New faces in spy watchdog body

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New Labour, and a new approach to espionage. The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which keeps an oversight on the security services, shows major changes in it's post-election make up.

Until now, the committee had been an all-male preserve of senior figures who have had links to security, defence, and Northern Ireland. The new membership include two women, one of them a former Independent journalist, and an MP who in the past had been a strong critic of the establishment.

To the surprise of some observers, Tony Blair has kept the former Tory secretary of state for defence, Tom King, as chair of the committee rather than replace him with a Labour MP. According to Downing Street sources the Prime Minister is keen to maintain a bi-partisan approach to security issues and maintain continuity.However, the new members indicate the extent of the change which has taken place.

Yvette Cooper was returned as Labour MP for Pontefract and Castleford in the last election. Ms Cooper has been a journalist with The Independent.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale is a former Foreign Policy adviser to John Smith and John Cunningham. She is also known to have connections with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).

Dale Campbell-Savours has questioned government ministers about alleged cover-ups involving the security services.

Mr King agreed the composition of the committee had changed significantly. He said: "In the past we have had members most of whom have been in Parliament for at least 15 years, and had some knowledge of security matters. Some of the new members would come to the committee totally ignorant of the details of our work because the material is confidential, and we operate within the ring of security not available to the public.

"But if we are to keep public confidence we cannot do so as a group sitting around cosily or snuggling up to the security agencies."