Structure of the Bill: The Bill divides into 3 Parts: Part 1 Oversight of Intelligence and Security Activities; Part 2 Restrictions on disclosure of sensitive material and Part 3 General. There are three Schedules: Schedule 1 The Intelligence and Security Committee; Schedule 2 Consequential Provision and Schedule 3 Transitional provision.
The remainder of this post considers Part 1.
The Green paper recognised a need to strengthen oversight of the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service. The existing Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) had put forward suggestions about reform and, in the Green paper, the government generally indicated agreement with the ISC's ideas.
The ISC had suggested making the committee a Parliamentary Committee and the government preferred to make it a Statutory Parliamentary Committee. Power to withhold information from the ISC would rest at Secretary of State level only.
Clause 1 creates the ISC as a statutory committee of Parliament with 9 members chosen by Parliament but the choice of members if restricted to persons nominated by the Prime Minister. (Members will come from both Houses of Parliament). The Committee will choose its own Chairman. Clause 2 sets out the ISC's functions and these appear to be widely drawn though restrictions exist. Under Clause 3 the ISC will report annually but the Prime Minister gets to see the report first and may require material to be excluded from the report. (If so, the report must indicate this). Clause 4 is Interpretation.
The main functions of the ISC are in clause 2(1).
Hence, the Memorandum of Understanding will be a very key document.
not limited to national security) it proper not to do so.
The Commissioner: The Bill grants the Intelligence Services Commissioner additional review functions. this is done by inserting new sections into the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
So far as directed to do so by the Prime Minister and subject to subsection (2), the Intelligence Services Commissioner must keep under review the carrying out of any aspect of the functions of -(a) an intelligence service, (b) a head of an intelligence service, or(c) any part of Her Majesty’s forces, or of the Ministry of Defence, so far as engaging in intelligence activities.
Inspector-General: The Green Paper put forward the possibility of there being an Inspector-General appointed by, and answerable to, the Prime Minister. This is not included in the Bill. In the Green Paper it was indicated that the government saw the idea of an Inspector-General as incompatible with granting the ISC a greater remit.
|? Devils in the detail ?|
The recognition that Parliament has an important role in oversight is a particularly welcome development.
The real arguments about this Bill will be in relation to Part 2. This will be the subject of a later post ....!