You report that a “senior Labour MP welcomes public debate over security service powers” (Report, 18 October). It is not just a debate we need but an independent inquiry into how our existing structures and arrangements for holding our intelligence and security services to democratic account have failed us. On Tuesday, we tabled an early day motion stating that the revelations exposed in the Guardian that British security services have examined the internet activities of British citizens without the consent of parliament demonstrate that the intelligence and security committee is not fit for purpose. Further, we believe that this committee should be chaired by an MP who has not served in a department with responsibility for intelligence and security services in order to avoid any potential allegation of conflict of interest. We called for an independent review reporting to parliament on the appropriate structure and arrangements to enforce effective parliamentary democratic scrutiny of the intelligence and security services. On Thursday, the chair of the ISC announced his committee was to review whether the legislative framework governing the intelligence services access to private information was fit for purpose.
This fails to address the need for a root and branch review of the way in which our intelligence and security services are held to democratic account, in particular the role of the ISC, and leaves the review in the hands of a committee that many believe has failed to hold these services to account, and whose members are largely ex-ministers who have formerly served in departments with responsibility for these services and who therefore some would judge as compromised. Despite all the public furore over the Snowden exposé, we seem to have arrived at a very “British coup”-style result with a smokescreen inquiry and the reinvention of the principle of the “police investigating the police”. This can’t be right.
John McDonnell MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP