Intelligence and Security Committee

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 8:25 pm on 13th May 2014.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East 8:25 pm, 13th May 2014

I hope to show that the difference between us is as small as possible. I was certainly not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman was not in favour of this country having security and intelligence services or, indeed, highly classified secrets. It was as a result of the work that he and his colleagues did back then that it became possible to open up the intelligence and security agencies to much greater scrutiny. Their activities can now be examined and debated considerably. To a large extent, that happens in the open—in the public arena of Parliament—but when it cannot be done in the open, it can now, thank goodness, be done in the closed and secure environment of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

I will move on quickly, because I do not wish to detain the House for longer than is necessary. Some people think that we should have some secrets but that there is not a single hon. Member of this House who could not be trusted to know them. If that is one’s view, there would not be any argument against the membership of the ISC being elected just like the membership of any other Committee. However, the membership of this House reflects society in all its varied shades, phases, types and categories. The fact is that I do not think there are many people who would say that, out of 650 Members, there are not at least some who are not quite, shall we say, discreet or tight-lipped enough to share in the most sensitive secrets of the security and intelligence agencies. If one makes that concession, one has to admit that this Committee, if it is going to see such material, has to have some sort of screening process and cannot simply be subject to the ordinary process of election, unless we are content that any single elected Member of this House can, by definition, be trusted not to do something foolish if given access to highly sensitive information.