Showing posts with label Clarke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clarke. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Anti-Bilderbergers: Michael Meacher, MP

Says Nothing. Ed Balls helps.

The meeting took place from 6th to 9th June at the Grove Hotel, Hertfordshire, with 140 delegates from 21 countries. The (announced) topics for discussion were:

• Can the US and Europe grow faster and create jobs?

• Jobs, entitlement and debt

• How big data is changing almost everything

• Nationalism and populism

• US foreign policy

• Africa’s challenges

• Cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats

• Major trends in medical research

• Online education: promise and impacts

• Politics of the European Union

• Developments in the Middle East

• Current affairs

"I wouldn't be seen dead with 'em!" 
Dennis Skinner, MP.

"That's because you're not a giant Lizard...! " 
Anonymous Smartarse MP Heckler.


10 Jun 2013 : Column 25

Bilderberg Conference

3.35 pm
Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab) 
(Urgent Question):
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Bilderberg conference, which he attended.
The Minister without Portfolio (Mr Kenneth Clarke): 
This is a first occasion for me, as I have never previously answered a question in the House of Commons on behalf of a private organisation for which the Government have no responsibility. I have been a member of the steering committee of Bilderberg for many years now—about 10 years, I think—and by chance this will be my last year, as we have a rule against being on the committee for too long, so I am on the point of stepping down.
Other roles are timeless, with no rules at all, but in this role I have now reached the end of my allotted span.
The Bilderberg organisation exists for the purpose of holding meetings once a year in various countries; it exists for no other purpose. 
This year, the meeting was held at a large hotel near Watford in Hertfordshire. I did not receive adequate notice of the right hon. Gentleman’s question—because I was not found in time—to put to hand the list of those who participated and the agenda we discussed. 
We always circulate those before the meeting, and they are readily available. I can certainly put any hon. Member in touch with a source of the list of those who took part.
Each year, we invite something over 100 people—it was about 140 this year—drawn from both sides of the Atlantic; from Europe including Turkey, and from the United States and Canada. 
The people who attend are drawn from the worlds of government, politics, academia, defence and journalism. The people who attend change slightly each year. 
There is a core of those who attend regularly; different people come—
Well, I am trying to guess why on earth a parliamentary question has been asked about this and in what people are interested.
All the people who attend do so as individuals; we invite people as individuals. 
Nobody attends representing any particular organisation to which they might belong. 
A very interesting two or three days take place in which we have discussions on matters of public affairs. 
A very wide range of experience and a very wide range of political opinion is represented. I always find that it greatly adds to the depth of my understanding of what is being talked about and contemplated in many parts of the United States and in Europe as well. It is one of the many political gatherings I attend from time to time as part of the background to my activities.
If the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) finds something deeply disturbing in all this, I can advise only that he finds different people on the internet with whom to exchange tweets, and perhaps the House might be allowed to return to some matter of rather more real public interest in which this House of Commons has a role to play.
Mr Meacher: 
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that filibuster. 
The Bilderberg conference involves about 130 of the western world’s top decision makers from the banks, the multinational companies, the European Commission—
I am coming to the politicians. It also involves representatives of the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and, of course, leading politicians from the United States, Canada, the eurozone and the United Kingdom. 
Given that those people were clearly discussing some of the biggest issues confronting the western economies at this time, why have we heard no statement from the Prime Minister, the Chancellor or, indeed, the Minister without Portfolio, all of whom attended in an official capacity? 
Why did none of them offer a statement, although decisions of this kind may well have a significant effect on UK Government policy or the livelihood of future UK citizens?
It is said by some, including the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that Bilderberg is a conspiracy. 
Of course it is not a conspiracy. 
Nevertheless, 130 of the world’s top decision makers do not travel thousands of miles simply for a cosy chat. 
Those people came here in order to concert their plans to deal with a particularly awkward stage in western capitalism, and in view of that we, the public, are entitled to ask some questions and to hold them to account. The Prime Minister said in 2010:
“For too long those in power made decisions behind closed doors…and denied people the power to hold them to account. This coalition is driving a wrecking ball through that culture—and it’s called transparency.”
In the same year, the Chancellor himself announced his commitment to
“the most radical transparency agenda that the country has ever seen.”—
[Official Report, 8 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 206.]
So why is there no transparency about a very crucial meeting that could affect us all?
Finally, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain how at the start of last week the Prime Minister could announce a crackdown on corruption and lack of transparency among lobbyists, and by the end of the week he and the Chancellor could be insisting that the largest and most powerful lobbyists’ group in the western hemisphere—an anti-democratic cabal if ever there was one—should operate in conditions of utter blackout and complete secrecy?
Mr Clarke: 
The Bilderberg meeting does not make any decisions.
 It does not have any resolutions. 
We could not possibly reach decisions, because of the range of opinions represented there. It is purely a Chatham House rules discussion between the people to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred. 
The shadow Chancellor was there, Peter Mandelson was there, the Prime Minister was there, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was there, and most of us said things during the discussion that would not have come as a surprise to any of us, because we knew what our opinions were. 
We go there for the chance of having an off-the-record, informal discussion with the range of people described by the right hon. Gentleman, who are indeed distinguished, but who are not remotely interested in getting together to decide or organise anything.
If the right hon. Gentleman would like an invitation—if that is what really lies behind his question—I will take his own distinguished claims to participation in the group carefully into account, although I will of course consult the shadow Chancellor before taking that a step further.
Let me say with the greatest respect that this is total, utter nonsense. I would normally regard the right hon. Gentleman as not the sort of person to be taken in by this sort of rubbish. 
We all take part in lots of political and other discussions as private individuals, under Chatham House rules, and we do not expect everyone to go out giving a version of what we have just said. No one alters their opinions when we are there. 
As for transparency, this Government are by a street the most transparent Government I have ever been in, but we can only be transparent in regard to things for which the Government have responsibility, and for what we are doing as a Government.
Mr Speaker: 
Order. The Minister without Portfolio said, rather prosaically I thought, that Peter Mandelson was there. 
I assume he was referring to no less a figure than Lord Mandelson of Foy. I think that is the person he had in mind.
Mr Clarke: 
No, we all attend extremely informally; we are not there in any capacity.
Mr Speaker: 
Order. The Minister can resume his seat. No one in the House has a better sense of humour than the Minister, but I thought that he realised that I was gently teasing him.
Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): 
Is it not rather cruel to oblige the Prime Minister to spend a weekend with Lord Mandelson of Foy and the shadow Chancellor? 
Did anyone at the Bilderberg conference go away any the wiser as to how the Labour party, if it were to win the next general election, would square the circle and manage to tackle the deficit?
Mr Clarke: 
I can only hope that some people did, but Chatham House rules prevent me from offering any further opinion on that question.
Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood) (Lab/Co-op): 
