Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Chair of the ISC

...is Margaret Beckett.

Oh dear, I'm getting deja vu already.

Foot & mouth inquiry calls blocked: ''Margaret Beckett said ''a public inquiry would take too long, be too expensive and could discourage key parties from being full and open.''
Iraq inquiry resisted :
''Earlier, foreign secretary Margaret Beckett warned it was "not the time" for an inquiry, saying it could send a dangerous signal to insurgents that the UK did not have the determination to stick it out in Iraq.'

Update: And the 2006-2007 ISC report is now out too. ''Floods and GCHQ and Birmingham kidnap plot and* leaks to the media are the most interesting lines, says my mole.
(*Sounds rather similar to the speech the M15 head gave to editors last November, then.)

Walham power station was almost underwater last summer and provides power for GCHQ and Aldemaston which is a tad scary. The media get reprimanded at for leaks which can jeopardise security and operations. And everything is at full stretch, with anti-terrorism sucking up resources.

As to the 7 July/Crevice bombers link report, no date is given, only that the ISC hopes to report on this 'next year' ( meaning 2008) and says they are carrying out a 'thorough investigation'.
Government response is here.

Further update: Reading the report, a few things jumped out at me besides the stuff picked up in the media. The ISC welcomes the intention to 'strengthen' it ( so will it get its independent investigator after all?). There is also what appears to be an ongoing gripe about not being shown some papers relating to a previous administration ( so, pre-1999 when Labour came to power.)

One of the areas under discussion is that of access to sensitive documentation. The legislation currently allows for the most sensitive material to be withheld from the Committee at the discretion of the Heads of the Agencies or the Home Secretary or Foreign Secretary. We note that, since the Committee was formed in 1994, there has only been one case in which access to papers has been requested and refused. This has been detailed in Annex B to this Report. The Committee believes that, particularly in light of its recent enquiries into Rendition and the links between the 7 July bombings and the fertiliser bomb plot, it is vital that it can have access to relevant documentation, where necessary.

Oh ho, is that an admission that perhaps it feels that it didn't get access to all the facts before? The fact that the report stated that the 7/7 bombers were not named or known to the security services before they bombed London, only for it to come out that lead bomber MSK and his car details were both known in 2004, indicates an 'issue' to me. But perhaps I'm just not feeling 'persuaded' enough.

The Governance of Britain green paper, introduced to the House on 3rd July 2007 suggests what the plans are for the ISC, which is to become more of a Select Committee ( though its powers at the moment are greater than that of a Select Committee as I understand it). The PM said (my emphases)

I feel that the two functions of a Select Committee are first, to investigate, to interrogate and to examine events and what is happening in our country, and secondly, to persuade the country that important things are being done by the services that the Committees are monitoring.
It is the second function to which we can now turn our attention. If we have a national
security strategy, and if there is a debate on that both in Parliament and in the country, and if there is a power to call witnesses and to report on that, I believe that that second important job of a Select Committee, which is to inform the country of the good work that our services are doing, can be best achieved.

Now that strikes me as a bit strange. Why does the ISC and the PM see their work as 'persuading the country of the good work which is being done'? I mean, I'm all for good work being highlighted, but you don't appoint a watchdog or auditors or select committee to do that. That is hardly approaching the task ahead in an independent, investigatory spirit, is it? And yet, I keep being told that the ISC's investigation into 7/7 is just as good as an independent inquiry.

Hmmmm. If someone said they were going to investigate my work in order to persuade people of what a good job I was doing and how damn marvellous I was, and stated that was their aim before they'd even looked at what I'd done that year, or whether I'd made any mistakes, I'd be flipping well delighted.

I must stop being so cynical.

BBC report, Reuters


Blogger Tom said...

I trust she'll bring all the sound judgment and independence of mind she brought to the role of Foreign Secretary during the Lebanon War in 2006. Oh, and previously as head of DEFRA, where I'm sure she's fondly remembered by farmers for her tireless efforts to do them out of a livelhood.

January 29, 2008 4:05 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Mmmmm. Why am I not leaping for joy?

January 29, 2008 5:56 pm  
Blogger DAVE BONES said...

PR is even more important than spin but doesn't pay quite as well.

February 02, 2008 2:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No don't stop being cynical when it comes to this government's ministers. These are people who are i awe of authority and think it's themselves.

February 11, 2008 11:44 pm  

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