I have said in the past in this place that I believe privacy should be enshrined in the law of this land, if only to show that we as legislators have the courage to take steps in an area notoriously pockmarked with legal pitfalls. That is the job of politicians, and it should be the job of parliamentarians: to be brave, to strike the right balance and to ensure that we as a society protect the innocent, properly monitor those responsible for

31 Oct 2013 : Column 372WH

acts of terrorism and threats to our country and prevent them from causing chaos, death and mayhem on our streets.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): To accommodate the three Members still seeking to catch my eye, I am reducing the time limit for speeches to six minutes.

3.49 pm

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): I join this debate on the oversight of the intelligence services as a former diplomat who, on his first posting overseas, made a telephone call to a western ally embassy that was interrupted by a third party with the phrase, “Please repeat the last sentence.” I mention that to suggest that the timing of this debate seems to be driven by an element of possible hysteria and even naivety. Intelligence agencies do eavesdrop. It might well be that the motivation behind the debate of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) was perhaps an overreaction to media suggestions that every e-mail is indeed read by someone in Gloucestershire. As the Foreign Secretary said, our intelligence agencies

“have neither the interest nor the capability to do so.”

The hon. Gentleman said that this was a surveillance society, that there was a natural trend towards more surveillance and that privacy in a digital era would be one of the determining questions of our age. I do not believe that that is the case, but let me tackle the oversight of the intelligence service within the time allowed.

There is of course legitimate interest in the matter in Parliament, which, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) rightly highlighted, is responsible for oversight of our intelligence services. The suggestion earlier on in a series of bizarre allegations from the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) that our intelligence agencies were responsible for the bugging of every reader of the Daily Mirror is one that we can put to one side. The intelligence agencies of course cannot answer for themselves.

The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) rightly alluded to various aspects of the oversight of the intelligence service that have, of course, been strengthened in exactly the way to which the Chairman of the ISC referred. The key aspect in that is the role of the intelligence services commissioner and the interception of communications commissioner, who review all the licences approved by the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and other Cabinet members. The interception of communications commissioner, who is a senior judge, said:

“It is my belief that GCHQ staff conduct themselves with the highest levels of integrity and legal compliance.”

Personally, I prefer to take his word on that issue and to reassure my constituents that I believe that those staff operate with the utmost morality, rather than to take the word of the right hon. Member for—I forget his constituency, although I know that he spends a lot of time in the Cotswolds.

Mr Winnick: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Richard Graham: Alas, there is no time. The right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) referred to the intelligence agencies operating under outdated laws without a genuine public mandate. That is absolutely not the case.

31 Oct 2013 : Column 373WH

Mr Winnick rose

Richard Graham: I am terribly sorry, but my time has already been reduced.

Mr Winnick: On a point of order, Mr Brady. As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman was alleging that I said that MI5 had bugged every reader of the Daily Mirror. I said nothing of the kind. I quoted Edward Heath, who made the remark.

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): The hon. Gentleman has corrected the record, which is a point of debate and not of order.

Dr Lewis: Further to that point of order, Mr Brady. Is there any way in which we can arrange for bogus points of order to be struck from the record, so that Members will be deterred from making them in future?

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): No, they remain on the record to embarrass those who make them.

Richard Graham: After that distraction, I am delighted to continue and to hear that the hon. Member for Walsall North does not imagine that our intelligence services are interested in readers of the Daily Mirror per se. The later accusation from the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton was disappointing. My constituents who work for GCHQ are unable to answer back directly. We should take the word of the senior judge that they act within the highest levels of integrity and legal compliance. That is a crucial part of the oversight of the intelligence agencies, which is ultimately the responsibility of our Parliament.

My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) was wrong to say that threats are diminishing. My intervention on his speech quoted directly from the recent speech of the director-general of MI5. It was quite clear from the statistics that he gave that threats have increased from an average of one or two a year for the past 10 years to four major threats in the first half of this year. On average, 33 terrorists have been convicted every year for the past 10 years, but 24 have been convicted in the first half of this year already.

The truth is that the threats are becoming more complicated and more sophisticated. They come not necessarily from states but from individuals or organisations.