The idea of Lord Mandelson attending any meeting informally is not something I have ever experienced.
As one of the British parliamentarians who attended the weekend meeting in Watford, alongside the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, Lord Mandelson, Baroness Williams and the Minister without Portfolio himself, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he agrees that it is important that Ministers and shadow Ministers meet regularly to discuss important issues with fellow Ministers and Opposition politicians, academics, journalists and business leaders from around the world? 
Can he confirm that over the past 60 years the annual Bilderberg meeting has properly been attended by Prime Ministers, Chancellors and shadow Ministers from all parties, including Lord Healey, Lord Ashdown and the late John Smith?
Does the Minister without Portfolio agree that it is welcome that the Bilderberg group now publishes a list of all those who attend the meeting and the topics that are discussed? 
Does he agree that the list of topics on this weekend's agenda, including “Can the US and Europe grow faster and create jobs?”, “Africa's challenges”, “Trends in medical research” and “Developments in the middle east” are vital issues which every Government and Opposition must grapple with for the benefit of all citizens?
We fully understand that it is because the Minister without Portfolio is a member of the Bilderberg steering group that he is well qualified today to answer the urgent question that was addressed to the Chancellor; he is not doing so because of his economic expertise. 
If on the other hand the Minister without Portfolio were to stand in at the next Treasury questions, we and all conspiracy theorists would rightly be concerned.
Mr Clarke: 
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for perhaps addressing the question more straightforwardly than I did. 
He is obviously feeling a little defensive. 
He is dealing with it a little more seriously and probably much more wisely than I did. 
Everything he said is entirely right. 
I have attended Bilderberg meetings for many years. 
The only reason I attend is that my own understanding of political and economic problems in various parts of the world is improved by the opportunity to have an informal weekend with the kind of people who go to the conference. 
Discussing things with, among others, the shadow Chancellor in a completely informal way, off the record, is also of considerable value. 
I am sure that he agrees that we derive a great deal from the meeting and we hope that it improves our contribution to debates here, too.
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): 
Our hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) was invited to a previous Bilderberg conference, and I wonder whether the Minister, as a member of the steering committee, could tell us why he has been dropped. 
Has he done something wrong?
Mr Clarke: 
Every year, about half those participating have never been before. Quite a lot of people come only for one meeting. The number of people who come every year is comparatively small—there is a kind of core and for some extraordinary reason I have been a part of that core over the past decade. 
My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) made a most distinguished contribution but he should not be disappointed that he was not invited again. 
The British committee was trying to bring in a rising star of a younger generation, because we do not want the whole thing to become an ageing establishment of people who used to be something important in government. 
I have no doubt that one day my hon. Friend will be implored to attend again, but I cannot guarantee when that will be.
Mr Speaker: 
I call Mr Dennis Skinner.
Hon. Members: 
Have you been there, Dennis?
Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): 
I wouldn’t be seen dead with them.
How come when all those media moguls, the bankers and politicians have been meeting together since 1954, not one of them was able to spot the recession coming—or maybe they caused it?
Mr Clarke: 
We have had trade unions there sometimes, and there are plenty of social democrats. 
I do not think anybody as left wing as the hon. Gentleman has ever attended, but if I scratch my memory I will probably remember somebody. 
Obviously, the hon. Gentleman forecast with absolute precision the collapse of capitalism in 2007. 
In that respect, I agree that his foresight was rather better than that of most pundits. 
We continue to meet, in the hope that next time we will see it coming with slightly more clarity.
Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): 
As many UKIP voters fear that the Bilderberg group is a plot to promote more unaccountable European government, can my right hon. and learned Friend give them any reassurance or suggest why they might be wrong in that thought?
Mr Clarke: 
Nowadays we get accused of plots to establish a Government of the world, to poison the local watercourses, and to plan an invasion of the United States of America. 
Ten years ago, I was told I was attending a plot to hand over Britain to Brussels and to subordinate us to a “United States of Europe”, and the next instalment of the plot will come later. 
I cite that example in order to point out that a fellow member of the steering committee was Mr Conrad Black, and in private, as in public, Mr Conrad Black was not in favour of handing anything over to Brussels and was not in any way furthering that cause. 
I regret to say that Mr Black is, as I recall, the only member who ever attended who has since had the misfortune to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, whereupon he withdrew from the Bilderberg meetings.
Seriously, however, I assure my right hon. Friend that the full range of opinion from left to right from across western Europe is pretty well represented at Bilderberg. 
That in itself shows that the idea that we are furthering any kind of agenda is absolute nonsense. If I were plotting to do anything, I would not assemble that particular group of people, because we would never agree on an objective.
Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab): 
Can the Minister confirm that he declared his trusteeship of the body that funds the conference to his permanent secretary when he was appointed by the Prime Minister?
Mr Clarke: 
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman. I am looking that up, because I had forgotten. Actually, I am a member of the steering committee. 
When we were hosting at Watford, I discovered that I am, among other things, a trustee of the British steering group, so I am checking, with the aid of my constituency office, whether I ever put that in. 
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I had completely forgotten that it was set up on that basis, long before the rules were established. 
The trustees have never met as trustees. 
All I actually do is sit as a member of a committee and play my part in helping with the organisation of a meeting, and that is all I have ever done.
Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): 
We have had a bit of fun today—indeed, who would want to spend a weekend of irredeemable tedium discussing world economics with a bunch of establishment toffs? 
Surely the serious point is this, however: why on earth does the House of Commons think it is necessary to discuss what was said in a private meeting?
Mr Clarke: 
Perhaps my hon. Friend was not here when I started answering this question and said that this is the first time I have ever risen in the House of Commons to answer questions on behalf of a private organisation for which the British Government have absolutely no responsibility.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): 
I know I cannot be described as a rising star, so should I not presume that my invitation was lost in the post? 
Can the Minister say whether or not, either formally or informally, he took the opportunity while at the conference to discuss his campaign to keep the UK within the European Union, and which members of the EU were there?
Mr Clarke: 
My hon. Friend will not be surprised to learn that I do not think I am being too indiscreet when I say that the subject of the future of the European Union and Britain’s participation in it did come up from time to time over the weekend. 
People from many countries have quite a strong interest in that subject, so it was discussed, but under Chatham House rules, and I can assure him that no conclusions of any kind were reached.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): 
Is my right hon. and learned Friend the only British citizen on the steering committee, and who does he think his replacement will be?
Mr Clarke: 
The other members at the moment are John Kerr and Marcus Agius, and I do not know who my successor will be. 
We are slightly overrepresented on the steering committee, which is probably a reflection of the quality of debate in this place and elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Mr Speaker: 
Order. I think the matters have been fairly fully explored.

