Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Lady for the additional comments that she has volunteered. The House might like to be reminded that there is nothing to stop an Opposition Member from being ISC Chair. In fact, there is a precedent. Tom King, now Lord King of Bridgwater, was the first ISC

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Chair and remained for a period after the Labour Government came into power in 1997. It is entirely available to Opposition Members, depending on who they are.

Yvette Cooper: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right that there are precedents. In fact, Lord King was Chair when I was a member of the ISC between 1997 and 1999, and he continued through to 2001. The principle of the Public Accounts Committee is that as a matter of course the Chair is a Member of the Opposition. The value of that is this: exactly because the ISC must operate behind closed doors, it needs to be seen to be independent and authoritative in its conclusions; and exactly because it cannot tell us the evidence on which its judgments are based, it needs to be perceived by the wider public to be independent of Ministers. That is important for the agencies as well as for the public.

In the 1998 debate, the then ISC Chair, Tom King, spoke of the importance of the Committee having a unanimous all-party voice and authority:

“When a situation arises that gives serious cause for public concern…We shall not be able to help matters unless we can say that we have investigated the allegations, with…access to all the relevant information”.—[Official Report, 2 November 1998; Vol. 318, c. 594.]

Those words stand today. When I spoke in that debate, I said that accountability through the ISC lay at the heart of the tension not just between liberty and security, but between democracy and secrecy:

“We have certainly come a long way since the mere existence of MI5 and MI6 was denied. I believe that, sooner or later, we will travel much further. We will have to improve our system of accountability, for the sake not only of democracy but of the very secret agencies that the United Kingdom needs to function and to protect our modern democracy. If we do not improve our system of accountability, those agencies’ capacity to operate in the national interest will be threatened.”—[Official Report, 2 November 1998; Vol. 318, c. 613.]

Those words, too, still stand.

The role of the ISC has become stronger since 1998 and it does vital work. Accountability has increased, but it has not yet gone far enough. The Government’s reforms are welcome, but they should be brave and go further, so that we continue to have effective agencies that have the confidence of the public in a modern democracy. Sooner or later, we will have that.

6.54 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I begin by reassuring the shadow Home Secretary that, in my limited experience—I have been a member of the ISC for just over a year—such is the sense of cross-party common purpose on the Committee, I would have no difficulty in accepting as Chairman any of the Committee’s three excellent Labour members. However, such a thing is completely unnecessary given the outstanding chairmanship of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind)—[Hon. Members: “Hear hear!”] I am glad to hear Opposition Members’ endorsements.

In his opening remarks, my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned the totally discredited concept that history ended with the end of the cold war. Topics mentioned in the debate include the Olympics, cyber-security, general terrorism and the more traditional threat from more traditional enemies. In my somewhat disparate remarks, I shall try to touch on a few of them.

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When dealing with any form of enemy of the democratic system, it is helpful to think in the ways and along the lines that they think—if we have such twisted minds, to which some of us must own up. Our initial reaction in respect of the Olympic games is to think, “There must be a huge extra effort to protect the games,” but what would terrorists planning a series of deadly attacks in the UK think? Would they think, “I must go straight away to the heart of the games, where the maximum security effort is bound to be concentrated,” or would they think, “There will be a huge concentration of effort on the security of the Olympic games in that fortnight, so there will be great opportunities to create mayhem in all sorts of other, less protected parts of the UK”?

Therefore, the problem facing the Security Service is that it cannot say, “With the extra effort we will put into protecting the Olympics, we will ease security measures elsewhere in the country.” The reality is that the holding of the Olympics in the UK is a considerable opportunity—I will not say that it is a heaven-sent opportunity, because it comes from a somewhat different direction—for terrorists to cause mayhem and to maximise the deadly effect of their perverted ideas carried into action. I often wonder whether it was sheer coincidence—it probably was—that the choice of London for the Olympics was announced just 24 hours before the 7/7 atrocities in 2005.

We need extra concentration because of what could be visited upon us during the Olympics, but there are also new technological threats, to which hon. Members have referred. Everybody has welcomed the increase in resources—£600 million net—to ensure greater cyber-security in future. There was concern in the past about a lack of ministerial responsibility for cyber-protection, so it comes as a great relief to the ISC and its members to know that the role will now be undertaken by the Cabinet Office, whose Ministers have a legendary reputation for the protection of sensitive information. Think about it. However, when we are considering—[ Laughter. ] They got there in the end. As Frankie Howerd used to say, don’t take a vote on it.

The Cabinet Office will be responsible for cyber-security, but that does not mean that it is the most suited Department to be responsible—nor has it been earmarked for the role—for the countering of the propaganda message that is used to generate recruits to the terrorist cause, which is closely related to cyber-warfare. We have heard a considerable amount about the attempts that have been made to decapitate al-Qaeda, which have enjoyed considerable success. However, we also know that attacks are increasingly lone-wolf attacks, when people self-start and trawl the internet, picking up messages and techniques that they turn into action, with deadly effect.

It is of the utmost importance that the Government seek to counter the message put out to mobilise, radicalise and turn into terrorists impressionable and sometimes unbalanced minds already in our society. It is incredibly difficult for a security service to track such people: it is much harder to track a lone-wolf potential attacker than somebody who is engaged with people abroad and part of an al-Qaeda-like organisation planning a much more sophisticated attack. We need to hear more—the Committee will make an effort to ensure that we do—of the efforts that the Government are making to neutralise the radicalising messages on the internet and put forward a counter-narrative so that people can understand the values of the society in which they live.

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Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman is extremely knowledgeable in this field because of his experience before entering Parliament, but does he share my concerns about the work of the Home Office’s research, information and communications unit, which the Committee has decided to consider much more closely? It is essential work but at the moment we have little information about what it is doing and its effectiveness.

Dr Lewis: I am delighted that the right hon. Lady makes that point. It is too early to have concerns about the work of the unit because we have not been able to examine it yet. The work that such a unit is designed to do is, as she said, of the utmost importance, and if it carries it out successfully the public at large might not know how successful it has been in supporting themes and counter-narrative ideologies in the media and internet to the benefit of people in our society who might otherwise become disaffected. However, unless one can examine the organisation’s work—within what is commonly called the ring of secrecy—one cannot be sure whether sufficient work is being done or about its quality.

On page 44, paragraph 156 of our report, the Committee stated:

“The difficulty of measuring the success of PREVENT work is most notable in the work of the Research, Information and Communications Unit…which was established in 2007 with the primary aim of ensuring consistency, across government, on Counter-Terrorism and counter-extremism messages and developing a coherent narrative to challenge extremist ideology. RICU is jointly funded by the Home Office and the Foreign Office. It currently has 22 full-time staff and its budget in 2010/11 was £4.25m (of which £0.3m was spent on research and £2.7m was spent on communication campaigns).”

That does not sound like an effort on the scale needed if we are seriously to counter the radicalising message of the enemies of our way of life.

Democratic societies are inherently resistant to Governments propagandising against organisations involving their own citizens, in an attempt to get a message across to their own people; but sometimes we have to understand that there are forms of warfare besides open warfare—for example, the propaganda and counter-propaganda warfare that went on during the long confrontation with Soviet communism. During that period, in 1948, a Labour Government set up the Foreign Office’s information research department, which remained in existence until 1977 under Governments of both complexions, until unfortunately another Labour Government decided to do away with it. That organisation operated on a considerable scale, and its particular strength was that it made available to opinion-formers the detailed facts that enabled strong cases for what was good about British society to be made on a non-partisan, non-party political basis. I believe—I think that the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) shares my belief—that an effort on a similar scale might be necessary in the future.

On the Committee’s operations, I can reassure the Home Secretary: she said that we need to consider the resource implications of the Committee expanding its work to consider operational matters; but I am not sure that there are many resource implications, because as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington said, we are asking not to change what we do but simply to formalise what we already do. We are not asking to look over the shoulder of the intelligence

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and security services at what they are doing while they are doing it—in an operational sense—although they sometimes choose to give us glimpses of that, which obviously we treat with appropriate discretion. Instead, we wish to be assured that when something becomes contentious, the ISC can review the matter and decide whether proper procedures were followed, whether mistakes were made or whether we can help the security and intelligence services by giving them a clean bill of health.

I shall take an example at random. It is known that over the years the approach of Governments towards Libya changed completely. Under the Labour Government, there was a policy—I am sure that its proponents would argue that it was a legitimate line to pursue—of trying to bring Libya back into the fold. For example, when Libya declared its intention to abandon its chemical weapons stocks—we now know that it still had some, although we do not know whether that was because it had not finished getting rid of them or because it was concealing them and cheating on its promises—it was regarded as quite a coup, quite a triumph for the security and intelligence services

It now appears, however, that along the way the degree of co-operation between some of our agencies and some Libyan agencies might have crossed the line. If it did, for example in the rendition of two people, as has been reported, we will need a means of finding out why that line was crossed, which agencies crossed it, who, if anybody, was responsible—was it the Government, was it the agencies?—and whether there are lessons to be learned that we can help to articulate. If the Committee is not given the power to review such operations, many people will rightly ask, “What’s the use of having a Committee of parliamentarians, whose job is supposedly to supervise the security and intelligence services, if when something highly controversial appears to have happened, it cannot, does not or will not look into it?”

I want to refer to one or two of the slightly more traditional threats. It was interesting to hear that the agencies still think that we should not, in our rightful concern about international terrorism, forget that the country remains an intelligence target for countries such as Russia and China. One of the things that worry me the more I focus on it is the possibility that some countries could steal our technology, use it to undercut our competitiveness and then buy their way into our infrastructure in this country. This would be of great strategic value to them in future. I will say no more about that for the moment, but I hope that others might feel it appropriate to do so later in the debate.

Finally, I warmly welcome the proposal in the justice Green Paper to prevent the control order principle being breached. Irrespective of what piece of intelligence was disclosed in court, we must never forget that if we undermine the trust between ourselves and our principal intelligence allies on that issue, we undermine it on every issue. However, it also behoves us to remind our intelligence partners that when they engage in methods and techniques such as Guantanamo Bay and water-boarding, they open up not only themselves but their allies to challenges in court that make such problems much more salient, in respect of the evidence that a judge might feel had to be disclosed. It is a question of exercising two-way restraint: we do not wish to breach the confidence of our allies, but our allies must not breach the standards to which our intelligence services rightly apply themselves.

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7.11 pm

Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): I am very grateful to be able to make a brief contribution to this important debate. Let me start by congratulating the Chairman, and the members, of the Intelligence and Security Committee. When I held that position some years ago, I was unable to open the debate, as the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) has done so ably today. Indeed, I barely missed being constrained to 10 minutes because I was speaking from the Back Benches, so I am glad that addressing that issue was one of the first reforms to be implemented.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman made an excellent speech outlining the work of the Committee, touching on the important point that, inevitably, people outside—or, for that matter, inside—do not know exactly what members of the Committee do. By its nature, the Committee deals with secret business and secret matters, so it is inevitable that people will be simply unaware of the huge amount of work that goes into what it does. During my time on the Committee, the amount of work that the Chair and the members put in meant that they were virtually doing a full-time job. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) and the Marquess of Lothian are the only two current Labour and Conservative members with whom I served on the Committee, but I know that the current members, from all parts of the House, do an excellent job. I pay tribute to them, as I do to the intelligence agencies and the great work that they do in keeping our country safe from terrorism and other important threats.

However, there is one thing in the report that disturbs me. The report refers to the terrorist attacks of July 2005. The House will know that the Intelligence and Security Committee issued two reports on that terrible event—one when I chaired it and the other when it was chaired by Dr Kim Howells, my successor but one. It is important for the House to understand the point that the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington made about those reports, for which Dr Kim Howells and I were responsible, both of which came to the same conclusions about that event as the coroner: that the intelligence agencies could not have prevented what happened in 2005, because of resources and prioritisation. However, it disturbs me to read in the annual report—although I am pleased that the excellent director of the Security Service has indicated that he was sorry about this—that the information that the Committee received was not up to it, and that the work had not been done and the intelligence not looked at sufficiently well for the Committee to be properly informed about what had occurred.