Mr Raab: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Richard Graham: Alas, there is so little time. The threats include nuclear proliferation, cyber-attacks, attacks on our intellectual property, organised crime and new weapons. Although we must ensure that our laws and our ability to review the intelligence agencies are properly supervised, we should not be naive or foolish in any way about the threats to our nation. Above all, we must remember that the primary duty of any Government is the protection of their citizens. Within that, the most important new power of the ISC is its ability to hold to account the operational activities of the intelligence agencies. We should allow the ISC to use its new powers, but we must also ensure that those agencies remain able to maintain their competitive advantage against threats and to keep us safe. In the balance between protecting

31 Oct 2013 : Column 374WH

our freedoms and protecting the safety of our citizens, I hope that the Minister will allow the ISC to go about its business with its new powers, and Parliament should ensure that it is indeed performing its duty.

3.56 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I genuinely congratulate my near namesake, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), not only on securing this debate but on the way in which he presented his case and the exceptionally generous way in which he handled interventions. I hope that it will not damage his credibility on the left too much if I point out how very strongly I agreed with at least one of the points that he made in response to my intervention on him.

There are three questions that I want to address. First, on which the hon. Gentleman responded, why is it so easy for junior personnel to engage in mass leaking? Secondly, is it easier than before, as he suggested, to track or spy on people? Thirdly, who should rightly be regarded as a whistleblower? That is the point that I was touching on when I intervened on him. On the first question, he is absolutely right. If these secrets are so sensitive, there is something terribly wrong with the system that allows an Army private or a junior technician access to them.

Dr Huppert indicated assent.

Dr Lewis: I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman endorsing what I am saying. Any system that allows tens of thousands of top secret documents to be downloaded by such junior personnel in such quantity must be at risk.

In an absolutely outstanding contribution to the debate, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood)—I do congratulate him on his measured and exceptionally well-informed contribution—referred to the whole business of Enigma and the ultra secret of world war two.

Colleagues might remember that in 1974 the book, “The Ultra Secret”, perhaps regrettably—historians are grateful—revealed the secret that, as a result of the development of the Enigma machine, we were decrypting codes during the war that people thought were unbreakable. The book was published. Its author was F. W. Winterbotham. If I remember correctly, his role was to be in charge of the signals liaison units, which comprised members of the special services who were involved in the distribution of the Enigma decrypts and who were spread around all parts of the military infrastructure that received that intelligence. In other words, they were crucially aware of the need to keep top secret material secure. As such, they had special security arrangements to prevent anything like the Snowden case and the Bradley Manning case from happening. There is a huge gap in the security arrangements for the handling of such material.

On whether it is easier than before to track and spy on people, as the hon. Member for Cambridge has suggested, in one sense, he is absolutely right. We have electronic devices that offer more ways in. In another sense, though, he is not quite right. The problem is that in the past, when we wanted to track or spy on someone, all we had to do was to get a court order to enable the interception of mail or telephone calls. Now, with so

31 Oct 2013 : Column 375WH

many new systems of communication, it is actually much harder to track and spy on people who ought to be tracked and spied upon, according to the process of law, because there are so many other ways to communicate.

Dr Huppert: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for some of his earlier comments. There is an interesting issue. Communications data are increasingly available to the police, but records of the locations where people had phones are now kept for a year. We can join the dots to find out exactly where somebody went. That information is available to the police and is used in many investigations. That would never have been available before. He is right that there are some safeguards; but 20 or 30 years ago, there would have been no way to say, “Three months ago, where was Dr Julian Lewis at any particular moment?”

Dr Lewis: I entirely accept that point, which was partly covered by the hon. Member for Cheltenham when he briefly referred to the need to hoover up haystacks to be able to search for the needles in them afterwards. The question is whether we then have access to the irrelevant parts of the haystack, or legally supervised targeted access to those needles in the haystack, which can be detected as a result of modern technology. This is all about the mass collection, mass storage and interrogation of mass data so collected and stored.

I now come back to the third question: who should rightly be regarded as a whistleblower? I would like to reach a point of agreement again with the hon. Member for Cambridge. In his defence of The Guardian newspaper, he said that it is precisely because The Guardian is not simply publishing everything that has fallen into its hands that it is acting responsibly. We can argue the finer points of that; he certainly has an arguable case. Where there can be no argument, however, is in the case of a person who steals the mass database and transmits it to other unauthorised individuals or organisations, or indeed newspapers, when he cannot possibly have read or in any way assessed whether the contents of that database had been properly collected or whether an abuse of the intelligence services’ powers had in fact taken place. That person is not acting responsibly, so the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson), whom I always admire, should be a little more careful before ascribing the term “brave whistleblower” to someone like Snowden.

