Politics & Parliament: Spies may get workers' rights


Sarah Schaefer
Tuesday 03 November 1998 01:02

SECRET SERVICE agents could in future enjoy the same rights as other employees including access to industrial tribunals, the Foreign Secretary confirmed yesterday.

Robin Cook made clear that fairer treatment could stop security agents, such as David Shayler, who recently leaked M15 documents, from selling their stories to newspapers once they had left the service.

"The extravagant rewards that can be gained from an exclusive deal with a newspaper can provide a big pay-out for betrayal. It therefore remains vital that the agencies are vigilant in recruitment of their staff and in maintaining the motivation of their officers," he said during a historic debate on the annual report by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

While Mr Cook's broad acceptance of the committee's proposals was welcomed by MPs, he came under pressure to give it more investigative powers over the security services. Last week, the Government rejected calls for more independent verification of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ operations.

Confirming that MI5 vetted potential Cabinet ministers at general elections, the committee - headed by the Tory MP and former Defence Secretary, Tom King - said it was particularly concerned about the lack of independent checks on the accuracy of MI5 files.

Opening the debate, Mr Cook said the security services could not "boast" about their work but had thwarted several instances of nuclear proliferation, terrorism and drugs trafficking.

Earlier, in a written reply, the Prime Minister defended the vetting of potential Cabinet ministers by the security service as "both necessary and proper".

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments