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Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will give way; I want to make just one brief observation. When I made those comments I was talking about the intelligence; the product. I was not talking about issues like decisions on operations, clearances and so forth. Time is always found for that, both by Ministers and by us.
Lord Bethell: My Lords, I accept that Ministers and indeed Parliament can never have an overview of the operational day-to-day basis of the services. But there must be clear guidelines which must be known to Ministers and to Parliament, otherwise we shall find ourselves in a muddle.
In the past grave mistakes have been made by the services. I think in particular of the 1940s and 1950s when the campaign to roll back communism turned out to be counter-productive and, in particular, I refer to the question of the Albanian operation. In that regard I must declare an interest because I wrote about it at some length.
Perhaps I can be guided by the adversaries of those who have been connected with our services--I have spoken to many of them in Russia in recent years. Retired members of the intelligence services of the Soviet Union have nothing but admiration for the work of MI6. They are touchingly appreciative of the professional capabilities of my noble friend Lady Park and her former colleagues. Whether or not that is a good thing, I should not like to say; I simply point it out.
One point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Campbell in his opening remarks was the question of co-operation. That issue needs to be looked at most carefully. Speaking to a senior member of the Russian intelligence services a few months ago, I was told-- I am sure this has been spoken of publicly as well, but it was spoken of also in conversation--that the Russian services are anxious to co-operate with their British opposite numbers over a whole range of important issues, in particular nuclear proliferation, serious crime and terrorism. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to say something about that. I gave him notice that I would be raising this point and we shall see whether or not it is possible for him to comment on it.
It would be a mistake, and indeed dangerous, for us to reject out of hand the suggestion of the Russian Government and the Russian services to co-operate with us over the important point of nuclear proliferation, whether to rogue states or to rogue groups. The matter was raised in terrifying detail a few days ago by my noble friend Lady Thatcher.
I know that we must not be naive about that point. I know that one needs a long spoon before sitting down to dinner with the Russians. I realise that there are areas of conflict over Chechnya and perhaps over Serbia and Iraq. I listened carefully to the speech of my noble friend Lady Park, though I confess that I shall need to read
It seemed to me that my noble friend was saying-- I am sure that she will correct me if I misunderstood--that the basic intentions of Russia today are so dubious, indeed so inherently hostile, that co-operation with them should not be countenanced. I wonder whether that is the view of the Government and whether my noble friend the Minister can say something in that regard. It is my impression that the Government as a whole wish, as far as possible, to be a partner of Russia today in a number of areas. I realise that there are many areas where we disagree; but I believe that the Government wish us to work with the Russians if we can. I know that that will break the habits of a lifetime for many of us. But the world has changed and East-West conflict on the nuclear scale is extremely unlikely. Instead, taking the place of Armageddon in the shape of the Soviet Union versus the United States, we have the horrifying spectre of terrorist groups acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
There is also the question of Russian help in the drugs trade. Russia itself is a major conduit for drugs coming from the Indian subcontinent to Europe and other areas of serious crime, including the Russian Mafia itself. If we can co-operate with each other in a way that is consistent with the interests of our country, of the Western world and of the Russians--and I believe that there are areas of common interest--then we shall be more effective at fighting those serious dangers that face us.
I believe that the services are vitally important to the future of our nation. It would be ridiculous of anyone to think of starving them of funds, reducing them or cutting them back. On the contrary, they are more important than they were. I wonder how many people thought when the IRA ceasefire was introduced a few months ago that the days of MI5 were numbered and are now eating their words. Clearly, the security services must be strengthened for the future as well as for the present. Today's dangers may disappear or diminish, but others will appear. We live in a very dangerous world. Therefore, we need these services most desperately. I trust that the Government will make sure that they are preserved and simply that they are directioned in the most effective and appropriate way so that the citizens get the most out of the money they spend in return for their provision.
Lord Richard: My Lords, we have had a very interesting debate over the past hour and a half. Personally, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for raising the subject this afternoon. It is timely that we had a look at the operations of the intelligence and security services. We have done that to a certain extent this afternoon, although inevitably within the limitations of a short debate.
I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Park, was a little over-sensitive about Scott. After all, if one read the report in detail, which I fear I had to do, one of the few bodies to emerge with a great deal of credit was her "old firm". The Secret Intelligence Service came out of it extraordinarily well for their preparation and preparedness to disclose to the defence documents that other people were not prepared to disclose and the extraordinary frankness of at least one or two intelligence officers who gave evidence at the trial. Reading the report and dividing it into heroes and anti-heroes, and a few neutrals between the two, I put the SIS very firmly in the hero bracket and I am delighted so to do.
I listened to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, with great interest. He lifted the veil very slightly on the operations of the Intelligence and Security Committee. We look forward very much to reading the report. He prayed in aid the multi-party nature of the committee. I was not going to say anything about it until he did that. It was rather like the defendant who, at the age of 55, pleads for leniency on the ground that he is an orphan because his parents are dead. Technically, it is a multi-party committee. Its multi-party nature is one Labour, one Liberal and five Conservatives.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, there are at least three Labour members. There is Dr. John Gilbert, Mr. Barry Jones and Mr. Allan Rogers. I do not believe that I have left any out. Certainly, it is a multi-party committee.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I am sure that the noble and learned Lord is right. Perhaps I may point out that according to a research paper from the Library of the House of Commons of 4th January, the membership is given as the right honourable Tom King, the right honourable Alan Beith, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, the right honourable Sir Archibald Hamilton, Barry Jones, Michael Mates and Sir Giles Shaw. If that is wrong then the point I make is invalid. Certainly, as of the date of the publication of this report, the ratio was 5:1:1.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, the second report we presented to Parliament was an interim one on the work of the security services against organised crime. The names are all listed as they were in our interim report of last May. I would not like to think that Mr. Barry Jones and Dr. John Gilbert, of all people, are overlooked by the noble Lord.
Lord Richard: My Lords, if it is a bad point, I would not dream of pursuing it, and I understand that it is a bad point. I hope that those responsible for the production of this document from the House of Commons' Library are prepared to read House of Lords Hansard to see that they have put me in a position of making a bad point. But there we are.
What is also interesting about this debate is the extent to which openness has been an issue and which the House has been prepared to discuss. That is openness in relation to the operation and role of the Security and Intelligence Service. I say to the noble Lord,
Lord Bethell: My Lords, I must have made myself unclear in my remarks. I am very much in favour of the greater openness that has been introduced. In fact, I would like to see the system made more open.
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