The man in the suit caught my gaze with his piecing blue eyes and said: “I’m the closest person to James Bond you’ll ever meet”.
You may never see John Hayes scaling down the heights of Spalding Water Tower in the depths of night, but our MP for the Deepings and South Holland has spent the past few months since the General Election facing his biggest challenge yet – as Minister for Security.
One of the first things I did was to meet with the security services to be briefed on the threats facing our nation
Here he speaks to the Lincolnshire Free for the first time about his new role:
“As Minister for Security since this year’s General Election, I am constantly aware of the impact changes in information technology are having on national security, as well as the security of our personal data.
“If we needed a reminder, the recent cyberattack on the telecoms company TalkTalk has brought home to us all the importance of online security.
“Following my appointment in May, one of the first things I did in my new role was to meet with officials and the security services to be briefed on the threats facing our nation.
“There is no doubt that technological advance is affecting our ability to deal with terrorism. The internet has changed so many aspects of our lives – for good and for ill.
“But also, it offers the same advantages and opportunities to terrorists as it does to law abiding people.
“Terrorists use the internet to spread propaganda, to radicalise impressionable individuals, to arrange travel, and to move money. But most of all to communicate with one another, to plan and organise.
“Almost all of MI5’s top priority UK counter terror investigations have used intercept capabilities in some form to identify, understand or disrupt plots seeking to harm the UK and its citizens.
“But changes in the technology that people are using to communicate is making it harder for our intelligence agencies to maintain the capability to intercept the communications of terrorists.
“Wherever we lose visibility of what terrorists are saying to each other, so our ability to understand and mitigate the threat that they pose is reduced.
“We all value our privacy – and no-one in South Holland and the Deepings, or elsewhere, want it intruded upon improperly or unnecessarily.
“But freedom and security are not a zero sum game where one can only grow at the expense of another. In reality, the opposite is true – freedom and security are mutually dependent.
“We can only protect the freedoms of the majority by identifying and focusing on the small number of people who threaten our safety and security.
“This can only be achieved with effective powers to find out what they are doing and to stop them.
“An important part of my role now is to take a new Investigatory Powers Bill through Parliament.
“I am working with my colleagues in Government, as well as outside experts, to ensure that we give the security services the powers they need to do their job effectively, while also ensuring proper oversight, meaning that this enhanced capability is not detrimental to our liberty.
“The philosopher Friedrich Hegel said ‘What is reasonable is real; that which is real is reasonable.’
“The threat we face on a daily basis is real and growing, our response to it must be reasonable and proportionate to this grave danger.”