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Speaker’s Statement

Volume 592: debated on Monday 9 February 2015

The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) raised a point of order after business questions last week relating to the interception of communications. The passage in the report of the interception of communications commissioner to which he referred concerns the operation of the statutory regime for the interception of communications and suggested possible additional safeguards for journalistic sources under that regime. That does not on the face of it raise any issue for the House. The House will be aware that the Wilson doctrine, to the effect that Members’ communications will not be subjected to surveillance or interception under that regime, has been reaffirmed by successive Governments. A prospective adjustment of the statutory regime for journalists cannot therefore have any direct implications for the operation of the Wilson doctrine. I was grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning the matter and pledged to return to him and to the House with a response, which is what I have done. We will leave it there for now, unless he feels an urgent desire—[Interruption.] He does. Very well.

The issue under discussion is the question of the collection of metadata—in other words, data on those from whom we have received calls. It matters particularly with regard to whistleblowers and the like. When my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Nick de Bois) asked about that, he was told by the Cabinet Office in terms that metadata were not protected under the Wilson doctrine, so our constituents and whistleblowers are still at risk.

I note the additional point that the right hon. Gentleman makes. However, it does not seem to me obviously a matter for the Chair to seek to interpret the Wilson doctrine, beyond reporting to the House, as I have just done, that the prospective adjustment in respect of journalists does not appear to me to constitute any prospective change to the doctrine. I have a sense that he wishes to continue the debate—I say that in good humour and with respect—but I have nothing to add this afternoon. If he wishes to pursue the matter further, he might profitably do so with Ministers, who look all agog and in eager anticipation of the prospect of that dialogue. I doubt that there is anything to which they look forward more.