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Intelligence-Gathering Techniques

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

The annual reports of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Christopher Rose, (HC 168), the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Paul Kennedy, (HC 341), and the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Peter Gibson, (HC 342) have today been laid before both Houses of Parliament.

There is, rightly, a considerable level of public interest in the use by public authorities of covert intelligence-gathering techniques. The Government are committed to ensuring that public authorities only use these powers when it is necessary and proportionate to do so. The commissioners play an important role in monitoring the use of these powers by public authorities, and ensuring compliance.

It is regrettable that systematic failings have been noted by the Interception of Communications Commissioner in some prison establishments, and that a small number of errors have occurred elsewhere. As the commissioners themselves make clear, the details of these incidents cannot be disclosed publicly for security reasons. Following the practice of many years, my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Home Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Northern Ireland and Defence have been provided by the commissioners with a detailed description of and explanation for these errors. The Government are satisfied that appropriate action has been taken to address these failings.

I extend my thanks to Sir Christopher, Sir Paul and Sir Peter, and to their staff, for their work on these reports.