Lib Dems Strasburger and McInnes seek answers on whether parliamentarians’ communications have been intercepted

In the House of Lords this week, Paul Strasburger was quick to question the government on whether Parliamentarians’ data was being scooped up by GCHQ in contravention of the 49 year old Wilson Doctrine which prohibits this.

The exchange is as follows:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which methods of communication used by members of either House of Parliament are not presently subject to the Wilson doctrine.

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen (Con): My Lords, as the noble Lord may be aware, there is an ongoing litigation in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal on the Wilson doctrine. In fact, there is a hearing tomorrow. One of the issues that the tribunal is looking to consider is the scope of the doctrine. Given this ongoing litigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at present.

Lord Strasburger (LD): My Lords, David Anderson’s recent report confirmed what we already knew from Edward Snowden—namely, that, every day, GCHQ is hoovering up the private data of millions of innocent citizens without the informed consent of Parliament. Can the Minister explain how the Government manage to comply with the Wilson doctrine by excluding the private data of parliamentarians when they are scooping up everyone else’s indiscriminately?

Baroness Chisolm: As I said, there is a tribunal hearing on the Wilson doctrine tomorrow, and the noble Lord can understand why I am not in a position to say more about the doctrine with a court case ongoing. Perhaps I may quote the Home Secretary from a recent debate in the other place. She said:

Obviously, the Wilson doctrine applies to parliamentarians. It does not absolutely exclude the use of these powers against parliamentarians, but it sets certain requirements for those powers to be used in relation to a parliamentarian. It is not the case that parliamentarians are excluded and nobody else in the country is, but there is a certain set of rules and protocols that have to be met if there is a requirement to use any of these powers against a parliamentarian.

What was upsetting, but not surprising, was that Labour and Conservative peers were falling over themselves to compliment GCHQ or plead for its funding to be preserved without any regard for civil liberties at all.

Today the Daily Record revealed that it had seen documents which showed that MEPs, MSPs and AMs had been excluded from the Doctrine this year. This took place while the Liberal Democrats were in Government, but, like the Go Home vans, did not have Liberal Democrat approval.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes demanded an explanation:

The security services should be focused on catching terrorists and not spying on MSPs.

We know the Tories have an utter disregard for our basic civil liberties but this seems to show a government spiralling out of control in its clamour for power.

The Conservative Scottish Secretary must immediately investigate these reports. We need to know why this step has been taken and if it was approved by Tories at the top of government.

That such clandestine actions may also be taking place in elected legislatures in Wales, Northern Ireland and the European Parliament will be puzzling and offensive to many people who understand the UK as a parliamentary democracy, not a dictatorship.

This once again shows why you need Liberal Democrats to stand up against illiberal attempts by the state to monitor law-abiding citizens.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • paul barker 24th Jul '15 - 2:48pm

    Does anyone know how this relates to the action taken by The Green Mp & Peer with George Galloway ?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jul '15 - 3:23pm

    If you read the Guardian story, it’s because of information that has come to light during those proceedings.

  • Richard Stallard 25th Jul '15 - 10:10am

    MPs are one of the greatest potential dangers to society in Britain and can influence it probably more than anyone else. Of course they should be bugged and watched.
    One rule for everybody (including MPs!), otherwise, if they’re granted ‘special privileges’, they’ll care less about the rest of us.

  • Chris Burden 25th Jul '15 - 10:59pm

    Even as I write, we seem to be sleep walking ever closer to being a police state. Is there no limit to what the authorities can plausibly claim is in the interests of ‘national security’ without almost any of our politicians raising so much as a murmur? We need David Anderson QC’s recommendation about legal oversight of interceptions to be implemented, now!

  • david thorpe 26th Jul '15 - 2:21pm

    I thought strauburger had to resign from the lib dems because of a funding issue before the election-has he been reinstated?

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '15 - 12:34pm

    Richard Stallard
    The spooks need to be accountable to ministers and parliament, not the other way round.
    According to recent writings of Labour’s Jack Straw, former Home Secretary, former Foreign Secretary, Labour PM Harold Wilson suffered from paranoia prior to his resignation mid-term.
    As the cliche goes, ‘Just because you are paranoiac, it does not mean they are not out to get you.”

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