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Mr Lansley: I think I can assure my hon. Friend that Treasury Ministers and others will respect the confidentiality of the Budget statement.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): Over the past two years, Conservative-led Lancashire county council has approved the construction of four brand new primary schools: Laneshaw Bridge primary, a new Church school in Barnoldswick, St Paul’s primary and Whitefield infant school in Nelson, where I am a school governor. May we have a debate on investment in primary school buildings, so that I and other hon. Members can welcome these developments and raise the cases of other schools where investment is still needed?

Mr Lansley: I think that many Members throughout the House will have been pleased by and welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Schools of additional funding for capital projects in schools. Lancashire county council has been allocated basic need funding totalling £112.6 million for the period 2011 to 2015 to support the provision of additional pupil places. In Lancashire, as in many places throughout the country, that will ensure that the condition of schools is improved. It also responds to the demographic pressure moving through the school system at the moment. It is very welcome.

John Pugh (Southport) (LD): Being prevented from talking about Government estimates on estimates day would have puzzled Franz Kafka. Does the Leader of the House recognise that the report on improving parliamentary scrutiny of the nation’s finances mentioned by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) was actually commissioned by the Chancellor because he did not think that that scrutiny was good enough?

Mr Lansley: Yes, my hon. Friend is right. The report has been published, but it would be premature for me to say anything about how we might respond or take the issue forward. There is no question, however, but that we want to enhance scrutiny; this is not an Executive who want to inhibit it. In many ways, we have enhanced the scrutiny of the Executive by the House, and I hope that in this respect we can go further.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Given that the number of applications from hon. Members for Adjournment debates always exceeds supply and given that we are now going to sit on Friday 22 March, will my right hon. Friend seek to enhance his reputation for parliamentary innovation by effectively making that day a Wednesday in Westminster Hall, so that there might be a full programme of Adjournment debates to enhance the House’s ability to hold Ministers to account.

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will know that the House debated this matter and decided last night to sit on Friday 22 March in order to continue the Budget debate. It is scheduled for that purpose, and I know that many Members will want to contribute to that debate, so I would simply limit it to that.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): For the third year running, the NHS staff survey at Medway Maritime hospital in my constituency has reported an

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increase in the number of staff members experiencing bullying. Will the Leader of the House allow an urgent debate or statement on this matter?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend knows that the NHS staff survey this year shows an increased proportion of members of staff who feel they know how to raise issues, but unfortunately no corresponding increase—in fact, a very slight reduction—in the number who fear that their position might be prejudiced if they do so, although the majority still feel that they can and would raise these issues. As he knows, we have to arrive at a position where all staff feel entirely confident and empowered to raise any issues affecting the safety of patients and if necessary—although it should not be necessary—to blow the whistle if they are not being listened to.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): In responding to a debate in Westminster Hall yesterday, the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), made clear his view that consideration of planning approval for onshore wind farms should take place at the same time as planning approval for essential associated infrastructure. In mid-Wales, however, a planning inspector appointed by the Minister has taken exactly the opposite view. May we have a statement outlining the Government’s position?

Mr Lansley: I will ask the Minister of State to respond to my hon. Friend on that issue and, if there is any question of more general application, to report to the House.

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UK’s Development Work (Girls and Women)

11.38 am

The Secretary of State for International Development (Justine Greening): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the UK’s international development work to support girls and women.

Tomorrow, we will mark international women’s day, which takes place amidst the negotiations of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York. The focus of this year’s CSW is on eliminating all violence against women and girls and sending the strongest international signal that the routine, everyday violence perpetrated against girls and women globally must end. The outcome of this year’s CSW is by no means assured, however, and last year’s meeting failed to reach any conclusions, so the UK Government have been working tirelessly to avoid a similar outcome this year.

This week, the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), has been attending the meeting in New York, and last night I spoke to our ambassador to the United Nations to identify what more the UK could do. Both I and my hon. Friend have been playing our role in making the case for significantly upping our work in this area. We have also been making the necessary calls and co-ordinating supporters to get a successful outcome. We cannot afford to repeat the failure of last year.

Alongside that key opportunity at the CSW, I want to inform the House of my intention to step up the UK Government’s support for girls and women in the world’s poorest countries. We have already helped to make great strides globally. Since 2011, our country has supported more than 2.5 million girls to go to primary school and a quarter of a million to make the transition to secondary school. We have helped nearly three quarters of a million women to access financial services, helped to secure property and land rights for nearly a quarter of a million women, and supported 1 million additional women to use modern methods of family planning.

It is also appropriate this week to underline how urgent and great is the need for further sustained action. Around the world, one in three girls and women will be beaten or raped in their lifetime. Fewer than 20% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa have the chance to go to secondary school. A third of girls in the developing world marry before the age of 18, some as young as seven. Despite performing two thirds of the world’s work, women earn only 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property. Women represent only 20% of the world’s political leaders. I do not believe that there can be sustained development when only half a country’s population is involved.

The evidence shows that when the potential of girls and women is unleashed, there are incredible returns for girls and women themselves, and for whole societies and economies. Investing in girls and women is the smart thing to do. An extra year of primary schooling for girls increases their wages by up to 20% and the return is even higher for secondary school. Such education means that women marry later and have fewer children, and that there are better health outcomes for the children they do have.

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Investing in women and girls is also the right thing to do. It is a matter of universal basic human rights. I believe that it represents the greatest unmet challenge of our time. The challenge is about three things to my mind: choice, so that girls and women can choose when they have children and how many; control, so that women and girls are free from violence and can take control of their working lives and incomes; and voice, so that girls and women can be heard and are able to speak out safely in their communities and at the national level. I intend to target DFID’s efforts relentlessly on improving the lives of the poorest girls and women in those crucial areas.

On choice, we will honour the commitment that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made at the London summit on family planning last year. In addition, this week DFID is releasing funding for contraceptives that will help avert about 2.6 million unintended pregnancies, prevent the deaths of more than 4,500 women during pregnancy and childbirth, and avoid almost 65,000 infant deaths, and we will look to do more still.

On Afghanistan, I have decided that the UK country plan will include tackling violence against women and girls as a country strategic priority. As troop draw-down takes place, gains must be built on and not lost.

DFID is developing an ambitious new £35 million programme to combat female genital mutilation and cutting—the biggest ever investment in eradicating the practice. We want to help end the practice in a generation.

I have established a research and innovation fund to drive forward successful initiatives to tackle violence against women and girls, and new programmes that respond to the specific needs of girls and women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syrian refugees.

Later this year, I will launch an international call to action on violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies. An event in the autumn will bring agencies, donors and advocates together to ensure that we all collectively up our game. I have written to the UN emergency relief co-ordinator, Valerie Amos, and the UN Secretary-General to call on them to put the needs of women and girls clearly at the heart of humanitarian programmes, including in Syria, where the number of refugees has passed the terrible 1 million landmark.

Finally, on control, the ability of girls and women to earn an income and control how they spend it is also essential, but the evidence on what works in this area urgently needs building. That is why I have just launched a new partnership with the World Bank for a “gender innovation lab” to test what works in terms of giving girls and women control over their economic lives. On participation, research clearly demonstrates that women’s political participation achieves real changes. So I have agreed funding for a new leadership for change programme, supporting the leadership skills of girls and women and the opportunities for them to make a difference in their local communities and nationally.

As we continue our work on those issues, we will also reach out to new partners. I know that we cannot simply preach to the converted; we need to do what works, working with whoever we can to make it work on the ground. I am therefore establishing an expert advisory group on girls and women, involving people from different worlds and including leaders from the human rights community, the private sector and civil society to help shape my Department’s work in this area.

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During our G8 presidency, we are working across government in support of the Foreign Secretary’s vital preventing sexual violence initiative to ensure that G8 members sign up to pledges on this unacceptably neglected issue. On the post-2015 agenda, we will work to ensure that issues of voice, choice and control for girls and women are central in the new framework. I believe that is critical if we are to become the generation that eradicates absolute poverty.

Britain needs to play a leading role globally, not just by effort but by example. We must all ask the searching questions and never turn a blind eye to women treated unacceptably in our own country. Yesterday’s shocking EU report highlighted that there are 65,000 victims of female genital mutilation in the UK and a further 30,000 at risk. I pay tribute to the work that my ministerial colleague the International Development Under-Secretary has done, not just at home, but abroad, in tackling this issue. However, we have to be prepared to fight that battle here in the UK as well as internationally. So I believe that today, the day the before international women’s day, is a key opportunity for the House to come together in support of seeking irreversible gains in rights for girls and women and an end to violence for girls and women. I know that hon. Members will wish to send a collective signal of support for this goal—they will want it to come not just from the Government, but from Parliament as a whole—and I commend this statement to the House.

11.47 am

Mr Ivan Lewis (Bury South) (Lab): I thank the right hon. Lady for advance sight of her statement, and from the outset may I make it clear that we support the important work that she and the Foreign Secretary are doing on the crucial issues of the rights of girls and women, and tackling violence against women?

It is an indisputable fact that there is a direct correlation between women’s rights and progress in developing countries, especially in conflict-ridden and fragile states. Of course, sustainable investment matters, which is why I want to begin by asking the Secretary of State how she can justify the Tory-led Government’s consistent failure to enshrine the UK’s 0.7% commitment in law. Last Friday, a Tory Back Bencher once again blocked the progress of the private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mark Hendrick). May I remind the right hon. Lady that her party’s election manifesto promised to legislate on this in the first Session of Parliament? Is it not time she reminded her Back Benchers —left, centre and Tea party—that they each stood on that manifesto at the last election? If the measure is not in the Queen’s Speech, that will be not only a broken promise, but yet more evidence that although the Prime Minister may still be in office, he is no longer in power.

On the eve of international women’s day, it is right that we think about how UK aid can be focused to address the scourge of violence against women and girls. On my most recent visit to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo with World Vision, I saw for myself the terrible impact that sexual violence has on the lives of women, their families and their communities. One woman told me how three soldiers from a militia group had gang-raped her and left her for dead. In the same attack her husband and three children were taken away and she never saw them again. Every day, that woman and many

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like her cope with emotional and physical scars that may lessen over time but will never heal. It is essential that we tackle the culture of impunity, as well as the underlying causes of violence against women. More needs to be done to help women whose lives are blighted by violence and conflict. Will the Secretary of State say what her Department is doing to encourage the involvement of women in peacemaking and political reconciliation design and processes, and in bringing to justice those who use rape as a weapon of war?

International co-operation and co-ordination to prevent sexual violence in conflict on the ground is central to any response. What are the Government doing to address the fact that action against gender-based violence internationally remains chronically underfunded? Will she join me in expressing support for the One Billion Rising campaign led by Eve Ensler? Organisations such as UN Women have great potential but they do not have the long-term financial support required to fulfil their important mandate. The aim is to join up the work done across the UN on gender equality and women’s empowerment, pooling resources to increase its impact and reach. As a member of the UN Women executive, will the Secretary of State tell the House what steps the UK Government are taking to encourage other donors—private or public—to help ensure that UN Women has the core funding it needs to continue its work and support women’s empowerment and gender equality?

