Prisons: Electronic Surveillance

Justice written question – answered on 2nd June 2008.

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Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether the discussions held between the hon. Member for Thurrock and his constituent Michael John Smith at Full Sutton Prison, York on 1 September 1999 and 30 July 2001 were covertly (a) recorded, (b) transmitted and (c) monitored in some other way by or on behalf of any Government Department or agency; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

It is not our policy to confirm or deny surveillance operations in prisons. Since the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) came into force, all forms of covert surveillance are subject to a strict and rigorous statutory regime for authorisations, and are conducted in accordance with the guidance set out in the statutory Codes of Practice. Independent oversight is provided, and is overseen by the Office of Surveillance Commissioner. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal was established to investigate and rule on any complaints.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made clear in her statement on 21 February 2008, Hansard, column 536, Sir Christopher Rose's inquiry into the surveillance of visits at Woodhill prison found

"no trace in recent years in prison records or anywhere else of any person known to be a Member of Parliament having been monitored during a prison visit".

Does this answer the above question?

Yes4 people think so

No9 people think not

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Michael John Smith
Posted on 7 Jun 2008 1:21 am (Report this annotation)

Andrew Mackinlay complains about being bugged in 1999, and Jack Straw replies to the effect that this previously illegal practice was legalised in the year 2000, which is an unsatisfactory answer regarding the offence committed in 1999. There does not appear to be a retrospective clause within this Act.

The Home Secretary's statement in 2008 is of no help whatsoever regarding the illegal act of 1999. These excuses are not good enough. It was the illegal bugging in 1999 which apparently led to an MI5 burglary of the MP's house, as referenced in Hansard for 26 October 1999.

Jack Straw has failed to answer the question posed and this is not good enough.

Michael John Smith
Posted on 10 Jun 2008 3:21 am (Report this annotation)

Jack Straw is unlikely to answer any questions on the bugging of Members of Parliament, when they visit their constituents in prison. However, Straw may be a little uncomfortable now that it appears his previous answer does not cover the meeting I had with Andrew Mackinlay in 1999. Mr Mackinlay's new question (see below) deserves an honest answer, otherwise what are the authorities afraid of disclosing. If my meetings with Mr Mackinlay were in fact bugged, then I should like to know why we were under surveillance.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to the Answer of 2nd June 2008, Official Report, columns 849-50W, on prisons: electronic surveillance, what regime of authorisation and oversight of personal covert surveillance operations in prisons was in force in 1999; and if he will make a statement.