Snowden is no more a whistleblower than someone like Julian Assange or anyone else who gets a mass of information and feels that it is right to publish it and put it into the public domain for no other reason than it is classified secret or top secret. Basically, their rationale can only be that they do not think anything should ever be classified secret or top secret. Once they admit that there is a purpose in classifying some information, and that some information ought to be kept secret, then we get into the area of who decides what should be kept secret and what should be the result of whistleblowing activities.

When I see somebody who blows the whistle on an identifiable abuse, I say, “Well done”, provided, of course, that they have used and exhausted all the right channels and were left with no alternative. But when I

31 Oct 2013 : Column 376WH

see someone who abuses their access to a massive database and then publishes it widely, I say that that is not whistleblowing; that is irresponsible—

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): Order.

4.3 pm

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): I welcome this open-source debate, which is possibly being listened to live more than the average Westminster Hall debate. I am certainly grateful that we are debating these matters, and it is a real pleasure to follow some of the contributions that we have had today.

The debate is about the balance of individual privacy versus the collective right to security. Spying is nothing new. During Henry VIII’s time, Thomas Cromwell had a league of spies across Europe, as did Sir Francis Walsingham. Anyone visiting the Special Forces Club today can only be moved by some of the stories under the pictures there showing heroic acts that have taken place. And we must not forget the masters of intelligence gathering: the Whips. They are not present here today but no doubt are listening.

The world of the clandestine services has changed. Scrutiny of that world has also changed and we now have the Intelligence and Security Committee, formed in 1994. I am grateful for the scrutiny undertaken by the Committee. In 2002, I was sadly involved in the Bali bombing. MI5 had information to prove that an attack was going to take place. It held on to that information and did not share it. Sadly, my brother’s conference was not cancelled and he was killed. The Intelligence and Security Committee uncovered that information and exposed it. Changes have subsequently taken place to ensure that intelligence of that nature is shared with the Foreign Office and the wider public.

We can now name the heads of the clandestine agencies, which we could not do in the past. We can bring them here to Parliament and scrutinise them; I understand they are visiting next week. Our challenge today is the seismic advance in information technology, which, on the whole, is a very good thing. We must all embrace such change, particularly in social media and in its commercial aspects. Indeed, the speed at which the Arab spring took place could be attributed to the form of communications available. But technology is also harnessed by our enemies, who wish to do us harm.

It is important to pay tribute to our clandestine services. Our intelligence officers serve our country without any public recognition. Some have given their lives in the line of duty in their silent service. Their names are not known and their loved ones mourn in secret. We owe them and every intelligence officer in the country an enormous debt of gratitude.

We lost our way briefly, however, and I would say that the starting point was 9/11, which led to Guantanamo Bay, rendition, water-boarding, justification for the Iraq war, I dare say, and dodgy dossiers and so on. Members will recognise the so-called war on terror, in which we took the eye off the ball. I am pleased that the Chilcot inquiry has finally got off the ground and will report soon. It will be a testament to what went wrong. It will report on the justification for that war and how intelligence was used.

31 Oct 2013 : Column 377WH

As a nation, we need to be an inspiring example of the values that we hold dear, and we must encourage others to stand up for them. Once damaged, our moral authority in the eyes of the world is very difficult to replenish. Our security services have the skills to assimilate information way beyond the reach of everyday diplomacy, filling in the blanks in our understanding of our enemies. So much of their work is unseen and therefore receives little praise. They are our early warning system against those who plot to sabotage us, steal from us, or kill us.

As I have said before, it is difficult to find a country where the clandestine community performs so well under such scrutiny within the confines of the democratic process. By and large, we sleep safe at night, oblivious to the many threats that we face, as they are dealt with by the service that we never see. So let that scrutiny continue and let us make sure that it adapts to a changing world, but let us not hamper the work that keeps us all safe.

4.8 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on securing this debate. I read with interest his article in The Guardian this morning, previewing the arguments he would be putting forward. I also congratulate the co-sponsors: the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson). They both bring an enormous amount of experience and knowledge to these matters.

Fifteen Members have spoken in this debate, which shows how important it is. It has benefited enormously from the contributions of members of the Intelligence and Security Committee—its Chair, my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) and the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). I am sure all hon. Members would want to pay tribute to the hard work that members of the ISC undertake on our behalf.