I want to confine my remarks, however, to the important business of the reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee, a matter that has been before the Committee for at least four years, and rightly so. The Government are to be congratulated on the Green Paper, which was referred to earlier. My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) was right to emphasise that reform must come, as the Chair of the Committee said. However, we have to do that in such a way that we balance the significance of the Committee—by ensuring that secrecy is maintained—with the importance of ensuring that people in our country are aware that it is doing a proper job, and that is not easy. Every other Select Committee in this House can do all sorts of things—here in the Chamber, in the Committee Rooms and outside, even on visits—that the

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Intelligence and Security Committee cannot do. How do we square that circle? How do we ensure that people are sufficiently assured that the members of the Intelligence and Security Committee are, in fact, doing the job that the House of Commons and the House of Lords have asked them to do?

There is a problem with trying to make the Committee exactly the same as any other Select Committee or Joint Committee of both Houses. We have gone down the right road by ensuring that this House and the House of Lords have the right to propose names. It is important that this should continue and that there should be a requirement that the Government respect the names put to them for membership. At the same time, however, the vital issue of trust—a word used throughout this debate —is critical, whether it be trust between our international allies or trust between the Committee and the intelligence agencies. If that trust breaks down, it will be a purposeless Committee that simply will not work.

It has been said—the Chairman of the Committee himself said it—that when the Committee was set up back in the mid-1990s, it was an extremely different creature from what it is today. It did not deal with operational matters, but simply with finance, resources, structures and so on; but now, of course, operational matters have been dealt with. It is important that the Green Paper recognises that this should be put into statute, with a legal requirement for the Committee to deal with operational matters. I agree with the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) that the Committee is obviously not going to walk across to the MI5 or MI6 buildings every day, knock on the door and say, “Let’s have a look at what’s happening now,” as may happen in other countries. That is not going to happen, nor should it. However, I am sure that it is the experience of the current members of the Committee, as it was when I was the Chairman, that when important issues arise, such as Libya or others that I can recall, the agencies will take it upon themselves to inform the Committee, and certainly the Chairman, of the significance of those issues. However, that has to be formalised, because at the moment we cannot insist that the Intelligence and Security Committee can deal with operational issues, which is a problem.

Ultimately, it all comes back to trust. Whatever the legalities, if the agencies do not trust the Committee, for fear of leaks or whatever, they will simply—and quite rightly—not discuss sensitive intelligence matters with it that could present a danger to our country. Incidentally, I do not think for one second that any current or previous member of the ISC would do that, but that is obviously an issue that the intelligence agencies have to consider. I am therefore very much in favour of extending the Committee’s remit.

As to whether the Chairman of the Committee should be an Opposition Member, it is quite interesting that the noble Lord King, who was referred to earlier, was a Government Member when he was appointed. It has rightly been said that when Labour won the election in 1997, he continued as the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. It is quite interesting that when I was appointed in 2005, he rather grizzled and grumbled about it and said in the House of Lords that I should not have been appointed because I was not an Opposition Member, but still a Government Member. My view is that, ultimately, we need the right person for the job. Although there is an analogy between the ISC and the

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Public Accounts Committee—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford who served on that Committee has made it—I think we need to be careful how far we go down that line. It is important that the person chosen has the respect and confidence of both sides of the House of Commons and also, of course, of the agencies themselves.

The other important issue that has been mentioned—I talk about it elliptically—is that of having consensus in the Committee. I cannot recall a single instance when a vote was taken in the ISC. It is not that there were no disagreements—there were many profound and deep disagreements about the members—but as a Committee we took the view that whatever our profound and difficult disagreements, we would have to find a way out of them. To my knowledge, only one single vote has ever been taken on the ISC—on whether a visit to particular place should be by plane or by train. That was the only real vote. Every other issue has been decided by consensus. It was obvious—no, perhaps it was not that obvious—that this place was in the United Kingdom. This shows that members of the Committee, usually senior Members who are there to serve their country in a special way, put aside party political allegiances and are on the Committee to do a particular job.

I think that a difficulty might arise if the ISC were exactly the same as a Select Committee. That needs to be considered when we think about how the ISC should develop over the years. There is unquestionably a need for greater accountability, and the ISC, the House, the Government and my Front-Bench colleagues must work out how to achieve it.

The other very important issue raised by my friend Dr Kim Howells when he chaired the ISC was the Committee’s independence from Government. I believe that this is critical. How do we achieve it? First, I do not think it was a good idea for the Committee to meet in the Cabinet Office. It should be removed from Government premises altogether and put somewhere on the parliamentary estate. The excellent people who work in the secretariat—they are indeed excellent—would work to Parliament rather than to the Government.

I do not undervalue for a second the significance of the Prime Minister’s role in this because he has ultimate responsibility for the security of our nation and has to ensure that these hugely sensitive issues and materials are dealt with properly. However, I still think that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure the Committee’s independence—removing it physically from the Cabinet Office, and perhaps also taking the food and rations, so to speak, away from the Cabinet Office to ensure a genuine independence in the ISC.

Work has been done and I am delighted to note the Government’s efforts in the Green Paper to ensure that we make progress. I was pleased with the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary and, as I said earlier, pleased with the excellent remarks of the current Chairman of the ISC. We all owe the Committee a great debt, just as we do to the intelligence services. There is a balance to be struck between accountability on the one hand and the security of our nation on the other. It is one that we have struggled with for a long time, but I think that we are getting there at last.

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7.23 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I echo the thanks of various Members to the members of the intelligence and security services for the work they do on our behalf to keep us safe. I also thank the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) for setting out in a lucid and measured way what his Committee has found, which has led in turn to a measured and lucid debate so far, consistent with what the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) said about members of the Intelligence and Security Committee putting aside party political allegiances. I welcome that, as we do not want party political differences to get in the way of the important security considerations that the ISC has highlighted.

Both the ISC in its response and annual report and the Government in their detailed response have provided a useful framework for formulating a small number of questions for the Minister who will respond later. I hope he does not take offence at that. Let me deal with the recommendations in the report.

Recommendation A deals with the savings to be derived from the single intelligence account. It talks about making the supporting functions more efficient and delivering new operational capability as a means of reducing the need for savings. I wonder whether a breakdown has been done to determine how the savings will be split between those two areas. The most certain way of achieving the savings safely is having a clear plan that identifies how those savings will be derived over future years.

Recommendation B deals with the spending review settlements and poses the question whether they can be adjusted if there is a significant change in the threat. A number of Members have referred to this issue, including the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field). He is no longer in his place but spoke about the cyber-threat. The Government response states that

“the SIA will first look to reprioritise from within its existing work.”

The use of the word “first” suggests that the SIA might look to do something different secondly, but no second alternative is outlined, which makes me wonder what it is that the Government do not want to put on the record. What is clearly understood is that if a very large and significant new threat emerges, the Government would want to respond in a way that would involve resources. We would all expect that to be the case.

Recommendation D deals with information assurance and making sure that it has the required backing. The Government’s response states that

“the Deputy National Security Adviser will continue to work with the Communications-Electronics Security Group…to develop a suitable funding model that will ensure the long-term sustainability of their IA work.”

Is it clear at what point that work is going to be completed?

In a similar vein, in response to recommendation E the Government have rightly identified the need to take proactive steps to address the issue of retaining a suitable cadre of internet specialists. I hope the Minister will tell us what proactive steps have already been taken. I should state now—perhaps I should have done so at the outset—that the Minister, for clear operational reasons,

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might not be able to give answers to every question. Clearly, he will not respond if it is not appropriate for him to do so.

Recommendation G identifies the need for GCHQ to be able to account for lost equipment. The ISC made it clear that GCHQ should ensure that the problem does not happen again and the response noted that good work had been undertaken with the National Audit Office since 2008-09. I wonder whether GCHQ has been able to provide the Minister with the assurance that those incidents of lost equipment, and the potential risks associated with them, will not happen again.

Recommendation K deals with the Security Service’s need for IT specialists. A useful initiative has been set up with

“the three Agencies…engaged in setting up a single unified mechanism for hiring interim specialists and contractors.”

I suspect that this will make a substantial contribution to savings. I was hoping that a time frame might be identified for delivery.

Recommendation P refers to the overlap between the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism and the National Security Secretariat. Although that overlap is limited, I hope that the Minister will be able to explain how problems caused by the duplication of work are addressed.

Recommendation V refers to BBC Monitoring. I know that work is proceeding on that front, but the Minister may be able to tell us something about the intended time scale for the review.

Recommendation X refers to Shaker Aamer. Other Members may welcome an update from the Minister on any discussions that are taking place with the United States authorities.

Recommendation Y refers to the Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers. I thank the Minister for a recent briefing that clearly identified the difficulties and complexity that surround those issues, especially when Government agencies or the intelligence services are having to deal with a range of agencies abroad.

Recommendation AA refers to the Government’s announcement of the publication of a Green Paper. That is very welcome, and I hope that the Green Paper will receive a wide response. Some parts of it may be deemed controversial, particularly those dealing with the use of special advocates and other aspects of the reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee. There is clearly a huge amount of expertise in the Chamber in that regard, and I am sure that Members who are present have already made an important contribution simply by giving their informed views, which can be read in Hansard tomorrow.

Recommendation GG refers to the vulnerability of some of GCHQ’s sites. It is not clear to me whether the necessary resilience already exists, or whether it is being developed and is expected to be rolled out at some point in the future. Perhaps some clarification will be possible either now or at a later date.

Recommendation HH proposes the establishment of a single SIA vetting service. That is, on the face of it, a sensible proposal. It has been under discussion since early 2010, and now, in late 2011, I should like to think that an end date is in sight.

I hope that the Minister will consider the limited number of questions that I have asked to be pertinent. Let me restate my support for the work that is being

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done by the intelligence and security community and for the work that the ISC has done in ensuring not just that we are safe, but that due scrutiny is given to the services that are responsible for our safety.

7.33 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), who, with his usual ingenuity, managed to give a number of written parliamentary questions an oral flavour. Some might well have served as essay titles. I noted that the Minister was writing furiously in preparation for his winding-up speech, and I hope that we shall all be able to obtain copies of his answers.

I shall speak briefly. First, let me join Front Benchers and others in congratulating the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) on the excellent work that he and his fellow Committee members have done in respect of the annual report. It was a change to be able to hear such a long and thoughtful speech from the Chairman of the ISC, rather than the limited contribution that my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) used to have to make when he chaired the Committee. Things are certainly changing.

I also welcome the commitment that the right hon. and learned Gentleman made in saying that the Committee intended to take oral evidence from the heads of the security services at some time in the future. I always think it odd that, although we hear about magnificent speeches made by the heads of MI5 and MI6 containing important statistics about the security threat, no one in Parliament is able to question them. We used to be told that their jobs were so secret that no one knew what they looked like, but nowadays it is quite easy to find out what Jonathan Evans and John Sawyers look like by means of the internet. There is no secrecy about their identities any more.

In an intervention on the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, I described the annual pilgrimage of the Home Affairs Committee, in a people-carrier with blacked-out windows, to a building somewhere on Millbank whose address we were not allowed to know. On arrival, we would be taken up through the back of the building into a room that was not the office of the head of the agency, but a meeting room where we were able to ask questions. We were not allowed to make notes or include what was said in our reports, although inevitably some of it had leaked out into a Sunday newspaper by the time the Committee was able to consider matters a week later. The fact is that it is much better for the heads of those agencies—both of whom I have met, and both of whom are highly intelligent individuals—to appear before the ISC, and for members of the ISC to put questions to them and receive answers. That is the basis of parliamentary scrutiny, and it is a very important step forward.

