might say, "Mackinlay, you can't just say extravagant things like that."

However, I say to those people that they should look at the speeches of Mr. Evans, the head of MI5. He has made a number of speeches on various states that are active in gathering political intelligence. What is political intelligence? I fully accept that some research, development and attempts to find out what our potential adversaries are doing are essential to our national security-that is intelligence; it is core business. What is not core business, for Mr. Evans or anybody else, is when he tries to decide whose views people in a democracy should seek, what they should read and when they should meet people, particularly when those people are members of a legislature. That is an affront to democracy, and Mr. Evans needs to have his knuckles rapped.

Parliament needs to ask another question. There is no interface between Members of Parliament and the security and intelligence services, save the Committee in question, which is not a parliamentary Committee. However, Mr. Evans and his colleagues have a complicated but interesting rubric whereby they talk to the press. It is all right for them to talk to, communicate with and meet the press, but never Members of Parliament. That is wholly indefensible and very dangerous to our body politic and our democracy, and I hope that it might one day be addressed by either the existing Committee or its successor parliamentary Select Committee.

I wish to refer to one or two matters that our colleagues have drawn to our attention in the report with which we should be dealing exclusively-the annual report of 2008-09. Page 8 states:

Wonderful news but for the fact that the Committee was told at first that it was very unlikely that GCHQ would ever be able to meet the performance targets. How did the sudden transformation take place? Were the person or persons who communicated that view in the first place telling us porky pies? Were they being deliberately incompetent or misleading? Why the sudden change? I think we are entitled to know. Certainly it justifies further amplification.

On page 10, our friends draw to our attention the fact that the National Audit Office

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35 laptops belonging to one of our security and intelligence agencies. That is just amazing! In any other circumstances, there would be a major carpeting of somebody. There would probably be disciplinary action and, in some cases, dismissal. That body deals with our national security, and I find it amazing that we cannot be told more about what was the cause of the problem and what happened.

That case is particularly amazing against the backdrop of the previous report. I have just checked and found out that you were in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, on 7 May 2009 when we debated the 2007-08 report. Paragraph 177 of that report drew our attention to top-secret Government papers left on a train by a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee. It was reported that a prosecution took place on 28 October 2008, and the Prime Minister appointed Sir David Omand to investigate the matter. The Committee told the House:

I said that I thought that that was very wrong and was very strong in my criticism of Sir David for not having produced that report. A rather hurt Sir David Omand wrote to me after the debate, basically saying, "You're unfair and you're rotten, Mackinlay, because it's not my fault. My report has been delivered to the Prime Minister. It's not my property." That is the position, and it was in parliamentary documentation last year. Does any member of the Committee want to intervene to tell me why the report was not mentioned this year if the Committee referred to it last year and said, "We haven't received it yet," and if there was implicit-if not explicit-criticism of that? Why has the Committee not given us an update? Surely we are entitled to an update on such a serious matter.

If I did Sir David wrong last year, I give him an unqualified apology, but I would have liked him to write to me to say, "Mackinlay, I understand the report has now been delivered to the Committee," because it might otherwise seem as if the report is still being sat on. People are looking not at me, but at their documents, because they are obviously feeling a bit uncomfortable about this. They have failed in their duty to Parliament. What is the answer? Will any member of the Committee seek to explain to me where Sir David's report is? Has the Committee received it? The silence speaks volumes.

Mr. Mates: The answer is that the matter was decided in the courts. The court came to a judgment, the person concerned received the appropriate punishment and Sir David put it down to what it clearly was: human error. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman, who laughs, will tell me how we will get human error out of the system. We will not.

Andrew Mackinlay: The right hon. Gentleman misses the point. The point is that when the Committee reported to Parliament last year, it-not me-complained that it had not seen the document. Is it unreasonable for us to think that the Committee would explain in this year's report that it has received Sir David's report, or at least to allude to his conclusions and findings? I rest my case on that.

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Page 21 of our colleagues' report states:

that is an understatement-

There is a catalogue of mishandling and incompetence by individuals in the security and intelligence services, and we use adjectives such as "disappointed"! I am told time and again, particularly in answer to parliamentary questions, that we do not discuss security matters. I actually understand that, but there seems to be a cavalier, lackadaisical attitude in some parts of our security and intelligence services, and the Committee that is supposed to have oversight says it is "disappointed". I find that amazing and breathtaking.

A number of colleagues have referred to Diego Garcia. Page 41 of the report states:

The Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant): It is pronounced "Diego Garcia" not "Dago Garcia".

Andrew Mackinlay: Whatever. The important thing is what the report says, which is that the Prime Minister received specific assurances

and that

As colleagues on both sides of the House have said, it is correct that we need to be more robust in verifying assurances. Indeed, we want more than assurances. We need to have absolute confidence that what the US tells the British Prime Minister has total veracity. This particular incident suggests that the US is beginning to take us for granted. As the House knows, without consulting the United Kingdom, which had sovereignty, the US put some people from Guantanamo into Bermuda. The other week, Secretary of State Clinton also sent the message that somehow the United Kingdom should negotiate with the Argentines on the sovereignty of the Falkland islands.

