Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament: Recent Work

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate due to take place in the House of Lords on 9 September 2019 that “this House takes note of the recent work of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament”.

The Intelligence and Security Committee has responsibility for the oversight of the UK intelligence community. The Intelligence Services Act 1994 created the committee, with the Justice and Security Act 2013 extending its powers and remit.

Nine parliamentarians from both Houses make up the committee. Ministers, however, are not able to join. The current members of the committee are: Dominic Grieve (Chair, Conservative); Richard Benyon (Conservative); Stewart Hosie (SNP); Caroline Flint (Labour); David Hanson (Labour); Lord Janvrin (Crossbench); Kevan Jones (Labour); Marquess of Lothian (Conservative); and Keith Simpson (Conservative).

The committee’s role is to examine the policies, expenditure, administration and operations of the Security Service (MI5); the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS); and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). It also scrutinises the work of the Joint Intelligence Organisation and the National Security Secretariat in the Cabinet Office; Defence Intelligence in the Ministry of Defence; and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office.

The committee sets its own agenda and work programme. It produces an annual report, which, following redactions, is laid before both Houses. The report, along with the Government’s response, is then debated. The most recent annual report (2017–18) sets out the work conducted by the committee between April 2017 and July 2018. It includes information on: the detainee inquiry; diversity and inclusion; the terror attacks inquiry; Russia; Syria; committee resources; and other committee work.

In March 2019, the committee announced its next inquiry will focus on national security issues relating to China. Amongst other issues the inquiry will examine the role of Huawei in the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure. The committee has also recently made a statement on 5G suppliers, arguing that “a decision must be made as a matter of urgency”.