First Day

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:23 pm on 6th May 1992.

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Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon 3:23 pm, 6th May 1992

In a moment.

As part of this open government initiative the Government have concluded that the time has come to acknowledge publicly the continuing existence of the secret intelligence service. SIS is a service distinct and separate from the security service. It provides foreign intelligence and overseas support in furtherance of the Government's foreign, defence, security and economic policies.

The chief of the SIS is appointed by the Foreign Secretary, in consultation with the Prime Minister, to whom he has direct access upon demand. He is responsible for the effectiveness, efficiency and security of the SIS and, in particular, for ensuring that information is obtained and disseminated only for the purposes that I mentioned earlier. The present chief of the SIS, the man colloquially known as "C", is Sir Colin McColl. We intend to introduce legislation to place the secret intelligence service on a statutory basis.

Successive Governments have not commented on matters relating to security and intelligence. The reason for that is clear to the House: it is difficult to comment without revealing, by what is or is not said, information that can have a bearing on the effectiveness and safety of the staff of these services. Therefore, I have deliberately distinguished today between acknowledging the existence of the SIS and commenting on operational information. That is a distinction which the Government will continue to maintain.