I am reassured to hear that the Under-Secretary of State for International Development is taking a leading role in UN negotiations on the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Will she please clarify what specific outcomes she is seeking to achieve and what criteria she will use to judge success?

The Secretary of State is right to focus on giving women choice through quality educational opportunities and access to essential family planning and education programmes that will help avert unintended pregnancies and prevent deaths. As she is aware, however, US restrictions specifically related to abortion mean that humanitarian aid managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross cannot be used—shamefully—for victims of rape. Norway has made a bilateral request to the US that it lift the abortion ban on humanitarian aid for women raped in war as a matter of US compliance with the Geneva conventions. Will the UK follow Norway’s example and make similar representations to our US allies?

I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement of a new programme to combat female genital mutilation. Like I and every Member of the House she will have been horrified by the statistics that were revealed this week. I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for International Development who has worked over a long period to highlight an issue that has not been given enough attention in the past. In that context, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to end the practice in the UK, working with colleagues across the Government, and how can we go further and provide protection against forced marriages and domestic abuse?

Finally, I am reassured to hear that the Secretary of State is prioritising women’s rights and empowerment in discussions on a new post-2015 development framework.

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Does she agree that only a clear focus in that new framework on inequality and human rights will ensure an end to the exploitation of women across the world?

Justine Greening: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman started his remarks in a tone that did not particularly fit my statement, but in response to his question, it is the Government’s intention to enshrine the aid target of 0.7% in law. I emphasise, however, that we have already been getting on with that this year.

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman had a chance to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and he rightly spoke about the need to tackle some of the underlying root causes linked to attitudes and social norms. Such factors are one reason why it is particularly challenging to make progress in this area. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach and our work must be country-specific and tailored to the needs of that country. That is precisely what we do, and we are working in about 20 countries. A good example of such work is the Tawanmandi programme that the Government have supported in Afghanistan. It works with a number of community groups but sits alongside work nationally to strengthen women’s participation at a political level.

We must also work—as we do—to strengthen justice systems so that when crimes take place there is no sense of impunity for those crimes, and steps can be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. We have all seen the shocking statistics about the lack of justice for women who suffer sexual violence during conflicts, which is why the Foreign Secretary is right to champion this issue.

My Department has supported the One Billion Rising campaign, and I am delighted to say that the online petition on our website has been signed by nearly 30,000 people. It is an important matter, which is why the CSW is right to focus this year on eradicating violence against women.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the role of UN Women. It is still a relatively new organisation, having been set up in 2011. It is an amalgamation of some existing UN agencies that have worked in the area of women’s rights. I have spoken with Michelle Bachelet on a couple of occasions about the work that UN Women does. She is clear that the organisation needs to reform in order to be able to work more effectively at the UN level and in terms of its programmes at country level.

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Government have introduced the multilateral aid review, which systematically looks at the effectiveness of taxpayer money as used via multilateral organisations such as UN Women. That organisation was not in existence the last time we carried out that review, but I hope that it will get a good score in the next MAR. We are working with UN Women to ensure that it can achieve that.

The hon. Gentleman asked about our aspirations for the CSW. If he has read the draft conclusions being debated in New York this week and next, he will see that they are strong conclusions and we should resist any watering down, although we should also recognise the element of negotiation in the process. I can assure him that the work that we have done in public and private includes lobbying; cajoling countries that often stay silent to speak up; and encouraging like-minded countries

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that are in favour of the CSW’s conclusions to work together. That work has seen a significant increase this year compared with previous years. It would be a significant backward step for women’s rights if we were to fail to reach good, strong conclusions at this year’s CSW, and we are working towards reaching those conclusions.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about abortion. We all recognise how sensitive that issue is, but the UK has often been one of a handful of donors who are prepared to fund work to ensure that women can have safe abortions, especially when they have become pregnant through violence and in conflict situations. We recognise that this is a sensitive area for other countries, but I can assure him that we raise our concerns. It is an important area, and the UK can be proud that in spite of it being a sensitive issue we have ensured that we provide support to women who need it in that situation.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. It is incredibly heartening and we are all very encouraged by it. I especially welcome what she said about female genital mutilation. In the last few years through the all-party group, I have had the privilege of meeting some fantastic grass-roots campaigners from Africa. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that we will support these amazing people—mostly women—working in country and with diaspora communities, to find out what really works on the ground and to back them up in their brave and important fight?

Justine Greening: We are supporting the UN joint programme in work in this area. My hon. Friend is right: some of the strongest advocates in ending FGC are those people who have themselves suffered. It is a terrible practice. Interestingly, it is not a religious practice, and we can enlist the support of religious leaders in making the case in their communities about why this practice should end. It is worth saying that the EU report published yesterday confirms that work remains to be done right here in the UK, and we must not shy away from that.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, but a lot of the aims are being put at grave risk by continuing sexual violence in conflict situations. Strengthening the terms of the draft arms treaty is one thing that could make a difference. What discussions is the Department having with the Foreign Secretary on this important matter?

Justine Greening: I assure the hon. Lady that the Department has discussions with the Foreign Office, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State leads that work. She is right that the focus on women and girls, particularly in relation to the prevention of sexual violence in conflict, must run through the Government’s work, not just in DFID but in other Departments too, and that is why I welcome the Foreign Secretary championing the initiative. It will also be on our G8 agenda; we will be beating the drum to ensure that other G8 members sign up to that effort and join us.

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): I wholeheartedly welcome the statement. I am proud of the work that the Government are doing to lead the world on gender equality, and in particular I commend the Under-Secretary of State for

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International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), for her work in New York. However, we must ensure that other countries play their part. The Prime Minister is co-chairing the high-level panel to devise the next set of millennium development goals in Bali later this month. Will the Secretary of State urge him, in that leading role, to press for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment?

Justine Greening: I have been clear that I believe we need a stand-alone goal, and that we need to see these issues right the way through any new development framework. As my hon. Friend knows, the debate on what the new development framework should be once the millennium development goals come to an end in 2015 is at an early stage, but I can reassure her that, having been to the first two meetings in London and with the Prime Minister in Liberia, there is an understanding that it is vital for the issue of gender, which was in one of the MDGs in the first development framework, to be in the next framework.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): I would like to press the Secretary of State a little further on the issue of Syrian refugees, which she touched on in her statement. The number of refugees has now hit the 1 million mark, and two-thirds of them are women and children. The UN has said that it lacks the funds necessary to deal with the crisis. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary said that the UK

“will seek new ways to relieve the humanitarian crisis”.—[Official Report, 6 March 2013; Vol. 559, c. 962.]

Will she elaborate a little further on what that will involve? Does she anticipate the UK increasing its financial contribution to the aid effort?

Justine Greening: The UK has played a leading role not only in providing financial and humanitarian assistance to help alleviate the suffering of the 1 million refugees and, in addition, the many displaced people within Syria, but in beating the drum for other countries to step up to the plate. The Kuwait conference I attended a few weeks ago saw Arab nations, in particular, begin to put in significant funding. The hon. Gentleman asks what more we can do. I am prepared to do more. Unfortunately, if we continue to see refugees streaming across the Syrian border into neighbouring countries, it is likely that we will need to do more. As I said in my statement, I raised formally at the UN the issue of how we deal with women and girls. That needs to be carefully thought through and never missed in our humanitarian work. From looking at similar situations, such as in Haiti, we know that it is easy for the plight of women and girls to be missed. They are never more vulnerable than in such situations. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue, and I assure him that we are raising it in the UN to ensure that the risks are mitigated wherever possible.

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): I congratulate the International Development Secretary on her statement, which clearly demonstrates the UK’s commitment to women’s rights around the world. I particularly welcome her commitment to tackling violence against women as a strategic priority for Afghanistan. Does she agree that we should ensure that human rights

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defenders and women in public office in Afghanistan are protected? They are particularly targeted for abuse and violent intimidation when they stand up for women’s rights. These women are our allies in ensuring and improving women’s rights in Afghanistan and we should be doing more to protect and support them.

Justine Greening: In short, I agree with my hon. Friend. Some of the most courageous people I have met during my time in this role were the women I met when I went to Afghanistan at the end of last year. They are amazing women who are literally putting their lives on the line to stand up for women’s rights in Afghanistan. They should be supported in doing that, which is precisely why I believe it is now time to make this issue a more strategic priority in the work DFID does in Afghanistan.

Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South) (Lab): Last Friday I took part in an event at Aberdeen university which showed a moving film called “Sister”, which highlighted the reality for pregnant women in developing countries. The film was a graphic demonstration of why millennium development goal 5, on maternal health, is still some way from being met. What action are the Government taking to improve maternal health in developing countries and increase the survival rates of women and their babies?

Justine Greening: Interestingly, in spite of all the progress that has been mentioned, there is a huge issue, with issues in childbirth and pregnancy still representing the largest reason for death among girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries. We are addressing that through a range of health interventions in many programmes, but also through family planning, as I have said, and, critically, education. We know that the better educated women become, particularly if they not only get to primary school, but go on to secondary school, the later they start their families and the healthier those families will be. However, there is still a huge amount of work to be done in this area, and that is what we are getting on with.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I think the whole House will welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Does she agree that all the millennium development goals are important in supporting women and girls? For example, on water and sanitation, if girls have appalling sanitation when they go to school, they will be less inclined to stay there. They will drift away from school and remain illiterate. Some 40% of girls in countries such as Ethiopia are illiterate; therefore, our family planning and other initiatives tend to fall on deaf ears and those girls miss out on life chances. When we look at post 2015, we need to ensure that we take all the millennium development goals forward and not cherry-pick one or another. They are a comprehensive set that all need to be taken forward if we are to support women and girls.

Justine Greening: My hon. Friend is right. Recently I saw some research showing that while men in developing countries viewed water and sanitation as their seventh highest priority, for women it was number two. Interestingly, I think I am right in saying that the No. 1 priority for both men and women was getting a job. I will be making a speech next week about how DFID can help to make that happen.

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Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): When I asked about the arms trade treaty at Foreign Office questions on Tuesday, I was assured that although no DFID Minister was going to the talks later this month, they were very much taking an interest in it, working the phones and so on. I was therefore concerned by the Secretary of State’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore), which implied that the issue is simply not on her radar at all, when it is so important to the matters addressed by her Department, such as poverty among women and gender-based violence. Can I urge her to give it real priority?

Justine Greening: I can assure the hon. Lady that I do give the issue priority. I am making a statement today precisely because I think that the issue of women and girls is so important in all aspects. I hope she can welcome that. To reiterate, I take her point on board. I regularly meet the Foreign Secretary to discuss the work our two Departments do together and I can assure her that this is precisely the sort of issue I discuss with him.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on the excellent job she is doing and on today’s statement. On the issue of abortion, although I completely understand that women who are subject to sexual violence and other issues that bring about unwanted babies might want access to abortions, will the Secretary of State assure the House that there will be strict criteria for the use of British taxpayers’ money for abortions and that it will not be for abortion on demand?

