'No legal basis' for convention that MPs' phones should not be tapped


The convention that there should be no tapping of the phones of UK MPs and peers has no legal basis, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled.

The body, which considers complaints about the way public authorities use covert techniques, issued its findings today on the status, meaning and effect of the Wilson doctrine - after hearing a case brought by MP Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, together with former MP, George Galloway.

Lawyers allege their communications are being intercepted by GCHQ as part of the Tempora programme, which monitors and collates on a blanket basis the full range of electronic communications data produced in, or transiting through, the UK and other countries.

The communications it intercepts include emails and other internet traffic as well as telephone calls.

Today, a panel, headed by Mr Justice Burton, made declarations that the Wilson Doctrine applies only to targeted, and not incidental, interception of Parliamentary communications, but that it has no legal effect, save that in practice the Security and Intelligence Agencies must comply with their own guidance.

The Wilson doctrine, implemented by prime minister Harold Wilson in November 1966, lay down the policy of no tapping of the phones of MPs or members of the House of Lords, unless there is a major national emergency, and that any changes to the policy will be reported by the prime minister to Parliament.

The hearing followed revelations by the American security contractor, Edward Snowden.