Government officials have confirmed that the UK government has never accepted the existence or existence of any “secret intelligence service” in the country, despite claims to the contrary.
The statement by the Home Office’s counter-intelligence and security unit came after the Government announced last month that it would not be accepting the existence, or existence at least the existence in its legal sense, of a “covert intelligence service”.
In the statement, the department added that “no agency” has “a legal right to be referred to as a ‘covert’ or ‘secret’ intelligence service and, therefore, the UK does not accept the existence and existence of such an organisation”.
The statement was first made by the Conservative MP and former defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
In the same House, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said that “it is a serious matter that intelligence services are not subject to parliamentary oversight and that, as such, they do not receive the same level of protection as other UK services”.
“The fact is that intelligence agencies operate with a high degree of autonomy and can conduct operations that are not supported by parliamentary oversight,” she said.
“And the Government has long acknowledged the need to ensure that the rights and freedoms of our citizens are protected in this area.”
Rifkind said that the Home Department was not denying the existence “of a secret intelligence service”, but that the government would be seeking clarification from the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Joint Intelligence Committee.
“It is clear that the Government cannot accept that there are such organisations and, as it does not recognise the existence within its own legal system of any such organisations, it does no accept the possibility that there could be one,” he said.
Asked about the existence by the BBC, the Government said it had no comment to make.