I pay tribute to the work of the intelligence services. I am sure we all admire and respect the work that they do to keep us safe from harm every day and to protect our freedoms. It is absolutely right that we are having this debate about the oversight of the intelligence and security services.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley hit the nail on the head. We do not have access to all the information, so it is not possible for us to reach conclusions today on a number of points that have been raised. However, we must debate the investigatory procedures that Parliament has put in place and satisfy ourselves that they are fit for purpose.

Parliament has spent much of the past year debating the oversight of the intelligence services through part 1 of the Justice and Security Act 2013, which redefines the role of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I will return to that in a moment, but I concede that the part did not perhaps catch the public consciousness—given some of the comments made by hon. Members today, that is true of the House, too—in quite the same way as The Guardian’s revelations. Even the Deputy Prime Minister, given his recent comments to the media, appears to have missed the reforms that strengthened the Intelligence and Security Committee. That is surprising, considering he has 19 special advisers. I would have thought that

31 Oct 2013 : Column 378WH

one of them might have picked up on the reforms. Because of all that, I am pleased to have this opportunity to debate the subject.

The concept that many people have of the intelligence agencies is James Bond or, perhaps more recently, “Spooks.” The reality is that terrorists and organised criminals have been quick to adopt new technology, which means that the nature of our intelligence agencies has changed over the past few years, too. Electronic surveillance is now the key asset in the battle against terrorism. It is therefore appropriate that today’s debate has mainly focused on electronic surveillance. The key question seems to be whether the intelligence services have exceeded the powers given them under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Surveillance is covered by parts 2 and 3 of RIPA, and intrusive surveillance is described by section 26. An example of intrusive surveillance is placing a device in someone’s property, which requires a warrant from the Home Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary or the Foreign Secretary if conducted abroad. The relevant Secretary of State has to be convinced that the surveillance is necessary and proportionate. That form of surveillance is easily understood.

Part 1 of RIPA covers remote electronic surveillance, which is where things get a bit more complicated. Chapter 1 addresses the interception of an individual’s communications—telephone communications, e-mails and texts—and it is only under that chapter that the contents of such communications may be accessed. There are extensive safeguards on the use of chapter 1 powers. Their use must be necessary, proportionate and in the interests of protecting national security, detecting or preventing serious crime or safeguarding the UK’s economic interest. A warrant must be issued by the Home Secretary for each individual whose data are collected.

Chapter 2 of part 1 addresses the acquisition of communications data more generally, which is more about the who, the where, the what and the when, rather than the contents. The rules on that are not as stringent as for chapter 1.

Generally, I believe that RIPA is poorly understood among the general public and, I think, among Members of Parliament. Only once we understand the framework can we look to the oversight bodies to ensure that the intelligence services are staying within that framework. Probably the most important level of oversight is from Ministers. They are answerable to Parliament and the public for all the actions of the intelligence agencies.

Will the Minister assure me that he has seen no evidence that the intelligence agencies have collected information covered by RIPA part 1, chapter 1 without the necessary warrants being in place?

Of course, oversight requires much more than just a Minister. The Intelligence and Security Committee was formed in 1994 and reformed earlier this year by the Justice and Security Act. The Opposition supported those reforms. Indeed, in some key areas we would have liked to have gone further. We support the long-term aspiration that the ISC should become a Select Committee, which we believe would allow the public a clear understanding of how the Committee works and the processes it operates.

31 Oct 2013 : Column 379WH

Such reform would also give clear protections to both the Committee and its witnesses. We appreciate that that may be a gradual process, and we support the changes to move the ISC towards becoming a Committee of Parliament with open proceedings. The Labour party has always said that it believes the ISC is the right body to investigate the allegations against Tempora, and we have confidence in its investigation.

I also believe that the ISC, which is composed of very senior and experienced politicians, appreciates the need to restore public confidence. Indeed, I believe that the agencies appreciate that, too. During the passage of the Justice and Security Act, I was struck by comments made in the other place by the noble Baroness Manningham-Buller, who said that public confidence is vital for the agencies because of the degree to which they rely on the public’s co-operation.

We have heard that 7 November will be a momentous day in the Committee’s history, as it will hold its first public session with the heads of the three agencies. Over the past three years, the public have started to understand Parliament a little better through things such as Rupert Murdoch’s appearance before the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. I hope the public will take a keen interest in the appearance of the heads of the intelligence services before the ISC next month.

Mr Watson: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Diana Johnson: I will carry on because I have very little time and I want to give the Minister an opportunity to respond.

I hope next week’s Committee hearing will be the start of a process through which the ISC demonstrates its ability to conduct a thorough inquiry and to improve public understanding. I hope the Minister will do everything he can to reassure all hon. Members that the Government will facilitate as many public hearings as possible.