I welcome the way in which the National Security Council has developed over the past 18 months. Its establishment was recommended by the Home Affairs Committee in the last Parliament. I tried hard to persuade the last Prime Minister to accept the recommendation. I told him that the NSC would be good for the country, because for the first time we should be able to co-ordinate all the various Government Departments. There would

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be a national security adviser who, hopefully, would give evidence to Parliament, and it would be a good way of dealing with issues relating to countries such as Yemen—foreign policy issues that also had a domestic resonance. I was pleased that, when the Prime Minister appeared before the Liaison Committee, he talked about the operation of the National Security Council. I welcome that co-ordination, and I think it important for us to hear more about what the council is doing.

Obviously, in terms of its composition, the NSC differs from its counterpart in the United States, which is the model that we used when we considered the report two years ago. I do not think that Peter Ricketts or his successor, Kim Darroch, will ever quite become Condoleezza Rice—a great figure who can be brought before Parliament and make important statements about national security. That will never happen, because we will always have a career civil servant in the job. It is a pity, because I think that Prime Ministers ought to be able to choose more widely when selecting their national security advisers, but we never know: in the future, a Prime Minister may decide to do that.

I want to refer to the excellent contribution of the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). He is entirely right to consider the threat that is facing our country. We must deal with those who are behind that threat, which is why I am so pleased that the Security Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire)—has agreed to speak at the Select Committee’s conference in Leicester in December, when we will consider the roots of radicalism. As the hon. Member for New Forest East pointed out, unless we confront the threat with a budget larger than that which currently exists in the units in the Home Office, we will never deal with it. The only way in which to deal with home-grown terrorism is to engage the communities involved. The previous strategy was about preventing: “Let’s try to stop them doing what they’re doing.” That cannot be successful, however. Instead, we have to engage; we have to get right down into the communities and work with them—with different mosques and organisations. We heard from a fair few of them in the Home Affairs Committee evidence sessions, and I think that, by engaging, we can deal with this threat.

This annual report is excellent, and we look forward to the next one, but we also look forward to its being even more transparent in respect of the issues it addresses, as the Committee and Parliament expect.

7.40 pm

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): It is with great pleasure that I rise to make my first contribution to this important annual debate as a Back Bencher representing constituents who work at GCHQ. May I add my congratulations to those already made to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) on the crispness of the ISC annual report and the swiftness with which many of its recommendations have been incorporated into the Ministry of Justice Green Paper on justice and security?

As a member of Her Majesty’s diplomatic service at the time, I well remember the concerns that were felt among the agencies in the run-up to the Intelligence

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Services Act 1994. They were very concerned about the impact of coming in from the cold and into the limelight of parliamentary oversight. Those concerns were, of course, largely overcome by keeping that exposure away from operations. I think it is true to say that the agencies’ worries in terms of parliamentary limelight have not been realised, but two issues have emerged: the handling of reputational issues, and the increased number of challenges of Government actions in our courts. I shall deal with each of them in turn.

The Foreign Secretary rightly said only a few days ago, on 16 November:

“Secret Intelligence saves both military and civilian lives, protects our economy, stops criminals and makes a critical contribution to our diplomatic and military success.”

However, it is also true that the agencies depend hugely on their reputation—as, indeed, do all of us in this House. Reputation is everything, and I believe that, had the accusation of complicity in extraordinary rendition leading to torture been dealt with by an ISC with operational oversight, that reputational question mark would not still be hanging over the agencies. Nor would the ISC have faced the issues of poor record keeping that are identified in pages 70 to 73 of the annual report. That is a practical example of why the ISC remit should be “strengthened” to provide “more credible oversight” and

“greater assurance to the public and to Parliament”

by adding operations to its current remit of policy administration and finance. I therefore welcome that proposal and the Home Secretary’s positive response this evening, while also recognising that there will be much detail to resolve.

On the increased number of challenges to Government actions in the courts, I absolutely agree with the Justice Secretary’s comments in the Green Paper that we need to use closed material procedures in mainstream civil courts, as that is the only way to reconcile the two difficult challenges of both providing fairness to all and ensuring our secrets are kept secret.

I join the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) in paying tribute to the Government for their innovative move of creating the National Security Council. I am sure that it contributed considerably to the successful pursuit of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Libya, and I was delighted to see in the ISC annual report recommendation M on the NSC, which pays tribute to the successful establishment of the organisation.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) referred to there being too few checks and balances, but where was she and her concern for checks and balances when her country needed her in the run-up to the Iraq war of 2001, when it appeared to many of us outside this Chamber that decisions were being made and dossiers prepared exclusively in No. 10? I believe that, had the NSC existed at that time, with its checks and balances, it would have changed the course of our involvement in Iraq. No doubt historians will, in time, ruminate on that.

Tonight, we have heard more detail on the ISC proposals, and we have heard the endorsement given to them by the Home Secretary. I have highlighted my strong support for two key measures: the more credible oversight provided by the ISC with a stronger mandate to include operational

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oversight, and the handling of secret intelligence in the courts so that the right balance between fairness and secrecy can be struck.

The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) said not long ago that the Government have found “elegant solutions” to dilemmas that have faced successive Home and Foreign Secretaries in balancing the pursuit of openness with the requirements of secret intelligence. I agree, and I hope they prove to be practical solutions that will enhance the oversight of the work of our agencies, which are so important to all of us in this country.

7.46 pm

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham). He spoke about his pride in his constituents who do such tremendous work at GCHQ, and I join him in praising those dedicated and important staff.

It is common ground among the main political parties that the Government’s top priority must be to protect the people of this country. Although we all want a law enforcement and criminal justice system that is as open as possible, in order to maintain public safety we must have some level of secrecy, and scrutinising the workings of that secret world is the core task of the ISC.

As ever, my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) put his finger on the key issue when he talked about the importance of trust. I am sure that I speak for all members of the Committee in saying that it is a privilege that trust has been placed in us in respect of the access that we have to the agencies and confidential information. It is also a privilege to visit the agencies and meet the staff who do such important work. Some of them are long-serving and very experienced, and I pay tribute to them of course, but I have noticed during my first year serving in Committee that there are also many energetic and ingenious young people in these agencies, and they do tremendous work. What they do is a very important form of public service, and I pay tribute to them.

There is much to welcome in the ISC report on what has been done in the past year. Many Members have mentioned the NSC’s work and the coherence that it brings to national security. We all agree that that has been a very important step forward, not least because of the regular contact that it brings between senior Ministers and the heads of the agencies, as the ISC Chair, the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), has pointed out. I am sure that that is helping to foster a greater degree of collaboration between the agencies, which is welcome.

I want to say a couple of things about resources. First, I welcome the additional £600 million that is being made available to deal with cyber-security and the cyber-threat. That is an important investment and, as has been suggested, it will almost certainly not be a one-off sum and will need to be followed up in subsequent spending periods.

On the funding of the agencies, the report says that the 11% real-terms cut is “a fair settlement”, which is a fair comment by the Committee. Given the rapid growth over the past decade in the funding available to the intelligence and security agencies and given the level of cuts right across government and the public services, it probably is a fair settlement. However, as page 15 of the report states, it is essential that the funding

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“can be adjusted if there is a significant change in the threat.”

I have no reason to doubt the good intentions and good faith of the Government, but their response to the Committee’s report could be a bit more robust in the strength and clarity of the answer. We all accept that where things change we need to look first at reprioritising our resources. For example, the events in the middle east required a reprioritisation of the resources of the various agencies. Those agencies cannot expect simply to have new money made available if there is a new threat or a new need, but with the Olympics coming up, with the increasing threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism and with the continuing threat from international terrorism, Parliament and the public need to know clearly from the Government that additional resources will be made available, if they are needed.

On the Olympics, it is clearly recognised by government and by the Security Service that additional officers will be required by the Security Service. Some of those officers will be drawn from existing staff, but some will be new recruits. Last November, the Committee was told that the Security Service was

“seeking to recruit 100 new intelligence officers by November 2011”.

Subsequently, in May, the Committee was told that 90% of these officers are expected to take up their posts by November 2011. We are now in that month, and the House will be pleased to hear in the Minister’s winding-up speech that those staff have been recruited and trained and that they will be available well in advance of the Olympics.

Finally, on resources, I want briefly to comment on the Communications-Electronics Security Group. That little-known group operates out of GCHQ and performs an important service in providing information assurance right across government and all its agencies. The problem is that the importance of that service is not reflected in the enthusiasm of Departments and agencies in taking it up, and as a result GCHQ is out of pocket to the tune of £7 million over the past two years. We have been given repeated reassurances that a grip will be got of that situation. It is very important that that happens and that in the next financial year we have a funding model for the service that actually means that it can be provided without having to be subsidised from the GCHQ budget.

May I raise, as one or two of my right hon. Friends have done, the new counter-terrorism measures? The TPIMs are, as we know, intended to replace the control order system that went before. The Minister may or may not be pleased to learn that I do not seek to debate the principle of TPIMs as against control orders this evening, as we have done that often enough over the past few months. However, I remain of the view that the system that he is introducing is weaker, and I draw his attention to the remarks of the director general of the Security Service on page 46 of the report:

“Covert investigation does not deliver disruption”.

I do not wish to go over the principles again, but we are now six weeks away from the planned implementation of the new TPIMs system. As that system relies on additional resources being made available to the police and to the Security Service, we need to find out, in this timely debate, whether the additional officers that were to be recruited to provide the additional resource to the Security Service have been recruited and trained, and

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whether they will be available to work on the new system as soon as it is introduced, which will presumably be early in the new year.

I also wish to draw attention, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary did, to the director general’s comment in the report that

“there should be no substantial increase in overall risk.”

That of course implies that there may be some increase in the additional risk, and the Committee records that as being of concern to us. We will be taking an active interest in that in the weeks and months ahead. I am very grateful to the director general for his candid assessment of that situation, but Ministers will also need to pay close attention to whether or not the level of risk increases, and they must be prepared to act if there is any sign of an additional risk, be it substantial or otherwise.

Such action must mean either additional resources or a willingness to return to this House to implement emergency legislation, which the Government have spoken about, which they intend to subject to pre-legislative scrutiny and which would impose greater restrictions on those suspected of deep involvement in terrorist activity. My view remains the same as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears), who intervened earlier in the debate. We feel that delay would be far better than uncertainty and risk. I say again to the Minister, as plainly as I can, that this matter has gone way beyond party political squabbling, although it never was about that for me. I put it to him that if there is any doubt whatsoever, delay should be the first thing that he considers and that he would have the full support of Members on both sides of this House if he did the sensible thing.

Although I have been a member of the Committee for only the past year, it is fair to say that Northern Ireland has probably had a slightly higher profile in the Committee’s work this year than in the preceding two or three years. The Committee has been told that in 2008-09 the Security Service’s effort in countering Northern Ireland-related terrorism fell to some 13% of its overall effort total, which is not surprising given the progress in Northern Ireland. Not only was stage 1 of devolution delivered in 2007, but in July that year we saw the end of Operation Banner, which meant the end of Army involvement in Northern Ireland after 38 years. At that point, just a handful of dissidents remained. They were few in number, fragmented in their organisation, more interested in the proceeds of crime than in the politics of a united Ireland and technically inept in their capability. That has changed and their number has increased. Their expertise has clearly increased and now the threat level is “severe” in Northern Ireland and “substantial” in Great Britain. The director general reported to the Committee that although he has no reason to believe that an attack in Great Britain is imminent,

“I certainly believe it’s in their minds”.

We know that just in recent months the murder of police officer Ronan Kerr has occurred, a 500 lb bomb was placed near Newry and there have been other attacks, including on Derry’s UK city of culture office. These risks are real, and I again pay tribute to those who serve in the Security Service and to the Police Service of Northern Ireland in countering that threat.

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Dr Julian Lewis: Before the right hon. Gentleman moves on, he might wish to draw the House’s attention to paragraph 33 of the report, which states:

“The Security Service has told the Committee that the numbers of individuals involved with the current republican terrorist groups is around half the number that were active in the Provisional IRA”.

That is a very considerable number, is it not?