Michael Meacher, who served as a minister for six years until three months ago, today goes further than any other mainstream British politician in blaming the Iraq war on a US desire for domination of the Gulf and the world.
Mr Meacher, a leftwinger who is close to the green lobby, also claims in an article in today's Guardian that the war on terrorism is a smokescreen and that the US knew in advance about the September 11 attack on New York but, for strategic reasons, chose not to act on the warnings.

He says the US goal is "world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies" and that this Pax Americana "provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis".

Mr Meacher adds that the US has made "no serious attempt" to catch the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.

He also criticises the British government, claiming it is motivated, as is the US, by a desire for oil.

The US government last night expressed abhorrence at Mr Meacher's views. An embassy spokesman in London said: "Mr Meacher's fantastic allegations - especially his assertion that the US government knowingly stood by while terrorists killed some 3,000 innocents in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia - would be monstrous, and monstrously offensive, if they came from someone serious or credible.

"My nation remains grateful for the steadfast friendship of the British people and Her Majesty's government as we face, together, the serious challenges that have arisen since September 11 2001."

Downing Street also distanced itself from the views of an MP who only a few months ago was in the government. "The prime minister has responded to those who argue it was about oil," a spokeswoman said, adding that oil profits from Iraq are to be fed back into the country's development.

Former ministers such as Robin Cook and Clare Short have criticised the British government for misleading the public over the reasons for going to war. But Mr Meacher has gone much further in his analysis of US and British motives.

He says that the plans of the neo-conservatives in Washington for action against Afghanistan and Iraq were well in hand before September 11. He questions why the US failed to heed intelligence about al-Qaida operatives in the US and the apparent slow reaction of the US authorities on the day, as well as the subsequent inability to lay hands on Bin Laden.

He argues that the explanation makes sense when seen against the background of the neo-conservative plan.

"From this it seems that the so-called 'war on terrorism' is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives."

He adds: "Given this, it is not surprising that some have seen the US failure to avert the 9/11 attacks as creating an invaluable pretext for attacking Afghanistan in a war that had clearly already been well planned in advance."

Mr Meacher, who was environment minister, says: "The overriding motivation for this political smokescreen is that the US and the UK are beginning to run out of secure hydrocarbon energy supplies."

He is critical of Britain for allegedly colluding in propagating the myth of a global war of terrorism. He asks: "Is collusion in this myth and junior participation in this project really a proper aspiration for British foreign policy?"

Apropos of Nothing....

(And completely without irony)

Back to Hansard
(The VERY Next thing Discussed in Parliament after Bilderberg...)

How big data is changing almost everything

US foreign policy

Cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats


3.55 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): 
With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on the work of the Government Communications Headquarters—GCHQ—its legal framework and recent publicity about it. 
As Foreign Secretary, I am responsible for the work of GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service—MI6—under the overall authority of the Prime Minister. 
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is responsible for the work of the Security Service, MI5.
Over the past few days, there have been a series of media disclosures of classified US documents relating to the collection of intelligence by US agencies, and questions about the role of GCHQ. 
The US Administration have begun a review into the circumstances of these leaks in conjunction with the Justice Department and the US intelligence community. 
President Obama has been clear that US work in this area is fully overseen and authorised by Congress and relevant judicial bodies, and that his Administration are committed to respecting the civil liberties and privacy of their citizens.
The Government deplore the leaking of any classified information, wherever it occurs. 
Such leaks can make the work of maintaining the security of our own country and that of our allies more difficult, and by providing a partial and potentially misleading picture they give rise to public concerns. 
It has been the policy of successive British Governments not to comment on the detail of intelligence operations. 
The House will therefore understand that I will not be drawn into confirming or denying any aspect of leaked information. 
I will be as informative as possible, to give reassurance to the public and Parliament. 
We want the British people to have confidence in the work of our intelligence agencies, and in their adherence to the law and democratic values, but I also wish to be very clear that I will take great care in this statement and in answering questions to say nothing that gives any clue or comfort to terrorists, criminals and foreign intelligence services as they seek to do harm to this country and its people.
Three issues have arisen in recent days which I wish to address. 
First, I will describe the action that the Government are taking in response to recent events. 
Secondly, I will set out how our intelligence agencies work in accordance with UK law and subject to democratic oversight. 
Thirdly, I will describe how the law is upheld with respect to intelligence co-operation with the United States, and deal with specific questions that have been raised about the work of GCHQ.
First, in respect of the action we have taken, the Intelligence and Security Committee has already received some information from GCHQ and will receive a full report tomorrow. 
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, is travelling to the United States on a long-planned visit with the rest of the Committee. 
As he has said, the Committee will be free to decide what, if any, further action it should take in the light of that report. 
The Government and the agencies will co-operate fully with the Committee, and I pay tribute to its members and their predecessors from all parties.
Secondly, the ISC’s work is one part of the strong framework of democratic accountability and oversight that governs the use of secret intelligence in the United Kingdom, which successive Governments have worked to strengthen. 
At its heart are two Acts of Parliament: the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The Acts require GCHQ and the other agencies to seek authorisation for their operations from a Secretary of State, normally the Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary. 
As Foreign Secretary, I receive hundreds of operational proposals from the SIS and GCHQ every year. The proposals are detailed: they set out the planned operation, the potential risks and the intended benefits of the intelligence. 
They include comprehensive legal advice describing the basis for the operation, and comments from senior Foreign Office officials and lawyers. 
To intercept the content of any individual’s communications in the UK requires a warrant signed personally by me, the Home Secretary, or by another Secretary of State. This is no casual process. Every decision is based on extensive legal and policy advice. 
Warrants are legally required to be necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted, and we judge them on that basis.
Considerations of privacy are also at the forefront of our minds, as I believe they will have been in the minds of our predecessors. 
We take great care to balance individual privacy with our duty to safeguard the public and the UK’s national security. These are often difficult and finely judged decisions, and we do not approve every proposal put before us by the agencies. 
All the authorisations that the Home Secretary and I give are subject to independent review by an Intelligence Services Commissioner and an Interception of Communications Commissioner, both of whom must have held high judicial office and report directly to the Prime Minister. 
They review the way these decisions are made to ensure that they are fully compliant with the law.
 They have full access to all the information that they need to carry out their responsibilities, and their reports are publicly available. 
It is vital that we have that framework of democratic accountability and scrutiny.
I have nothing but praise for the professionalism, dedication and integrity of the men and women of GCHQ. 
I know from my work with them how seriously they take their obligations under UK and international law. 
Indeed, in his most recent report, the Interception of Communications Commissioner said:
“it is my belief…that GCHQ staff conduct themselves with the highest levels of integrity and legal compliance.”
This combination of needing a warrant from one of the most senior members of the Government, decided on the basis of detailed legal advice, and such decisions being reviewed by independent commissioners and implemented by agencies with strong legal and ethical frameworks, with the addition of parliamentary scrutiny by the ISC, whose powers are being increased, provides one of the strongest systems of checks and balances and democratic accountability for secret intelligence anywhere in the world.
Thirdly, I want to set out how UK law is upheld in respect of information received from the United States, and to address the specific questions about the role of GCHQ. Since the 1940s, GCHQ and its American equivalents—now the National Security Agency—have had a relationship that is unique in the world. 
This relationship has been and remains essential to the security of both nations, has stopped many terrorist and espionage plots against this country, and has saved many lives. The basic principles by which that co-operation operates have not changed over time. 
Indeed, I wish to emphasise to the House that although we have experienced an extremely busy period in intelligence and diplomacy in the past three years, the arrangements for oversight, and the general framework for exchanging information with the United States, are the same as under previous Governments. 
The growing and diffuse nature of threats from terrorists, criminals or espionage has only increased the importance of our intelligence relationship with the United States.
That was particularly the case in the run-up to the Olympics. The House will not be surprised to hear that our activity to counter terrorism intensified and rose to a peak in the summer of last year.
It has been suggested that GCHQ uses our partnership with the United States to get around UK law, obtaining information that it cannot legally obtain in the United Kingdom. 
I wish to be absolutely clear that that accusation is baseless. Any data obtained by us from the United States involving UK nationals are subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards, including the relevant sections of the Intelligence Services Act, the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
Our intelligence-sharing work with the United States is subject to ministerial and independent oversight, and to scrutiny by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

