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Safety of the Armed Forces

Volume 502: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

The Petition of Mr Martin Burke of Elizabeth Regina Love,

Declares that before the invitation by the Lord Chamberlain on behalf of The Queen that the badge for his business be Her Majesty's Cypher, Mr Burke's background was fully checked.

Declares that on 25 October 2007 Mr Burke attended an on-the-record presentation by Sir Richard Mottram, a former senior civil servant, at the Royal United Services Institute. Declares that Sir Richard mentioned the importance of the Armed Forces' reputation, that there was something in the way that he said what he said; that there was a threat to the Armed Forces; that it could be averted; that he had influence, or knew those who had influence to avert it; that they were willing and able to not only not intervene but initiate; which Mr Burke took as a coded threat.

Declares that on 9 November 2007 Mr Burke wrote to Lord Guthrie to suggest that any recording of the meeting be double checked, in case Mr Burke misheard or misunderstood what was said. Notes that Lord Guthrie was formerly Chief of the Defence Staff and is Colonel Commandant of the Special Air Service Regiment and is an expert on government. Declares that on 13 November 2007 Lord Guthrie replied to the effect that he had heard these points before, and about them was subsequently silent.

Further declares that Sir David Omand, a former senior civil servant, in his discussion paper for the Institute of Public Policy Research, February 2009, insists that professional intelligence operations to find out other people's secrets are going to involve breaking everyday moral rules. Notes that this is based on Sir David's experience as former Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator & Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office and a former Director of GCHQ. Notes that this stops short of torture. Further notes that Sir David maintains that it is necessary that the public trusts that the activities of the 3 United Kingdom Intelligence Agencies are reasonable, in private the rules are different. Notes that this raises the question of Sir David's own honesty, as well as the honesty of members of the Intelligence Agencies, in their dealings with members of the House.

Declares that Sir Richard Mottram was formerly a Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and a Permanent Secretary, also in the Cabinet Office. Notes that the Joint Intelligence Committee is part of the Cabinet Office and sets the requirements for the 3 United Kingdom Intelligence Agencies: the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ. Notes that also in the Cabinet Office there is a set of committees to co-ordinate government departments, and a lot of the work is done on the telephone or in conversation. Notes that from the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee report 'Could 7/7 have been Prevented?' published in May 2009 the Intelligence Agencies have had and have access to extensive information sources. Notes that examples are: medical records, benefits records, council tax records, bank records, telephone records, telephone conversations, school records, personnel records, police records, court records, commercial databases, agency internal records, travel booking information, CCTV cameras, utility companies, driving licences, TV licences, vehicle registration, passports, people, people who have the trust of others, direct questioning, information from overseas, anything stored on a computer connected to the internet. Notes that the providers of such information are not told its use. Notes that this information is prone to inaccuracy and always will be, and further notes that even as a collection this information is partial and always will be. Notes that access to this information is based mainly on personal relationships and not by technical means.

Declares from the above the natural suspicion of provocative and unrecorded actions by the civil service. Notes some examples of such craftiness: maybe you are on the list to go to a place and someone unexpected is already there, creating at the least embarrassment; or your attention is directed one way and someone approaches from another; or someone expected does not arrive; or you do not arrive because you were not informed, or your time or direction of arrival was not as expected; there are others.

Notes that during the Second World War Sir Winston Churchill spoke in the House of Commons and broadcast to the nation for the first time as Prime Minister in May 1940 and rallied the country for the tasks ahead, and yet on 18 June 1940 just over a month later and 9 months after the start of the war, had to warn the civil service that his Ministers, a Government formed with the near unanimous support of both Houses of Parliament, were going to govern; that they were to be respected and their directions were to be punctually and faithfully obeyed; that 'they were not to be treated as here today and gone tomorrow men. Notes that Sir Winston frequently searched his speeches.

Notes that we are at war in Afghanistan. Notes that the size of the packets for biological and chemical agents are about the same as those for drugs which are regularly imported here. Notes that a small nuclear device is about the size of a small generator. Notes that most in Afghanistan would not, however quite a few would.

Notes that the 4 men mentioned in this petition have a great amount of experience of government. Notes that the heads of the 3 United Kingdom Intelligence Agencies are capable of speaking in public and do so. Notes that the Cabinet Office has changed the way it organises itself frequently. Notes that the first man referred to in the letter to Lord Guthrie possibly came from Helton in Cornwall, or another village. Notes that this is Mr Burke's third petition and was first posted to his constituency Member of Parliament on 1st November 2009. Notes that Mr Burke regrets the length of this petition and thanks Members of House for their patience.

The petitioner therefore requests that in order to begin the process of restoring trust in the 3 United Kingdom Intelligence Agencies that Members of the House of Commons, who are elected and serve to lead this country, form an oversight committee to conduct regular hearings with the heads of these 3 Intelligence Agencies in public so that deeply loyal and completely trustworthy members of the Intelligence Agencies are fully supported, even if discussion is limited to the state of the Intelligence Agencies' accommodation; and that should the question be put the House consent to the request in this petition.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sir Gerald Kaufman .]