Labour demands debate on MI5 powers

JASON BENNETTO

Crime Correspondent

Labour yesterday called on Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, to publish a parliamentary White Paper on the Security Service, following the disclosure in the Independent that the Government has agreed to allow MI5 to extend its work into fighting organised crime and drug dealing.

Jack Straw, Labour's spokesman on home affairs, is concerned that fundamental changes to crime fighting are being pushed through without public debate. In a letter to Mr Howard yesterday he demanded a more accountable regime at the Security Service before any changes took place.

He said that any expansion of MI5's work into traditional policing "raises crucial issues about accountability, effectiveness, and individual liberty".

The historic decision to use MI5 agents and staff in the fight against serious crime is expected to be announced at the Conservative Party conference next month. It is the result of months of behind-the-scenes negotiations by Stella Rimington, the director-general of MI5, to allow the redeployment of her staff, who have been made virtually redundant by the IRA ceasefire.

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