The Prime Minister Tony Blair has, apparently, made a Wriiten Statement on the "Wilson Doctrine", from the safe distance of Jakarta in Indonesia.
We await the official text to be The text of the statement has now published online (see below), but the "PMOS" the Prime Minister's Official Spokeperson was questioned about it during today's morning press briefing.
Our original questions, and the various Parliamentary Questions tabled by MPs, do not appear to have been answered. e.g. who exactly does the "Wilson Doctrine" now appliy to, given that there are several more Parliaments and Assemblies which are directly elected by the British people, than there were back in 1966, when the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson made his promise to the House of Coomons that Member's of Parliament would never have their telephones tapped.
The PMOS statement and the media reports do not make it clear if mobile phones or the internet, neither of which existed in 1966, are, or are not, covered by the renewed "Wilson Doctrine".
The statement only talks of "consultations" about the advice from the outgoing Intercepttom of Communications Commissioner Rt. Hon. Sir Swinton Thomas, who is succeeded by Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy in April.
UPDATE: Here is the text of the Prime Minister's statementt which fails to answer any of the questions about the current scope and applicability of the 40 year old "Wilson Doctrine"., which could have been answered without putting any national security investigations or methods and procedures at risk.
This statement does rather give the impression that Tony Blair must have something to hidee, along the the lines of the Francois Mitterand or Richard Nixon bugging of political allies and opponents scandals.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): In answer to questions in the House of Commons on 17 November 1966, the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Harold Wilson MP, said that he had given instructions that there was to be no tapping of the telephones of Members of Parliament and that if there were a development which required a change of policy he would at such a
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moment as was compatible with the security of the country make a statement in the House about it. This approach, known as the Wilson Doctrine, has been maintained under successive administrations.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 updated existing laws and set in place new legal procedures governing the interception of communications carried on both public and private telecommunications systems. I advised the House in a Written Ministerial Statement on 15 December 2005, Official Report, column 173WS, that I had received advice from the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Swinton Thomas, on his view of the implications for the Wilson Doctrine of the regulatory framework established under that Act.
It was Sir Swinton's advice, taking into account the new and robust regulatory framework governing interception and the changed circumstances since 1966, that the Wilson Doctrine should not be sustained.
I have considered Sir Swinton's advice very seriously, together with concerns expressed in this House in response to my written ministerial statement on 15 December. I have decided that the Wilson Doctrine should be maintained.
Put that throughout the debate about security issues in recent years, the Government had made repeatedly the point that the key thing was to listen to what the security professionals had said, and to take their advice very seriously, but the Prime Minister had decided in this case not to take the advice of the Interception Communications Commissioner who had very clearly advised that the Wilson doctrine should be changed so that MPs were treated just like any other citizen of this country, so why had the Prime Minister decided that MPs should be treated differently, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister considered very, very carefully the advice from Swinton Thomas as people would expect.
Today, he was fulfilling the commitment he made in September to inform Parliament of the outcome at the earliest possible opportunity. What was important to recognise was that this was a decision which had to be considered seriously at all sorts of levels, and the Government and the Prime Minister had gone through a very detailed process of consultation. The decision today was the result of that detailed consultation process. The issues involved were difficult, and everybody accepted that, but the decision today was the result of a very detailed consultation process amongst all the relevant people.
Asked if that meant that Sinn Fein no longer needed to sweep their buildings and cars, the PMOS said nice try! Although he was thousands of miles away, he still maintained the practice of not commenting on individual MPs, and that remained the case.