21/10/2013 23:28 BST | Updated 22/10/2013 10:52 BST

Malcolm Rifkind Says Security Services Have To Read Emails To Foil Terror Plots (POLL)

Major terror plots against the UK have been foiled BECAUSE of email interceptions by GCHQ and other security agencies, according to a former foreign secretary.

Speaking at an event in London on Monday, Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the University College London debating society that without these powers, the intelligence agencies would not have been able to foil all of the terror plots against Britain since the 7/7 bombings, apart from the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby earlier this year.


"In each and every case, these terrorist incidents, some of which ended up in the courts, some of which were destructed before that stage, would not have been identified at least in material part but for the ability to intercept the relevant emails or other communications of the individuals concerned," Rifkind argued.

The Tory chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee added that safeguards are in place to ensure that surveillance is carried out appropriately.

"There are in place legal safeguards in Britain, in the United States, not in China, not in Russia, not in most countries that have authoritarian dictatorships," he said.


Rikind denied the UK was a 'surveillance state'

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Rifkind told the gathering that the approval of the Foreign Secretary or the Home Secretary is required before a human can look at the content of an email.

Sir Malcolm, who denied the suggestion that the UK is a "surveillance state", said the committee has access to all the information held by the intelligence agencies.

"We have been given - particularly over the last year - the powers by the Government which we have never had before, to require the intelligence agencies to share all their information with us when we seek them," he said.

"Our staff can go - and do go - into MI6, MI5, GCHQ and can see their files when we are carrying out an investigation." This demonstrated that "Parliamentary oversight is meaningful and real", he added.