Justine Greening: I think I can provide that assurance. Our involvement has not been about the rights and wrongs of abortion. In countries where abortion is permitted, and where we can support programmes that make safe abortion possible rather than allowing unsafe abortions, that is what we have focused on.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I very much welcome today’s statement. Earlier this week, I chaired a joint meeting of the all-party parliamentary groups on international development and the environment and on water and sanitation in developing countries. We learned that, notwithstanding the huge progress that has been made on access to water, sanitation and hygiene, women and girls are consistently and substantially left behind when we measure success, not least because of the taboos around menstruation and childbirth. Are the Government confident that the ways in which they intend to measure the effectiveness of their new initiatives will fully capture their impact on women and girls and uphold their basic rights and dignities?

Justine Greening: I am confident, but there is a lot of work to be done. At a basic level, we are now focusing on gender-disaggregated data, so that we can understand the impact of our programmes in terms not only of overall value for money but of how they impact on men and on women. That is a significant programme of work for us. The hon. Lady is right to highlight this point, and we are increasingly starting to look at how our programmes affect women and girls explicitly.

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Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): With the support of DFID, ShelterBox, a very good charity based in Cornwall, is delivering practical support to refugees in Syria and Lebanon. What more can be done to support the women and girls who are fleeing from the dreadful atrocities in Syria—particularly the sexual violence that is being committed against them?

Justine Greening: There are a number of things. First, we must ensure that we have human rights monitors who are able to go into Syria so that we can find out for ourselves what is happening on the ground. Secondly, many of the women who are leaving are by that stage the head of their household as their husbands are no longer with them, and we must ensure that they get not only the care, often medical care, that they need but counselling for the trauma that they—and, often, their children—have gone through in order to make it to the refugee camps.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I welcome every word of the Secretary of State’s statement, but I want to dispute one letter. She spoke of setting up an expert advisory group on girls and women. Will she also ensure that it is an expert advisory group of girls and women? Perhaps it could include people such as my constituent Samira Khalil, a young woman from an Afghani family who was educated in Brent North and is now studying at Cambridge, or Faisa Mohamoud, who works for the Help Somalia Foundation and who could tell the right hon. Lady a thing or two about female genital mutilation and how it affects that community. Let us make sure that it is a women-led group with women’s experience at the heart of it.

Justine Greening: I suspect that it will be women-led, although there will be no absolute bar on men being involved.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her excellent and very encouraging statement. Does she welcome the warm endorsement that Kate Allen, the head of Amnesty International, gave to the Government’s policies on women and girls on Monday?

Justine Greening: Yes, I was delighted by that. It was very good of Amnesty to allow me to make my speech at its headquarters here in London. Amnesty has been pressing us for some time to focus more strategically on the work that we are doing, particularly on women and girls in Afghanistan, and I was pleased to be able to set those policies out to Kate on Monday.

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): I welcome the priority that the Secretary of State is giving to women and girls, and I hope that she welcomes the work that the International Development Committee is doing on the subject at the moment. I once asked the noble Baroness Afshar, before she was appointed to the House of Lords, what would make the most difference to British development policy in supporting women and girls. She said that it would be to ensure that there always had to be a woman’s signature on the cheque book. When the Secretary of State is talking about budget support, will she seek to ensure that, when decisions are taken by the Governments to whom we give money, women Ministers in those Governments are required to sign off any decisions before they are made?

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Justine Greening: I am not sure whether we can go quite that far in practice, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the focus on women and girls will become a more hard-coded bit of our Department from now on. For example, our multilateral aid review is currently under way, but when we do our next one in 2015, the way in which multilateral agencies look at the issues of women and girls will be one of the factors that we use in assessing their performance. He is right to say that we want to see countries moving in the right direction on this agenda. The debate that is happening in New York, in which the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), has been involved this week, shows that that is a challenge, but it is one that we need to meet head on.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I thoroughly commend my right hon. Friend for her powerful and moving statement. Will she commend the work of the Global Poverty Project, which has done so much to promote the empowerment of women as one of the five principles that are absolutely essential to rescuing societies from poverty and despair? Can she tell us what support she is giving to the project in order to help it in this important work, which is winning the argument?

Justine Greening: I will write to my hon. Friend about the precise support that we are giving to the project, but I can say that some amazing work has been done by such organisations. In the UK, Emmeline Pankhurst was being arrested for fighting for votes for women 100 years ago. It is staggering that in so many other countries, women’s rights are still at such a basic level and still having to be fought for. I said this week that the issue of women’s rights remains one of the greatest unmet human challenges that the world faces, and it is incredibly important that we do anything we can to work with those organisations to raise the issue and do something about it.

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): Last April, members of the associate parliamentary group for the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan and I visited Lakes state in South Sudan and saw for ourselves the enormously empowering effect that smallholder agriculture projects can have on women’s economic rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Will the Secretary of State tell us what investment plans her Department has to support women’s economic development in that region during the remainder of this Parliament?

Justine Greening: I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development has looked at this area. Sudan and South Sudan are among the most challenging areas in which we carry out our work, and women’s economic empowerment in the region is incredibly important. In countries such as Kenya, women have access to only 1% of land titles, and without collateral, women cannot get a loan. Without a loan, they cannot develop their businesses. Much of our work is related to access to finance, as well as to allowing and helping women to grow the small businesses that they want to run, many of which involve agriculture and farming.

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Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): In recognising international girls’ and women’s day, may I say how sad it was that the Opposition opened up by complaining about the 0.7% of GDP official development assistance spending? They had 13 years in which to correct that position, and this Government are already spending that amount. It was sad that they had to open up with those comments.

I commend my right hon. Friend’s powerful statement, from which I will take away some stark statistics. Women perform two thirds of the world’s work, but they earn only 10% of the income, own 1% of the property and hold 20% of the leadership positions. That suggests that there is much more work to be done. She mentioned that there had not been a good outcome at the UN talks last year. Will she tell us what needs to happen this year to ensure that that outcome is not repeated?

Justine Greening: All countries that have been keen to see the strong draft conclusions agreed have been lobbying furiously behind the scenes and in public. I have had two conversations with Michelle Bachelet, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has done some excellent work this week in New York on behalf of the Government as the cross-government champion on violence against women. At EU level, we have encouraged a unanimous EU approach to the issue. However, there is no doubt that those countries that do not want to see progress have also been getting organised, and there is no guarantee that we will be able to avoid a repeat of last year’s outcome. That would be a tragedy, and it is one that we are desperately trying to avoid.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I was disappointed with the last speaker’s remarks, as it has been demonstrated here that there is a lot of support across the House for what the Secretary of State has done. I, for one, welcome her statement. Will she tell me what progress has been made to stop the trafficking of women?

Justine Greening: The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that we are nearing completion of a programme that will up our game in combating human trafficking. We have done a lot of work on it, although it is not quite finished in the sense of us being able to roll it out. We want to do more work on the subject. I have met the head of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking, my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), who has campaigned tirelessly on the issue himself. One of my Department’s roles is not just to focus on countries in which we see women’s rights being eroded, but where aspects of that relate to the UK, to see what we can do by working with UK Government Departments to stop this terrible trade.

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): The Secretary of State rightly makes a lot of empowerment, and I commend the work of her Department in Nigeria, particularly on the development of school-based management committees and girls’ clubs in primary schools. Solidarity is an important facet of dealing with the problem and the Department has gone a long way to achieving it, although there remains much to do. Also critical is the need for more women teachers.

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Justine Greening: I thank my hon. Friend for those words. Nigeria is a huge country, and we have a very large education programme—two programmes, in fact—that can be a real challenge to deliver, particularly when we are often working in remote rural areas. As he says, part of our work is to make sure that we have a programme that sees girls able to talk about issues and to get educated at the same time. The issue of women teachers is a particularly important one. We often see—not necessarily in Nigeria, but across the world—women teachers being intimidated not to get involved in teaching. The earlier little girls can see role models of women doing jobs, having successful careers and earning income, the better. That is why the issue is so important.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con): My wife grew up in Kenya and now sponsors a family there through Plan UK. Has the Secretary of State had a chance to speak to Plan UK about its assessment of how we can help women and girls in Kenya?

Justine Greening: I have not met Plan UK explicitly, although I know it is coming into my Department in the next few weeks. Its work in Kenya has, I think, been transformational. Real progress is being made in Kenya generally. Where I would like to see my Department doing more is in helping the country’s economy to develop. Ultimately, alongside developing public services and improving basic services, Kenya needs economic growth and jobs. Interestingly, UK companies did £1 billion-worth of trade with Kenya last year. I have no doubt that companies will have a role to play in joining the development push where Kenya is concerned.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. She will know that Pakistan will be one of the largest recipients of UK aid by 2015. One of the biggest problems facing Pakistan is population growth and lack of family planning, which has led to about 80% of maternal deaths. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Government of Pakistan to address these issues?

Justine Greening: I was in Pakistan a few weeks ago, and I had the very same discussions that my hon. Friend mentions. Interestingly, much of the work we do for girls in Pakistan is focused on education. We have a huge programme, focused particularly on states such as Punjab, that provides young girls with the chance to go to primary school and then on to secondary school for the very first time. We know statistically that when girls spend more time in school, they are less likely to start a family quite so early. Alongside direct family planning and access to safe family planning, that is one of the best ways of tackling these issues in the long term.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): All who believe in fairness through gender equality will welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to maximise the British voice on the international plain, we must focus absolutely on gender mutilation and other abuses here in Britain, as well as on other equality issues such as the continuing wage gender gap?

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Justine Greening: My hon. Friend is right; in a nutshell, we have got to walk the talk. However sensitive and difficult it can sometimes be to discuss what is happening in our own country on women’s rights, particularly regarding FGM or forced marriage, I think we have to have that debate. It is time that we did. I hope we can lead by example. I pay tribute to the work that my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport are doing in this area. If we are to be credible, that work is vital and it must go on alongside the work my Department is doing.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her statement and on all the work she is doing as Secretary of State for International Development. She quite rightly mentioned in her statement that she will apply special measures to the Afghanistan programme, but which other countries that are recipients of UK aid have most to do to improve their record on women and girls?

Justine Greening: Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to single out any particular countries, but we know that when we invest £35 million to tackle female genital cutting, we are aiming to eradicate the practice in 15 countries. In some communities, however, this practice is starting up, so we are not necessarily combating a problem that has reached its zenith so that we are trying to get it down to zero. We are working against the tide in some places, so I am not going to single out particular countries, not least because we want to hold out a hand to them to get them to move along the path we want. We are careful about how we manage to achieve that.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Yesterday, I attended a meeting hosted by Raja Najabat Hussain, the chairman of the Jammu Kashmir self-determination movement, and met the head of the women’s wing of that organisation to mark international women’s day. Kashmiri women and girls have been deeply affected by the dispute in the region and have been denied their basic human rights for far too long. I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said about her work in areas such as Afghanistan and Syria, but what more can we do to support the women and girls of Kashmir?