Paul Goggins: It is, although it is also fair to say that there are degrees of involvement. Although there may be some latent support at a fairly local level for certain individuals, the number of active people who are determined on violence in pursuit of their aims is probably still fairly limited. None the less, they are increasingly dangerous in what they do, and they need to be dealt with. That is why, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, the 34% increase in investment in the past couple of years in the Security Service’s work on Northern Ireland terrorism is welcome.

There have been some positive developments, and it is important to record them in this debate. The devolution of policing and justice, of course, was a very important step in April last year. The PSNI and the Security Service have worked very well together in a new relationship over the past few years, which has borne great fruit. Only recently—this is outside the period covered by the report, but it is none the less important—Michael Campbell was convicted in Lithuania and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment there. That was the product of some very good work, and those involved should be commended and congratulated.

I warmly welcome the Green Paper, which others have already analysed. Frankly, it takes political courage to come forward with such a Green Paper. The territory is complex and the document is hardly a vote-winner, but it is essential that we grapple with such issues and seek to try to resolve them on a cross-party basis, because they are important. The Binyam Mohamed case was clearly a major breach of the control principle and, as we have reported in our report this year, when we went to the United States and met our colleagues and counterparts there it was clear that they were shaken by this development. Although they reiterated time and again the value that they attach to the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom on intelligence and security, they made it absolutely clear that they must know that their intelligence is safe in our hands. If they cannot trust us, it would be a very negative development.

We all agree that we want a system of open justice. Article 6, on the right to a fair trial, is a vital part of our system. As far as possible, of course, defendants and suspects should have the gist of the case against them outlined and given to them, but the problem is that the “gist” is starting to become virtually the whole case, which makes things very difficult. When evidence includes highly sensitive information, there must be a way of protecting it. Ministers have an obligation to ensure that they uphold article 6, but they also have article 2 obligations to the people who are the source of the intelligence that enables Ministers to act. Those people must be protected, too, because if Ministers were to reveal such information and thereby the identity of the sources, who might then be imperilled, it would be a terrible development. It is vital that both sources and the wider public are protected.

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I welcome the proposals in the Green Paper on the closed material procedures, but, as others have said, they must be made as tight as possible. In the end, the court will always have the last word and make the ultimate decision, but it is for Parliament now to make its views absolutely clear, through statutory guidance and through the consideration, as others have said, of the statutory presumption against disclosure of foreign intelligence material. All those safeguards should be considered, but, having had the courage to introduce this Green Paper and grapple with these issues, it is vital that we get it right. We will not get an early or easy second chance to do so, so it is essential that we make the best effort that we can now.

Let me make a final point on closed material procedures. We are familiar with the arguments about the control principle and more familiar with its application to immigration cases in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and to control orders—and TPIMs, when they are introduced. I caution the Minister, as we will increasingly need clarity on the recall of convicted terrorists who are out of prison on licence. I want to emphasise the importance of that. It is already an issue in Northern Ireland, and it will become increasingly important across the rest of the UK. When intelligence raises concerns about the continued involvement in terrorism of someone who has served their sentence and is now out in the community on licence, although that intelligence might not be able to be used further to convict that individual, it must be possible to use it to ensure that they go back into prison and continue their sentence so that the public are protected. That is another important test that the Minister will need to set himself when he comes up with the ultimate solution to the issues raised in the Green Paper.

Finally, I warmly welcome what the Green Paper has to say about the future role and remit of the Committee. I am not personally persuaded by the argument put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) that the Chair of the Committee should always be from the Opposition party, and there was a good exchange involving my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen in which the arguments were advanced. It is important that the individual who is in the Chair of the Committee should be respected by not only its members but more widely across Parliament and the agencies. The Chair should have the expertise and leadership to create consensus, which is at the core of all this work. We have that in our current Chair, and whether or not a future Chair is from the Opposition or Government party, those are the key credentials that that individual must have.

I welcome the proposal that the Committee should be a Committee of Parliament, with all the safeguards that have been discussed. There should be a limited number of public sessions, which would help to explain more about the importance of the work of the intelligence and security agencies as well as that of the Committee. The remit of the Committee should run across not only policy, resources and administration, but all the work of the agencies. That already happens, and we need to ensure that it is formalised for the future.

It is also important that the Committee can not only request information but require it. As we make that move, it will place greater obligations on the Committee to ensure that it gets the information and that it knows that it has it, as well as that there is nothing missing.

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That means that we will need a deeper investigative capacity in the Committee. The agencies should ensure in every case that we get all the information that has been requested the first time rather than the second or third time.

Speaking personally, my first year as a member of the Committee has been fascinating and very enjoyable. I certainly look forward to the year ahead and the many challenges that lie in it. There will certainly be no let-up in those challenges, particularly with TPIMs coming into operation and the Olympic games coming to our capital city.

8.7 pm

Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): I apologise to the House for my late arrival and for missing the opening speeches, but the Foreign Affairs Committee has been sitting tonight. The President of Turkey is in town on a state visit and the Turkish Foreign Minister and Baroness Cathy Ashton, the High Representative of the EU, have given evidence to us.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins), who is one of the new members of the Committee. I had the privilege of serving on the Committee from 2005 to 2010 and I found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my parliamentary life. He is quite right that Northern Ireland has moved up the agenda in recent years and I agree with virtually every point he made in his speech.

As this is the first debate on such matters in this Parliament, may I take the opportunity to pay tribute to the staff of the ISC, who are of the highest possible calibre? There are not enough of them, but that is not their fault. I also pay tribute to the agencies for their hard work and the way in which they protect the freedoms that we all value. The Foreign Secretary rightly praised them in his speech last Wednesday and we can all join him in his praise.

I also want to thank the three Chairmen I served under during those five years. Although it is regrettable that there were three, they all discharged their responsibilities with diligence and enthusiasm and were all of a very high calibre. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) is the only Chairman we have in this Parliament, as a degree of continuity is essential.

This is the first time we have looked at the report from the outside, so to speak, and one change I have noted—I do not know whether it is my imagination—is that there seem to be fewer redactions than in the past, which we recommended in the previous Parliament. We wanted reports to flow better, and I think that has been achieved.

I share the concern about the drop in funding—a 10% cut would concern anybody. The agencies do not seem to be alarmed, but a 10% cut in staff at the Secret Intelligence Service would certainly alarm me.

We host the Olympic games next year and I see that the agencies feel they are well placed to manage risks. However, that sits a bit awkwardly with the revelations in the past couple of weeks, after the report was published, that a review of security is under way.

I agree with the Committee’s conclusions about cyber-security. The national security strategy puts cyber-security as a tier 1 risk, but under the present strategy an

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uprising in north Africa is a tier 3 risk, so I do not know how much weight one can put on these things. At the moment, we just take the world as we find it and try to address things.

The Committee has noted that the Foreign Affairs Committee managed to get some of the World Service cuts reversed and would like to see the same happen with BBC Monitoring. I completely agree with that but I point out to members of the Intelligence and Security Committee who are present that the Foreign Affairs Committee’s recommendation was initially rejected and that it took a debate under the Backbench Business Committee procedure to raise it again before the Government took that on board. We have seen the growing influence of the Backbench Business Committee, and I do not know whether the ISC wants to get down to that level—get deep down and dirty, as it were—but it may be something it has to do.

I also welcome the conclusions of the coroner who said, in relation to the report arising out of 7/7, that the ISC’s conclusions were “detailed and thorough”. The coroner also made some interesting recommendations about the use of photographs. I note that the Committee found that any discrepancies would not have changed its conclusions. That shows the calibre of the work being carried out by the ISC—if the coroner can describe the work as “detailed and thorough” and it can be said that conclusions would not have been affected. That is an important point to make in relation to those who were so critical of the reports when they came out.

Dr Julian Lewis: I am listening to my hon. Friend’s speech with great attention and I think that another word of praise could be said for the services themselves in that context. In the past, when they have found that they have inadvertently overlooked some piece of information, in providing that information to the ISC, they have not hesitated to own up to that fact even if it opened them up to criticism. It is incumbent on us to encourage them to do that and not to be deterred from doing it because it is a slight blot on their record when they do not get things right first time.

Richard Ottaway: I completely agree, and I have always been hugely impressed by the vast quantity of information. When there was just one needle in the haystack, they might not have found it the first time around but they did find it the second time around and quite rightly, as my hon. Friend says, produced it for the Committee.

On the Green Paper, may I support the point that was made about the handling of sensitive material, which I gather was mentioned by the Chairman of the ISC in his opening speech? The recommendations in the Green Paper are sensible and offer the best way of dealing with sensitive material, but I do not think it has to be instead of using a special advocate. It could well be in addition to using a special advocate and using the presumptions set out in the Green Paper.

Let me address the role of the Committee and the way it operates. Parliamentary oversight of a secret service is always going to have limitations. I do not think there is a silver bullet, regardless of whether the Committee is a Committee of the House. Let me give

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an illustration. The major foreign policy objective of our engagement in Afghanistan is to deny al-Qaeda and international terrorists a base from which to carry out their operations. During the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report on Afghanistan, a number of witnesses told us that that is no longer a problem in Afghanistan, so at the Liaison Committee I asked the Prime Minister whether he was still receiving intelligence to that effect and he said he was. So, we are stuck with the same old problem that a major overseas deployment of the British Army and other armed services is based on intelligence that has not been subject to the scrutiny of the House. Those of us who were here at the time of the Iraq war know the problems that that can generate. This is an echo of the past. I have come up with a least-bad option and have written to the Chairman of the ISC to ask him to put it to the appropriate quarters when a suitable opportunity arrives and then to report to the House on the veracity of that information. I hope that, in the short term, that can be a way of dealing with the matter.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: May I say that we have been in touch with the SIS and have asked it to respond on exactly the points that my hon. Friend is concerned about?

Richard Ottaway: I am delighted to hear that because that presents a channel—certainly in the current circumstances, until there is a change in the law—through which the House can make inquiries. However, it irritates the hell out of a lot of Members that we have to do that. The fact that the ISC is not a Committee of the House has long been a bugbear. I remember debates in which Andrew MacKinlay used to go on and on about this and challenge the legitimacy of the ISC. We all love him deeply, but I think it is time to move on. It is wrong that the ISC has oversight of the Cabinet Office, which is the Department that administers the ISC. Those who are critical see the Committee as being somehow made up of Government lackeys, but that is an insult to the members of the Committee. Those who have served on the Committee know that we behave as though we were on a Select Committee; indeed, there is far less partisan behaviour on the ISC than on any other Committee I have served on. This issue can now be addressed.

We have to accept that classified information can be handled only by those who are subject to the Official Secrets Act. If one accepts that principle, it does not make much difference whether the Committee is a Committee of the House or not, but there is a good case for it becoming a Committee of the House if only to remove the suspicion that has prevailed over the years. In making the move, the devil will be in the detail. There are a number of issues to address, although I will not go into the detail now, such as the question of appointments and the fact that the Official Secrets Act does not fit easily with freedom of speech.

I think it would be sensible for the Committee to have powers to call for information that could be withheld only by the Secretary of State, rather than what happens currently. When I was on the Committee, the question “Have we seen everything?” was always at the back of my mind. It took two reports on the 7/7 bombings for us to satisfy ourselves that we had done everything. The fact that there was a second report illustrated that we had not seen everything the first time around. Another

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problem to address is how redactions will be dealt with by a Committee of the House, as the Government will not be able to threaten a veto on publication. Obviously, the report will be to the House, but what will it report? It is no secret that some evidence submissions to the Government never saw the light of day in the previous Parliament. How would that be treated if the Committee were to become a Committee of the House?

This issue is a minefield, but the Government have found a way through it in their Green Paper and I support them. It is very hard to have democratic oversight of a secret service, but I think we are on the right track.

8.19 pm

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I shall follow previous speakers to some extent, particularly the latter remarks of the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Croydon South (Richard Ottaway). I see this as a continuation of the debate about the parliamentary accountability of the security services. Over a number of years I argued, with other Members—Labour Members—for adequate parliamentary scrutiny of the services involved in security. When I was looking up previous debates on the subject, I noted that 23 years ago, almost to the day, I argued that such scrutiny was important, and that it was therefore necessary to provide the mechanism for Members of Parliament to look into what the security services were doing.

