Intelligence and Security Committee delay is a “disgrace”: Malcolm Rifkind

A former chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Malcolm Rifkind, condemned the failure to appoint new members to the oversight body as a “disgrace”.

He said that, if there was a delay in vetting new members, “The prime minister should have gone ahead with those who had been cleared and the committee should have been set up,” reported the Times. “There is nothing in the legislation that would have prevented that happening.”

On October 23rd, John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, called the delay in naming members to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) – and other key committees – “simply not acceptable”.

The Speaker said that it was “absurd and indefensible” that several parliamentary and select committees had not been appointed, more than four months after the state opening of Parliament. “These committees are there to scrutinise the executive branch,” he stated. “I can only assume that proper action will now follow.”

The ISC has been suspended since Parliament was dissolved in May. Before dissolution, it issued a statement urging “all political parties to prioritise the appointment of members to the Intelligence and Security Committee following the General Election”, and stating that “it is not in the public interest for oversight of the intelligence community to be left unattended for any period of time.”

At the time of dissolution, the Committee was carrying out an inquiry into extraordinary rendition and the mistreatment of detainees, which was announced in December 2013.

Several MPs have raised questions about the ISC in the House of Commons in recent weeks. On October 16th, Ben Bradshaw MP said that “it is unacceptable for the ISC not to be doing its work for such a long time”, and that the delay was “incredibly serious”. On October 17th, in answer to a question from Paul Flynn MP, Cabinet Minister Damian Green stated that the Cabinet Office would not “be able to answer this question within the usual time period”.

However, on October 23rd, in answer to a question from Clive Lewis MP, Damian Green stated that he expected “that motion to be brought before this House shortly.”