Justine Greening: We have talked a lot about education and health today, but some of the work on justice and strengthening justice systems is also important alongside that, as is ensuring that the right laws are in place at the legislative level, so that women and girls have recourse at the national level. Those are the other building blocks that we should try to ensure are in place. Part of what DFID does is to work with institutions to strengthen them so that they are better able to deal with these issues—from a top-down basis, as well as from a grass-roots programme bottom-up basis. My hon. Friend mentioned the particular area of Kashmir, which is representative of the fact that in many of the places where DFID does its work, the circumstances are incredibly challenging—so much so in some cases that it is quite hard for our staff practically to get out and deliver the job and the programmes. Yet that is what they do, and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the DFID staff in all those countries whose living conditions are incredibly challenging. They get on with their jobs and make a huge difference to the people they help.

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Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Raising my daughter over the last 10 years has been one of the most important roles I will ever carry out. I seek assurances from my right hon. Friend that when it comes to DFID projects, fathers and responsible male role models are, wherever possible, made part of the upbringing of disadvantaged girls?

Justine Greening: I can give my hon. Friend those assurances. We are funding programmes in Nigeria, for example, which do just that. Part of the research that we are conducting on violence against girls and women and how it can be tackled relates to how we can change attitudes and involve boys and men in the eradication of such violence.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): It is very sad that some people are suggesting that there are more slaves in the world than there have ever been before. As a delegate to the International Committee of the Red Cross, my wife watched slavers moving across south Sudan towards the middle east with girls, boys, women—mainly—and a few men. What measures can my right hon. Friend take to try to stop this abominable trade?

Justine Greening: My hon. Friend is right to raise that issue. It is 180 years since the House passed an Act abolishing slavery, but in reality, as he says, that is the day-to-day life that many people face. I assure him that I work tirelessly with the Foreign Secretary to combat it.

We must tackle the problem at national and international levels and at the grass roots, but if we are to tackle some of the root causes, we must also enable people to be more valuable if they stay where they are, which means ensuring that they are educated and have skills. The biggest value that they have should lie in their staying put and doing a job domestically. In future, the economic development aspect of what DIFD does will need to constitute a far bigger part of its overall work than it has in the past. Ultimately, trafficking and slavery are about money, so we need to change the money argument if we are to see a real change in outcomes.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): Last week I was a member of a Conservative Women’s Forum panel discussing sanitation and water. A representative of WaterAid said that some of schools that are now being built—and it is fantastic that girls are getting into schools—do not have bathrooms. Can we do anything about that? Should we not take all possible opportunities to achieve the millennium development goals referred to earlier by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry)?

Justine Greening: My hon. Friend is right. It is often not good enough just to establish the infrastructure. We need to ensure that we have looked at every aspect of the barriers that prevent girls from going to school.

When I was visiting family members back in Rotherham the other day—I will keep it brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker—I opened the Rotherham Advertiser to see the headline “Knickers for Malawi”. Two women in Rotherham are collecting knickers and sending them to little girls in Malawi, because, as we know, one of the reasons parents are reticent about sending their girls to school is their

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worry about the girls not having the appropriate underwear —and who can blame them? We need to remove some of those unusual and unpredictable but important barriers, as well as investing in the obvious infrastructure.

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Point of Order

12.33 pm

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I apologise for clumsily trying to make it earlier.

During business questions today, the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle)—to whom I have given notice of my point of order—referred to me and to an article in The Sun. I was under the impression that it was a convention in the House that a Member who was to be mentioned by another should be given notice. If the hon. Lady had done that, I should have been able to inform her that the comments in the paper to which she referred were completely untrue, and that I am in the process of exchanging letters and seeking an apology and a retraction. However, at least this point of order has given me an opportunity to put it on record that I do not believe that the Prime Minister is sexist in any way, and also that the House should celebrate unconscious bias training as a way of increasing diversity, which we should all want.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Let me say in fairness that the shadow Leader of the House apologised to me for having to leave because she had to attend a meeting that was about to start. She waited as long as possible.

The hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) was in the Chamber when she was mentioned in passing. It was not a personal attack; it was merely a mention of the hon. Lady, so the normal custom did not apply. If the hon. Lady had not been present and it had been a personal attack, one would have expected her to be notified.

The hon. Lady is, rightly, seeking a retraction from The Sun. That is not a matter for the Chair, but let me say that the House wishes her well.

Business without Debate


Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 56), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question put forthwith, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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Justice and Security Bill [Lords]

[2nd Allocated Day]

[Relevant Document: The Eighth Report from the Joint Committee of Human Rights of Session 2012-13, Legislative Scrutiny: Justice and Security Bill (second Report), HC 1014.]

Further consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

Clause 1

The Intelligence and Security Committee

12.35 pm

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I beg to move amendment 8, page 1, line 7, leave out ‘nine’ and insert

‘an elected Chair and eight other’.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 9, page 1, line 9, at end insert—

‘(2A) The Chair is to be a member of the House of Commons elected in the same way as the Chairs of Departmental Select Committees.

(2B) A person is not eligible to be elected as Chair of the ISC unless that person—

(a) has received the formal consent in writing of the Prime Minister to that person’s candidature, and

(b) is not a Minister of the Crown.’.

Amendment 10, page 2, line 3, leave out subsection (6).

Amendment 11, in schedule 1, page 16, line 5, after ‘person’, insert

‘elected as the Chair or’.

Amendment 12, page 16, line 7, after ‘(2)’, insert ‘The Chair or’.

Amendment 13, page 16, line 12, after ‘is’, insert ‘the Chair or’.

Amendment 14, page 16, line 16, leave out

‘Parliament by virtue of which the person is a member of the ISC’

and insert ‘Commons’.

Amendment (a) to Government amendment 58, line 11 at end add—

‘(e) may make payments to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and House of Lords in respect of any expenditure incurred, or to be incurred, in relation to remuneration payable to ISC members in respect of their membership of the ISC.’.

Steve Baker: Before I deal with amendments 8 to 14, which stand in the name of, among others, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie), I should explain that my hon. Friend has been unavoidably diverted by long-standing and immovable duties in relation to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. He sends his profuse apologies to the House.

I am acutely aware of what is at stake in relation to the Intelligence and Security Committee. In 2009 the Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report entitled “Allegations of UK Complicity in Torture”, which considered the ISC’s ability to work within a circle of secrecy and yet deliver credible scrutiny. It states:

“The missing element, which the ISC has failed to provide, is proper ministerial accountability to Parliament for the activities

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of the Security Services. In our view, this can be achieved without comprising individual operations if the political will exists to provide more detailed information to Parliament about the policy framework, expenditure and activities of the relevant agencies.”

The provisions in the Bill are therefore welcome on the whole, but amendments 8 to 14 would remedy a crucial deficiency in the struggle to provide that political will to answer to Parliament.

The amendments would have a very simple effect. They provide for the election of a Chair of the ISC from the House of Commons on the same basis as the election of Select Committee Chairs, apart from the fact that candidates would be required to obtain the formal consent of the Prime Minister in writing before standing. Ministers would be ineligible.

There are three reasons why reform of the ISC is needed. First, it tried, but failed, to get to the bottom of British involvement in rendition; its investigation of British complicity in extraordinary rendition was a test that it failed.

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): As an ISC member of seven years’ standing, may I say that I take grave offence at what the hon. Gentleman has just said? We looked very thoroughly at the evidence on rendition, and arrived at suitable conclusions. I think that to make a blanket allegation of that kind without providing any evidence to back it up, which I hope he will now do, is unacceptable.

Steve Baker: The hon. Gentleman’s intervention has slightly pre-empted a quotation that I was about to give. In a recent pamphlet, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester wrote:

“The ISC found no evidence that the UK agencies were complicit in any extraordinary rendition operations and concluded that, during the critical period (from 2001 to 2003), the agencies had no knowledge of the possible consequences of US custody of detainees generally, or of Binyam Mohamed specifically.”

He went on to say:

“The opposite was the case. Successive court judgments have now made clear that the UK ‘facilitated’ the interrogation of Binyam Mohamed. Furthermore, High Court judgments in February and July 2009 concluded that crucial documents were not made available to the Committee by the Secret Intelligence Service, which led to the Committee’s Report on Rendition being inaccurate”.

I see the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) shaking his head, and I regret that he is offended, but the reality is that allegations have been made about the Committee’s performance, and made credibly, by my hon. Friend. What the amendments seek to do is not to haul the Committee over the coals, but to demonstrate that there is a strong, clear case for the Chair to be elected.

The ISC thought that it had reached the truth, but it had not. MI6 had been complicit in extraordinary rendition, and it was left to the courts to expose the truth.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I am following the hon. Gentleman’s argument with interest. What evidence does he have to suggest that the information would have been provided if the Chair had been elected by this House? We all want that information to be provided, but how would this proposal fix the problem?

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Steve Baker: It is, of course, very difficult to prove such things conclusively, but I will come on to discuss the evidence that the election of Select Committee Chairs has made those Committees more authoritative, which is a point the Government have endorsed. First, however, I want to raise two other issues.

Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): As the Chairman of the Committee that produced the report, I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that it would not have made the slightest difference if I had been elected by Members of this House, as opposed to being appointed by the Prime Minister, as I was.

Steve Baker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving his opinion, and I do not mean any slight against him personally, of course, but before addressing that specific point I would like to talk about the experience the House has had since Select Committee Chairs have been elected.

The second reason why the ISC needs reform is that its independence has been compromised by its ties to the Executive. In recent years, a string of appointees have come out of Government to chair the Committee, only to return to the Front Bench afterwards. Until the June 2009 reshuffle, all of the preceding three Chairmen of the Committee went straight back into senior Government posts. They were Ann Taylor, now Baroness Taylor of Bolton, and the right hon. Members for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) and for Derby South (Margaret Beckett).

Despite Standing Order No. 152E, introduced under the previous Prime Minister, Kim Howells was appointed as Chair by that Prime Minister in October 2008 without the involvement of the Committee of Selection. Experience of Government is no doubt valuable, but the revolving door between the chairmanship of the ISC and the Government should be blocked. It is damaging to the Committee’s credibility.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, especially as I must apologise because I will not be able to attend much of this debate as I have to travel overseas.

I put it to my hon. Friend that the point he makes is already met by the reforms in the Bill, because in future not only will the House of Commons have to approve any member of the Committee and be able to reject recommendations from the Prime Minister, but the Chairman will be elected by the Committee members from among themselves, who in turn will have been approved by the House of Commons. It was the Prime Minister who appointed me and all my predecessors; that is the current situation, but he will no longer have that power.

Steve Baker: My right hon. and learned Friend accurately reflects the Bill’s contents, but as I shall explain later, I do not think it is right that the Chair should be elected by the nominated members of the Committee approved by the House. I think the Chair should be elected by the whole House under secret ballot.

Mr Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the situation outlined by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington

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(Sir Malcolm Rifkind) would be analogous to MPs being chosen by sitting MPs? True democracy means that those outside the little magic circle of the Whips’ favourites have a say.

Steve Baker: I perhaps would not have chosen precisely the same words, but I entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s sentiments.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I am sorry to disagree with both my hon. Friends, especially as they really are my hon. Friends. That analogy breaks down because this is not MPs being elected by other MPs; rather, it is the Chair of the Committee being elected by a group of MPs who will have been chosen with the final say-so of the House of Commons. The other point I would simply make is that I do not think people who know either me or my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) would regard us as falling entirely in the Whips’ narks category.

