The Independent on Sunday's front page story is:
"MI5 will get new powers to bug MPs"
Furious cabinet revolt as Blair gives green light for security services to spy on elected representatives
By Francis Elliott, Whitehall Editor
Published: 15 January 2006
Tony Blair is preparing to scrap a 40-year ban on tapping MPs' telephones, despite fierce Cabinet opposition, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
He is expected to formally announce to the Commons within weeks that MPs can no longer be sure that the security services and others will not intercept their communications.
Until now, successive administrations have pledged that there should be no tapping "whatsoever" of MPs' phones, and that they would be told if it was necessary to breach the ban.
But that convention - known as the Wilson Doctrine, after Harold Wilson, the prime minister who introduced it - is to be abandoned in an expansion of MI5 powers following the London bombings.
MPs should be treated in the same way as other citizens and will be given the same safeguards against wrongful tapping, the Prime Minister will say.
Is this an outrage against democracy and further evidence of the slide towards an authoritarian NuLabour police state ?
Or is it an attempt to regulate or stop an existing illegal political bugging operation ?
The decision provoked a furious row in the Cabinet just before Christmas, when the Secretary of State for Defence, John Reid, voiced his opposition.
His outburst surprised other ministers, since he is seen as one of Mr Blair's closest allies and not known for his support for civil liberties.
"Reid demanded to know why on earth we were going down this route," said one government colleague. "It was all the more surprising since you would have thought the MoD is one of the departments most in favour of increased surveillance powers."
A Downing Street spokesman last night said: "The recommendation has been received and will be considered in due course."
Is Home Secretary Charles Clarke pushing this forward ?
What is Chancellor Gordon Brown's attitude to this policy, as self appointed NuLabour Leader in Waiting ?
Has this recommendation been made by Sir Richard Mottram the Permanent Secretary and Security Intelligence Co-ordinator at the Cabinet Office, or by a NuLabour commissar ?
Alternatively, is this actually an attempt to bring an existing scheme of illegal Francois Mitterand style of bugging and snooping on NuLabour's political rival, allies and opponents within in the limited purview of the Interception Commissioner Sir Swinton Thomas or the Intelligence Services Commissioner Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, operating under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 ?
This would limit the use of such phone (and presumably email) interception to serious criminal investigations only, thereby ruling out purely political intelligence gathering e.g. on possible voting rebellions or "leak enquiries".
Do not forget that if Members of Parliament are being put under electronic intercept surveillance, then so are their constituents and campaign or lobby groups or whistleblowers, who contact them by phone, fax or email.
This should be investigated and debated in public, by the whole House of Commons, not just the secret Intelligence Services Committee, or the Committee on Privileges.