New Clause 1 - Report on the Prime Minister’s engagement with the Intelligence and Security Committee

Part of Investigatory Powers (Amendment)Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons am 6:45 pm ar 25 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Llafur, North Durham 6:45, 25 Mawrth 2024

First, let me put on record the apologies of Sir Julian Lewis, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee. Unfortunately, he is attending Lord Cormack’s funeral, and I thought it was important to put the reason why he is not here on the record.

First, let me refer to new clause 1, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis, and say that it is disappointing that we have to have this debate. I am the longest serving member of the ISC, having been on it for nearly eight years. It is a serious Committee; its members take its work seriously and work collegiately. We work on the basis that we support the work of our security services, recognising the difficult job they sometimes have and the dangerous work they do, but that we are also there to provide scrutiny and oversight. If anyone cares to look at our reports over the years, they will see that they are not only thorough, but forensic in their approach. So it is disappointing that the current Government and the previous few have downplayed the Committee’s role.

On Second Reading, I referred to the scrutiny of our intelligence services being a bit like a three-legged stool, as we have the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the tribunal and the ISC. Together, we should be an effective mechanism to reassure the public that there is oversight of our security services. This is important because the work they do cannot be discussed in open session, and that mechanism gives the confidence that in a parliamentary democracy, where we take freedom of speech and democracy seriously, we have that oversight. The problem with the Government is that, for whatever reason, they have set out their course to undermine our work—I put that on the record.

The new clause will say that the Prime Minister should attend our meetings. It should not be necessary to include such a provision—I believe you served on the ISC at one stage, Madam Deputy Speaker, and so you understand the work we do—but we have a situation where it seems this is seen as not important. The only one in recent times who offered a meeting was Elizabeth Truss, but that was because she was looking for friends in the last dying days of her Administration, so I do not think it counts. Again, I do not understand the reason behind this. The walls on the way into our office have various photographs of the Committee—you are on one of them, Madam Deputy Speaker—with various Prime Ministers of the day. But this is not about that; it is about the Prime Minister of the day knowing exactly what we are doing and our being able to raise things directly in our secure setting, which we do. That is important, but there is also a wider point to be made about how we scrutinise our security services and give the public that opportunity.

The amendments I have tabled also stand in the names of five other members of the Committee, and we support this Bill. Will we be back in a few years’ time with another Bill? Yes, we will, because, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central, technology is changing very fast and we will have to react to it. When the original Bill was taken through by Sir John Hayes, he recognised that it would not be set in tablets of stone and that this new Bill would be required. Sir David Davis is right to say that AI will set some other tests that we have not perhaps thought about yet and those might have to be covered by future legislation. Are we reactive as a Parliament? We always are reactive, but this Bill is important because it will give our security services the abilities to react to the ever-changing world that we face.

I wish to refer to two pairs of amendments that relate to clauses 22 and 23, which go to the issue associated with the triple lock and the authorisations—