"Dear Mr Corrigan,Ms Blackwood is a member of the Home Affairs select committee which Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, will be appearing in front of at 3pm tomorrow, followed at 4pm by Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe and Assistant Commissioner, Cressida Dick. I've sent her a short response.
Thank you for contacting me about the debate on oversight of the intelligence services. I do apologise for the delay in my response.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this debate due to a long-standing diary commitment. I have, however, read the transcript of the debate and have engaged with Ministers about the issues raised. If you would like to read the transcript of the debate yourself, it can be found at the following address: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2013-10-31a.333.0
I appreciate your desire to ensure that powers to intercept communication are confined to what is necessary and proportionate to protect our national security, and also to be accountable. It is important to remember here the important work our security services do in tackling terrorism and international crime. However, I firmly believe, as does the Government, that it is absolutely right for this intelligence work to be carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework that ensure that activities are authorised and entirely necessary.
Ministers have assured me that to intercept the content of any individual's communications in the UK requires a warrant signed personally by the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary, or by another Secretary of State. Every individual decision is taken based on legal and policy advice and warrants are required to be absolutely necessary and carefully targeted. Furthermore, the Interception of Communications Commissioner also has oversight powers in relation to decisions about whether to authorise the use of intrusive powers, for example in authorising the interception of communication.
At a parliamentary level, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) examines the policy, administration, past operations and expenditure of the intelligence agencies and parts of the wider Government intelligence community. I am pleased that the powers of the ISC have recently been extended by the Government through the Justice and Security Act 2013, which makes it a committee of Parliament; provides greater powers; and increases its remit, including oversight of operational activity.
Ultimately there remains a need for secrecy within the intelligence community to allow agencies to function effectively, but I have received assurances from Ministers that the activities of the intelligence agencies do not, and will not, go unchecked.
I have written to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to raise your concerns and shall of course be pleased to pass on any response I receive in due course.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue, and I hope this response is helpful.
"Dear Nicola,The other members of the committee joining Ms Blackwood are Keith Vaz (Chair), Ian Austin (Labour), James Clappison (Conservative), Michael Ellis (Conservative), Paul Flynn (Labour), Lorraine Fullbrook (Conservative), Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat), Yasmin Qureshi (Labour), Mark Reckless (Conservative), David Winnick (Labour). On past evidence we might expect Mr Austin to be critical of the Guardian and Messrs Huppert & Winnick to be supportive.
Thanks for your response and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
Though I haven't had the time yet to cover the entire debate, you might find it useful to scan my analyses prior to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's appearance before the Home Affairs select committee's counter-terrorism evidence session tomorrow afternoon -
Debate on oversight of intelligence & security services Part 1 at http://b2fxxx.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/debate-on-oversight-of-intelligence.html
Debate on oversight of intelligence & security services Part 2 at http://b2fxxx.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/debate-on-oversight-of-intelligence_6.html
Your time is short but I would particularly recommend you pay careful attention to your colleague Dominic Raab's contribution to the debate, available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131031/halltext/131031h0001.htm#13103154000332
I look forward to the Home Affairs committee proceedings tomorrow with interest.