Steve Baker: Since my hon. Friend has brought me on to this territory early, let me deal with these points now, first by saying to my right hon. and learned Friend that I well remember the month when he became Secretary of State for Defence, because it was when I graduated from initial officer training. I am very well aware of his august experience and the extent to which it exceeds my own. I am also well aware that my hon. Friend is a man of great character and integrity and personal courage. This is not really the issue, however. The issue is the institutional arrangements we put in place not necessarily to constrain my right hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend, but to ensure the Committee is credible both now and in future.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I want to be clear about my hon. Friend’s position. Is he concerned that, as on previous occasions, I might be asked to rejoin the Government in the near future? If so, I would be grateful if he would share any relevant information with me.

12.45 pm

Steve Baker: As I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend knows, I am often in close contact with the Whips, but not usually on that matter.

The third reason why the ISC needs to be reformed is that it has seemed unwilling to demonstrate that it challenges the information it receives from the intelligence and security agencies. The Joint Committee on Human Rights found the ISC’s 2007 report on rendition to be “opaque” and too readily accepting of the accounts presented by the agency heads, without sufficient justification.

The crucial reform that is necessary is direct election of the Chair by the House of Commons. The Wright Committee—the Committee on Reform of the House of Commons—thought extremely carefully about this issue. Paragraph 74 of its report states:

“The credibility of select committees could be enhanced by a greater and more visible element of democracy in the election of members and Chairs.”

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It also states:

“Their election by a small group of Members, acting under party constraints, is evidently not conducive to producing a truly independent figure with the required weight inside and outside the House which House-wide election might confer.”

That is precisely my point.

Those of us who were elected in 2010 have experienced first hand only the operation of Select Committees under Chairs directly elected by the House, so I personally struggle to draw a comparison. However, in responding to the Liaison Committee’s second report of Session 2012-13 on Select Committee effectiveness, resources and powers, the Government acknowledged:

“Chairs of select committees are now elected by the whole House, giving them increased authority and independence.”

Who am I to disagree with the Government on this point?

That is precisely the reason for these amendments. It may suit the Government to be scrutinised by carefully selected nominees who elect a Chair from among themselves, as the Bill proposes, but the risks to the credibility of the Committee are obvious.

Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is seeking to make the perfectly logical and rational argument that the Chair and membership of the ISC are analogous with the Chair and membership of other Committees. Does he not accept, however, that as the ISC deals with intelligence matters and our secret intelligence services, other factors must be taken into account, because the trust relationship—not collusion or a cosy relationship, but a trust relationship—between the agencies and the members of the Committee is crucial to effective scrutiny? If the agencies do not have that confidence and trust, they will be less forthcoming.

Steve Baker: The right hon. Lady’s question pre-empts some of my other remarks, but let me just draw her attention to what amendment 9 states:

“The Chair is to be a member of the House of Commons elected in the same way as the Chairs”

of other Committees, and:

“A person is not eligible to be elected as Chair of the ISC unless that person—

(a) has received the formal consent in writing of the Prime Minister to that person’s candidature, and

(b) is not a Minister of the Crown.”

So the Prime Minister, and the security establishment, would have the opportunity through that procedure to approve or reject a person who wished to stand for election as Chair of the Committee. That is not a perfect situation, but it is one that recognises the point the right hon. Lady makes.

Dr Julian Lewis: This is meant to be a helpful intervention. I think my hon. Friend accepts that if we are to have this Committee that is unlike any other in that it is the only Committee with access to top-secret, classified information, it is not good enough simply to say that any Member of this House, however honourable, who happens to be fortunate enough to win an election should automatically be appointed Chairman of such a Committee. Am I right that my hon. Friend acknowledges that that would be an impossible situation?

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Steve Baker: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend on that point, but that is why the amendment is phrased in the way that it is. It does not seek that individual members of the Committee should be elected; that is a compromise that those who introduced it have agreed to. There is agreement that Committee members should be nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by the House, as the Government have proposed. The crucial distinction is that the Chairman, who is the key figure of the Committee, should be elected by secret ballot of the whole House and that that Chairman should have been previously agreed to by formal consent of the Prime Minister in writing, which gives the Prime Minister and the security establishment the opportunity to exclude any Member who might not be an appropriate person.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Has my hon. Friend taken on board the ultimate argument against his amendment—that is, the invidious position in which it would put the Prime Minister of the day? If someone has sought to stand as candidate for the Chair and the Prime Minister has refused to give his consent, that is not a private matter. That would become a public matter and the Prime Minister would either have to refuse to give his reasons or, if he did give his reasons, those might be very damaging to the reputation of the individual Member concerned. When the ISC considered this question, as we did when we were putting forward our original proposals to the Government, we rejected that idea precisely because it would put the Prime Minister in an invidious position that he could not be expected to carry out without creating much greater problems.

Steve Baker: I recognise that my right hon. and learned Friend is advancing that argument with the best possible intention, but we live in a time when, because of terrorism and the fear of terrorism in particular—to pre-empt my concluding remarks—there has been an encroachment on our fundamental principles of liberty and justice, which we see elsewhere in the Bill. It is in that context that we must make sure that the security services are held properly to account in a transparent and credible way.

Here is the crucial point: in other Select Committees, transparency can do the heavy lifting, but as has been mentioned, transparency is not available in relation to the ISC. Precisely because of that, we need an elected Chair. I appreciate that the Prime Minister might find himself in a position where he had to reject a candidate in advance of their election, but that is surely a better option than going forward with a Committee whose independence from prime ministerial patronage can be questioned. I appreciate that the Prime Minister might have to engage in some politics on this issue, but that is after all his job.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): Like others, I do not take offence at the argument, but I think the hon. Gentleman’s representation of the nature of those who serve on the Committee is a long way short of my experience, if I may put it that way. Am I to understand that no matter how well qualified a Member of the House of Lords might be to chair the Committee, the hon. Gentleman’s amendment would preclude that from ever happening?

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Steve Baker: Let me take both those points. I do not wish to cast any doubt on particular members, but we are in a position where the Committee’s success can be questioned and we need to deal with that on an institutional basis. Yes, the substance of the amendment would preclude a Member of the other House from being the Chairman of the Committee.

Amendments 8 and 9 provide for the election of the Chair from the House of Commons on the same basis as departmental Select Committee Chairs, with the exception that they would have to have the Prime Minister’s consent to their candidature. The amendments do not make provision for the election of members of the Committee. We think that together these amendments would lead to increased authority and credibility for the Chair, which is not to cast any aspersions on my right hon. and learned Friend. I feel sure that if he stood for election, I would be strongly inclined to vote for him. The point is to set up the institutions so that they are beyond reproach. Amendments 10 to 14 are consequential on amendments 8 and 9.

In conclusion, as I said, the problem is that terrorism and fear of terrorism have led Governments—for honourable reasons, I do not doubt—to erode principles that ordinarily we would regard as sacred principles of our systems of justice and liberty. I refer in particular to closed material procedures, but also to terrorism prevention and investigation measures, which have been dealt with on other occasions. In that context, it is vital that the House, the wider public and non-governmental organisations are reassured that the security agencies are answerable to the House, albeit in secret, through a Chair who enjoys the authority conveyed on him by Members. That is why we have tabled the amendments, and I hope that the House will adopt them.

Mr George Howarth: I shall try to be brief because I know that a great deal of ground needs to be covered in these debates. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) has served a useful purpose by ventilating the issue through the amendments. I do not want in any way to detract from that. First, however, he bases the argument on an event that he portrays inaccurately, and I will say a word about that in a moment. Secondly, in trying to make the role of the Chair subject to the will of the whole House, he fails to understand the nature of the composition of such a Committee and the responsibilities placed on it, and I will also say a few words about that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) was the Chair of the Committee when we examined the issue of extraordinary rendition. The way that the hon. Gentleman portrayed what we did grossly misrepresented the process that we went through. First, as my right hon. Friend has just reminded me, there was a break at one point in our consideration of the Bill at the request of the then Government while further information was forthcoming.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman implied that vital information had not been put before us. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen said in an intervention, the information that we did not have at the time did not change our conclusions at all. We subsequently got that information and, in further annual reports, we pointed out that there was a problem with retrieval of the information that the agencies held. It was never a deliberate

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attempt on their part to mislead us and the information concerned did not materially affect the conclusions that we drew. So the example that the hon. Gentleman uses to justify his case is, frankly, wrong.

Steve Baker: Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept the substance of the court judgments made around the Binyam Mohamed case?

Mr Howarth: There is a whole separate debate to be had about that. The hon. Gentleman rightly referred earlier to part 2 of the Bill, which deals with closed material proceedings. There are a number of problems with the Binyam Mohamed case, the main one of which concerned the doctrine known as the control principle. That creates serious problems for our relationships with partner agencies, particularly the United States, but if I were to go too far down that road, Mr Deputy Speaker would pull me up because we have already dealt with amendments to part 2. The process of considering the issues by the Intelligence and Security Committee is not as the hon. Gentleman portrayed it.

On my second point, I shall be brief because in his intervention the Chair of the Committee cleared that up. We have gone a very long way to making the ISC more like a Select Committee, but it never can be identical to a Select Committee, as I think the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, because of the nature of the material that we have to deal with. As a member of the Committee, I am content that the appropriate person to have the final say and to have the recommending powers on who is an appropriate person to chair that Committee should be the Prime Minister of the day—not that I do not trust the House of Commons. As a long-standing Member of the House, I have every confidence in it, but in this one exceptional circumstance I do not think that that is the appropriate way to do it. Although in democratic terms the hon. Gentleman’s amendment is well intentioned, I do not think it is appropriate.

Steve Baker rose

Mr Howarth: I will give way, then I intend to conclude.

Steve Baker: Why does the right hon. Gentleman consider it inappropriate to give the Prime Minister of the day the opportunity to approve—or reject—the candidacy of particular Members and then allow them to go forward, with the benefit of that approval, to be elected by the whole House so that they can enjoy the authority of the whole House? My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), who is no longer in his place, advanced the argument that the Prime Minister would be in an invidious position, but that does not seem to be what the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about. Why should we not have prime ministerial approval and then an election?

Mr Howarth: Because, as I have already said and as the hon. Gentleman acknowledges, the ISC is a different kind of Committee. The people concerned are handling different information—information that they cannot share—and there are occasions when there is an ongoing operation, things are moving at a fast pace, it is impossible to convene a meeting of the full Committee, and the Prime Minister, the heads of agencies and the Foreign Secretary—whoever is relevant—have to be able to talk

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to somebody. On some occasions the Chair has been the person they speak with, which is entirely appropriate, but in order for them to be able to do so the Chair must have the confidence of senior Ministers and the heads of the agencies. I think that is an important principle. Otherwise, they will feel inhibited about sharing vital information, which often has to be provided at very short notice, with the Chair at least.

1 pm

Mr Carswell: Is not it precisely because the Committee’s work is so vital—in some senses it is more important than almost any other Committee, because it relates to fundamental issues of statecraft and national security—that there should be at least some modicum of democratic accountability, albeit under the system of de facto licence, as identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker)? It is precisely because that work is so vital that it should not be left to the grandee system to ensure that the people who are meant to be overseeing what happens are awake and alert to the job.

Mr Howarth: The hon. Gentleman’s intervention seems to be predicated on the view that the Committee is entirely unaccountable, but that is not the case. We produce an annual report and other reports during the course of the year, and they are debated in both this House and the other place, along with other matters we have dealt with over the year. Therefore, to that extent there is accountability. In that sense the way the Committee operates is already similar to the way Select Committees operate, and it will become more so as a result of the Bill.

However, I still think that whoever chairs the Committee has a special role and that an appropriate veto over an individual’s promotion to it has to be in the hands of the Prime Minister of the day. I have no reason to believe that the current Prime Minister, who is not a member of my party, would not perform that role properly. I also believe that no Prime Minister would promote the candidacy of someone they did not think would have the confidence of the whole House, not just that of the Committee. In that context, I think that the accountability is already there. It might be a little bit opaque in some respects, and in others it might be indirect, but it is there and it is appropriate.

Dr Julian Lewis: I would like to confine my remarks to an elaboration of a point that was made very effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), who sadly is not in his place at the moment. There seems to be a conflation of two separate concepts: whether the election of the Chair directly will aid the Committee’s credibility; and whether it will aid the efficacy of its performance. For the life of me, I cannot see how the method for electing the Chair would make any difference whatsoever if, for example, the Committee was carrying out an investigation and one or other of the security agencies chose not to supply it with certain information that ought to be supplied. I would have thought that the best insurance for an agency supplying the information that should be supplied is the consequences of what would happen if it did not do so and the omission came to public attention, as it inevitably would.

Steve Baker: If the Chair is elected and enjoys the authority of the House, apart from any prime ministerial patronage or the appearance of it, he would have the

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authority, and not just with the agencies, but in the public sphere, to be able to tell the Prime Minister that he was dissatisfied with the information provided by a particular agency, and in that way the two mechanisms come together and authority over the agencies is increased.

Dr Lewis: I am afraid that I do not think that cuts any ice whatsoever, because one cannot be in a position to be dissatisfied with information that one has not been given and does not know exists. The suggestion, which is implicit in my hon. Friend’s intervention, that the person who was Chair at the time of the particular historical episode to which he refers—it was before my time on the Committee—would have acted in any way differently had he been elected, and that he did not act simply because he felt insufficient legitimacy to do so because he had not been directly elected, is frankly unrealistic.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) seems to overlook the fact that changes in the Bill will massively strengthen the Committee’s position. The Committee will be able to require information to be provided, whereas previously it could only request it. That is a huge difference. The position of the House of Commons will be strengthened vis-à-vis the Committee’s membership, because previously the House could express an opinion about whether it had approved the people nominated to be members, but in fact the Prime Minister had the final say, whereas now the House will have the final say. If the House does not like the cohort of people who have been nominated, it can throw them out and the Prime Minister will have to nominate someone else.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe is focusing his attention on a really rather narrow issue, because the House of Commons will have the final say on who all the members of the Committee, at least from the House, will be, which at the moment is seven of the nine. Therefore, those members, who will themselves have been directly appointed by the House on the nomination of the Prime Minister, will then be in a very strong position to choose one of their own number to be Chair.

I will say one more thing on the matter. I do not think that the world would collapse if my hon. Friend’s amendment were successful, but we are taking a giant stride in the right direction. One thing I have found through working on the Committee is that it, probably more than any other Committee—all Select Committees like to flatter themselves for being relatively non-partisan—is totally non-partisan. Even if one wanted to be partisan, there is no one there to watch one being so, so there really is not much point. I can honestly say, as I said in an intervention at an earlier stage of the Bill’s consideration, that if anything unfortunate were to happen to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), who chairs the Committee, I would almost certainly find myself voting for the Chair, if I had the option of voting for another Committee member, on a non-party basis.

I do not think that what my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe is proposing would be earth-shatteringly damaging if it went through, but I really do not think that it is terribly necessary, and I am concerned that people would put themselves forward and say, “I wish to be in this position,” only to find that they had been

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vetoed, for reasons they could not be told, by the Prime Minister. That would be a coruscating experience for all concerned.

Paul Murphy: Had I been inclined to support amendments 8 to 14, my inclination would have dropped dramatically over the past half hour as a consequence of hearing the speech made by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker). I do not think for one second that the Committee’s significance depends on the Chair. The Chair is an important member of the Committee—the first among equals. During the two years I chaired the Committee, including the period when we considered extraordinary rendition, there was certainly unanimity among the members, as the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) has just mentioned, as there is now, so the Committee had to come to a consensus.

It is preposterous to argue that whether or not the Chair had been elected would have made the slightest difference to the report on rendition or to the Committee’s eventually recommendations. That issue can be dealt with in another place and at another time, although the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie), who was supposed to move the amendment—we have had an explanation of why he cannot be here—had a particular interest in rendition, but Members of the House will know that the Committee dealt with a host of other important issues affecting this country’s intelligence services.

Twenty years ago, the Committee started on a journey. Before the law was changed, there was no Committee of this House—in the Commons or the Lords—to deal with the intelligence services. Indeed, just before the inauguration of the Committee, the very existence of MI6 was denied publicly by the Government. In those 20 years there has been a dramatic shift in how the intelligence services have been made more accountable. The latest of those shifts is proposed in this Bill, which is a very good Bill in that regard. The accountability and transparency that it requires—there is obviously a limit to how much transparency one can have when dealing with the intelligence services—is something that I am sure we all welcome and support.

I support the proposal that the members of the Committee—who, by the way, are themselves subject to approval by the House of Commons and the House of Lords—will decide on who the Chairman of the Committee is to be. The Prime Minister does not do that. The Prime Minister could have a say in who the members are, but ultimately the House of Commons makes that decision. Those members will know among themselves who they feel to be the best person for the job. We have to bear it in mind that this is not a Select Committee. If it were, it could be argued that its Chair should be elected in the same way as for a Select Committee, but it is not—it is a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. The Chair of the Committee, who is usually, and should be, a Member of this House, reports to the House annually, and a debate is also held in the other place. Having the members themselves choose the Chair of the Committee is a very significant development.

The Committee can never be the same as a Select Committee, because if it were, it would not be doing its job. It has to command the trust and the confidence of the intelligence services because of the nature of the business they deal with. The only way to do that is to

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have people on the Committee who are trusted not only by their colleagues here and in the House of Lords but by the three agencies, so that they can ensure that there is the fullest flow of information of highly sensitive and secret detail that the Committee can deal with. That is why it is different from other Committees. I think that the proposals in the Bill, which have been refined over the past couple of years, are such that everybody will be able to support them today.

Another matter covered in this group of amendments is the way in which the ISC is financed. Under the Bill, the Committee is no longer a statutory Committee—it becomes a Committee of Parliament. As a consequence, the Government will pay Parliament for the workings and expenses of the Committee. I fully support the Government amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) is going to discuss the remuneration of the members of the ISC—more particularly, that of its Chair. Of course, all of us who have held these positions over the years have had no remuneration. I welcome and support this development and only wish that it were retrospective so that I could claim two years’ back pay, but that is not going to happen. My hon. Friend’s amendment refers to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which I hope will support this measure. I also hope that the Chair of the ISC will get the same remuneration as is paid to the equivalent Chairs of Select Committees: in this case, I imagine, the Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Defence Committees. The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) is extremely hard working in his position, and I believe that this is a right and proper thing to do.

Sir Menzies Campbell: I have the good fortune, in the interests of brevity, to be able to acknowledge all that has been said on both sides of the House, but I would like to add a thought or two of my own.

This Committee is sui generis; there is nothing else like it. To seek to bring it within a certain structure runs the risk of ignoring the fact that it has particular characteristics. The Chair of the Committee has particular characteristics, too, because by convention the Committee does not talk to the press. When any request is made for information from the print or electronic media, the proper course of action, which, if I may say so, I have studiously followed since my election, is to refer the matter to the Chair of the Committee. The Chair then finds himself in a very difficult and sensitive position regarding the extent to which he is able to respond to possibly legitimate inquiries about the work of the Committee, in so far as that is consistent with the fact that he, like all of us, signs the Official Secrets Act. No member of any other Select Committee in the House of Commons does that. Particular skills are therefore essential for the chairmanship of this Committee that are not necessarily required in the chairmanship of other Committees. I respectfully suggest that those who are best able to assess those skills are the members of the Committee themselves. Of course, they must have confidence in their Chair.

1.15 pm

The Prime Minister has the ultimate responsibility for security under our conventional constitutional arrangements. That is why his role must be acknowledged, and I believe the Bill does exactly that.

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One of the consequences of amendment 9 is that no member of the House of Lords, however well qualified, could ever become Chair of the Committee. I do not suggest that that would be a matter of routine, but there may, in exceptional circumstances, be an individual who, by reason of experience, judgment and knowledge, would be particularly suited, and it would not make much sense if the Committee were not in a position to endorse that individual for chairmanship.

The amendment contains an inherent contradiction. It begins:

“The Chair is to be a member of the House of Commons elected in the same way as the Chairs of Departmental Select Committees.”

As I said, this Committee is different in that its Chair has to sign the Official Secrets Act. The amendment goes on to say that he must have

“received the formal consent in writing of the Prime Minister”.

That is not an election that accords with the way in which Chairs of departmental Select Committees are elected.

Steve Baker rose

Sir Menzies Campbell: I will finish this point, if I may.

The amendment contains a contradiction in saying that we must elect the Chair in accordance with general circumstances while adding an extra requirement. That would make it a little difficult to maintain the unqualified democratic support that the mover of the amendment sought to persuade us to accept would be part of the process.

Steve Baker: I admire the way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is attacking my amendment and seeking to show a contradiction. We all agree that this Committee is different because of its need to access classified information, and that is the reason for having a different provision that does not exist in the case of other Select Committee Chairs.

Sir Menzies Campbell: First, I had a concession on the peers and now I have a concession on what appears to be an inherent contradiction.

It seems to me that these provisions meet the necessary requirements of a Committee that is sui generis and that they are entirely in accord with the extension of scrutiny and responsibility that the rest of the Bill provides.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): Let it be stated from the beginning—this should be made absolutely clear—that this is not about the integrity of any member, past or present, of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I am certain that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker), who moved the amendment, is under no illusions, because it would be defeated in a vote. I hope there will be a vote, but am not sure that there will be.

I think that this has been a useful debate, however brief, because we rarely have the opportunity to debate how ISC members are appointed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) has reminded us that until about 25 years ago there were no statutory regulations on the security agencies. I remember clearly

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my attempts to have debates on M15 and so on in the 1980s, but they were not welcomed, to say the least. In so far as M15 and M16 are accountable to Parliament, I thought it only right and proper that we should have the opportunity now and again to discuss their role.