Before the Intelligence Services Act 1994, which, as we know, established the Intelligence and Security Committee, a leading historian, Sir Michael Howard, observed in 1986:

“So far as official government policy is concerned . . . enemy agents are found under gooseberry bushes and intelligence is brought by the storks.”

In other words, children, Parliament and the public should not meddle in what were considered to be very adult matters.

At least we have a consensus that we need to move on from the limited parliamentary machinery that was established at the time. I welcome the fact that the Committee is in favour, as the Chair said and as the report makes clear, of expanding the role of the ISC. The Green Paper makes the same point.

I note that in its recommendations the Committee does not suggest public evidence, but the Green Paper does. I see no reason why such evidence should not, in certain circumstances, be given in public. If some members of the Committee immediately say, “Much of what we do can’t be revealed in public; it is confidential—classified”, I agree. When I spoke in 2008 and tabled an amendment, which I later withdrew, about holding public sessions, the then Foreign Secretary accepted that there was scope for holding some sessions in public and wanted to make progress on that. It was not made then, but I hope it will be now.

The then Foreign Secretary emphasised, as one would expect, the need to protect national security. Let me be clear: public sessions, yes, but most of the evidence and most of the Committee’s work would be in private. There would be limited scope, as I see it and as the Green Paper recognises, for public sessions.

In the past the heads of the two main security services, MI5 and MI6, were not mentioned, as though they and the organisations did not exist. The difference is that

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now we have become used to the head of MI5—the current head and his predecessors—making public speeches. There is nothing novel about that. It does not necessarily get great news coverage because, as I said, it has become quite common. Last October for the first time the head of MI6 gave a public speech. Parliamentary democracy survived. The intelligence services survived. Presumably, as in the case of MI5, the head of MI6 and his successors will continue to make public speeches, where appropriate. It is true, of course, that in giving such a speech, the head of MI6 was not giving evidence and being asked questions by Members of Parliament. That, I hope, will be brought about.

The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee made the point that when, from time to time, we have sessions with MI5—he mentioned MI5, so I will mention it as well—we are told that if we want to have such briefings, which obviously are private and remain so, we should go over to Millbank. I do not see any reason why we should do that any longer. If it continues, I for one, as a member of the Home Affairs Committee, would be most reluctant to do so. It seems to me that if MI5 is going to give briefings on a confidential basis, the director general should come to the House of Commons, not the other way round. It is not a major point, but it asserts the supremacy of Parliament.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy), a former Chair of the ISC, and a very good Chair, as is the present one, spoke about Members. I hope all Members of the House are reliable and can be given information on a confidential basis. I am not putting myself forward as a candidate for membership as I do not particularly want to join the Committee. If it was said in the past—not, I hope, in the present Parliament—that there are some rogue elements among Members, the same applies to the Security Service. Peter Wright and other elements, a small minority of the Security Service, apparently believed that Harold Wilson was an agent of Moscow and acted on the instructions of the Kremlin. Let us be clear that in the past there have been rogue elements—a very small minority—among Members of Parliament, as in the security services.

Mr George Howarth: Although what my hon. Friend says about some of the personalities involved is undoubtedly true, does he think it would give great cause for concern if there were rogue elements within the security services being overseen by rogue elements in the House of Commons?

Mr Winnick: Yes. I do not think it would help our national security. I hope that satisfies my right hon. Friend. I do not know what other answer I could give to that question.

In previous debates I have criticised the ISC. I do not believe, and I am hardly alone in this, that it has been robust enough about the allegations of complicity in torture. The present Chair of the Committee said that there is no allegation whatsoever that British security officials have in any way taken part in torture. I accept that entirely. I said in the previous debate that there is not the slightest evidence that such torture has been used by British security services, but clearly the allegation, which is a very serious allegation, is complicity in torture. In respect of what has been happening abroad—the

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water-boarding, 160 times in one instance, carried out by the United States on an individual, Guantanamo remaining opening, the practices that went on there, the Pakistan security service and so on—the allegation is that British security officials knew what was happening and took no action. That is an extremely serious allegation. Peter Gibson’s inquiry is therefore to be welcomed. I am not sure whether the inquiry is already under way or when it is likely to conclude and publish its report, but perhaps the Minister will clarify that when responding to the debate.

The question is whether the ISC was sufficiently robust when looking at the matter. In my view it was not. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, in a report produced last year, was critical of the ISC in such matters and expressed concern about the adequacy of the parliamentary mechanism for oversight of the intelligence and security services. I hope that there will be a different approach in future. It is very important that the ISC does not give the impression that it is simply the voice of the security services or that it is reluctant to criticise, because if that was its attitude it would not be doing its proper job. Unlike some Members, I have reservations about relevant sensitive material not being disclosed in court, and I will be very surprised if that is not the subject of further debate in the House.

In conclusion, I in no way underestimate the acute and continuing terrorist danger to our country. Sometimes critics such as me are accused of underestimating, not recognising or playing down, the terrorist danger, but I certainly do not underestimate the danger, and I take the point as well about republican dissidents in Northern Ireland. Even if 7/7 and what was attempted a fortnight later had not happened, I would recognise first and foremost that this country faces an acute danger from Islamists who clearly believe that murdering as many people as possible is the way to paradise. Hon. Members have today put various views and arguments on how we should deal with the terrorist danger, and that debate will continue for some time. However, the greater the danger and the greater the role of the security services in trying to protect our country from further atrocities and mass murder, the greater the need for effective parliamentary scrutiny of those involved. It is absolutely essential that the changes proposed by the Committee and set out in the Green Paper are implemented in the near future.

8.32 pm

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): I should begin with an apology because it has been my misfortune to miss a large part of the debate owing to a prior commitment, which was on behalf of Parliament but outside the House. However, I have had the opportunity to listen to the debate and hear some very fine and perceptive speeches. I hope that I may be excused for singling out the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy), who made a very wise contribution. I was also pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins), with whom I serve on the Committee, because his four years in the Northern Ireland Office undoubtedly qualify him to speak with common sense and great knowledge of the problems Northern Ireland presents, not least in recent times. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Chair.

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I think that the Chair should be the best person for the job because any kind of preference, however well intentioned, could stand in the way of the Committee’s efficient working.

As for what the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) said, or at least implied, anyone who doubts the independence of the Committee over the years should come to the office and look at the photographs on the wall of the people who have constituted the Committee over 20 odd years. He will not find one of them, man or woman, who could be described in any way as less than fully independent. My experience as a relatively new member led me to believe from the very beginning that the quality I had to demonstrate most of all was independence.

Despite the independence of those who have served on the Committee, it is interesting to note the extent to which its role has been misunderstood, and often in circles where one would have hoped that its role would be much better appreciated. That is one of the most compelling arguments for the changes in the Committee that the Committee itself has recommended and that now form part of the Green Paper.

Mr Winnick: When I made my criticism of the Committee, I cited what the Joint Committee on Human Rights reported last year—that the Committee had not been sufficiently robust in dealing with the allegations of complicity in torture.

Sir Menzies Campbell: That is a matter of judgment. Members of the Committee sign the Official Secrets Act and are subject to constraints when it comes to any criticism directed at them either collectively or individually. Based on my experience, however, I have never seen any action—or lack of action—on the part of the Committee which suggested a lack of independence of thought.

Paul Murphy indicated assent .

Mr George Howarth indicated assent .

Sir Menzies Campbell: I see members of the Committee, both past and present, nodding in agreement.

I talked about independence a moment or two ago, but two other elements are important to the Committee’s membership: experience and judgment. The assessment of these is of enormous significance and importance, and, given that the ultimate responsibility for security in this country rests with the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister ought to play a significant part in the formation of the Committee. We can argue about whether he should play a part after or in advance of an election, but that is a detail for another day. I am in no doubt about the principle, however, that as the Prime Minister answers to the nation—to the country—for the security of the country, in this matter at least he ought to have a determining role.

One other thing that has been brought rather remarkably to my attention is that the success of the three agencies depends on their co-operation. Those with longer—or perhaps not that much longer—memories than I will remember that there have been occasions in the not-so-distant past when the agencies have to some extent seemed at odds, when there has been a certain amount

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of competition and when they have found it difficult to share common objectives and, indeed, common information.

The greater effectiveness of the services collectively has come about because of increasing co-operation. In the four years or so that I have been a member of the Committee, I have seen that co-operation grow and blossom. Co-operation is necessary because no one agency can hope to be the fount of all intelligence wisdom any more than one country can. That is why our relations with our allies are of very considerable significance, and why the debate and, indeed, controversy about the control principle have become so salient.

I echo what others have said. When we last went to the United States, there was strong anecdotal evidence from people in positions of authority and responsibility that their anxiety about the control principle, or the lack of its application, might—if it had not already—inhibit the volume and quality of intelligence that they were willing to share.

If someone has that anxiety and concern, they have a simple way of dealing with it: they just stop giving significant information. The problem is that if ours is the country expecting to receive information of that quality, we have no way of knowing that they have stopped. The supplier can simply turn off the tap, and we have no way of knowing whether what we still receive is of quality or, indeed, the sort of worth that the arrangements between our closest allies have often provided.

It has been said—it is an entirely logical position to take—that if there is to be protection of information provided to us under the control principle, that enhances the argument for scrutiny at the instance of the Committee of the services. I certainly agree with that principle. That is why I hope that I am in the vanguard of those who support the proposal that the Committee become a Committee of Parliament, perhaps selected using the same method as that used by the Standards and Privileges Committee. However, as I have said, an important role and responsibility should rest with the Prime Minister.

Like some more long-standing Members, I remember the debates that surrounded the creation of the Intelligence and Security Committee and the atmosphere in which it was launched, which was very different from that now surrounding the Committee’s activities. Although I was not a member of the Committee at the time of its inception, I imagine that the atmosphere was also very different then between the Committee and the services. I do not doubt for a moment that the services were perhaps suspicious but certainly apprehensive about the extent to which the Committee might inhibit or create some kind of obstacle to their activities.

For that reason, we are entitled not only to change the form of the Committee but certainly to increase its powers. That is why the recommendation that we be able to “require” information rather than request it seems an essential part of the change that the Green Paper envisages. However, as others have said, the Committee staff is very modest in number. If the Committee is to fulfil this wider remit, it must have many more resources; otherwise it will have greater responsibility but less capability. That would be bound to reduce not only the quantity but the quality of scrutiny.

I am amused by the suggestion that rogue elements of Parliament might be keeping tabs on rogue members of the security services. It occurred to me that perhaps the

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best way to keep tabs on rogue elements of Parliament would be to employ the services of rogue elements of the security services. The latter proposition may prove more powerful than the first.

This is an annual debate of great importance. It is true that the quality of the Committee’s work depends to a large extent on the quality of the work done by its staff. That in turn depends on the quality of the activities carried out by those who work for the agencies. My experience of these people is that they are professional, unassuming and that they essentially live in the shade. There is no glory attached to what they do and there is hardly ever any public recognition. It is not the most generously remunerated occupation and it necessarily imposes considerable restrictions on personal life, on the ability to live in a normal way and even sometimes on someone being able to say what their occupation is. These are people of enormous quality. If one were looking for a fictional comparison, which is always dangerous, it is rather less like Ian Fleming and rather more like John le Carré.

The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East very properly paid tribute to the quality of the members of the agencies, and I would most certainly like to do so too. I also pay tribute to the leadership in the agencies, because that has not been expressly referred to. Daily challenges have to be faced. One substantial challenge coming down the track is the Olympic games. I am not an entirely impartial observer of that because I attend the Olympic Board under the chairmanship of the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport and, indeed, the Mayor. The Olympics will be a very formidable challenge.