 Our agencies practise and uphold UK law at all times, even when dealing with information from outside the United Kingdom. The combination of a robust legal framework, ministerial responsibility, scrutiny by the intelligence services commissioners, and parliamentary accountability through the Intelligence and Security Committee should give a high level of confidence that the system works as intended.
That does not mean that we do not have to work to strengthen public confidence whenever we can, while maintaining the secrecy necessary to intelligence work. We have strengthened the role of the ISC through the Justice and Security Act 2013, to include oversight of the agencies’ operations as well as their policy, administration and finances.
 We have introduced the National Security Council so that intelligence is weighed and assessed alongside all other sources of information available to the Government, including diplomatic reporting and the insights of other Government Departments, and all that information is judged carefully in deciding the Government’s overall strategy and objectives.
There is no doubt that secret intelligence, including the work of GCHQ, is vital to our country. It enables us to detect threats against our country ranging from nuclear proliferation to cyber attack. Our agencies work to prevent serious and organised crime, and to protect our economy against those trying to steal our intellectual property. 
They disrupt complex plots against our country, such as when individuals travel abroad to gain terrorist training and prepare attacks. 
They support the work of our armed forces overseas and help to protect the lives of our men and women in uniform, and they work to help other countries lawfully to build the capacity and willingness to investigate and disrupt terrorists in their countries, before threats reach us in the United Kingdom.
We should never forget that threats are launched at us secretly, new weapons systems and tactics are developed secretly, and countries or terrorist groups that plan attacks or operations against us do so in secrecy. 
So the methods we use to combat these threats must be secret, just as they must always be lawful. 
If the citizens of this country could see the time and care taken in making these decisions, the carefully targeted nature of all our interventions, and the strict controls in place to ensure that the law and our democratic values are upheld, and if they could witness, as I do, the integrity and professionalism of the men and women of our intelligence agencies, who are among our nation’s very finest public servants, I believe they would be reassured by how we go about this essential work.
The British people can be confident in the way our agencies work to keep them safe. Would-be terrorists, those seeking to spy against this country or those who are the centre of organised crime should be aware that this country has the capability and partnerships to protect its citizens against the full range of threats in the 21st century, and that we will always do so in accordance with our laws and values, but with constant resolve and determination.
4.7 pm
Mr Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (Lab): 
I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for advance sight of it this afternoon. The House will be aware that on Saturday the Opposition, along with other Members of this House, called for the Foreign Secretary to address Parliament today, and we welcome his decision to do so in recognition of the depth of public concern that has arisen in recent days.
I begin my remarks by echoing the words of the Foreign Secretary and put on record the support and admiration of the whole House for the important—indeed, vital—work that is done by our country’s intelligence and security services. 
Theirs is some of the most important but inevitably least recognised work undertaken to protect the security of our nation, and it is right that we take the opportunity to offer our thanks and praise for their efforts. Our intelligence agencies’ work would be made more difficult if levels of concern about the framework under which they operate were to compromise the active support of the public for their efforts. 
In light of that, I shall quote back to the Foreign Secretary his words in a BBC interview yesterday:
“if you are a law abiding citizen of this country going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear—nothing to fear about the British state or intelligence agencies listening to the contents of your phone calls or anything like that.”
This assertion, however, assumes that the state is either incapable of error or incapable of advertent or inadvertent wrongdoing.
Surely, on reflection, the Foreign Secretary will accept that law-abiding citizens of this country also want to know and be assured of the fact that the agencies of government are themselves law-abiding. Back in 2011, the Foreign Secretary seemed to recognise the importance of this point when in a speech on the role of the Security Services he said:
“the need for secrecy places additional importance on the Foreign Secretary’s accountability to Parliament for GCHQ and SIS. This is one of the indispensable foundations of public confidence, and one that I will personally strive to strengthen.”
Today presents him with a clear opportunity to deliver on that pledge, and I hope that in his answers to my specific questions he will be able to do so.
The Foreign Secretary is right to assume that lawyers, some law-makers and the members of the ISC may be very familiar with the framework of legality and accountability, but the general public, for understandable reasons, are not. 
In light of that, will he take the opportunity of his response to remind the House of the steps we in Parliament have taken to preserve privacy, and set out whether all steps taken by our agencies are, to the best of his knowledge, compliant with those laws? 
It is in this spirit, not of condemnation but of concern, that I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary some questions about the recent allegations first revealed by The Guardian on Friday of last week about the existence and operation of the so-called Prism programme administered by the NSA.
Let me first make it clear that the Opposition support the principle of information sharing across international borders with allies. 
Indeed, the people who want to do harm to the UK work across international borders, and those people working to keep us safe have to be able to work with allies across international borders if they are to tackle these threats effectively. 
But that needs to be within that established framework of both law and accountability. 
The Foreign Secretary is right to say that full disclosure on this issue is not possible nor appropriate, so let me focus my questions not on the specific operational aspect of the allegations, but on the broader legal and policy frameworks that would apply in these circumstances.
Earlier this morning, the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), gave his account of the legal framework that would govern British intelligence agencies’ use of intercept data. He said:
“If the British intelligence agencies are seeking to know the content of emails about people living in the UK then they actually have to get lawful authority. Normally that means ministerial authority. That applies equally whether they are going to do the intercept themselves or whether they are going to ask somebody else to do it on their behalf.”
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm whether that account of the current legal framework is both complete and accurate?
In his statement, the Foreign Secretary has just stated: “Any data obtained by us from the United States involving UK nationals are subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards, including the relevant sections of the Intelligence Services Act 1994, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.” 
Will he now set out the relevant sections of those Acts, and confirm whether this explanation means that any data obtained by us from the US, involving UK nationals, are authorised by ministerial warrants and overseen by the intercept commissioner, as set out by RIPA?
Specifically, what legal framework applies in the following two cases? First, when a request is made by the UK to an intelligence agency of an international ally for the interception of the content of private communications, will he confirm whether this process is governed by individual warrants signed by the relevant Secretary of State and approved by the intercept commissioner as set out in part I of RIPA? 
Secondly, will he address the specific issue of when a request is made by the UK to an intelligence agency of an international ally, not to seek intercept, but instead to search existing data held by that agency on the contents of private communications, and, in particular, the legal process that will be adopted in such an instance? 
In that circumstance, will he confirm whether this process is also governed by individual warrants signed by the relevant Secretary of State and approved by the intercept commissioner as set out in part I of RIPA?
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that, with respect to intelligence sharing with allies, the UK Government operate on the basis of the assumption that information held by, for example, the US Government, has been obtained in accordance with the law of that country? 
If that is the case, what steps he has he taken, or will take, to confirm that any processes currently in use by the NSA continue to adhere to this legal safeguard?
Mr Speaker: 
Order. The shadow Foreign Secretary has now exceeded his allotted time, so I feel sure that he is in his last sentence.
Mr Alexander: 
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
To conclude, all of us in this House have an interest in sustaining public confidence in the work of the intelligence agencies. Those agencies, each and every day, do outstanding work on behalf of and for the sake of us all. That is why Ministers and the ISC now have a heavy burden of responsibility to oversee and scrutinise their work, so as to reassure the public.
Mr Hague: 
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and pleased that he began his remarks by expressing the support and admiration across the House for the work of the intelligence agencies. 
Many former Ministers from the previous Government—indeed, there are some specific ones here today—know that well. 
He was right to say that the work of those agencies is among the most important and least recognised that goes into protecting this country, so there is strong common ground across the House on that.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we should be able, now and in future, to give people assurances about the law-abiding nature of the work of the agencies, which of course is a large part of the purpose of what I have just explained to the House. 
I am not saying that the agencies, anyone who works in them or, indeed, Ministers are incapable of error—that can happen in any organisation—but I am arguing that there is a strong system of checks and balances. 
