Cameron underlines support for intelligence agencies

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The prime minister has paid tribute to the work of US and UK intelligence agencies, following reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was monitored by the United States.

German media reported last week that the US had bugged Ms Merkel's phone for more than a decade - and that the surveillance only ended a few months ago.

David Cameron gave a statement to the House on 28 October 2013 on his participation in the latest meeting of the European Council in Brussels.

He stressed that "the UK has a very strong, long-standing, trust-based relationship with the US" and that "we don't comment on their activities".

"We need to make sure that the scrutiny and frameworks in place remain strong and effective, but we have every reason to be proud of our intelligence services and the way in which they are properly constituted," he argued, before describing intelligence officers as "silent heroes and heroines".

Labour leader Ed Miliband agreed that the work carried out by intelligence agencies "is vital, it keeps us safe, and as the prime minister said, by its very nature it goes unrecognised".

However, he went on to sound a note of caution, saying: "We can all understand the deep concerns that recent reports have caused in some European countries, especially Germany, so as well as providing that support for intelligence services it is right that every country ensures proper oversight of those activities."

Later, Labour backbencher David Winnick spoke of "witch-hunting against the Guardian" and invited Mr Cameron to "congratulate that newspaper for publishing the details of how the mobile phone of the German chancellor had been monitored".

The prime minister answered: "I certainly wouldn't congratulate the Guardian because I can see what has been done here, where information has been published about the work of our security and intelligence services which, quite frankly, will make our country less safe."

The theme was also addressed by Labour MP Kevin Brennan, who joked: "Can he tell the House whether his phone has been targeted, and if not, why not?"

Mr Cameron reported that "one EU prime minister said how disappointed he was that clearly no one was interested in his conversations", before adding "I won't reveal who it was", eliciting disappointed groans from MPs.

During the meeting in Brussels, EU leaders decided to postpone the introduction of tougher rules for technology companies wishing to share customers' data by at least a year.

At the summit, Mr Cameron signed up to a statement from all 28 EU leaders calling for the rebuilding of trust with the United States.

But in the Commons he emphasised he had been clear with other heads of state that intelligence is a national and not an EU competence.

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