Let me say, in parenthesis, that everyone with any interest in sport remembers the horrific outrage of Munich. If anything of that kind were to happen in any other games, it would inevitably be definitive. Therefore, in the next 12 months or so these unassuming professional people will, perhaps from a domestic point of view, face a more severe challenge than they have ever faced before. I am confident that they will meet that challenge.

8.45 pm

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), who has demonstrated the qualities that we have all come to respect in him: first, he has good judgment; and secondly, he is unerringly fair in the judgments that he exercises. It is a pleasure to serve with him. I think we are now the two old lags of the Committee.

Sir Menzies Campbell: But look how young we look!

Mr Howarth: In my case, yes. [ Interruption. ] We are both certainly young in our outlook.

I should like to echo the praise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave to the agencies and to the staff of the ISC, who are very open with us, very helpful, and enable us to do the job that we have been appointed to do. When we go to visit the agencies—sometimes we do have to make visits, like other Committees—or when they come to give evidence, those events are invariably well organised and well informed. Our most recent visit, which was to GCHQ, was no exception, and I learned a lot from it. It was well structured and well organised, and it is important to acknowledge that.

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Before I move on to the three key issues that I want to cover, it is important to recognise that the impartiality, or independence, of the Committee is paramount and, in my experience, can be relied on. Michael Mates, a former member of the Committee who, until he retired at the last election, served on it from the outset, used to say that when the Committee meets, our political affiliations are left at the door. In my experience, that is the exactly the case. We are seeking not to score party political points, but to get at the truth and carry out the job of scrutinising the work of the agencies concerned.

That leads me on to my first point, which is about the reform of the Committee. A great deal has been said about that already, and I will not repeat it all, but I want to make two observations. First, I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife and my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) in that I am unconcerned about whether the Chairman of the Committee is a member of the governing party or of the Opposition party. I have served under four Chairmen—their downfall, in three cases, had nothing whatsoever to do with me—and I have found them all to be extremely capable and experienced. Whatever their political affiliation was, it never influenced how the Committee was conducted. The most important thing is that we get the right man or woman in the job. I hope, like the hon. Member for Croydon South (Richard Ottaway), that we might have some continuity with the current Chairman during the course of this Parliament, because that is helpful.

Secondly, I support the reforms of the Committee set out in the Green Paper and covered in our report. Let us be brutally frank: there are now two Prime Ministers who have wanted reforms in this direction, and it would be a very foolish Committee that did not notice that they were both from different parties and that perhaps the time for change had arrived. I therefore have no problem with the reforms.

However, we need to be careful about one thing. We should not set up the expectation that these reforms will make the whole operation of the services and everything that they do a matter of public knowledge. As the Chairman of the Committee said at the outset, there is information that we are party to that we can never make public because we sign the Official Secrets Act and, by and large, retain the trust of the agencies. That is why we sometimes, reluctantly, have to put redactions in our annual reports. Principled critics of the Committee criticise it because we have access to privileged and secret information. States will always have secrets, and necessarily so. We should not lead anybody to believe that everything that we know will be made public as a result of the reforms of the Committee. I know that nobody is claiming that and I do not mean this as a criticism of the Government or other Committee members. However, it is important, as the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) made clear at the outset, that there will not be a free-for-all in relation to the information that the state has and what can be made public. The brutal truth is that a state secret that becomes public is no longer a state secret and is therefore useless.

My second point is about cyber-security. That issue has been covered extensively, but I want to cover it in a slightly different way. It is not a new issue. In June 2009,

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the Cabinet Office produced the “Cyber Security Strategy of the United Kingdom”, which rightly stated that it was an urgent, high-level issue that could not be ignored. More recently, in October 2010, the national security strategy cited

“Hostile attacks upon UK cyber space by other states and large scale cyber crime”

as a tier-one risk, as the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington has said. For several years, the importance of this issue has been acknowledged. However, for national security and diplomatic reasons, the UK has been coy about naming those responsible, at least until recently. I will say a little more about the recent developments where those responsible have been named in a moment.

First, I want to use this opportunity to emphasise how important this issue is for our country. Our annual report makes it clear that we generally approve of the cross-cutting approach that the Government are taking on cyber-security. It states rightly that the Government’s decision to move ministerial responsibility for the issue to the Cabinet Office, which is better placed to deal with such issues across Departments, is appropriate. That was a good move on the part of the Government.

It is also important that we seek better international cyber-security controls against cyber-attacks. I do not underestimate the difficulties that that presents. I am well aware that the Foreign Secretary is on the case and is raising this issue in international forums, no doubt discretely. I believe that we need to develop international protocols and controls over the coming years to make it easier to get control over what is going on across the world. I do not make that point in a spirit of criticism, I merely say that the matter has to be given some prominence. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), might be able to support that point of view when he winds up the debate. It is in the interests of our national security, and of businesses in the UK, that we take such an approach.

I wish to make one further point on cyber-security that is perhaps less driven by consensus than those that I have already made. It concerns the role and status of the Prime Minister’s official representative to business on cyber-security, Baroness Neville-Jones, who was of course Security Minister until May. Over recent years, our Committee has struggled with both the current and previous Government on whether those primarily responsible for attacks could be named in our reports. I am sure the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife would bear me out on that. Up until this year, we were losing that struggle. However, there has been movement. In his recent signed article in The Times, the head of GCHQ, Mr Iain Lobban, flagged up the importance of the issue, but sensibly declined to say which countries were responsible.

In our report, published in July, we went further, stating:

“The greatest threat of electronic attack continues to be posed by State actors and, of those, Russia and China are”

suspected of carrying out “the majority of attacks.” That form of words, carefully nuanced and the product of thorough negotiations between the services, the Government and our Committee, was the best way of putting it. Certainly the Government and the agencies concerned seemed to believe that that was the right way

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to describe the situation. However, when Baroness Neville-Jones was pressed in an interview on Radio 4’s “The World at One” about whether China and Russia were involved in such attacks, she responded, “They certainly are”. That is rather further than anybody else has gone.

The reason for highlighting that is straightforward. Either it is right to be circumspect about naming the states concerned, or it is not. It is not clear to me whether Baroness Neville-Jones speaks for the Government or whether she is, as it were, a free spirit in these matters. We need to know with what authority she speaks, and to what extent anything she says can be attributed to the Government or to the agencies concerned. Perhaps the Minister might be able to say a little about the noble Lady’s position, and what her status and authority is.

I turn to the use of intelligence material as evidence. The issue has arisen principally from the Binyam Mohamed case, and the Government have brought forward a way of dealing with it that may or may not work. I agree with the points made in our annual report about the matter, but what concerns me is that, no matter how Parliament may express itself on the issue, what guidance is given to the judiciary or what clauses are put in Bills, at the end of the day judges who will handle such cases will have to make a choice between, on the one hand, what is in the national interest and important for national security, and on the other hand the conduct of the court and the particular trial that is taking place. My fear is that the conduct of the trial and the proceedings of the court will, in some cases, as in the Binyam Mohamed case, take precedence over what Parliament intended, anything in any particular Act of Parliament, and the national interest. This is not an attack on judges. I have tried to think of this by asking myself, “What if I were sitting in that chair and had to make that choice,” but they might ask, “What am I responsible for?” The answer is that they are responsible for the good conduct of that trial.

Why is that important? Several hon. Members, including the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, who chairs the Committee, have made the point that it is hugely important that the co-operation we have with foreign Governments on intelligence remains something on which we can rely. In turn, it is vital that those Governments feel that intelligence that is passed to the UK will not be made public in court proceedings. I would go slightly further than the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife. I believe that the amount and quality of intelligence that we have received from the US since the Binyam Mohamed case has declined. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that is a difficult case to prove, and I cannot within the confines of this debate give chapter and verse on it—certain issues of which I am aware cannot be discussed in public—but most well informed people who have made a judgment on the matter believe that co-operation between the US and the UK has declined.

That is important not from the point of view of the volume of information that we receive, but because incidents have been prevented on the basis of intelligence co-operation not only with the US, but with other close allies. The reputation of the UK could become such that foreign agencies and Governments feel they cannot share information with us because it will end up being broadcast all over the place in a court case. As has already been said, there is evidence that fishing trips are being made in the British courts to support cases elsewhere.

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I am not necessarily saying that the Government have got it wrong. My point is that we need to think long and hard about how we will handle this, not because of any political matter that might attach itself to the problem, and not even because of day-to-day political relationships with other Governments, but because getting as much information as we can is in our national interest and the interests of the security of our people. I hope that will be addressed fully and sustainably as things develop and in legislation. It should be addressed in a way that does not leave the courts feeling that they can do what they like regardless.

As other hon. Members have said, it is an enormous privilege to be a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee—it is now six years since I was fortunate to be appointed to it. The Committee is sometimes criticised not for what we do, but for what we cannot say. We should be careful in how we deal with that. Hopefully, we are all big enough and experienced enough to know that we sometimes have to take a hit as a Committee and as individuals because some sections of the press and the media want to know what we know and we cannot tell them, but at the end of the day, being able properly to oversee the activities of the agencies and knowing why the public need to be protected overrides our concerns about any criticism we might get in the media.

9.5 pm

Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), who has immense experience in intelligence and security matters.

I have only been a Committee member since the beginning of this Parliament, and this is the first annual report with which I have been involved. I want to put on the record my thanks to former members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy), who have pursued challenging issues with great diligence, tenacity and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley has said, often while subject to criticism simply because the Committee was unable to share with the world at large the information on which it had based its judgments. In some ways, being on the Committee is a great honour, but in others it is a thankless task. Nevertheless, every member, irrespective of their political party, has done their job with tremendous pride and great results.

I also praise the leadership of our Chair, the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind). Since becoming a Committee member, I have noticed not only his ability to get the best out of everybody, which is the most important characteristic of any Committee Chair, but his personal focus, energy and determination to make progress. We would not have the proposals in the Green Paper on strengthening parliamentary oversight, or at least they would not be so good, had it not been for his personal commitment, so he can rest assured and sleep easy in his bed tonight—I am not after his job and I am more than content for him to carry on.

The Committee operates in a spirit of constructive consensus. There is a general sense of personal commitment from all its members—for example, we meet every week, which many members of the public do not realise. I have benefited from the experience of members who have served previously. We have members with extremely

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diverse experience—I have thoroughly enjoyed the contribution by the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), who, as I said in an intervention, had tremendous experience in these matters even before he came to the House. Such experience informs the Committee’s work. Furthermore, we have the undoubted wisdom of our two distinguished Members of the House of Lords, who, in their own ways, make a fantastic contribution.

I want to place on the record—this sounds a bit like an obituary—the work of our fantastic secretariat, which no one has mentioned yet. Its staff are few in number, which is a point I shall come to later, but their breadth of knowledge, their institutional memory and their tenacity in following the threads of an inquiry are extremely impressive and have proved invaluable to the Committee in pursuing our inquiries this year.

We are charged by statute with looking at the administration, expenditure and policy of the services, and much of our work is devoted to that, because we have to ensure that the services are operating properly, acting within the legal framework and seeking value for money. Several hon. Members tonight have talked about the tight budget settlement. It is a fair settlement, given the general economic situation, but nevertheless we must keep an eye on such pressures on the services.

I have been very impressed by the agencies’ openness and frankness with the Committee—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen has said, that is about trust. While we have that trust relationship, they are amazingly open with the Committee, not only on policy and administration matters, but, as has been mentioned, on operational matters. That is an important part of what the Committee does, because we cannot properly consider policy in isolation from the operations governed by that policy. If, therefore, the Committee is to do the job that it is charged with doing, it needs to look at those operations, albeit retrospectively, as hon. Members have said.

Recently, the agencies have given access to our investigator in a way that has been really positive. Owing to time restraints, the Committee inevitably cannot delve into certain issues in order to get to the detail, and our investigator has done some excellent reports on vetting and on the use of consultants and contractors. That is one reason why the proposal to give the Committee more investigative resources is so important. If we are to pursue a wider range of inquiries, we need the ability to do that to a high level of competence.

