The Cathy Massiter case proved that, 50 years after the last war, intensive surveillance of peace activists, trade unionists and left-wing parties had failed to turn up a single spy, but it was discovered that in that same period, more than 20 members of the Secret Intelligence Service were spying for the Soviet Union. Since then, we have had untruths on weapons of mass destruction and a Government cover-up to this House on the handing over of prisoners to oppressive regimes to be tortured. Is the Foreign Secretary telling us today that the only people now under surveillance are the guilty? How does he manage that?
I am telling the hon. Gentleman and the House about the many checks and balances and the strong legal framework. On all the controversies that he lists about the past—and they are controversies rather than necessarily facts—it would be fair to point out that there has been a constant process under successive Governments of improving how the intelligence agencies work. After the controversies over the use of intelligence in the Iraq war, for instance, we saw the Butler report, which has substantially changed the way intelligence is presented to Ministers and the way that Ministers decide. I referred in my statement to the creation of the National Security Council and to intelligence being given its due but proper weight alongside other information and considered in the round. The hon. Gentleman should take heart from the fact that such improvements take place.
Has the Secretary of State noticed the extraordinarily high number of former Ministers, civil servants, admirals and generals who awarded contracts to companies when in office and then ended up working for the self same companies in retirement? Would not it be a good idea to ban these senior people from working in companies to which they have awarded contracts, in order to ensure that contracts are awarded in office on the basis of the needs of the public purse and not on people’s hopes to gain a hacienda in Spain from their retirement earnings?
The hon. Gentleman is being a little harsh: most if not all of the elected and appointed people with whom I have come into contact do their very best to deliver in the public interest. We have a rigorous set of rules in place to deal with the cross-boundary issues between the public and private sectors. We must never get into a situation where we prevent or discourage all transfer between the public and private sectors. That would be a disaster. We need that flow of lifeblood between the two, but we need it to be done properly: it has to be properly regulated and transparent.
To answer the hon. Gentleman’s specific question, when The Sunday Times published revelations last year about people who had gone from senior military roles into defence industries, I asked the same question as he has and the advice I received was that it would not be lawful to issue an unlimited ban preventing people from taking up one career once they had left another.