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Intelligence Services Commissioner (Annual Report)

Volume 583: debated on Thursday 26 June 2014

I have today laid before both Houses a copy of the latest annual report from the Intelligence Services Commissioner. The right hon. Sir Mark Waller was appointed by me to keep under review the exercise by the Secretaries of State of their powers to issue warrants and authorisations to enable the security and intelligence agencies to carry out their vital functions. The commissioner also uses his position to check the lawful use of the powers and duties imposed on the intelligence services and the Ministry of Defence by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Intelligence Services Act 1994.

The commissioner’s report provides a complete summary of the inspection regime that he has undertaken. It shows that the agencies, Ministry of Defence personnel, civil servants and Secretaries of State understand their responsibilities and comply with the law. Through his inspection process and as a result of self-reporting by the relevant agencies, Sir Mark’s report sets out a number of instances in which human error has resulted in regrettable administrative errors. In these instances the commissioner has satisfied himself that these errors were not deliberate and has suggested changes to ensure that they are not repeated.

The commissioner has also made available to me a confidential annex to his main report, which as per section 60(5) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000; Sir Mark and I have agreed it would not be in the public interest to publish. However, as the commissioner makes clear, the findings in the confidential annex do not detract or change the conclusions that he reaches in his main report.

The intelligence agencies’ work is vital to protect the UK’s national security. We have a robust legislative framework and strong system of oversight to ensure that the agencies operate within the law and that their actions are in accordance with our legal obligations. Sir Mark’s role, as set out in his annual report, is an important part of that system of oversight. I am pleased that this annual report provides more detail than ever before of how his oversight operates. It provides an independent and informed account of the agencies’ compliance with the law and the high ethical standards their staff follow. I am grateful to Sir Mark for his scrutiny and oversight and welcome his conclusion that the public should have confidence that the agencies act within the law.