Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister of State, Hugh Robertson, response on oversight of security services

My MP, Nicola Blackwood, has had a reply from Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister of State, Hugh Robertson, to her letter "to the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of a number of your constituents, about concerns about oversight of the security services". Mr Robertson describes himself as "the minister responsible for this issue."  I wrote to Ms Blackwood about the Snowden affair in October and briefly again in December when she got back to me.

Copy of Mr Robertson's letter to Ms Blackwood here. (Update: I've removed the embedded copy of the letter from this post because of the irritating glitch in Blogger/ Google Drive that causes the homepage to jump to the Drive pdf insert).

In summary, Mr Robertson's response states "it is the longstanding policy of successive British Governments not to comment on intelligence matters" but that he would like to draw our attention to -
  • the statement the Foreign Secretary made to Parliament on 10 June
  • the Intelligence & Security Committee (ISC) statement of 17 July saying the initial NSA/Prisrn allegations were unfounded
  • the ISC press release of 17 October saying they intended to do further work
  • Home Office minister James Brokenshire's statement in the parliamentary debate of 31 October saying we should be proud of UK oversight of intelligence agencies 
  • a link to the Hansard transcript of the debate 
Seriously? Six months on and the best the UK government can do is -
  • We don't comment on intelligence matters
  • All praise William Hague
  • There's nothing to see here, move along
  • We'll check the law anyway
  • We had a chat about it and the minister said we should be proud and here's the web link to prove it
So though I would thank Mr Robertson for taking the time to write to Ms Blackwood in relation to the concerns I raised with her, I would note, for the record, that his letter provides no reassurance on any of the fundamental issues at play here.  The one positive thing to come out of this non-response from the minister is that a number of Ms Blackwood's constituents (plural), not just this lone academic, have been concerned enough to contact her about untrammeled mass electronic surveillance.

(The helpful link provided by Mr Robertson to the parliamentary debate of 31 October would suggest that he is not, unsurprisingly perhaps, a B2fxxx reader; not, at least, of the three relatively long posts on this blog on that debate)

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