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Intelligence and Security Committee’s Annual Report

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2023

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has today laid before Parliament its annual report, covering its activities between April 2022 and March 2023. The report demonstrates the Committee’s wide-ranging work across a number of important issues.

The ISC is a leading and essential part of the machinery that provides expert and democratic accountability for our security and intelligence-focused Departments and agencies.

The Committee’s membership has changed during the period covered by the report, and I would like to thank the right hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) for his work on the Committee, and welcome the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) to this role.

The Government continue to support the Committee with its ongoing international partnerships, cloud technologies and Iran inquiries, and look forward to seeing the Committee’s recommendations in due course. During the period covered by this annual report, the Committee published a report on extreme right-wing terrorism. The Committee also finalised its report following a long-running inquiry on China, which was recognised as an exceptional, complex inquiry. The Government have published responses to both reports and are grateful to the Committee for devoting its time and attention to these topics, and thank the Committee for its recommendations. The Government will keep the Committee updated on our progress with its recommendations.

I would also like to thank the Committee for its work on the National Security Act 2023. Its engagement, understanding and expertise was invaluable and helped the Government to pass the biggest reform of national security in over 100 years.

The Government value the oversight provided by the Committee. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the National Audit Office, and other parliamentary Committees that, combined with the work of the ISC, provide an effective framework for oversight and scrutiny of the Government’s national security and intelligence work. The UK can be proud of its laws and values, and oversight is essential to maintain public trust. I reiterate my thanks to all those who carry out this essential work.

The Government note the Committee’s comments regarding the provision of sensitive information to parliamentary Select Committees, which were also contained in the 2021-22 annual report. There is existing guidance establishing that classification of material is not a reason for the Government to withhold information from parliamentary Committees and agreed processes are in place to provide sensitive information as required.

As raised by the Committee, the National Security Act 2023 obliges the Government to consider whether the current memorandum of understanding between the Prime Minister and the Intelligence and Security Committee should be altered or replaced to reflect any changes arising out of the Act. The Government look forward to working constructively with the Committee and Parliament on this matter.

I would like to again thank the Committee for its ongoing work to maintain robust oversight of the UK intelligence community.