As I stated many years ago, let me make it clear—in case anyone thinks otherwise—that I am not against the security agencies. Even when there was no acute terrorist threat such as that which we face now, I made the point time and again that every democracy has a right to protect itself and should have some sort of agency against those who want to do harm to it.

What we are discussing today is not, as I have said, a matter of integrity, but whether the House should have an opportunity to elect those who serve on the ISC. I see no reason why we should not do that. I do not like the view that has been expressed, more or less, that the security agencies could veto people whom they do not particularly like.

Mr George Howarth: I do not think that anybody is advancing the argument that the heads of agencies or the agencies themselves should have a veto. It is merely that they should be able to feel confident in the person who chairs the Committee. The difference is subtle, but they are two different things.

Mr Winnick: When the agencies were put on a statutory basis, however, and appointments duly made, it was argued that if certain people were made members the security agencies would not supply the information requested because they would not have confidence in them. I do not believe that it is possible to divide the House into those Members who can be relied on in that manner and those who cannot. There should be no such division. Are any of us who have the honour to be elected Members of this House fellow travellers of terrorist organisations or willing to betray the trust of our country? I do not accept that Members can be divided accordingly.

If the Chair of the ISC and its members were elected by the whole House—that is not going to happen at this stage, unfortunately—they would have more authority and more credibility. That does not mean that, had the Committee been elected in the past, it would have come to different conclusions. That is not what I am saying; what I am saying is that, instead of appointments, there should be elections, as is the case with Select Committees.

Paul Murphy: My hon. Friend is making a speech that he has made for many years and his important views are sincerely held. Does he not accept, however, that there has been a big change in the system, in that the appointment of Members of this House to the Committee is subject to the approval of us as Members of Parliament? That was never the case before.

Mr Winnick: Yes, of course, and that is an improvement. I do not challenge that. Indeed, as I have said, placing the agencies on a statutory basis was an improvement and a step forward from what happened previously. I hope that, when Members on the two Front Benches agree—I do not know when that will happen—the next step will be elections, which will be far better for credibility, which is essential, than appointments.

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It seems odd that we are debating, in the 21st century, whether elections are desirable for Committee positions. I would have thought that we passed that stage some time ago.

Paul Murphy: Does my hon. Friend not accept, however, that this is a joint Committee and that other such Committees of the House are not elected, but subject to parliamentary approval in exactly the same way?

Mr Winnick: Yes, I do accept that, but it would be useful if Commons members of the Committee were elected. What they do in the other place is entirely a matter for them.

As I said at the beginning, this is a useful debate that gives a minority of us the opportunity to express our views. I hope that, in due course and over the years ahead, the House of Commons will make the sort of decision on this matter that some of use would like to see.

Mr Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West) (Con): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick). I am sure I have agreed with him on previous occasions, but I am not sure on what issues. I agree with the thrust of his remarks. Like him, I start by saying that I have the highest regard for those of our colleagues who currently serve on the Intelligence and Security Committee and those who have done so in the past. It is not my view that we would get better people to serve on the Committee if we elected them, but neither do I think we would get worse people.

Having been elected by colleagues to serve as a member of the Wright Committee on Reform of the House of Commons during the previous Parliament, and given that one of our recommendations has been discussed, I want to make a brief contribution to this debate. Of course, we made other important recommendations, including the introduction of elections for Select Committees. I hear what other Members have said about this being a different type of Committee that is not entirely analogous to Select Committees, but when we considered our proposals we heard all the same arguments—that it would lead to frivolous appointments, that the House would behave in a partisan way in choosing Select Committee Chairs or members, and that the House of Commons could not be relied on to do this in a reasonable, rational way.

Although I did not realise at the time that my election as chairman of the 1922 committee meant that I would be responsible for conducting the elections of Conservative members to Select Committees—I inadvertently increased my work load considerably as a result—I think, three years on, that those elections have been a great success. The Chairmen are good people who have been elected for the right reasons, which demonstrates that we have made a wise change.

We reflected long and hard on this recommendation for a particularly important and sensitive Committee, and that is why we also recommended a safeguard that it should not be possible for somebody to be a candidate for election as Chairman of the ISC if they did not enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister. I am entirely open to other suggestions as to how it could be done.

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I think that it is important to have a safeguard and that, with that safeguard in place, an election would be entirely reasonable.

The question, as we have heard, is whether it would make a difference to the stature or efficacy of the Committee if it were elected rather than appointed. It could make a difference in either direction. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) ably argued, the Committee could enjoy a higher stature as the result of an elected status. One hopes that that will be the case in due course. Some Members have raised the fear that it would have a lower status. They argue that potential members and Chairs of the Committee might not enjoy the confidence of the security services in particular and that, therefore, the Committee would function less well.

Again, I do not believe that to be the case. I think that fundamentally the House is capable of reaching that very serious conclusion, making that judgment and choosing somebody on the basis that they would be the right person to serve as Chairman. I join those of my colleagues who have fallen over themselves to stress that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), who sadly has had to go on travels elsewhere, is an admirable Chairman. I would be delighted not only to vote for him, but to propose him as Chairman. He would be an obvious choice.

1.30 pm

Paul Murphy: I am listening to the hon. Gentleman’s argument, but I am convinced that we are not getting to grips with the difference between Joint Committees and Select Committees. The ISC is a Joint Committee, like the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and is appointed. Is it not ironic that an unappointed Committee should have asked for another Committee to be elected, even though it had the same status?

Mr Brady: The right hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point. We are engaged in a process here. There has been a considerable amount of reform. The hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) alluded to the history: 25 years ago there was no oversight, then we got an oversight Committee and now we have a proposal to allow a parliamentary veto of its membership. Like him, I find it hard to believe that this is the last stage in that journey, and I suspect that 25 years from now we might have different arrangements in the other place and be looking at a completely different constitutional arrangement, which Joint Committees will have to reflect.

For me—I cannot speak for the other members of the then Committee on Reform of the House of Commons—the fundamental point is not about the ISC, which I suspect would have much the same membership, would behave in much the same way and, like now, would have a high status and be held in high regard by the House. Fundamentally, this is an argument about the House of Commons and whether we have the self-confidence to believe that we should be taken seriously as a Parliament and a representative Chamber and whether we are prepared to take on this enormous responsibility. Just as the election of Select Committee Chairmen and members has enhanced the House, I believe that eventually this next step will also enhance it. It will prove us capable of making that responsible judgment and ensuring

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we have a Committee overseeing these vital and sensitive matters that is chosen democratically, but which is capable of enjoying the respect of the Government, the security services and the whole country. That could be done in a slightly more open and democratic way.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I plan to speak to amendments 8 to 14, which deal with the election of the ISC Chairman, and then Government amendment 58, which deals with the broad proposals for the financing and resources required by the ISC. After that, I shall speak to amendment 58(a), which stands in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary and would make provision for payment to members of the ISC.

It has been helpful having this debate and hearing the experiences of past and serving members of the ISC and other hon. Members who have taken an interest in the area for many years. It was important to hear the historical context and the explanation of why we are in this position. My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) explained that when the ISC was set up in 1994 it represented a huge change in the relationship between Parliament and the security services and that we have been on a journey ever since—this is part of that journey. It was also interesting to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) said about the fight to get the ISC set up. It is important that we understand the history and why we are in this position, but we must also recognise the important work that the ISC does, and I pay tribute to all its members, who put an enormous amount of time and effort into their roles. It is vital that the public have confidence in the security services, and that demands confidence in their oversight.

In our debates in the other place and here in Committee, there were extensive exchanges between the Government and the Opposition about how to strengthen the role of the ISC. Since inception, the ISC has been composed of Members of Parliament, yet because of its unique nature, it has often been portrayed more like a component of the Executive, not least because its secretariat is provided by the Cabinet Office. The Government have now finally decided, however, formally to constitute the ISC as a Committee of Parliament. Changing its name to the “Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament” emphasises not only that the ISC is composed of parliamentarians, but that they are doing the work of Parliament while serving on the ISC.

In Committee, we debated whether to move to a full Select Committee status for the ISC, and there was lengthy debate about what it would mean and how it would operate. I think there was clear recognition from both sides of the House that the special nature of the role of the ISC and the sensitive and secret information it routinely dealt with made its constitution worthy of separate and special consideration. Many parliamentarians are calling for reform to be hastened. I would like to set out the Opposition’s view. My right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary has called for the ISC to become a Select Committee. We recognise that, were that to happen and because of the special nature of its work, we would have to consider the most appropriate way of appointing a Chair.

We think that amendment 8 gets the matter the wrong way around: it would deal with the election or appointment of the Chair, whereas we need to deal

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first with the fundamental issue about the status of the Committee. The Bill provides for a Committee of Parliament, with the rules for its operation and procedure laid down in statute. Hon. Members will know that Select Committees are not created by statute, but formed by a resolution of the House and governed through Standing Orders. I recently reread the chapter in the book by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) about the ISC and what reforms were needed. Of course, he referenced the Wright Committee recommendations about the ISC’s becoming a Select Committee and having an elected Chair, just like other Select Committees.

The problem is, however, that in the Bill the Government are establishing the ISC as a Committee of Parliament, not a Select Committee. We are, then, in a very different place from the established Select Committee structures. I note the comments of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker), but amendment 8 would give the ISC the partial look of a Select Committee, when it actually is not a Select Committee. I also note that setting out in a Bill how the Commons should elect a Chair is problematical, because the House is governed by Standing Orders. Will the Minister say whether it is in order to put in a Bill a mechanism for how the House should operate?

My second problem with the amendment, which has been touched on by right hon. and hon. Members, is that it would require the Prime Minister to give written consent to any Member wishing to stand as Chair. As has been recognised, that does not happen with any other candidate for a Select Committee position, although it goes some way to recognising the special nature of the Committee. It would present lots of problems, however, as it would mean that the Prime Minister could decide not to endorse a candidate—an elected MP—as not suitable for a role, which would put the Prime Minister in a difficult position. I am not sure it is one we want to move to.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Let us imagine that, say, half a dozen people wanted to apply. Has the hon. Lady considered what would happen if the Prime Minister took the view that only one of them was suitable? What would happen to the element of choice lying behind the views expressed today?

Diana Johnson: The right hon. and learned Gentleman highlights yet another problem with supporting amendment 9 at this stage. He is right that it would take away the element of choice if only one candidate was endorsed.

Steve Baker: That is one of the more ingenious arguments for not having an election. It seems to me more than likely that the vast majority of Members of this House would meet the Prime Minister’s basic requirements for being suitable to keep state secrets. I cannot accept that argument. It seems to be an ingenious way of saying that democracy is not appropriate.

Diana Johnson: Nobody is saying that democracy is not appropriate. We are just highlighting some of the issues with the amendments that have been tabled.

The basic problem that the Opposition have with the hon. Gentleman’s amendments is that they put the cart before the horse. The first issue that needs to be addressed is the status of the Committee. We should then decide how to elect or appoint a Chair to that Committee.

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Mr George Howarth: My hon. Friend is making a very good case, so I hesitate to interrupt her further. Does she accept that there is a world of difference between the Prime Minister saying, “I think this is a suitable person to be the Chair of the Committee” before Parliament endorses them, and Parliament electing somebody and the Prime Minister then having to say, “I don’t think this is a suitable person”? Those two positions are entirely different. She is right about that.