Chris Bryant: I want to make it clear, before my hon. Friend misrepresents Secretary Clinton, that that is not what she has said. She has not changed the position of the US, which-since 1947-has been to be neutral on the matter.

Andrew Mackinlay: We can read her comments for ourselves and decide what her intention was or whether it was just a careless statement.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) spoke well on the issue of paragraphs 151 and 152. I note that they contain a lot of dots. Paragraph 151 states that

relating to the interrogation of Mr. Mohamed-

We should be told what those dots represent.

The most worrying aspect, because it relates to stewardship and conduct by our security and intelligence services, comes in paragraph 152, which states:

Again, I do not believe that. He would either be emphatic and say, "I was denied this information and I am indignant and angry about that" or he would recall it. It is an unhealthy and dangerous fudge.

Dr. Howells: Is my hon. Friend aware that he is referring to a court case involving someone known as witness B who may be charged with an extremely serious offence? Is it not immensely irresponsible for my hon. Friend to say that he does not believe witness B, when he has read none of the documents and knows none of the evidence, and will not that do a great deal to jeopardise witness B's trial if he ever comes to trial?

Andrew Mackinlay: All I have done is read out the wording of my right hon. Friend's report. If he reads in the Official Report tomorrow the comments by the right hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates), he will see that he went way beyond what I said-

Mr. George Howarth: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) was objecting not to what my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) read out, but the interpretation that he put on it, which could indicate that he was prejudging the case. It is very serious when someone uses this House to cast doubt on evidence that we have put in our report when a court case may be pending.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is not actually a point of order: it is a point of debate. However, I reiterate that Members have to be careful about what they say about cases that might be pending in the future.

Andrew Mackinlay: Absolutely, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I intend to move on. The only thing that I would say is that Judge Neuberger has made statements that are comparable to what I have just said in the House.

My final point, to which I have alluded before, is that we know that some areas of our security and intelligence services have in years past been involved in collecting intelligence in industrial disputes. At some point, we need a reassurance that people are not freelancing or undertaking unauthorised action, without ministerial cover or approval. I think that danger still lurks there. People have, in the past-and now, I believe-been subject to arbitrary and what in other jurisdictions would be called unconstitutional oversight and examination, and their legitimate private interests have been examined by unauthorised freelancers in our security and intelligence services. That threat has been borne out by evidence as and when things have been leaked through archives and
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so on. If that was happening in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s-during the miners dispute-why should we assume that it is not happening today? That needs to be addressed by Parliament very soon.

In conclusion, I am pleased to have taken part in these debates over the years and today. Apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I feel that on many occasions, including today, I have been alone on this matter. Even Horatius had two fellas with him! Nevertheless, I am pleased that I have been able to amplify my views in these debates, because this is a vital area that needs to be looked at by Back-Bench Members who have not been picked by the Prime Minister and who will express the views and anxieties of minorities in the way that I have been able to do.

4.41 pm

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): I might turn out to be in a minority of MPs who have spoken in this debate-not only will I be here for the winding-up speeches, but I am not retiring.

Having mentioned retirement, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). Many people may disagree with what he has said in his time-one could sense that in the Chamber today, from one or two quarters-but the fact is that he has been an extremely independent-minded MP, a parliamentarian of the best sort and a tremendous colleague to have around the House. I should add, while I am at it, that the right hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) has done a tremendous amount of good work in the House of Commons in the period when we have overlapped. In a moment, I will make a few remarks that he might construe as critical, but I do not want him to feel that that detracts from what I have just said. Finally, I would like to refer to a constituent of mine sitting on the back row, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates). He gave an outstanding and very detailed speech, which may be his last contribution in the House. We will remember it for a long time.

That was the first point I wanted to make. I am the tail-end Charlie from the Back Benches this afternoon, and having sat here listening to the debate it is hard to avoid the conclusion that a great deal of behind-the-scenes machinations has been taking place over the guidance-much more than has been revealed-but the fact that what has been surfacing has surfaced, in the context of the Committee's independence from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office, is itself extremely corrosive of public confidence in the ISC and the security services. I regret that very much.

I am a strong supporter of the ISC. We can all sense the dedication with which parliamentary colleagues on it go about their work. It is composed of senior and very dedicated people trying to do their best, and a number of them are in the Chamber this afternoon. We need to sustain confidence both in them and in those working in the security services, who are trying to protect us. I hope that it will be in that context that hon. Members will take some expressions of concern, which I shall make in a moment, about the extent to which the ISC might have been unable to get to the truth on some of the issues that it has investigated, and also my conclusions about the need for reform of the ISC and for a judge-led inquiry into rendition.

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