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Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Volume 764: debated on Monday 14 September 2015

Membership Motion

Moved by

That this House approves the nomination of Lord Janvrin and the Marquess of Lothian as members of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

My Lords, the Intelligence and Security Committee is an extremely important committee and is made up of Members of both Houses of Parliament. Perhaps the Lord Privy Seal can correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that it is funded by both Houses of Parliament, yet this House, which I think contributes a very significant proportion of the funding—it would be helpful if the Lord Privy Seal told us what proportion it funds—has only two of the committee’s members. Will the noble Baroness explain the rationale for that? Will she tell us what recommendations or representations she made to the Prime Minister about the Lords representation on this important committee?

My Lords, I should like to clarify the position a little more. I understand that the Government intended that the costs should be shared between the two Houses but, because the Government could not find accommodation in the Commons or the Lords for the ISC to sit, it was decided not to go ahead with that arrangement, and now the Government themselves fund the committee’s expenditure. Following upon the original recommendation, though, we were told that serious discussions were going on about the need to increase the Lords representation, perhaps to four members but at least to three. What has happened to those discussions? If they have been derailed, could they now be put back on the agenda?

My Lords, we have had very little notice of this Motion. We should take some time to discuss it because, particularly now, this is a matter of great importance. Until 2010 the House of Lords had only one representative on the Intelligence and Security Committee, and in the four years until 2010 I was that Member. Some of us felt that that one Member was not enough. We lobbied hard to ensure that the number of Members from the Lords should be increased, at least to two, to ensure that there was an opposition Member as well as a government Member on the committee, and that was agreed. That is why we were very surprised in 2010 when the then Leader of the House moved that the representatives should be the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler—with no disrespect to either of them. We accepted that and did not create a fuss on that occasion because we expected that account would be taken of the need to have an opposition representative the next time this matter was considered.

That is why I am very surprised that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, on behalf of the Government, has come forward again not with an opposition Member but with another Cross-Bencher. With no disrespect to either the noble Marquess, whom I have known for many years, or the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, who served with distinction as secretary to Her Majesty the Queen for a number of years, neither of them could be said to be the most radical, probing person on this issue. Given recent events, the Intelligence and Security Committee is now under intense public, political and media scrutiny, and that is not going to decrease. That is why I think—with no disrespect, as I say, to either the noble Lord or the noble Marquess—that this matter should be taken away and considered again.

As I understand it, there has been no proper consideration with either of the opposition parties— the Liberal Democrats or ourselves—and now the Government have come forward with two names. With respect to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, she—and indeed the Government, the Chief Whip, whom I know very well, and the whole Conservative Party—would gain a great deal if they accepted that this was a genuine and sincere matter and had another look at it. I hope she will agree to take it away and look at it again.

Following the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, surely it is very important that these appointments be hurried through as quickly as possible, because if there is any delay the new leader of the Labour Party will have a great input into who stands on that committee.

My Lords, it is because we on these Benches take the security of the nation so seriously that these points have been raised by Labour Members today.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, is right to say that until the beginning of the previous Parliament in 2010 there was only one Member of your Lordships’ House on the Intelligence and Security Committee. It was David Cameron, as Prime Minister, who thought at the start of the previous Parliament that it was right to extend that to two Members of your Lordships’ House.

When it comes to the breakdown of the ISC’s membership, it is worth me making two points to noble Lords. The first is that the ISC is not a Joint Committee of both Houses in the conventional sense; it is established by statute. It has nine places on it. As is customary, the Prime Minister consulted the Leader of the Opposition in the summer and—again, as is customary—it was the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition who decided how she, as acting leader, wished to allocate the three places that had been provided for the main opposition party.

Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to finish. The Leader of the Opposition has decided who will fill the three places that will represent the Labour Party on the committee, and they will be Members of the other place.

We feel it is right to follow the custom that has been in place for a long time, whereby one Member from the governing party in this House and one Member from the independent Cross Benches are on the committee. I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, responded to the Prime Minister’s invitation and accepted his nomination, and I believe that the noble Lord, along with my noble friend Lord Lothian, will do an exceptional job representing this House on the very important Intelligence and Security Committee.

In response to the points raised about funding and accommodation, I do not have to hand information on the respective contribution that the two Houses make to funding, but I will be very happy to provide a letter in reply to that question and place it in the Library. However, I assure all noble Lords that no matter, whether it is about funding or about accommodation, has played any part whatever in the important nominations that the Prime Minister has made. I know full well that the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, and my noble friend Lord Lothian will do an exceptional job and that they will take very seriously the responsibilities of sitting on this important committee.

Motion agreed.