Diana Johnson: My right hon. Friend makes that point very clearly. I will return to my argument, because I am conscious that other Members wish to speak about later proposals.

The Opposition are of course sympathetic to attempts to widen accountability and open the ISC as much as possible. In Committee, we supported a number of amendments to do just that. We tabled amendments so that we could consider whether an Opposition Member should always chair the Committee, as with the Public Accounts Committee, and whether there should be a majority of MPs—elected representatives—on the ISC.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I have some experience of that point. I was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for nine years. The Chair of that Committee is the sole auditor of the accounts of the security services, so he sees in great detail all the accounts of the security services. He is not vetted by anybody, including the Prime Minister. He is elected by all Members of the House. Nobody has ever suggested that an elected or appointed Chair of the Public Accounts Committee is a threat to national security, so this is a fuss about nothing.

Diana Johnson: The hon. Gentleman speaks with great experience as the former Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. However, the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee deals with far more than just the finances of the security agencies, so it is not quite the same.

Dr Julian Lewis: On that point, the hon. Lady’s response is correct. The people who advise the Intelligence and Security Committee on the finances of the security and intelligence services leave the meetings when other matters—namely, classified information—are under discussion.

Diana Johnson: That information is very helpful.

I have explained why the Opposition will not support amendment 8. Government amendment 58 relates to the money, staff, accommodation and other resources that will be made available to Parliament for the new Committee. I wonder whether the Minister can help me, because I am slightly confused about the intention of the Government with respect to the support that will be provided to the ISC. In his response, will he set out how he expects the secretariat to the ISC to be provided? In Committee, we discussed a proposal suggested by the membership of the ISC for a non-departmental public body to be established to provide secretarial support. That does not appear to be what the Government are doing. Will he therefore explain what will happen?

Hazel Blears: Does my hon. Friend agree that there is consensus across the House that the Bill will strengthen the scrutiny of our secret intelligence services and that

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that is welcomed by everyone? In Committee, the Opposition were forceful in saying that if we are to have increased scrutiny, we need the necessary resources to do the job. The Opposition talked about a figure of £2 million. The Government’s impact assessment has a figure of £1.3 million. There is no agreement on resourcing, and without resourcing, it will be impossible to do the job that the Government want us to do.

1.45 pm

Diana Johnson: My right hon. Friend raises an important point to which I hope the Minister will respond. Parliament is trying to reduce its costs by 25% over the course of this Parliament. I wonder whether the money that is being transferred to Parliament will be ring-fenced for the work of the ISC and whether it will be expected to make any savings out of that budget.

Will the Minister also deal with the issue of the staff who will be transferred to support the new Committee? Am I right to assume that TUPE will apply? What discussions has he had with the Clerk of the House about this matter? Has he written to the Clerk of the House formally requesting that he starts to make preparations for such an undertaking?

On the accommodation for the Committee, there are clearly security issues that need to be considered. Does the Minister have any further information about where he envisages the Committee being accommodated? Will any separate secure accommodation have to be provided?

Finally, amendment (a) to amendment 58 would provide for the payment of members of the ISC. It follows on from other amendments that the Opposition have tabled to try to strengthen the role of the ISC within Parliament. The role of chairing the ISC will be every bit as important and time-consuming as chairing any other parliamentary Committee. We therefore feel that it should be recognised in the same way.

At present, the ISC is a statutory body funded by the Cabinet Office. When the responsibility for funding the ISC transfers to Parliament, the responsibility for any payment to the Chair will also be a matter for Parliament. Given what I have said about the procedures of the House, I appreciate that that will probably have to be dealt with through Standing Orders rather than statute. In that case, I will be happy not to press amendment (a). I am sure that the Minister will be able to explain the funding situation.

I will just explain why amendment (a) refers to all members of the Committee and not to the Chair. Again, the Minister might be able to help me on this point if there has been any progress. The amendment covers Members of the House of Lords as well because, unlike Members of the House of Commons, they do not get a flat salary, but receive an attendance allowance. As I understand it, they do not receive that allowance for attending the ISC on days when the Lords is not sitting.

Mr George Howarth: I am sure that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that that problem for Members of the House of Lords sitting on the Committee has been resolved within the procedures of the House of Lords.

Diana Johnson: I am grateful if that is the case. If the Minister could explain that, it would be helpful.

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Amendment (a) was also drafted to include all members of the Committee in case it is felt appropriate in the future to make payments to members of Select Committees alongside the payments that are made to Chairs.

Minister without Portfolio (Mr Kenneth Clarke): Before dealing with Government amendment 58, which provides the Government with the necessary powers to make a financial contribution to the Committee, I will add a few words to the interesting and lively debate that we have had on the election of the Chair. I will not repeat every argument. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) put the case robustly and had some pretty strong support. However, every member of the ISC who is here has responded and he has had to take on some of the more formidable Members on both sides of the House. He is also facing the opposition of all three of the major parties.

I assure him that this is not an establishment stitch-up—quite the reverse. Perhaps the best way of illustrating that is by putting everything in the context of what we are trying to do in this part of the Bill. We are making a remarkable advance in strengthening the powers of this Committee to hold our security and intelligence services to account. For 20 years the Committee has steadily contributed on that front, and we are marching forward considerably in the Bill. This part of it is just as important as the part we debated on Monday, as we are stepping towards making our security services more accountable to Parliament. We are enabling judges, in exceptional cases, to take all the evidence into account and make an adjudication when allegations are made by individuals; and we are committing to holding judicial inquiries when worrying circumstances occur—subject, of course, to those inquiries being able to get under way once police investigations have been properly completed.

These amendments are important, and they are being proposed in the context of a situation where all parties agree that they want this Committee to be a parliamentary Committee and no longer a creature of the Government. We therefore wish to give it more resources and the structure that enables it to do an even better job. The only thing that distinguishes the Committee from a Joint Committee or Select Committee of this House is this problem of the extremely sensitive nature of some of the information that it sees. Only where it is unavoidable are we departing from the normal process of allowing the House of Commons to have a powerful Committee of its own choosing and to exhort it to do its job and report back properly on what is and is not happening in this area.

Hazel Blears: I think we are all agreed that strengthening the scrutiny of the Secret Intelligence Service is an important and welcome step forward. However, I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would agree that simply saying that we want to increase scrutiny is not enough. Instead of having the right to request information we are moving to a situation where we would be able to require it. We need additional investigators and that will require a substantial increase in the resources available to the Committee. Simply saying that we want increased scrutiny is not enough. I know he understands that, so will he tell us now that we will be getting an increase in resources to enable us to do the job he wants us to do?

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Mr Clarke: I encounter many people making bids for resources for their particular, extremely important, activities. My right hon. Friends at the Treasury are receiving a very large number of these bids all the time. I have had some experience of public spending, and I can tell the House that it is not wise to engage in negotiations across the Floor of the House—it is certainly not wise for a non-Treasury Minister to do so. For this purpose, in this debate, given those present, I think we can agree that it is the Government’s intention that this Committee should be properly resourced to do its job, which is why we are taking a power to supplement Parliament’s financing of the Committee. Obviously, the Government have the right to query and test the figures that are put to them, and there are ways in which this can eventually be negotiated.

Dr Julian Lewis rose—

Mr Clarke: We might be getting bogged down in a public spending round, and we have other matters to move on to.

Dr Lewis: I hope not to get bogged down. I wish to assist our Front-Bench team by pointing out that the Intelligence and Security Committee has eight staff, whereas the detainee inquiry, which looked at only one issue, had 14 staff and the Committee on Standards in Public Life has 12 staff. As the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) pointed out, the Government’s own impact assessment suggested that to do what is being required of us we would need a budget of £1.3 million, which compares with the existing budget of £750,000. At the moment only £850,000 is being offered, and if the gap is not bridged, this whole reform will be a waste of time.

Mr Clarke: I can say only that I, like my right hon. and hon. Friends, am fully aware of the Committee’s views on the amount of funding that it will require. Yet again, I take note of my hon. Friend’s points on the matter, but I repeat that there is not much point in my standing here carrying out a negotiation with him or any other member of the Committee about the figure we arrive at. As someone who has been at the Treasury, I think that the Government must combine providing the right resources, which are undoubtedly going to be more than the Committee has had in the past, with doing a bit of negotiating about what is the necessary cost. Report stage is not the place to resolve the final figure.

Similarly, the status and nature of the Committee will not be resolved finally by statute or by debate on the Floor of the House. A long discussion has been going on to make sure that the Committee has the right status and structure to do its job effectively, and I think we are very near to reaching a successful agreement between the Government, the Opposition, the House authorities in both Houses of Parliament and the current members of the Intelligence and Security Committee on what its status should be. I am told that we still have to have further discussions with the House of Commons Commission and the House Committee in the House of Lords, but I think everybody is becoming satisfied that we are resolving that matter. We are also resolving the question of the accommodation, which probably will have to be on the Government’s estate rather than the

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parliamentary estate, for security reasons. I will go into more details if hon. Members wish, but I realise that we still have quite a lot of the Bill to deal with. Unless hon. Members are particularly interested in knowing the precise current status of these discussions, I hope I may take it that the House is reasonably satisfied that all parties are going to reach a satisfactory conclusion. I assure the House that the Government have been anxious throughout to make this Committee powerful, properly resourced and as much of a parliamentary body—a body that is accountable and resembles the Select Committees of the House in every way possible—as it can be. I think that soon this will all be resolved.

I shall now deal with amendment (a), tabled by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), although she anticipated my reply. Government amendment 58 is required in order to give us the necessary authority to make the financial contributions that we are going to be arguing about. Amendment (a) seeks to oblige the Government—or at least expressly to empower them—to make an additional amount available for the payment of Committee members. That is not necessary, nor, in my opinion and that of the Government, is it wise to start putting the matter of the payment of members of Select Committees or parliamentary Committees into statute, or implicating the Government directly in that. The payment of members of this Committee, the Chairman of this Committee and members of Select Committees is a matter for the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority—from every point of view, it is best left there. Where the Government have to initiate all this, it is a feature of all Governments, of all political complexions, that they can get very politically embarrassed on questions about the remuneration of any Member of either House. So a process that leaves the matter with IPSA and the House of Commons is preferable to the hon. Lady’s amendment.

Finally, I shall touch on the spirit of political debate we have had on the question of whether the Chairman should be elected, and again I must say that the Wright Committee produced a splendid report. My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) first proposed this, but he is not able to be here because he is serving on his Banking Commission, as we all realise. We worked together, when we were in opposition, with my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young), who is now the Government Chief Whip, on a thing called the democracy taskforce, advocating the election of Chairman of Select Committees and producing proposals that were remarkably close to those of the Wright Committee. I certainly start on the same basis as my colleagues who have been drawn to this part of the debate, but we have heard all the arguments why, in this particular case, the proposal does not work. We are already making the whole thing approved by Parliament. No longer will the Prime Minister appoint the Chairman; the Chairman will be elected by those who know—or will know—him best: members of the ISC.