Finally, I was struck that the hon. Member for Cambridge made no comment about the important role of the two commissioners. The intelligence services commissioner oversees the performance of the agencies under parts 2 and 3 of RIPA, focusing on intrusive surveillance. His powers were widened by the Justice and Security Act.

The interception of communications commissioner considers operations under part 1 of RIPA. He produces an annual report that clearly sets out the legal framework for electronic surveillance and the way it is used by various bodies. He has oversight of all surveillance under part 1. In particular, he has access to all warrants issued under chapter 1, as well as overseeing a team of inspectors who consider the use of chapter 2 powers.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley said, it would be good to raise the profile of the interception of communications commissioner, as he has had a relatively low profile since the revelations by The Guardian. Indeed, the commissioner wrote in a letter to The Independent:

“I am currently conducting an investigation into the various recent media reports relating to disclosures about interception attributed to Edward Snowden.”

Instead of trying to decipher what the commissioner is doing through references in a letter to a newspaper,

31 Oct 2013 : Column 380WH

both the commissioner and the Government should be emphasising the commissioner’s role and telling Parliament and the public how his office will be responding to the revelations in

The Guardian

. Will he be compiling a special report? When can we expect to receive that report? A report covering surveillance in 2012 was not published until July 2013, so if we have to wait until July 2014 for the next report, we could probably say that the commissioner is not reporting in the effective and timely manner that we all want.

I also hope the Minister is able to confirm categorically that the commissioner has been given full access to all surveillance undertaken as part of the Tempora programme, as well as, where appropriate, information acquired by the agencies from our allies.

I am pleased that we have had this opportunity to debate the intelligence and security services this afternoon, and I look forward to the Minister’s response to my points.

4.18 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on securing this debate and on the passionate and eloquent way in which he has advanced his argument. I also pay tribute to his supporters, the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab).

Although there have been notes of discord and disagreement this afternoon, I am sure we all agree on how essential is the work that our intelligence agencies do for us day in, day out to keep this country safe by confronting the diverse terrorist threat that this country continues to face. Generally, they are unable to make those points directly themselves, and I recognise the contributions that many right hon. and hon. Members have made in underlining the importance of our intelligence agencies’ work. It is vital that we do so.

It is also important to underline very clearly the role of scrutiny and the powerful impact that it can have. In many ways, that was brought home in a very real sense by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who highlighted the work of the ISC following the Bali bombing. In doing so, he also highlighted the value and importance that scrutiny can directly offer.

However, we should also be clear about the importance of intelligence gathering to our agencies’ ability to maintain an edge in tackling terrorism and stopping criminals. While maintaining that edge is vital to our ability to ensure national security, I absolutely agree that that does not mean that the activities of the intelligence agencies can or should go unchecked. It is absolutely right that intelligence work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework that ensures that activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate. I hope to explain why we believe that is absolutely the case.

The work of the security and intelligence agencies is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that their activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from Secretaries of State, from the interception of communications commissioner and the

31 Oct 2013 : Column 381WH

intelligence services commissioner, as well as from the ISC itself. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) rightly highlighted the work of the relevant commissioners in that regard, which I will return to later in my contribution.

Oversight is absolutely essential, but much of it must necessarily take place behind closed doors to ensure that secret intelligence remains secret. That has to be a key theme in the work undertaken, because although I recognise the desire for transparency—I have heard the points about that very clearly—at the same time there has to be a role for secrets in order for our agencies to conduct the work that they do. That information should not be kept unnecessarily out of the public domain, but secrecy is essential to safeguard sensitive methods and sources, and to protect the lives of those who agree to work for us on the basis of confidentiality and anonymity.

Mr Watson: I hope that the Minister does not think that this is a semantic point, but there is a difference between transparency and scrutiny, and this debate is about scrutiny. We are talking about new technological abilities to process huge amounts of data that may not have been empowered by very old legislation, or at least are tenuously empowered by old legislation. What I hope he can explain today is why Tempora, which is a whole new raft of intelligence gathering, was not given scrutiny in Parliament, as RIPA and other pieces of legislation were?

James Brokenshire: I say to the hon. Gentleman that publicly discussing sensitive techniques and sensitive tactics of our intelligence agencies is simply not appropriate in terms of safeguarding their work. However, I can also say to him very clearly that arrangements are in place to ensure that GCHQ neither obtains nor discloses any material except so far as necessary in pursuit of its statutory functions, as defined in the Intelligence Services Act 1994, which he will be very well aware of.

