The Number 10 Downing Street afternoon press briefing from 25 January 2006 has revealed a few crumbs for the kremlinologists regarding the "Wilson Doctrine" administrative exemption for Members of Parliament, which used to shield them from telephone intercepts, but perhaps for not much longer.
"PMOS" is NuSpeak for the Prime Minister's Offical Spokesman, presumbaly usually David Hill, the Director of Communications, who replaced the notorious Alastair Campbell.
Asked if there was a timetable for the report, the PMOS said no. It would be whenever the Interception Commissioner, Sir Swinton Thomas, had actually had a chance to talk to people. It would go at his pace. Asked if the Prime Minister was open minded and waiting to be persuaded, the PMOS said that first and foremost, there had been erroneous reports that the Prime Minister, following 7/7, had initiated this. That was not the case. This was a result of an initiative taken by Sir Swinton Thomas and therefore it was important that we went at the pace set by Sir Swinton.
Put to him that it was for the PM to make recommendations and to consult colleagues, the PMOS said that was correct but an important part of that was for Sir Swinton to set out his case. We were still in the middle of that process.
We have a few comments:
The statements by the "PMOS" do not rule out our suspicion that Sir Swinton Thomas is acting because there have been requests by one or more intelligence or police agencies to intercept the phone calls of one or more Members of Parliament for some reason or other, which, presumably have been refused due to the "Wilson Doctrine".
Will any of the Lobby Correspondents actually ask the "PMOS" if this is true or not ?
Who are these "people" with whom Sir Swinton Thomas has been talking ? This is a matter of public interest, so there is no excuse for secrecy, as it is not a matter of revealing secret technological intereception techniques, or the details of current investigations, but a question of public policy and fundamenatal human rights, both of MPs and also of their constituents and members of the public.
Will any of the media actually manage to get an interview with the Rt Hon Sir Swinton Thomas ?
Will any of the media actually manage to get an interview with the Rt Hon Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons on this matter ?