CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

HOME AFFAIRS – MI5 RECRUITMENT – 25 February 2004

Dr Julian Lewis: I hope that the Home Secretary will accept that I wish to make a non-partisan point. It is vital that the security services are expanded to meet the threat, but is it really such a good idea to make announcements that major recruiting programmes are under way in advance of the expansion? Is there not a danger that people sympathetic to the al-Qaeda cause may make special efforts to get themselves recruited? Would it not usually be better to do the recruitment first and make the announcement afterwards?

[The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr David Blunkett): Actually, that is what I have just said; I was very careful. I notice that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Alan Beith), who is a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, is smiling. He knows that that is correct. I was confirming that we had done it rather than giving al-Qaeda notice that something terribly new was about to happen. However, I take the point.]

Dr Lewis: I am sorry to have to return to this point, but the BBC news report on this subject stated:

"The Home Secretary will announce plans to recruit another 1,000 staff in Parliament next week".

Is he saying that the report is wrong and that the recruitment has already taken place, or is he saying that it is going to take place?

[Mr Blunkett: The BBC was wrong in only one regard. I am confirming the event this afternoon. The point is well taken that we do not want to parade what we are doing to those who would use what we are doing against us. The point is noted.]

[For further developments, click here.]