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Iran Press TV

'Wilson Doctrine offers no protection for MPs' communications'

Iran Press TV

Wed Oct 14, 2015 12:29PM

A tribunal in the UK has said that the MPs have no protection from having their communications read by the security agencies.

In a landmark decision, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) said the so-called "Wilson Doctrine" was no bar to the incidental collection of data.

The Wilson Doctrine was established in 1966 when the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, gave assurances to MPs that their phone calls would not be intercepted without him knowing - and that he would tell Parliament of any change in that policy. The doctrine has been repeatedly reaffirmed by other prime minister including by the current Prime Minister David Cameron.

Green Party politicians Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jenny Jones argued that the doctrine has been breached by the tribunal decision. Ms Lucas went on saying that the decision was a 'body blow' for democracy.

Other MPs argued that GCHQ was acting outside the long-standing doctrine by bulk collecting communications data from the internet, which would inevitably include correspondence between parliamentarians and their constituents.

According to media reports, the landmark challenge largely focused on the so-called Tempora programme - the harvesting of communication data from the internet first revealed by American security contractor Edward Snowden.

In his ruling, the IPT does not mention Tempora by name but says that 'incidental' collection of MPs' data would not constitute a breach of the Wilson Doctrine.

'We are satisfied that the Wilson Doctrine is not enforceable in English law by the claimants or other MPs or peers by way of legitimate expectation…the Wilson Doctrine has no legal effect, but in practice the agencies must comply with... their own guidance…the regime for the interception of parliamentarians' communications is in accordance with the law,' said the IPT.

Some Conservative MPs welcomed IPT's decision calling it a reasoned and sensible judgment.

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