A combination of ministerial oversight, independent scrutiny, parliamentary oversight, the legal framework and the strong ethical framework of the agencies themselves minimises the chance of errors happening in any sinister way.
Sometimes people can get the impression, when reading discussions in the media about this, that there is a danger of a “deep state” that is in some way out of control. There is not that danger in the United Kingdom. 
Of course everyone is capable of error, but the protection of this country’s citizens from such error is very strong indeed. 
I must stress that there will always be ways of improving procedures—many improvements have been made in recent years, under successive Administrations—and there are always new situations that arise in intelligence gathering that require additions to or the refinement of the legal basis of what we do and the practices and procedures by which we do that work. 
I do not argue at all that everything is definitely perfect, and certainly not for all time, with regard to whether in future there could be any improvements in procedures in some areas, because I am sure that there could be. 
The Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to look at that and make recommendations if it so wishes, and of course within the Government that is something that is constantly looked at and subject to change.
The right hon. Gentleman is right that there is no reason why the general public would be familiar with the framework I have set out for the House. 
I was the first Foreign Secretary to make a speech, in November 2011—it might have been widely unnoticed in the House—about the role of secret intelligence in foreign policy, in which I set out for the public what the guarantees are and what the legal framework is. This, in a way, is an opportunity to set that out clearly to the country.
The right hon. Gentleman was right to say that he supports information sharing with our allies. The position on the legal framework is exactly as I set out in my statement: any data obtained by us from the United States about UK nationals are subject to the full range of Acts, including section 3 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the RIPA provisions, set out in sections 15 and 16, which regulate that information gathering must be necessary and proportionate and regulate how the agencies must handle information when they obtain it.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s further questions about how authority is given, I cannot give him, for reasons that I cannot explain in public, as detailed an answer as he would like. I would love to give him what could actually be a very helpful answer, but because circumstances and procedures vary according to the situation, I do not want to give a categorical answer—in a small respect circumstances might differ occasionally. But I can say that ministerial oversight and independent scrutiny is there, and there is scrutiny of the ISC in all these situations, so, again, the idea that operations are carried out without ministerial oversight, somehow getting around UK law, is mistaken. I am afraid that I cannot be more specific than that.
Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): 
Nobody in this House, and certainly not me, would dispute the value of well-targeted intelligence. Central to this issue are the US FISA—Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—laws, which distinguish between American citizens, who receive rigorous protection of their privacy, and all other foreigners, including British citizens, who receive, in essence, no protection. 
When the Americans are concerned about assaults on their citizens, they pursue this with an aggression that would make Lord Palmerston proud, most obviously through the extradition arrangements, for example. Has the Foreign Secretary made any representations to the American authorities about the protection of innocent British citizens’ privacy under their FISA laws?
Mr Hague: 
We apply our own laws. The United States decides its own laws and applies its own laws in the United States. We do so in the United Kingdom as well. 
That is the central point that I am making about this. All the Acts that we have passed in this Parliament relating to the gathering of intelligence are applied to data supplied from other countries. 
While I cannot give my right hon. Friend a specific answer about specific discussions, of course we regularly discuss with the United States the framework for these things to make sure, as best we can, that our values and our legal frameworks are upheld and that the strong emphasis on the privacy of the citizen is always there. 
As he will have seen in the statements of President Obama, the United States is very, very tough about that as well. When the UK and US both work together, each with a strong legal framework, the combined effect is a very strong and protective one.
Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): 
Does the Secretary of State accept that many of our allies, leaving aside the United States, are astonished by the degree of control and supervision of our system of ministerial oversight, oversight by judicially qualified commissioners and oversight by the ISC, which surpasses that of most other western democracies?
Does Secretary of State also accept that those in the agencies face an impossible dilemma? When things are relatively calm, suspicions, fantasies and sometimes paranoia can take off about the so-called secret state, but the moment there is a serious threat or actual terrorist outrage, often the very same people and newspapers turn on a sixpence and demand to know not whether the safeguards were operated but why there has been a failure by the agencies to track, through intelligence of all kinds, the miscreants involved.
Mr Hague: 
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; as a former Foreign Secretary he is very experienced in these matters. I argued in my statement that, as he knows very well, the system of checks and balances and scrutiny that we have is among the strongest in the world; it could be the strongest in the world. 
Yes, he is right that the agencies easily come in for criticism when anything goes wrong and yet have to ensure at all times that they are gathering all the information they ought to be obtaining. They undertake a task for which they are not thanked and recognised often enough. They have achieved a great deal in frustrating attacks on this country, including, in recent years, planned terrorist attacks on this country, some of which we cannot talk about as they are not known to the public. It is therefore difficult to give them the recognition that they deserve. That is the scale and the importance of this crucial work.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): 
I declare a strong constituency interest.
Veterans of Bletchley park, like my own parents, were and are widely described as heroes for the secret victories that we can now talk about, they having kept their secrets for many decades. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that GCHQ, as Bletchley’s successor, does equally vital but equally secret work, and that hon. 
Members might have to exercise just a fraction of that kind of self-restraint in allowing some of the perfectly legitimate questions about Prism to be answered in private to elected members of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which we have set up for precisely this purpose?
Mr Hague: 
My hon. Friend has spoken well about GCHQ and the work of his constituents, which he and I both greatly admire. Of course, the Intelligence and Security Committee is able to look at any aspects, including secret and top secret ones, of this discussion. 
The ISC, for those outside the House who may not be aware of it, is a cross-party Committee of Members who are already very familiar with so many of the issues surrounding secret intelligence. That is the proper place for these issues to be gone into in detail. 
I am sure this House will show the necessary restraint in its questions and comments, and that they will be fitting for today’s discussion about secret intelligence.
Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab): 
May I reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) has said and confirm from my own experience what the Foreign Secretary has said about the legal and ethical framework and the safeguards? 
I know that to be true, and it is from that background that I ask this simple question. 
Yes, we need to dampen down fear and reinforce the fact that we are engaging with international cyber-attack and the dangers of international global terrorism; but, in reassuring people about how we handle their data, could we take a closer look at how other agencies, including the NSA and our friends and colleagues in the United States, use material gathered from network and service providers and offer it, rather than having it sought from them, in a way that makes authorisation extremely difficult?
Mr Hague: 
Like the right hon. Member for Blackburn, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) speaks from his own experience of the highly professional work of the agencies. 
The point he raises reinforces the importance of our agencies applying and upholding the laws of the United Kingdom regarding the data they obtain from other intelligence agencies around the world. As I said earlier to the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. 
Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander), there may well be occasions over the coming years when we will need to update and improve those procedures, to take account of changes in technology. 
I do not exclude that at all, but it re-emphasises the importance of applying our law in our country, which the agencies can be relied on to do.
Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): 
People will have great confidence in hearing what my right hon. Friend has said about requests for intercept and operations in this country having to be so very rigorous. Does he also agree that the highly complex nature of modern communications inevitably means that, from time to time, privacy may have to be breached in the interests of the security of our country and its people?
Mr Hague: 
Yes, of course: a would-be terrorist cannot rely on their privacy and nor can someone at the centre of organised crime. It is these decisions that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I and, sometimes, other colleagues have to make. We take extra steps and extra care on privacy. 
The law explicitly requires us to make sure that our actions are necessary, proportionate and targeted, but we go beyond those requirements in assessing the impact on the privacy of individuals in order to try to make sure that it is only when absolutely necessary that we invade that privacy.
Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): 
One of the key motivations for the reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee was to help with transparency and to engage with the public and give confidence. 
Can the Foreign Secretary say whether any ISC report on Prism will be published, containing redactions that are as limited as possible?
