UK MPs have right old whinge about ‘defunct’ Wilson Doctrine

Home Secretary: Er, we could spy on you anyway

Parliamentarians have hit out against a ruling by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) that GCHQ is allowed to collect the communications of MPs, a move which seemingly ends the so-called Wilson Doctrine. Or does it?

During parliamentary debate this week, Labour MP Chris Bryant said: "Until last Wednesday, it was thought that the Wilson doctrine was still in force."

"Even after the introduction of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Governments repeatedly made it clear that the Wilson doctrine remained in place ... [but last Wednesday the IPT] revealed that a completely different regime is now in operation under this home secretary," he continued.

"From the evidence given to the tribunal, it is clear that the Wilson Doctrine has been altered beyond recognition without Parliament being told, and that [it is] to all intents and purposes, defunct," added Bryant.

Tory MP David Davis said he was "not impressed by the IPT’s understanding of the technology that is available to the [intelligence] agencies to enable them to sift and limit the damage that is done by their intrusion of privacy".

He said MPs should "not tolerate the government intercepting or interfering in any way with any of our communications."

"[Parliament] should be unsurprised that agencies use their powers to the limit. If I were working for MI5, MI6 or GCHQ, I would use every power that I was given to the limit, just as I would if I were a policeman," he added. "The tendency is to stretch the limits or for those limits gradually to move."

However, Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs there were a "number of misconceptions" about the ruling.

"It seems that there has been an element of confusion about what the Wilson doctrine actually means. On that, let me say first that it cannot be the case that MPs can never be the subject of interception," she said, speaking in House of Commons earlier this week.

"Members of this House are not above the law or beyond the scope of investigatory powers," she added. ®

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