Ministerial responsibility

Last Updated: 23 Mar 2016
The Prime Minister has overall responsibility within Government for intelligence and security matters and the agencies. Day-to-day ministerial responsibility for GCHQ lies with the Foreign Secretary.

For some GCHQ operations, the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (ISA) and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) require additional authorisation.

The role of GCHQ in Government

In May 2010 the Government established the National Security Council (NSC) to oversee all aspects of Britain's security.

The NSC is chaired by the Prime Minister. Permanent members are:

  • Deputy Prime Minister
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
  • Home Secretary
  • Secretary of State for Defence
  • Secretary of State for International Development
  • Security Minister
  • Heads of GCHQ, MI5 and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
  • Other senior officials, as required

The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) produces intelligence assessments for UK Government ministers, and sets priorities for intelligence-gathering by the UK intelligence agencies. The JIC draws its membership from senior officials in:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Home Office
  • Treasury
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Department for Business, Innovations and Skills
  • Department for International Development
  • Cabinet Office
  • Heads of GCHQ, MI5 and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
  • Chief of the Assessments Staff

The senior officer responsible to the Prime Minister for supervising the work of the JIC is the JIC Chairman, who ensures that the JIC's warning and monitoring role is carried out effectively.