Mr Hague: 
I cannot give an assurance that reports on these issues will be public because, as I argued in my statement, there is an important role for secret intelligence. Our deliberations about that must therefore be secret. 
The ISC makes a variety of reports, some of which are published and redacted, as the hon. Lady says. 
The ISC will have to consider the format of its report, but I cannot guarantee that its findings will be public.
Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): 
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on an excellent statement to the House in which the British people should have every confidence. 
Does he agree that, notwithstanding the reservations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), the protection of the British people relies hugely on co-operation between the United Kingdom and the United States? 
Both countries face threats from China. 
In that regard, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has any comments to make to the House about the illuminating report by the Intelligence and Security Committee last week?
Mr Hague: 
I am largely grateful to my hon. Friend for his question and for his strong support for the Government’s position. 
He is right to underline the extreme importance to our national security of our close and unique co-operation with the United States. 
It has been my general approach, as he knows, not to publicly point fingers or fling accusations at other countries about intelligence activities. 
Despite his tempting invitation, I will not do so today.
Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): 
As a former chair of the ISC, I have nothing but admiration for the work of GCHQ. 
The Foreign Secretary agrees that the ISC should investigate the allegations. 
Will he encourage the ISC to report swiftly to the Prime Minister, as is its custom, and then, if it is possible within the constraints of national security, to report to the House of Commons?
Mr Hague: 
The ISC should of course report to the Prime Minister. I do not want to pre-empt any decision that the Committee or the Prime Minister may make about the nature of any reporting to the public or to Parliament. 
I reiterate the cautionary words that I issued a moment ago. 
I am sure that the Committee will want to undertake its work swiftly, but only as swiftly as proper consideration of all the issues allows. 
We all want it to consider such questions thoroughly. That is the most important requirement.
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): 
I very much welcome the statement by the Foreign Secretary. 
On the sharing of intelligence by GCHQ, will he clarify whether the United Kingdom provides location intelligence to the United States in relation to drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Mr Hague: 
As I explained in my statement, successive Governments have not commented on the details of how we use intelligence information. 
My statement was about the legal framework that governs such matters and the values that we uphold. I cannot and will not comment on what intelligence we share with other countries.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): 
Given the rather different approaches to privacy and data protection in Europe and the United States, what assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of the potential for this controversy to impact on the successful outcome of the EU-America free trade deal, and what are the Government doing to prevent it from having such an impact?
Mr Hague: 
I have no evidence of any such impact. 
Over the coming days, the Government and our European partners will be putting great effort into ensuring that rapid progress is made on a transatlantic trade and investment partnership. 
I see no reason why the questions raised in the media over the past few days should have a significant impact on that.
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): 
The Foreign Secretary was right to say that in democracies, it is important that some things are kept secret. 
However, it is equally important that Members of this House are free to have discussions without fear of interception by the Government. 
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that no Member is having his phone tapped or his e-mails intercepted?
Mr Hague: There is a long-standing convention, named after a former Labour Prime Minister, which has always been upheld, so my hon. Friend and Mrs Bone can be assured of that.
Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): 
Can the Foreign Secretary assure the House that the Security Services have all the necessary tools to keep our citizens safe, even though at times that may mean the sacrifice of personal freedoms?
Mr Hague: 
They do have the tools. I said earlier that those tools need updating over time. I did not refer in my statement to the discussions on a communications data Bill, but there is a strong case for updating the tools we have at our disposal. 
Means of communication are changing more rapidly than at any time in the history of the world, which means that the range and nature of threats change. 
We must be careful to do that work, and the whole House should give fair consideration to such proposals.
John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): 
My right hon. Friend has confirmed that the Government and the intelligence services have no interest in random snooping into the private affairs of British citizens, but can he confirm to the House that, when well-founded security risks are identified, sufficient powers and freedoms are in place to undertake the investigations that may be necessary, or is it his opinion that enhanced freedoms and powers are now required?
Mr Hague: 
In my experience, we are well-equipped to conduct necessary investigations, but I return to the answer I gave to the previous question. 
There will be a constant need to update what we are able to do, without being diverted from the basic principle of ensuring that our intelligence gathering is on what is necessary, and that it is proportionate, targeted and always legal. 
Our laws do not provide for indiscriminate trawling for information through the contents of people’s communications. 
We do not need to change those basic principles, but we sometimes need to change aspects of the legal framework and where we are able to get information from. 
That work must go on in the coming years.
Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): 
Considering all the dangers for the individual concerned, why should we believe that the American whistleblower is telling a pack of lies?
If a lot of what he is saying is true, then surely law-abiding citizens who are a million miles from any threat involved with terrorism should indeed be fearful.
Mr Hague: 
As you will have noticed, Mr Speaker, I have not commented on the individual concerned. I am not going to get into a running commentary on this or any other leak. 
It is not possible for any Government to do that while respecting the need to maintain the secrecy of our intelligence work. 
I do not want to get into that now, but I stress again the very strong legal framework in this country. I believe people can have confidence in that.
Mr Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) (Con):
All our constituents should be grateful for the work of the Security Services, and some will owe their lives to their professionalism. 
Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that one of the biggest threats to our national security is stolen identities? Surely GCHQ has to be ever more innovative to stay one step in front.
Mr Hague: 
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that. Part of the work of GCHQ is to make it easier for us to combat serious and organised crime. In many ways, the privacy of the citizens of this country benefits substantially from the work of our agencies, because of what they are doing to protect the country. 
There is a strong argument to be made about that, rather than that their privacy is invaded. 
So that is a growing threat, and in many cases it is up to the private sector, working with GCHQ, to ensure that we are well equipped to defeat it.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): 
As one who continues to campaign for the young US-British soldier Bradley Manning, and exchanges e-mails and telephone calls with his defence counsel, can I assume that I am free from any surveillance, either from the United States or Britain?
Mr Hague: 
I can only reiterate what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) about the Wilson doctrine, and I believe that the right hon. Lady can be confident in that.
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD) 
Mr Speaker: 
Time for a dose from the doctor.
Dr Huppert: 
Many British people use the online tools affected by Prism and many British companies will have commercially sensitive data on there—many people in government as well. 
The Americans are partly protected, but what rules are there on the collection of British data by the NSA or the uses that those data can be put to after they have been collected?
Mr Hague: 
The House will understand that I cannot speculate about the content of any leak or what has been argued in newspapers over the past few days, but we do have our own clear legal framework—the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Human Rights Act 1998, all of which apply to data obtained by this country through co-operation with the US, just as they apply to any data we obtain ourselves. I think that people can be confident about that.
Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): 
Given that EU data protection laws currently offer no protection against backdoor US surveillance of this sort, will the Foreign Secretary commit to pushing for stronger measures in the current EU proposals, or does he agree with the Justice Secretary, who is reported to have said that plans to strengthen protections for UK citizens and businesses from such unwarranted spying are “mad”?
Mr Hague: 
I think that the hon. Lady might be quoting the Justice Secretary slightly out of context, in that he will have been referring to other aspects of the proposals. 
I cannot give her any guarantee that these controversies make it easier to agree proposals for EU directives, but I will go with my right hon. 
Friend the Justice Secretary on these matters.
Mr Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North) (Con): 
Could the Guardian’s non-story be summed up as: foreign Government monitor international terrorists and share intelligence with their allies? 
Will the Foreign Secretary join me in paying tribute to our allies, who share intelligence so that British citizens remain safe, both here and abroad?
Mr Hague: 
I absolutely join in the tributes to our allies. We depend on the United States a great deal for our national security, particularly in intelligence matters, and they also depend on us. 
This is an important two-way relationship, greatly assisting the security of both nations, and reaffirms what an indispensible relationship this is for the UK.

