The SNP has accused Theresa May of potentially ‘misleading’ parliament over covert meetings on the Syria airstrikes with pro-war Labour MPs.
Is it the case that the national security adviser has given intelligence briefings to members of the Labour opposition who are not privy councillors but instead were selected on the basis that they were sympathetic to the government’s airstrike campaign?
That leads to concerns that the government is using intelligence briefings to manipulate parliament and to bolster its own case for its behaviour on the opposition benches – not on security terms, but on politics.
In response to McDonald’s question, May said:
My understanding is that any intelligence briefings that have been given have been given to privy council members of this house and all privy council members of this House have been invited to attend such briefings.
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She then, however, interrupted her own response to a different MP and revisited McDonald’s question again:
I believe that a number of intelligence, er, a number of briefings have been given.
Those that have been given intelligence briefings that would not be made available to members of this house are privy councillors. That is my understanding of the situation.
Briefings have been offered to all members of the House, not just privy counsellors, subsequent to action.
Before action, briefing was only offered to opposition leaders.
A way with words
So May admitted that her government has had a number of briefings with MPs following the airstrikes. Other reports appear to back this up:
I know that at least one Labour MP who has had a briefing from the National Security Adviser on Syria. Seems Theresa May has questions to answer. https://t.co/GKKALerWmh
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) April 18, 2018
But she says that officials only briefed privy council members, who have the necessary security clearance to access intelligence, before the strikes.
She didn’t, however, answer one major point. McDonald asked whether May’s government granted those briefings due to the recipient’s position on the action. And because May didn’t provide a “solid answer” to McDonald, he says she may have “misled” parliament:
The Prime Minister has potentially misled parliament. In response to my questions to her about this just yesterday. https://t.co/UUwXIKy2rR
— Stewart McDonald MP (@StewartMcDonald) April 18, 2018
Back-stabbing, back-scratching for access
As author Tom Mills points out, it is grotesque that the government could be using intelligence to forward its political agenda.
What for the British elite was the main lesson of Iraq War? The politicisation of intelligence & security. And now this. Incredible.
— Tom Mills (@ta_mills) April 18, 2018
And McDonald says the PM might be misleading parliament about what covert hook-ups took place and why. That’s not just appalling, it’s a serious accusation in Westminster.
So May better come clean about what her government has been doing.
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