HOME AFFAIRS – INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY SERVICES – 31 October 2013

Dr Julian Lewis: The hon. Gentleman [Dr Julian Huppert] is being extremely generous in taking interventions. A few moments ago, he said that he did not want detail to be released. The problem with the mass release of thousands of stolen documents is that nobody knows the detail before they release them and propagate them. Is that not rather different from whistleblowing on an individual error or abuse, when one is putting out there hundreds of thousands of documents that one has not even read oneself?

Dr Julian Huppert: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that it would be irresponsible to publish hundreds of thousands of documents without having a look at them. That is why I am so glad that that is what the Guardian has explicitly not done. ...

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Mr Michael Meacher: ... It was decided at the end of the previous Parliament that all Select Committees, except one, should be elected by the House, and not selected by the Whips and beholden to the party leaderships, as hitherto. The one exception was of course the Intelligence and Security Committee, which operates in a totally different way, untouched by the wave of accountability that swept through the Commons in 2009-10, in response to the revelations of the expenses scandal.

Dr Lewis: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will – I suspect that he will – enlarge on that point, but will he mention the fact that that one Committee is different from all the others, because it is the only one that has access to highly classified material? Surely, that is the relevant point.

Mr Meacher: That is perfectly true. The real issue is whether that justifies its being outside the system of accountability of the Houses of Parliament. In my submission, it does not. Safeguards might be required, but not the construction of a different type of Committee, whose Chair and members are appointed by the Prime Minister, to replace as and when he or she wishes, and which sits in private.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. Is he completely unaware that the Parliament of which he is a Member passed legislation providing that from now on Parliament will have the last word on who is appointed to the Intelligence and Security Committee? If Parliament does not like the names recommended by the Prime Minister it can reject them, and continue to reject them until it is satisfied with the names brought forward.

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Mr David Winnick: On a point of order, Mr Brady. As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman [Richard Graham] was alleging that I said that MI5 had bugged every reader of the Daily Mirror. I said nothing of the kind. I quoted Edward Heath, who made the remark.

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): The hon. Gentleman has corrected the record, which is a point of debate and not of order.

Dr Lewis: Further to that point of order, Mr Brady. Is there any way in which we can arrange for bogus points of order to be struck from the record, so that Members will be deterred from making them in future?

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): No, they remain on the record to embarrass those who make them.

[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]