We have also visited the agencies, using the opportunity to talk not only with the heads of the services and senior officials, but with those operating at the front line on some of the most challenging issues, be they counter-terrorism here in Britain, support for military operations overseas or the development of technology to combat the cyber-threat. Like other members of the Committee, I have been hugely encouraged by the professionalism and commitment of those people in working to keep our country safe, often at great personal risk. Many are young people, and they are enthusiastic and amazingly intelligent. However, I am also heartened by the fact that they have such a well developed awareness that they have to operate within a legal and human rights framework that supports our democratic values both here and abroad. Some people think that there

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might be an almost cavalier attitude towards human rights in the agencies. However, from my discussions with the people involved in operational matters—the people charged with doing this work—I can tell the House that it is hugely refreshing to see that they are almost self-policing when it comes to the legal framework within which they operate. That should give us all some security and assurance.

I pay tribute to those in the services who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are people in our services, whether on military operations abroad or in hostile circumstances, who have died while on duty serving the country. They cannot be acknowledged publicly—the services do their best, in what they can do, to acknowledge them privately—but it is important that we should pay tribute to those who have given their lives in the service of our country. We owe them a great debt.

In the world of secret intelligence, when people are operating in the most dangerous and hostile areas of the world, difficult decisions will always need to be taken, which is why the work of the ISC in scrutinising how the agencies operate is vital if we are to retain public trust in the agencies’ work. The most controversial issues arise when difficult decisions have to be made. It is essential that, while protecting our secrets, our agents and our techniques, we can assure the public that our intelligence agencies operate within the rule of law. The ISC has an important responsibility not only to provide scrutiny, but to perform the essential role of reassuring the public.

That is why we have begun to discuss having an occasional public evidence session. Clearly that cannot apply to the majority of our business, which has to be in secret because we must have that confidential relationship, but there is more to be done. In an age when information is everywhere and when the public are more sceptical about the work of authority in general, there is more to be done to reassure the public that the services are operating within the framework of the rule of law and within a robust human rights framework, too. That is why it is important that effective, independent and properly resourced oversight is available to us.

We have had lots of speeches this evening and, between us, members of the Committee have managed to cover most of the ground, as ever. However, I want to raise a couple of things in the annual report with the Minister and ask him some questions that he might be able to answer in his winding-up speech. He will know that I have long been concerned about the security threat at the Olympics. That is not a partisan issue, because we are all worried about it. We need to ensure that we do everything that we can to protect the public at a time of heightened risk. We have been told that we need 100 extra agents and that it takes a year to recruit and train them. I would welcome an assurance that by the time we get to the Olympic games we will have in place the resources that were promised and that we need to provide that reassurance.

I have to say to the Minister that the Government response to the issues that we raised about the Olympics in our annual report is a little obtuse. It says that the service will be able to

“build further capacity and strengthen the resilience of its processes,”

and that its response is

“designed to be scalable…to maximise agility in meeting surge requirements, while continuing to respond to business-as-usual demands”.

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That sounds to me like something out of a corporate annual business report, so I would welcome a little more clarity—perhaps in plain English—about what the pressures are, what resources are in place and why the Government are reassured that the Security Service is able to manage at what will undoubtedly be a time of increased threat.

I have raised TPIMs many times with the Minister, as has my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins). I thought we had a very good Committee stage on the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill, with many more Members contributing than is usually the case, and the Minister was generous in dealing with the issues that we raised. I am afraid, however, that although he was generous, he has not managed entirely to reassure me. I still honestly believe that it is common sense simply to delay the implementation of the transition from control orders to TPIMs until the Olympic games have concluded. It is not a matter of the Government losing faith; it is not about backtracking; and it is not about moving away from the original policy, with which, incidentally, as the Minister knows, I do not agree. He seems intent on this policy, but to cope with the extra threat without adding extreme layers of risk into what is already a highly charged situation, he could simply say that the Bill will not come into force until October next year. That would at least get us past the Olympics. If he is not prepared to do that, will he tell us in his winding-up speech why he is not prepared to take that straightforward step?

Another issue was discussed by the hon. Member for New Forest East, but not by other hon. Members. This is the issue of the Prevent review and the role of the Research, Information and Communications Unit, which is dealt with on pages 44 and 45 of our report. The Prevent review was supposed to be published in January this year, but it was not actually published until July. That was too late for us to be able to examine its impact, so it is an issue to which the Committee will return. The Home Secretary promised time for a parliamentary debate on the Prevent review, but it has not yet happened. Will the Minister tell us when that debate will take place?

The key issue is to separate Prevent work, by putting it in the Home Office, from the integration work in the Department for Communities and Local Government. The integration strategy—again, long promised—has not yet materialised. It has been trailed in the press today, and if the press reports are correct, one proposal of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is to start a British curry college. I am not quite sure how that fits with an integration strategy, but I am ready to be convinced about the benefits of pakoras, onion bhajis and goodness knows what else! Levity aside, that integration strategy is absolutely key if we are to do the vital work of ensuring that young people feel very much part of British society, so that they cannot be groomed, radicalised and drawn into that world, which, unfortunately, has happened all too often in the past.

I tabled a series of parliamentary questions about the Prevent review, of which the Minister is aware, asking which groups the Government were going to work with, which previously funded groups will no longer be funded because they do not share our democratic values, how we will ensure that groups sign up to democratic values if we are going to work with them in future and what

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practical work will be done on the ground. I have to say with some regret to the Minister that the answers to my parliamentary questions were entirely unsatisfactory. I would go as far as to say, although not in an insulting way, that the answers were stonewalling. If the ISC occasionally cannot answer questions because of secrecy, the Minister seems to be rather expert at not answering my questions. I did not feel that the questions related to secret matters, so I ask the Minister to revisit my parliamentary questions and provide me with some answers.

The hon. Member for New Forest East talked about the significant budget for the Research, Information and Communications Unit, but we have no way of knowing whether it is appropriate, whether it helps to achieve the objectives that it should or whether further evaluation is necessary. I entirely accept that evaluation of Prevent, RICU, counter-radicalisation and counter-narrative is really difficult. I struggled with these issues when I was the Secretary of State with responsibility for this area of policy, but it is essential that we work on evaluation and know how effective we are at steering young people away from extremism. We must minimise the number of people who, unfortunately, are going to find themselves in this territory. There is nothing more pressing for our country. Heaven forbid that we should have another attack. I was a Minister at the time of 7/7. I feel a great personal responsibility on this agenda. Heaven forbid that another event happens because we have not done enough work to be able to identify people early, to steer them away from extremism, to give them a real sense of British identity and to be part of our community. That is why I press the Minister so heavily on these issues.

I think that the problem of detainees is one of the most significant with which we must deal. The Prime Minister has taken a number of actions: he has set up the Gibson inquiry; he has helped to secure a settlement in the Guantanamo Bay cases; he has issued consolidated guidance on the treatment of detainees; and he has drawn up the measures in the Green Paper. However, I feel that both public reassurance and the reputation and morale in the services are at stake.

Last week, in what I considered to be a groundbreaking speech on secret intelligence, the Foreign Secretary said that

“we also saw allegations of UK complicity in extraordinary rendition leading to torture. The very making of these allegations undermined Britain's standing in the world as a country that upholds international law and abhors torture. Torture is unacceptable in any circumstances. It is abhorrent, it is wrong, and Britain will never condone it.”

I think that every single Member in the House today would support that sentiment. The Foreign Secretary also said:

“As a nation we need to be an inspiring example of the values we hold dear and that we want to encourage others to take up.”

In the past—not when I was a member of it—the Committee has taken evidence about the treatment of detainees and allegations of complicity by our services in the maltreatment of detainees by foreign intelligence agencies. I believe that such matters corrode public trust and internal morale if they are allowed to endure, which is why I think it important for Sir Peter Gibson’s inquiry to be as open and transparent as possible—commensurate, of course, with the protection of our national security.

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I want to hear from the Minister when we can get on with the inquiry. I know that there are problems involving police issues and witnesses, but delaying the start of the inquiry’s work and its reassurance of the public can only be damaging. I also know that some people are worried about the inquiry, because they want all the evidence to be published and to be open and transparent, which is a difficult issue. It is the same issue that arises in the justice and security Green Paper about how we should protect information from our allies when national security is at stake.

We are faced with an unenviable choice between completely open inquiries in which key material that would expose our secrets cannot be used and decisions must therefore be based on an incomplete understanding of the facts, and partly closed proceedings in which only members of the inquiry team, or a judge in a court case, have seen the secret material. Closed proceedings are, of course, unsatisfactory, but at least they ensure that decisions are based on all the relevant information. That is the dilemma that must be faced, and the choice that must be made. Do we want open proceedings in which judgments are made in ignorance of the facts, or are we prepared to allow limited, tightly controlled closed proceedings in which it is at least possible to obtain all the information before the person who makes the final judgment?

I do not think that that dilemma can be resolved to the absolute satisfaction of all parties, so compromises will be necessary. That is the real world with which must we deal in relation to security agencies, secret intelligence and the national security of our country. It is always a matter of balancing the risks and making difficult decisions. However, at least in a democracy such as ours, it will be for our elected Parliament to consider some of those matters in future legislation, when there will be the opportunity for a wide-ranging public debate.

In the case of al-Rawi in the Supreme Court, Lord Clarke said that he was not prepared to grant closed proceedings, and that those were matters properly for Parliament to resolve. We, too, need to deal with these issues. I want to hear from the Minister when we will have legislation if he proceeds with the proposals in the justice and security Green Paper. Will there be a separate Bill? Will it be a broad justice Bill? There is an urgent need, and an impetus, for such matters to be resolved.

We have heard a great deal this evening about the Binyam Mohamed case and the control principle. That ground is well established, but it is difficult territory. I commend the Government on the Green Paper, because it takes a great deal of courage to tackle such issues head on. Inevitably, some “voices off” will accuse the Government of being authoritarian and illiberal, while others will claim that they are not protecting information sufficiently to reassure our allies. It is a no-win situation, but at least the Government have gripped it. I merely wish to add my weight and to say, “If we are going to tackle this, let us get on with making it happen.”

We have a range of options. The option that the Government wish to pursue is that of closed proceedings. I well remember, as the Minister who dealt with the control orders legislation, how controversial closed proceedings and special advocates were at that time. That is a departure from our traditional legal system of open, transparent justice, where evidence is presented to

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the court, tested and cross-examined in front of a judge and a decision is then made. I do not think that we have found a better way of dealing with matters involving secret intelligence however, and although all of us would be reluctant to go down this path as it is not something we would want to do, I cannot see an alternative.

I ask the Minister to consider not only closed material proceedings, but the possibility of the presumption of exclusion in certain classes of cases, as proposed in the public interest immunity option, or the assertion of state secrets—again, that would involve a rebuttable presumption that could be put before the courts. In framing the legislation, it is important that the courts understand what the mischief is that we are trying to deal with, which is exactly what they will look at in respect of statutory interpretation.

I support all the Committee recommendations. I agree that we should look at operations retrospectively, as well as considering policy. The Home Secretary said that she is pondering whether the commissioner might look at the effectiveness of operational policy. My understanding is that the inspectors’ role is to look at compliance with policy and the law. Again, I ask the Minister to think very carefully about this, because the last thing we want is confusion between the role of parliamentary oversight in looking at operational policy and the role of independent oversight.

When I have visited the services and met the men and women—there are both men and women—working on our behalf, I am acutely conscious of the need to develop all our staff so they can achieve their potential. I believe that there are currently too few women at senior levels in our services. I have raised that with the agencies. I do not say that every woman is empathetic or a good listener, but women have skills that are vital to our intelligence services. I am the only woman currently serving on the ISC, and the Chair knows that I am pursuing these issues. It is important that we draw on every bit of talent, knowledge, potential and skill in our services, which includes men and women working together. I ask the Minister to reinforce that message.

I commend the report to the House.

9.27 pm

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears). She speaks with compassion and conviction, and she articulates her points very well. She is an asset to the Committee, and it has also been a pleasure to work with her on other Committees.

