» Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Operation Crevice Court Case

Put that Lord King, former Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), had suggested that the ISC should have some independent investigatory capacity, and asked whether this would be something that Downing Street would consider, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that as the Prime Minister had said at PMQs, firstly this was a genuinely independent committee, secondly it was made up of members from all sides of the House, and thirdly they had had the ability to ask for any information they required. There was no record of them having been refused access to material that they felt they needed. We needed to judge it on that basis.

Put that you wouldn’t know what you didn’t know unless there was an investigator looking at things, the PMOS replied that we needed to be very careful that we recognised that the role that the Security Services have played was to protect the country and to stop terrorist outrages, and that they had cooperated fully with ISC investigations in the past. Therefore we needed to be careful that they were not seen as the problem. The problem was the terrorists who carried out attacks, or planned to carry out attacks, not the Intelligence Services. Put to him that this did not mean that they could not make mistakes, the PMOS replied that this was precisely why we had a cross party committee made up of MPs, many of them Privy Councillors with vast experience, to look at these matters. One of the lunchtime bulletins had suggested that the Committee be made up of people other than MPs, but who would select them? These were people who are accountable to Parliament through the Prime Minister.

Put that Lord King also said that the Chairman of the ISC should be an opposition MP in order for the Committee to command public confidence, the PMOS replied that nobody had produced any evidence as to why the report of the Committee should not have confidence. As the Prime Minister said in PMQs, what seemed to be the case was that people disagreed with the report because it did not reach the conclusion that they wished. No evidence had been produced to suggest other than that this was an independent committee that seriously weighed the evidence, looked at the evidence, was cleared to look at highly sensitive material, and then reached a judgement. Just because it did not reach the conclusion people wanted, was not a reason to cast doubt over the operations of the Committee.

Put to him that the problem was that because the Crevice trial was still ongoing, the report that was published was vague in the extreme and we did not know what evidence the Committee saw or did not see, the PMOS replied that the Committee did make reference, as Paul Murphy said yesterday, as much as they could given the sub judice rules, to the evidence that came before the Crevice court case. That did not mean that they did not have full access to that material.

Asked if there was not a problem with public confidence when the Chairman of the Committee said that he did not see any problems with the report within hours of the Crevice verdict, the PMOS replied that this was not the case as the Chairman had had ongoing access to the information during the Crevice trial from the Intelligence Services. Therefore it was not that he was starting from scratch, it was that he was talking from the basis of ongoing information. The presumption of the question was that there was new evidence that had come to light which he had not seen – that was not the case. They had full access to the relevant material during the investigation and during the court case. They were not suddenly handed a lot of material that they had not seen.

Asked to clarify what the ISC would be doing next, were they to simply review the evidence, the PMOS replied that this was a matter for the ISC, and they could go wherever they wished. Whilst they could only refer to it tangentially in their first report due to the sub judice nature of the case, they had full access to the material all the way through and therefore it was not that they had suddenly discovered a whole new area of evidence. Asked if they would be producing a report that was fuller in detail, the PMOS replied again that it was a matter for the ISC. Obviously as they did not have to take account of the sub judice rules, they would be able to expand much more on what they know. Asked if the Prime Minister had indicated a timetable, the PMOS replied that again this was a matter for the ISC.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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