Members: Surveillance

Home Office written question – answered on 16th November 2015.

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Photo of Margaret Ritchie Margaret Ritchie Social Democratic and Labour Party, South Down

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether the Wilson Doctrine has been consistently applied to the communications of the hon. Member for South Down; and whether that Member has been subject to surveillance.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Holding answer received on 22 October 2015

The Government’s position on the Wilson Doctrine was set out by the Prime Minister in a written ministerial statement made on 4 November 2015.

As the Prime Minister made clear, the Wilson Doctrine has never been an absolute bar to the targeted interception of the communications of Members of Parliament or an exemption from the legal regime governing interception. The Doctrine recognised that there could be instances where interception might be necessary.

The Prime Minister announced that as matter of policy the PM will be consulted should there ever be a proposal to target any UK Parliamentarian’s communications under a warrant issued by a Secretary of State. This applies to Members of Parliament, members of the House of Lords, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly and UK members of the European Parliament. It applies to all activity authorised by a warrant issued by a Secretary of State: any instance of targeted interception and, electronic surveillance and equipment interference, when undertaken by the Security and Intelligence Agencies. This is in addition to the rigorous safeguards already in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and the Code of Practice issued under it which set out a series of robust safeguards for any instance of interception.

It is long standing policy of successive Governments neither to confirm nor deny any specific activity by the Security and Intelligence Agencies. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 it is an offence for anyone to identify an individual interception warrant or an individual interception that takes place.

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