Established by parliament in 1994, the Intelligence and Security Committee provides democratic scrutiny of the finances, policy and administration of our three intelligence agencies – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. Only two decades ago it was regarded as unthinkable that parliament should have a role in this shadowy area of the State but the relationship has developed such that the Agencies now accept a greater level of accountability, and have greater respect for the independence of the ISC. The coalition believes there is room for stronger oversight still and proposes giving the Committee further powers.
The ISC is currently chaired by former Foreign and Defence Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and Committee members are Hazel Blears, Robin Butler, Menzies Campbell, Michael Ancram, Julian Lewis, Paul Goggins, George Howarth and Mark Field. On Wednesday, Mark spoke at the Cyber Defence & Network Security Conference 2012 in his capacity as a Committee member.
The full speech can be read here and is précised below.
The growth of the internet is the defining technological change of this generation. Not only has it transformed the way we communicate, socialise, transact, consume, but it has linked the world in ways seemingly unimaginable even a decade ago.
The inevitable impact on the political sphere was clear for all to see last year. The Arab Spring, the rapid coordination of global protest movements, the London riots, the continued dramatic, debilitating drip of Wikileaks – these events were not necessarily foreseen, but they were in part facilitated, and certainly enormously accelerated, by the internet.
In 1995, the number of web users stood at 16 million. That figure has mushroomed to the over two billion users we see today. Such expansion brings exciting economic, political and cultural opportunities. But it also heralds a new age of previously unseen threat. With a total disregard for convention and an ability to break down perceived norms at staggering pace, the internet presents to diplomat, politician, businessman and everyday citizen alike a challenge of epic proportions.
By Matthew Barrett
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A new e-petition has been launched today by chef and broadcaster Anthony Worrall Thompson, calling on the government to review the smoking ban - a policy generally unpopular with ConHome readers. The text of the petition is:
"We petition the Government to review the impact of the smoking ban on pubs and clubs and consider an amendment that would give licensees the option of separate well-ventilated smoking rooms."
This is also an opportune moment to take a look at the top ten most popular e-petitions so far. They are listed below, with the figure on the right denoting the number of signatures collected:
> Robert Halfon MP - whose e-petition is the third most popular - wrote about his e-petition for us on Sunday.
Those of us interested in the goings-on of both chambers of Parliament and the other various Parliaments and Assemblies of the UK have a new website to bookmark - the BBC's Democracy Live page.
Launched today, apart from live and on-demand video coverage of all the UK's national political institutions (as well as the European Parliament), it promises to use "innovative ground-breaking search technology to allow the public to follow political debates and developments around the areas and issues that matter to them most".
Its search engine is apparently "based on a ‘speech-to-text’ system which allows users to search for clips that focus on specific topics and contributors from the Democracy Live archive". I'm yet to try it out, but it look like it could be extremely useful.
There's also a page linking to all the BBC political blogs - as well as external ones such as ConHome - as well as a great section of "historic moments" where you will find some classic clips of politicians in action. Below I share one such historic moment - when Margaret Thatcher addressed the European Parliament for the first time in 1981 and raised the issue of the need for a UK rebate from the EEC (as it then was). Enjoy!
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