As the final Back-Bench speaker, I should consider what points are left to be made in what has been a very informative debate. It is important that the British public and Parliament have confidence in the agencies’ ability to keep us safe, and to do so within the framework of the law and our democratic values. I therefore add my congratulations to the Committee and its Chairman on the work they do in helping to realise those objectives.

The Committee has now been in existence for 16 years, since the Intelligence Services Act 1994, and it is clear that greater transparency has been introduced year after year. The security services have, of course, been in existence for much longer than that, but it is also clear that the public remain largely unaware of what they really do. It has been left to romanticised fictional characters, from James Bond to George Smiley, to

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portray the role of our clandestine services, apart from when information has occasionally spilled out into the public domain, such as the revelations about the Cambridge spies and the break-up of the Soviet spy ring in the 1970s. Indeed, so well are our secrets kept that it was not until the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) became Home Secretary that he discovered the existence of his own MI5 file dating back to his days as a student radical. That shows how well our clandestine services can keep secrets.

Our modern-day service dates back to 1909, when it was called the Secret Service Bureau, but intelligence monitoring, collection and interception dates back far further—all the way back to the 15th century. Thomas Cromwell ran secret agents in Europe on behalf of Henry VIII and the famous Sir Francis Walsingham, private secretary to Elizabeth I, developed expertise in secret interception and maintained a network of more than 50 agents abroad. For the sake of completion, we must not forget the masters of intelligence gathering: those in the Whips Office. The party enforcers have long developed that dark art of intelligence gathering and monitoring, not to mention a range of creative punishments lest Members drift astray.

On a serious note, we live in turbulent times and there has been a focus on our secret intelligence services since 9/11. More demands have been placed on them, as our nation expects them to prevent attacks by recognising where they are coming from and intervening before they get out of hand. As I mentioned in an intervention, I believe that after 9/11 too much unchecked power fell into those hands, and the very standards that successive generations fought hard to create, defend and preserve slipped. As the Chairman of the Committee rightly pointed out, there is no criticism of the British intelligence services or their methods of gathering intelligence. We should be more focused on how we use that intelligence, how it was portrayed by the politicians and the consequences of the actions taken after that. Given Guantanamo Bay, rendition, water-boarding, the justification for the Iraq war, dodgy dossiers and so on, hon. Members will recognise that in the so-called “war on terror” we lost our way. I am very pleased that the Chilcot inquiry has finally got off the ground and will report soon. It will provide testament to what went wrong during the justification for going to war.

As a nation, we need to be an inspiring example of the values that we hold dear and that we must encourage others to stand up for. Once damaged, our moral authority in the eyes of the world is very difficult to replenish, so I am very pleased that this Government are overhauling how the security services do business, are held accountable and marshal their resources in a way that serves this country’s overall objectives. Three themes have emerged today. The first is the importance of the strategic defence and security review in providing that strategic direction, which, sadly, was absent for so long under the previous Government. The second is that new guidance is in place so that the courts can be used more appropriately and the Justice and Security Green Paper aims to strengthen our legal arrangements involving cases that require Security Service comment. The third is, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) outlined passionately, the new era of openness and scrutiny that we now expect. I am pleased to see that powers will very much be coming to the Committee to allow it to continue that work. It

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seems strange that we can now talk about Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, Iain Lobban, the director of GCHQ, and Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5. In the past, those names would have been limited to a letter or would not have been known by us at all.

In the remaining minutes, I wish to discuss cyber-security, which I mentioned in an intervention. As the report suggests, this is a completely new dimension, which we have yet to master. It is constantly evolving and is introducing a complexity to security matters that we have not been able to appreciate before. It is also fuelling an explosion of new connections between Governments, economies and citizens. The use of cyber-world is overwhelmingly positive, allowing the transfusion of ideas, thoughts, economies and so on, but it is also a double-edged sword—there is a negative aspect to it. Aspects of the Arab spring have been attributed to the way in which Facebook has been used to communicate in a way that had not been allowed in the past. That of course is very positive, but the internet has been harnessed by terrorists, criminals and, in some cases, states to disrupt and attack. The question I pose to the Minister, which my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned in relation to cyber-security, concerns the number of agencies that have taken an interest in cyber-security. I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend talked about there being 18 units in all. That of course is very positive, because it simply means that every agency, organisation and Department recognises the need to understand and become an expert in this realm. Are we at a point at which there is the co-ordination we require, as illustrated on page 56 of the report, which lists the number of organisations with cyber-security interests?

I also mentioned in my intervention the changes in our society. The generation growing up today is living in a very different world from the one in which I grew up. The computer I first came to terms with was the ZX81, which would probably be found in an antiques store or even a museum now. I hear some chuckles from Opposition Members, and they probably recognise that name. Nowadays, everybody has a computer or has a mobile phone or iPad on their person. We are entering the digital world of the future—it is already the world of today. The liberal way in which youngsters today exchange information quite freely means that we need to ask whether, when they graduate to adulthood and become responsible for credit cards and information in small, medium and large businesses, they will have the same level of caution as we apply in using such technology. We are cautious because we are uncertain of it, because of the generation of which we are part.

There is also a concern about whether small and medium-sized businesses will have the intuition to recognise the importance of cyber-security. There is a worry that the financial crisis will mean that the last thing on any small business’s mind is the consideration of cyber-security and protecting their digital information. Of course, when we talk about cyber-security we have to remember that it is not just about terrorism but about criminality, too.

The impact on our society of the internet and of the digital age is, I would argue, bigger than the invention of the wheel or more significant than the printing press, such is the effect on the world and our lives. If knowledge is power, the internet means power now has no boundaries. The ability to simplify our lives through online banking and shopping is positive, of course, but the internet can

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be terrifying because of the risk of identity theft or, indeed, sabotage, which could lead to disasters such as a head-on rail collision.

If the Cabinet Office leads on cyber-security, we must then ask whether it—or another Department—should lead on educating businesses and the nation. If not, which Department should do that? It needs to be a priority for the reasons I have outlined. We have an opportunity now to harness such work to our economic benefit. We have an aerospace industry that is primed and ready to harness that capability. Can we now be the world leaders in providing protection in cyber-technology? Some of the recognised companies that we are dealing with, such as IBM and so on, are international operations—they are not British—but companies such as BAE Systems Detica and Logica are UK companies and when I spoke to them before the debate it was clear that they were concerned about university training. When we compare the university courses on cyber-technology, we see that only 15% of the content is consistent. That means that people are not sure and the universities are not in agreement about what needs to be taught in the future. There is an opportunity for leverage there.

Finally, it is important to work with our allies, as the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles stressed. The Foreign Secretary said last week:

“Intelligence…is like a jigsaw…we…rarely have all the pieces”.

The analysis of information and working with our partners enables us to piece together each snippet of information to create the fullest possible picture of the threats to our national security and to act against them. We cannot work in isolation on that; we must work with our allies, too. That means training our allies so that they can recognise and work to the same standards as we do, not just in the technology but in the moral standards I spoke about earlier. That allows us to develop links with parts of Governments in other countries and to build capacity and infrastructure support while strengthening our diplomatic and military relationships.

In conclusion, our security services have the skills to assimilate information beyond the reach of everyday diplomacy, filling in the blanks in our understanding of our enemies. So much of their work is unseen and therefore receives little praise. They are our early warning system against those who plot to sabotage us, steal from us or kill us. It is difficult to find a country where the clandestine community performs so well under such scrutiny within the confines of democratic process. By and large, we sleep safe at night, oblivious to the many threats we face as they are dealt with by the service we never see.

9.40 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I pay tribute to all those who work in the security and intelligence agencies for the important work they do in keeping us all safe. I also extend that tribute to the very important work that the Intelligence and Security Committee does in scrutinising those agencies. It is clear from this evening’s debate that the past and current members of the Committee have been very high calibre and senior parliamentarians. The right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) said that they were fully independent and had experience

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and judgment, and that view was echoed by my right hon. Friends the Members for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) and for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears).

The report is excellent and we have had a very good debate on its contents. The current Chair of the Committee, the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), set out the key issues in a very accessible but detailed way at the outset. I should like to pay special tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy), who made such a contribution to the development of the Committee’s work as its Chair. He let us into a secret this evening about the one vote that took place when he was chairing the Committee about which mode of transport the Committee should use on a visit. I am sure that does not offend against the Official Secrets Act.

The report covers the period from October 2010 to May 2011, and we have seen further developments since, including the Green Paper on justice and security. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) made it clear that there had been a long fight to get the Committee established in the first place. It operates under the Intelligence Services Act 1994, so it is now 16 years old. The world has moved on considerably in those 16 years, but so has the Committee. The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) said that recognition of the need to make changes to the Committee was about formalising what it does already.

The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington talked about the radical modernisation of the Committee and mentioned public hearings. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles also commented on the need to look at operational issues as part of the Committee’s remit. My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen drew on his experience to give some wise words about which of the proposed changes he supports. Recommendation JJ in the Committee’s report sets out in full the Committee’s concerns and the changes it would like to be implemented. The Home Secretary gave a positive response in her remarks to many of the proposed changes, including the recommendation about the Committee becoming a Committee of Parliament. We look forward to debates on all the recommendations and whether they will come to pass in the coming months.

I want to touch on the issue that my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary raised about who should chair the Committee, which provoked quite a lot of debate. The key issue is not about the person chairing the Committee being independent—there is nothing in that—but is more about the perception that the general public might have about an Opposition MP chairing such a Committee. The right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife made some very interesting points about the Prime Minister’s role in choosing or having some say in the selection of members in future.

There are a few key issues that many Members have talked about this evening. The first such issue I should like to address is the spending review. It is clear from the settlement for this area that there is an 11.3% cut to the single intelligence account, and a number of concerned Members mentioned the effect of inflation. Because inflation is running at a much higher rate than was previously thought, that figure needs to be monitored. The Chair commented that the Committee recognised the need to be flexible in reacting to any significant changes in the threat when considering the budget allocation that has been made.

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The Government’s response was that they would reprioritise and make sure the National Security Council’s top requirements were given priority, with a reduction in the spend on lower priorities. It is clear that there may be unknown factors lurking around the corner. That should be kept under review. We must make sure that there is sufficient funding to maintain the security of the country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins) made a powerful point about that.

It is interesting that the report identifies areas where savings could be made to meet the 11.3% cut, including more joint working and the possibility of a shared vetting procedure across all agencies. Other issues that should be examined include the use of consultants and internet and language specialists, and whether some of those could be shared across the services. The Chair of the Committee said there were already good examples of joint working.

The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) highlighted important issues relating to assets, the £1 million worth of assets that had gone missing, and the need to ensure that that does not happen in the future. It is interesting to note that the Committee is investigating the value for money of projects it has been concerned about.

The Olympics have been mentioned by many hon. Members this evening. It is clear that the public are concerned about security during the Olympics. Over the past week we have seen much press coverage of the topic, including a parliamentary question about the use of surface-to-air missiles. In the press at the weekend there was mention of the deployment of snipers in helicopters. There was a report last week about the possibility of 500 FBI agents being brought over because the Americans were so worried about security, and the use of the Army to help protect the Olympics.

The report recognises how important this issue is. The Home Secretary said that we were on track, but that is against the background of the policing cuts, which we know are front-loaded and can affect the policing capability at the Olympics, and the knock-on effect on other security services. The hon. Member for New Forest East suggested that we put ourselves in the shoes of someone who wants to do harm. It may be that some other area is threatened, rather than the Olympics. This all has to be considered. I hope the Minister will be able to offer further reassurance on the matter.

On terrorism prevention and investigation measures, my right hon. Friends the Members for Salford and Eccles and for Wythenshawe and Sale East made a powerful case for the Minister to consider delaying the introduction of TPIMs until after the Olympics in order to offer a further layer of protection. I hope the Minister will reply to the queries about whether all the officers are trained and resourced, ready for the introduction of TPIMs if that happens in the next few weeks.