Pressure for Special Forces to Face Parliament Scrutiny
(Source: British Forces News; issued April 25, 2018)
The UK’s special forces may be subject to parliamentary scrutiny for the first time amid mounting political pressure.

The SAS and other special forces are usually part of covert operations very much under the public radar.

This means that parliamentary questions are met by the Ministry of Defence with “no comment”.

However, MPs are now pushing for them to be subject to parliamentary questioning, just like other branches of the Armed Forces and intelligence services.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt said: “It is my view there is a gaping hole in parliamentary oversight.”

The elite forces of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Norway and the US are subject to such scrutiny.

Former Defence and Foreign secretary Sir Malcom Rifkind added: “I think it is unanswerable that there should be some form of oversight of the special forces.”

He stated that if services such as MI5 and MI6 could face parliamentary oversight, then so should the Special Forces - however, they should not be given the right to be told in advance of operations.

He suggested that the oversight should be done by a subsection of the Commons Defence Committee, rather than the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

The authors of a report by the Oxford Research Group named Britain’s Shadow Army: Policy Options for External Oversight of UK Special Forces said: “While there remain many good reasons for the tactical secrecy of UKSF [UK Special Forces] activities, there appear to be fewer good reasons for the complete opacity that currently surrounds them.

“Our research shows that Britain is alone among its allies in not permitting any discussion of the staffing, funding and the strategy surrounding the use of its special forces.”

Some MPs have suggested that the government uses Special Forces as a way of avoiding parliamentary scrutiny.

Dominic Grieve, Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, is apparently supportive of the scrutiny proposal, along with Defence Committee Chair, Julian Lewis.

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