Monday, February 04, 2008

The Wilson Doctrine places MPs above the law and should be scrapped

For the past year or so, if you look in Hansard, you will see that a question of regular occurrence is whether the Wilson Doctrine banning the wire tapping of MPs remains in place. The answer is always that the convention does, although there is of course no legislative reason why it should.

If you've read the papers over the past few days you will probably have heard the the police tapped the Labour MP and Government Whip, Sadiq Khan. David Davis has also released a letter he says he sent to Gordon Brown at the end of last year, which Brown denies receiving that noted that Davis had
reason to believe that the [Wilson Doctrine] has been breached in relation to communications between a constituent, arrested and detained as a terrorist suspect since 2003, and his Member of Parliament.
From a purely journalistic perspective it is a great scoop but I can't help wondering "who cares"? When you place it in context of the Davis letter, I should, frankly, bloody well hope that the anti-terrorist intelligence services were monitoring what is going on in relation to people they have on watch lists, and that will include the people they come into contact with. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary has said
"Though I have no knowledge of the facts in this case, it is completely unacceptable for an interview conducted by an MP on a constituency matter, or on any other issue, to be recorded."
Excuse me? but why is it unacceptable? Why must MPs have a special status that excludes them from being subject to matters that concern the security of the Realm? Some might say that this is a civil liberties issues, but actually, within Straw's comment it is clear that this is about special status for certain people. Would he be saying it was unacceptable if they had recorded a conversation between this person and some who wasn't an MP on the same grounds?

Of course they wouldn't. It would be a matter of national security and would receive no comment at all. Why that would happen would be because we ordinary subjects are not above the law. The Wilson Doctrine however dictates that MPs are above the law, which is why complaining about a breach of the convention being unacceptable is, frankly, bollocks.

There seems to be a common theme in recent weeks with the stories coming from Westminster I'd say. That being that MPs are some how, once they become MPs special people with extra privilege and rights than the rest of us. Whether it be people saying they should be allowed to engage in nepotism; should be allowed to accept donations from people who they later help out; or that they should be exempt from being targeted by the Security Services on matter of national security.

In the current climate where Islamism is of such high concern, and the potential of people blowing themselves on the public transport network is a very real possibility, then MPs should be aware that if they meet with someone on a watch list then they're going to be watched themselves. Do not also be fooled by the fact that Sadiq Khan is a Muslim. That is a red herring, whoever his MP had been they would have listened to him if he had a conversation with this guy.

If MPs are to be above the law on matter of national security and monitoring then what is a potential terrorist going to see as the best position they can hope to achieve in a society they want to subvert? Let us not forget the sort of people we are dealing with here are the sort that send turn two Down Syndrome woman into walking bombs and then blow them up in a public place.

14 comments:

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

I agree on this - who cares.

JuliaM said...

Given what they've all been up to with regard to expenses, etc, perhaps they should all be bugged, all the time..?

"David Davis has also released a letter he says he sent to Gordon Brown at the end of last year, which Brown denies receiving..."

He didn't send it via TNT, did he..?

Barnacle Bill said...

I fully agree Dizzy MPs should not be above suspicion because of their position in our society.
Mr. Khan was probably fully aware that the authorities were monitoring his constituent in some form or another, so he should not complain if he is caught up in this surveillance.
Since NuLabor came to power they have taken away, or limited, many of the rights our forefathers fought for, in their war on terrorism.
MPs should not be exempt from this because of the pre-fix "honourable" they seem to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

"Right on the Button" Dizzy.

Why on earth should they have such
considerations.
Listening to the `Westminister Hour` last night very obvious their fight back has begun aided and abbetted by the useless Caroline and a so called political professor.

They still just dont get it.

Not withstanding that the David Davies letter to Brown may have been lost
I contend that the majority of us do not believe them.

JH

Ed said...

Are you saying that people who want to change society shouldn't become MPs?

Unixman said...

I always find it useful to suggest to people to google "Tom Driberg" and "Mitrokhin Archive" when discussing the Wilson Doctrine about MPs and the Intelligence services ....... Not all MPs have in the past been totally loyal to this country.

Howard said...

Spot on and 100% right about the issue. However I would suggest that both Labour and the Tories are playing this up to deflect from the Conway saga and its ramifications for both parties, and in that they have succeeded. Interesting that the MP in question is a whip.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the question here is where you draw the line. Does 'national security' include listening to your political enemies and finding out what they are saying? I'm guessing that the original protocol was designed to stop the security forces spying on the more leftie MPs. If we had a Government that was neo-con/hawkish on the Islam issue would it be okay for them to bug the MPs who oppose them (George Galloway for instance) on the basis that he is a potential 'enemy of the state' and so a threat to national security. And if it is, doesn't it seem likely that the intelligence will be used for political purposes, which surely can't be acceptable?

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

MPs are not exempt from investigations into any criminal activities in which they may be engaged in their private lives.

If, however, you abolish their Privilege to criticise people in the House of Commons without fear of a libel case being brought against them, or you destroy the confidentiality of their communications with their Constituents, especially those whose lives are being made hell by the Government bureaucracy, then you might as well abolish MPs all together and simply appoint Communist party apparatchiki to rubber stamp the Executive branch of Government's diktats.

Surely you should be chivvying up the lazy and incompetent MPs to actually be more independent and to properly scrutinise the Government, rather than calling for the suppression of their ability to do so ?

Andy said...

It is so impractical to ban all recording of MPs - http://www.andystrang.com/2008/02/equality-before-law.html

scott redding said...

It's not about MPs being "above the law" - they should have "special status" since it's about the security services being accountable to democratically elected members of Parliament -- not the other way around.

tho. knyvett said...

So the institution of Parliament should be subject to the Government of the day? This seems to be the logical consequence of what Dizzy is proposing. Parliament hasn't been subjected to the will of Government since the 18th century: but if Dizzy can make a case for Parliament to be subjected to the whims of successive governments and the rulings of judges then I'd like to see him try.

Jeff said...

The guy is in prison, therfore unable to vote. surley that should recind any staus as a constituent as well. If so then Sadik Khan could not have been on constituency business.

Hawthorne said...

Nope. Just as Lawyers have a legal right to speak to their clients in privacy. So also do constituents and MP's. Sorry you are wrong on this one.