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Wilson Doctrine: Carmichael says Lib Dems will demand protection for journalists, lawyers & parliamentarians from state snooping

October 16, 2015 4:03 PM
In Liberal Democrat Voice

Liberal Democrat politicians have reacted with alarm to yesterday's ruling on the Wilson Doctrine The Investigatory Powers Tribunal basically shrugged off Harold Wilson's declaration in 1966 that MPs' phones would not be intercepted without him knowing, saying that it had no basis in law.

This comes on top of two Police forces abusing their powers to try to find journalists' sources. If an MP, or a lawyer, or a journalist is investigating the Government for doing something it shouldn't, the idea that the Government could snoop on that investigation is alarming.

This is why Liberal Democrats from across the UK have been quick to demand appropriate protections. Home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

  • "This ruling could have a chilling effect on democracy in the UK. MPs, MSPs and other elected representatives must have the ability to talk to their constituents without fear that their private communications are being routinely monitored by intelligence agencies."

It was reported earlier this year that changes in guidelines meant the Wilson Doctrine no longer applied to MSPs. Now it has been confirmed the doctrine never offered democratically-elected representatives at Holyrood any protection at all. The response of the Prime Minister to this risk to freedoms is just plain weak. We need urgent answers from the UK government.

The Liberal Democrats will be demanding journalists' sources, legal professional privilege and protection of the communications of democratically-elected representatives are all given a strong legal basis and protection in the new Investigatory Powers Bill.

In Scotland, Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes lodged a Parliamentary motion at Holyrood demanding that the UK government clarifies how the Doctrine operates and to extend it beyond Westminster parliamentarians.

People need to trust that when they contact their MP or MSP, they can do so safely and securely. The UK Government needs to clarify urgently how the Wilson Doctrine is applied in respect of all elected members of parliaments and assemblies across the UK and to ensure that it extends any protection from spying given to MPs and Peers to MSPs, members of the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies and MEPs.

Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Lib Dem leader said it was outrageous that it was considered acceptable to spy on members of devolved parliaments:

It's a huge concern that there is no legal basis for the convention limiting intelligence services from tapping the phones of MPs and Peers. However, it would seem that convention doesn't even apply to parliamentarians outside of Westminster.

People need to trust that when they contact their Assembly Member they can do so securely. Day in, day out, we deal with private and confidential issues on behalf of our constituencies. That trust must never be jeopardised.

It is completely outrageous that it is considered acceptable to spy on elected politicians in devolved legislatures.

The UK Government must ensure the Wilson Doctrine applies for legislatures across the UK.

Read more by The Voice or more about civil liberties, interception or wilson doctrine.