Yvette Cooper: Security services require greater scrutiny
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 19 October 2011
The day-to-day operations of the security services should be subjected to greater scrutiny by politicians, Labour proposes today.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, argues that the present system for monitoring the services is out of date and should be extended. Although giving MPs and peers more detail about the activities of MI5 and MI6 would be opposed by some security officials, the Opposition's intervention could put pressure on the Coalition to act.
Writing in The Independent, Ms Cooper says that a bigger role for Parliament would be better than the current piecemeal approach through judge-led inquiries into specific issues – 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 in America.
She proposes that Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), 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 wider policy shift. While defending the "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" strategy of the previous government, she believes it did not provide enough "checks and balances" to safeguard civil liberties.
She will contrast Labour's approach with what she regards as the Coalition Government's "toxic mix of small state conservatism and laissez-faire liberalism". She accuses the Government of cutting the tools and powers of agencies and the police to combat crime and protect the public and curbing the checks and balances at the same time.
Ms Cooper, a former member of the ISC, says its reports have been frequently discounted because it has not had the power or credibility to reassure the public that it got to the bottom of problems such as the use of intelligence before the Iraq War, or extraordinary rendition.
The shadow Home Secretary added: "What has emerged is an 'oversight gap', where questions or aspersions can end up casting a shadow over vital work because they go unanswered."
- 1 Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The one chart that shows how George Osborne is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister
The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
Wikipedia rocked by 'rogue editors' blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...