As far as interception activity by GCHQ is concerned, GCHQ operates at all times in accordance with RIPA. That is not just a statement; GCHQ’s activity is overseen by the commissioners, who analyse its work in detail. They also analyse some of the codes of practice that the agencies have in place to ensure their adherence to RIPA.

Such levels of assurance are in place within our oversight regime, which I believe is very effective because our intelligence agencies’ activity is overseen by a greater variety of bodies than many other areas of Government business. At the parliamentary level, the ISC examines the policy, administration, past operations and expenditure of the intelligence agencies and parts of the wider Government intelligence community. Indeed, the ISC’s position has been strengthened by the Justice and Security Act 2013, which has only been passed into law through this House very recently.

Dr Huppert: The Minister makes the extremely good point that it is “past operations” that can be looked at, and there are constraints on what the ISC can look at; it does not have a completely free rein on operational matters. What happens if an operation lasts for many, many years? At what stage is there any sort of scrutiny of that?

31 Oct 2013 : Column 382WH

James Brokenshire: To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, he took part in the consideration of the Justice and Security Act 2013, although he did not make then a number of the points that he has made this afternoon. However, we need to be very careful to ensure that scrutiny does not seek to cut across into direct, ongoing operational activity. I am quite sure that, given the robustness of the new powers that the ISC itself will hold, that consideration is very much in the forefront of the minds of the Committee members.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: In response to the perfectly reasonable issue raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), I must say that this point was seized on by the ISC itself. We have completed discussions with the Government, the results of which will appear in a memorandum of understanding that will be published and include details of how these matters will be dealt with. That will ensure that that consideration cannot be used as an improper way of preventing the ISC from obtaining access to operations that—by any normal, common-sense approach—could be considered as completed.

James Brokenshire: It is also important to highlight that, at a political level, the intelligence agencies are ultimately accountable to the Prime Minister, but on a day-to-day basis it is Secretaries of State—primarily my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary—who are responsible for balancing the need to protect national security and the need to fulfil their duty to protect the British public against the potential intrusion on individuals’ rights to privacy that could be caused by intelligence activity. I know from working alongside my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary how much attention she gives to that role.

The interception of communications commissioner also has such oversight in relation to that intelligence activity, and in taking decisions about whether to authorise the use of intrusive powers—for example, to intercept communications—he must be satisfied that such measures are legal, necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted.

Mr Meacher: On the question of legality, is it not the case that the Home Secretary was extremely keen to get the Communications Bill through the House of Commons in order to legalise activities that GCHQ had been carrying out for years, notably—as we now believe—the Tempora programme?

James Brokenshire: I say clearly to the right hon. Gentleman, as the Foreign Secretary said when he responded originally on this issue, that GCHQ and our intelligence agencies act within the law, a point rightly made earlier by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood).

The points about the proposals on communications data are about the changing nature of what we see, which includes ensuring that our law enforcement agencies are able to continue to do the job that they do today in bringing criminals to justice and using communications data as evidence in court. That is very different from the intelligence agencies’ roles and from GCHQ’s mission, which is external—looking outside rather than within the UK.

31 Oct 2013 : Column 383WH

It is also important to note the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) about the role of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, who has done some very important work and continues to do so.

It is this multi-faceted oversight that complements rigorous internal controls within the agencies themselves. The agencies’ recruitment and training procedures are all designed to ensure that those operating within the ring of secrecy can be trusted to do so lawfully and ethically. A culture of compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the law pervades everything that they do.

In the short time I have left, I should quickly address some of the points that have been raised. I can obviously assure hon. Members, for example, about the resourcing of the ISC. It has raised around a 30% uplift in its

31 Oct 2013 : Column 384WH

resources, and when it has a full staffing complement it will have more staffing than virtually any Select Committee. It is right to highlight the important work undertaken through the ISC and the changes that have been made to it by the Justice and Security Act 2013, which have been commented on by right hon. and hon. Members. An ongoing investigation is taking place into the events in Woolwich in May, work that the ISC is conducting very carefully and with great diligence.

This has been an important debate, highlighting the strength of the scrutiny that we have and the different layers of scrutiny that operate in this country. I believe that we have every reason to be proud of those oversight arrangements and of the work of our agencies.

Question put and agreed to.

4.29 pm

Sitting adjourned.