Mr Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab): 
I think that 99% of the British public would agree that this is not about gathering information on terrorists. It is about the little fella—the fella who might be organising a demonstration against a rotten Government policy, or a trade unionist such as Len McCluskey or even Bob Crow organising a strike. 
I was involved in the 1984 miners’ strike, mind, and there was some funny intelligence work done then.

Mr Hague: 
I can only speak about the legal framework operating now on the basis of two Acts of Parliament, in 1994 and 2000, and I can assure the hon. 
Gentleman that if the Home Secretary and I were signing off interception warrants on political grounds, we would be in a great deal of trouble with the intercept commissioner and the ISC. 
The hon. Gentleman can be reassured about that.
Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): 
Does my right hon. Friend agree that our relationship with the US is a cornerstone of our national security infrastructure; that the exchange of material works both ways, aiding the US as well as the UK; 
that those who work on the paranoid assumption that this or some other programme is there to spy on UK and US citizens are wrong; and that a large proportion of the data collected is against third-party citizens in third-party countries?
Mr Hague: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, including about the importance of the relationship and about how inevitably the vast majority of work done together by the UK and US intelligence agencies is to guard against threats from elsewhere in the world.
Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): 
Following on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth Valley (Mr Campbell) said, and the fact that GCHQ has been involved in trade union disputes for a long time, can the Foreign Secretary give me an assurance?
He will not explain precisely how this interception takes place on the advice of a Minister; but surely, if the Prime Minister of the day in 1984 said that the miners and the NUM were the “enemy within”, would that not give the green light to GCHQ to intervene in every single coalfield? Because that is what we believed.
Mr Hague: 
We are in a different century now—we are 13 years into the 21st century. 
The challenges are different and the focus of the intelligence agencies is different from decades in the past and very different, of course, from during the cold war. 
It is important for Opposition Members below the Gangway to start to move with the times.
Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): 
Has not our national security relied for centuries on the effective intercept of communications? The Spanish armada was said to have been averted as much by the pen of Francis Walsingham as by the Royal Navy. 
Surely what has changed is the nature of those communications. 
The threat to the public comes not from the intelligence agencies, which have no interest at all in the communications of members of the public; but they will not be able to intercept communications if those data are not retained by providers.
Mr Hague: 
Since I refused to go back into the miners’ strike, I am reluctant to go into the Spanish armada, but the wider point that my right hon. Friend makes is of course absolutely correct. 
Two cross-party Committees in this House have looked at proposals for a communications data Bill, for instance, and said that changes are necessary, and he is adding to that point.
Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): 
Can the Secretary of State spell out to the House the precise difference between the legal framework applicable to the obtaining of intercept data by our intelligence services and that which applies to the use by our intelligence services of information obtained by their counterparts overseas?
Mr Hague: 
The legal framework is the one I have set out. 
The Acts that I have referred to, passed by Parliament, apply to all the intelligence gathered by the agencies. 
The hon. Gentleman will know that, for instance, section 3 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 confers particular powers and roles on GCHQ, so these things are governed by the same Acts of Parliament. Procedures differ, of course, in many different situations. 
It is because I cannot describe all those situations in public that I cannot go into exactly what that means for procedures in every case. I therefore cannot go as far in reassuring the hon. Gentleman or the shadow Foreign Secretary as they would like, but if they could see the full details of what happens, I think they would take an enormous measure of reassurance from it.
Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): 
Given the comments of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and other former Cabinet Ministers on the Opposition Benches, can the House reasonably infer that there has been no change in policy with regard to GCHQ and information sharing from the last Government—in other words, that the system that prevails at present is identical to that which persisted and pertained when Labour was in government?
Mr Hague: 
The challenges of gathering intelligence change over time, so I would not want to give the House the impression that all practices and techniques are exactly the same or used in the same way. 
I can say, as I said in my statement, that the general framework remains the same—the principles of our intelligence sharing with the United States and the general framework for it certainly remain the same. 
The values on which it is based also remain the same, as under successive Governments.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): 
We know that the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and all his right hon. Friends in the Conservative party Cabinet want the retention of large swathes of personal data, and he is prepared to compromise our civil liberties to obtain that, but does this episode not demonstrate what could go wrong if we had a home-grown snooper’s charter?
Mr Hague: 
I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to the draft Communications Data Bill, which I have already mentioned in earlier answers. 
Two parliamentary Committees have considered the draft Bill and concluded that there is a need for legislation in this area, and the Government are committed to bringing forward proposals on that in the near future.
Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): 
We are actually at cyber-war at the moment. Since the year 2000, the cyber-attacks on this country have multiplied some twentyfold. 
The Chinese held an exercise last week that they called a digital technology exercise at divisional level, involving men in uniform who are designed specifically to attack the west. 
Hacking can be far more deadly than a gun. 
May I encourage the Foreign Secretary and all his colleagues to ensure that GCHQ is as close to the National Security Agency as possible in the future?
Mr Hague: As I have said, GCHQ has a unique relationship with the National Security Agency. My hon. Friend is right to say that cyber-attack is an increasing threat in many different areas of government and of life in general. 
That is why the Government decided, in the strategic defence and security review three years ago, to invest an additional £650 million in our cyber-capabilities over a four-year period. 
The United Kingdom is one of the world leaders in cyber-defence and cyber-capabilities, and we are determined that we will remain in that position.
Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab):
For clarity, will the Foreign Secretary tell us whether he was told how the NSA collects this information, and on what date he was made aware of the Prism project?
Mr Hague: 
I go back to what I have said about being unable to confirm or deny leaked information. I am not commenting at all on information that has appeared in the newspapers. 
There might be leaks in the future from who knows what agency, and I would take the same view in such circumstances. 
We cannot conduct ourselves in these matters by commenting on every leak that takes place. 
The Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to look at these questions, but I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman in public the answers to the questions that he is raising.
Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): 
Because this type of secret operation involves not just a legal problem but a difficult balancing of security and liberty, we should do more to explain what we are doing. 
An American citizen would have the right to an answer to the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) asked about location information being offered for American drone strikes. 
Unless we begin to explain more to the public, secret operations will not be sustainable in the long term. 
The public must understand and, through understanding, consent.
Mr Hague: 
I go a certain way with my hon. Friend on this. 
There is a need to explain to the public in this country more than we have done for decades about the role of secret intelligence, its purpose and what it achieves. 
However, I do not think that will mean that we are able to describe in detail how our co-operation with other countries works on operational matters, for many obvious reasons. 
It would make it more difficult for us to protect this country if other people knew the exact techniques that we used. 
Also, other countries would be less willing to share their intelligence with the UK if they thought that we were not good at keeping it to ourselves. 
But we certainly need to raise public awareness of the need for what we do, and I started to do that in my speech on this subject in 2011. 
Perhaps today’s statement will also have that effect.
Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): 
