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Britain in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:49 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 7:49 pm, 13th January 2020

Okay. Sometimes interventions are best made on one’s feet, as opposed to from one’s seat.

Lastly—this was partly the subject of my Adjournment debate last week—it is time that we took seriously the woeful lack of democratic oversight of special forces in this country. Nobody wants to see flexibility reduced. Nobody wants to see the ability of the Government and the armed forces to respond to threats be diminished. Only a fool would advance such an argument. But other countries manage this—the United States of America managed this, and I do not think that its President feels particularly inflexible at the moment.

I plead with Government Members, some of whom I know to be thoughtful on this issue and similar ones—one of them is smiling at me right now—let us have that discussion, and let us have it properly. The United Kingdom lags behind many of its own allies when it comes to democratic oversight of special forces, and it would be a good thing for the Government to seek to end that in a fair, judicious and transparent fashion that still allows security to be taken seriously, but also ensures that the oversight that is lacking is there to give public confidence in our special forces and the rest of the armed forces.