Labour demands greater scrutiny of MI5 and MI6


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The Independent Online

The day-to-day operations of the security services should be subjected to greater scrutiny by politicians, Labour will argue today.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, says the present system for monitoring the services is out of date and should be extended. But her plans to give MPs and peers more detail about the activities of MI5 and MI6 will be opposed by some security officials.

Writing in i, Ms Cooper says a bigger role for Parliament would be better than the current piecemeal approach through judge-led inquiries – such as the one headed by Sir Peter Gibson into whether Britain is implicated in the torture of detainees held by other countries since the 9/11 attacks.

She proposes that Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of senior MPs and peers, which reports to the Prime Minister, should be upgraded to a full parliamentary committee with a wider remit, greater powers to investigate and more access to intelligence – including the ability to look further at individual operations.

Ms Cooper said yesterday: "Faced with continued serious terrorist threats we depend on strong and effective intelligence and security agencies to keep us safe. But alongside that we need strong checks and balances in place to support legitimacy."

Her announcement on the security services is part of a much wider policy shift. While defending the "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" strategy, she believes it did not safeguard civil liberties.