Parliament adjourns for a long summer break in
less than 2 weeks. just over 3 weeks, from 27th July until 6th September 2010.
By that time, we are promised, the Identity Cards Act 2006 will have been repealed, all well and good. We will celebrate properly when the National Identity Register data is securely destroyed.
However, there are several things of interest to Spy Blog readers, which this Conservative / Liberal democrat coalition government has not yet done as they should have.
By convention, since 1966, each Prime Minister has re-affirmed the Wilson Doctrine, regarding the supposed ban on telephone and other interception of communications of Members of Parliament, especially with their constituents.
Sometimes they have hinted at slight changes in policy, in their short, bland, detail avoiding statements, which need heavy analysis by Downing Street kremlinologists.
Prime Minister David Cameron has not yet made any such statement.
If he does not want to appear just like his hated predecessor, then he will announce next week, a wider application of the Wilson Doctrine, as we wrote back in 2008:
The Wilson Doctrine should be extended to cover not just Members of the House of Commons, and the Peers of the House of Lords, but also to the other equally democratically elected Parliaments and Assemblies, to the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, to the UK Members of the European Parliament, and probably to all foreign Members of the European Parliament as well.
In principle, the Constituency Communications of elected Local Authority Councillors should also be protected by the Wilson Doctrine.
The Wilson Doctrine is not about rights and privileges of elected politicians, it is about protecting the privacy of their communications with their constituents, who may very well be complaining or whistleblowing about the very Government departments and agencies and other tentacles of the State, who try to snoop on such communications.
Back in 1966, when the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced his policy, there were no direct dial international phone calls , let alone fax machines, mobile phones or internet email or WiFi communications etc.
The Wilson Doctrine should be extended to cover not just the interception of communications i..e. listening to phone calls or reading emails etc., but to the collection or analysis of Communications Traffic Data - who called or emailed who, when and where from etc.
It should also apply to all of the postal mail, public internet connections, private computer networks, email accounts, computers, fax machines and mobile phones etc. used by the elected representative or his office staff, provided that these are used for communications to and from the elected representatives constituents.
Given the scandal over the electronic bugging of an MP and his constituent in prison, who has not been charged with any crime in the UK, the Wilson Doctrine should also be made to cover face to face meetings with constituents. It should ban directed and intrusive surveillance of such face to face meetings and it should also ban the use of Confidential Human Intelligence Source informers to infiltrate an MP or other elected representatives offices.
Obviously where there are actual national security or serious crime investigations in progress, the Wilson Doctrine allows these to proceed, but this should be strictly limited and should require a formal warrant, not any kind of self authorisation by the investigating agency.
There must be no repeat of the appalling mess which the former Speaker of the House of Commons created over the police raid without a warrant of MPs offices.
The Wilson Doctrine should be made to apply not just to the three main UK intelligence agencies GCHQ, MI5 and SIS/MI6, but to any Police or Military units with the legal or technical capability e.g. Military Special Forces units, Association of Chief Police Officers units like NETCU and to any "quid pro quo" arrangements with Foreign Governments or agencies and also to any private sector companies or other non--governmental organisations as well.
If you cannot trust that your written or electronic communications or face to face meetings with your MP etc. is not being snooped on by state bureaucrats or private sector snoopers, then there is no elected democracy in the UK any more.
If the Government really means to restore public trust in the tainted institution of Parliament, then they should re-affirm and extend the Wilson Doctrine, something which will not even cost them any public money to do.
It is a measure of how inept the hated Labour party is in Opposition, that they have not bothered to table any Parliamentary Questions about the Wilson Doctrine, not even simply in order to put the current Government under political pressure, like a proper Opposition should.
Is it because the few Labour MPs who cared about democratic accountability of the powerful organs of the state, have retired or have not been re-elected, leaving behind only the creepy control freaks and apparatchiks ?
The Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs who used to care about these issues are now on the Government side, but they should not let that stop them from raising Questions fundamental issues of liberty and democracy either.