Intelligence and Security Committee

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:39 pm on 16th March 2015.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East 3:39 pm, 16th March 2015

I assure you, Mr Speaker, that I am on my ultimate—not even penultimate—point.

The report continued:

“and suggested that they believed that terrorist attacks were a price worth paying for individual privacy. The report reprinted edited transcripts of evidence sessions with Big Brother Watch,

Liberty, Justice and Rights Watch UK. Renate Samson, the chief executive of Big Brother Watch, asked the committee for an ‘immediate correction’ to its published report and said that the representation of the evidence session was ‘improper and false’. She said that the ISC’s portrayal of the evidence was ‘an attempt to undermine, discredit and damage our organisation’s reputation’. Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty, said: ‘Instead of attempting to put words into the mouths of privacy campaigners, the ISC should have put its efforts into scrutinising the agencies.’”

People interested in the matter can judge for themselves. If they go to the ISC’s website, at http://isc.independent., they will find the full transcript, and I suggest that they examine questions 19 and 20, put by Hazel Blears; questions 28 and 29, put by my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Malcolm Rifkind; and questions 32 and 33, put by Mr Howarth. In there, they will find the following exchange. The Chairman asked:

“If evidence emerged through bulk interception that even you acknowledged had led to terrorists being arrested or prevented from carrying out their objectives, are you saying that, as a matter of principle, you believe so strongly that bulk interception is unacceptable in a free society that you would say that that was a price we should be willing to pay, rather than allowing intelligence agencies to use bulk interception methods?”

Isabella Sankey, of Liberty, replied: “Yes.” Dr Metcalfe, of Justice, replied:

“Yes. Just as you would solve a lot more crimes if you had CCTV in everyone’s houses, and if you opened everyone’s mail and e-mail and read it on a daily basis. Yes, you would solve a lot more crimes and a lot more terrorists would be in jail; that would be a good thing, but it would be bad for our society as a whole.”

The Chair then asked:

“And that is the view of your colleagues as well?”

The director of Big Brother Watch replied with one word: “Yes.”

It has been a pleasure serving on this Committee. When it was put to me that it would assist my right hon. Friend Mr Simpson to get his feet under the table, even for the last few days of this Parliament, I was only too happy to accommodate him. He will be a splendid successor, and perhaps he will not try the patience of the House as long as I have today.