The Cathy Massiter case proved that, 50 years after the last war, intensive surveillance of peace activists, trade unionists and left-wing parties had failed to turn up a single spy, but it was discovered that in that same period, more than 20 members of the Secret Intelligence Service were spying for the Soviet Union. 
Since then, we have had untruths on weapons of mass destruction and a Government cover-up to this House on the handing over of prisoners to oppressive regimes to be tortured. 
Is the Foreign Secretary telling us today that the only people now under surveillance are the guilty? How does he manage that?
Mr Hague: 
I am telling the hon. Gentleman and the House about the many checks and balances and the strong legal framework. 
On all the controversies that he lists about the past—and they are controversies rather than necessarily facts—it would be fair to point out that there has been a constant process under successive Governments of improving how the intelligence agencies work. 
After the controversies over the use of intelligence in the Iraq war, for instance, we saw the Butler report, which has substantially changed the way intelligence is presented to Ministers and the way that Ministers decide. 
I referred in my statement to the creation of the National Security Council and to intelligence being given its due but proper weight alongside other information and considered in the round. 
The hon. Gentleman should take heart from the fact that such improvements take place.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): 
It is good to know that our legal framework is not lost on the Foreign Secretary. 
He tells us that there are no grounds for suggesting that GCHQ obtained information from the United States that it could not obtain legally in the UK. Is it also the case that there are standard procedures in place sufficient to prevent that from happening?
Mr Hague: 
What I have argued is that the idea of GCHQ setting out to circumvent UK law by co-operation with other countries is baseless. UK law is applied to the data it receives, even if it is received from the United States, because ministerial oversight and independent oversight is all there. 
Part of the purpose of that oversight is to ensure that the misuse of the powers and the role of GCHQ does not take place.
Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): 
The term is always used that the intelligence services always operate within a “legal framework”. 
Is the Foreign Secretary certain that “legal framework” always means ethically and within the law, and that peaceful democratically elected political parties in the UK are not involved?
Mr Hague: 
Well, yes it does mean those things. It means that the legal framework is properly applied and what the agencies do has to be targeted, necessary, proportionate and authorised. 
It also has to be for the purposes set out in the relevant Acts of Parliament in the interests of national security, the country’s economic well-being or the prevention of serious crime and the protection of the country from it. 
These are the purposes of our intelligence agencies—and they stick to them.
Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): 
Is the Foreign Secretary absolutely confident that, if a member of staff working at GCHQ had real concerns about wrongdoing among colleagues, the channels exist for that member of staff to have their concerns heard without needing to go to the media?
Mr Hague: 
Yes, absolutely. In such a case, concerns can be raised through the management structure. 
There is also the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, to which members of the intelligence services can take complaints or concerns without having to do so in public.
Several hon. Members 
Mr Speaker: I call Margot James.
Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): 
I am so sorry, Mr Speaker, but I was just getting up to leave the Chamber.
Mr Speaker: 
We are sorry the hon. Lady is taking her leave, but we will hear from her on other occasions. 
She has nothing for which to apologise. I mistakenly thought she was trying to contribute. She should take her leave; we will give her a cheer 
[Hon. Members: “Hurray.]
We will hear from her again soon. 
She is a very regular contributor.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): 
May I commend my right hon. Friend for his statement, for his personal grip and command over this issue and for the work that the security services do? 
I imagine that from the nature of the work they do and the people they are, our security services people are reticent about talking of their successes. At a time of heightened tension over international and domestic terrorism, will the Foreign Secretary encourage our security services wherever possible to put into the public domain the success stories in countering threats to our national security?
Mr Hague: 
My hon. Friend is right to suggest that we should be able to celebrate the successes of our security services. 
Unfortunately, however, we shall have to continue to celebrate those successes in fairly general terms. 
As my hon. Friend will understand, if we proclaimed some of our most successful intelligence operations in public, it would be very difficult to repeat them. 
Unfortunately, we have to protect this country against the same type of threat again and again, and from terrorism in particular. 
I therefore cannot, at the moment, offer a more specific statement about what the security services have succeeded in doing, but my hon. Friend can take it from me that there is much that is not known in relation to the protection of this country from terrorism in particular, but also from organised crime, that the country would truly celebrate if it knew about it.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): 
I join the Foreign Secretary in praising the professionalism and dedication of the staff of both the SIS and GCHQ. 
Edward Snowden, the CIA official who leaked the information, said that had he leaked it because he wanted to stand up against oppression and stand up for liberty. 
Is there not a perverse paradox that that gentleman made those claims not from Washington or London, but from the People’s Republic of China?
Mr Hague: 
Having earlier set myself the rule of not attacking the conduct of other nations, I am not going to break that rule now, but other people will be able to comment on this particular individual and his role.
 It is, of course, important for everyone who works for the agencies to remember that part of their responsibility is to uphold the laws of their country, and that in the case of the United States and the United Kingdom, those laws are designed to protect the lives and liberty of the citizens of those countries. That seems to have been too easily forgotten over the last few days.
Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): 
NATO suffered a suspected 2,500 cyber-attacks on its network last year. 
Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether there is a similar level of suspected cyber-attacks on GCHQ ?
Mr Hague: 
There are undoubtedly cyber-attacks against all western intelligence agencies, including GCHQ, but GCHQ is particularly well adapted to defend itself against such attacks, and to have some idea of where they are coming from and when they are coming.
I will not go into any more detail than that, but people would be quite fortunate to mount a successful cyber-attack against GCHQ itself.
Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): 
As we have heard, the rigour, quality and sheer scale of American intelligence is second to none. 
Given the threats that the UK currently faces, may I urge the Foreign Secretary to continue his robust public defence of the UK-US intelligence relationship?
Mr Hague:
I feel suitably earthed by my hon. Friend, and by many other Members. It is always worth reminding ourselves again of the indispensable nature of that relationship, although we cannot give many of the details about it. It is a fundamental part—a cornerstone, as one of our hon. Friends said earlier—of maintaining the security of this country.
Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): 
I welcome the reassurances given by the Foreign Secretary. I merely seek clarification of one point. If the UK is intercepting e-mails of British citizens, it requires a warrant from the Secretary of State, but that vital check is not in place when communications are received under Prism. 
Does the Foreign Secretary accept that Prism can be used quite legally to sidestep the level of safeguards that apply to UK-sourced intercept? How do we mitigate that risk?
Mr Hague: 
Again, I do not want anything that I say to be taken as a comment on information that has been leaked over the last few days, but the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to study the issues raised by it, including the issues raised by my hon. Friend. 
That is the proper forum. I have already stressed the way in which ministerial and independent oversight applies to our relations with other intelligence agencies, including those in the United States, and my hon. Friend should therefore not jump to any conclusions about the absence of such oversight and authority.
Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con):
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the concerns raised by some Members of this House demonstrate the limitations of the current RIPA system, which has failed to keep up with modern technological trends, and that there is a need for new measures, such as the draft Communications Data Bill, as amended by a Joint Committee of the Lords and the Commons, to ensure that our legislation is up to date, has parliamentary oversight and covers all the concerns raised?
Mr Hague: 
The case for the draft Communications Data Bill rests on its own merits. My hon. Friend refers to some of those merits and the Government will bring forward proposals in the near future on that subject.