A procedural hearing in the legal case brought by Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb against the Government, over claims that their communications continue to be intercepted by GCHQ, begun yesterday (July 1).
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion who led the Green Party from 2008 to 2012, and Baroness Jenny Jones began legal proceedings in May this year. This hearing at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) (1) is the first hearing in this case which is being brought by the two parliamentarians challenging the government’s use of its secret Tempora programme (2).
Lawyers for the two Green politicians argue that there is a strong likelihood that both Lucas and Jones’ communications are being intercepted as part of the Tempora programme exposed by whistle-blower Edward Snowdon.
The government’s lawyers say they will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the interception programmes that were disclosed by Snowden (3). The hearing has been adjourned until October 2014.
Lucas and Jones’ lawyers claim that the surveillance of their communications was unlawful as it is in breach of the Wilson Doctrine (4) and breaches Parliamentary privilege.
Baroness Jones said:
“I am relieved and pleased that the Tribunal today confirmed all correspondence sent between the government and it should be shared with me and my lawyers unless issues of national security arise.
“It is extremely important that when complaints such as mine are made to the Tribunal, the evidence and legal arguments involved, as far as possible, are heard and considered in public.
“The Tribunal must adopt a presumption of openness and transparency and only when issues of real national security arise, should an exemption to this presumption be considered.
“The Wilson Doctrine recognises a fundamental principle of our democracy; that the country’s intelligence agencies should not bug or spy on any Members of Parliament.
“This Doctrine is crucial to the work of all those sitting in both our Houses of Parliament and I hope the government will now take the summer to consider its position carefully and confirm in September that it intends to uphold this important right which protects parliamentary correspondence.”
1. The IPT investigates complaints about the intelligence agencies and other bodies that have powers of surveillance. The IPT has dealt with about 1,500 complaints since it was established. It has not upheld any complaints about any of the UK’s intelligence agencies.
2. The Tempora programme, operated primarily by GCHQ, monitors and collates, on a blanket basis, the full range of electronic communications data produced in, or transiting through, the United Kingdom and numerous other countries. The communications it intercepts includes emails and other internet traffic as well as telephone calls. The information gathered by Tempora is reported to be stored for three days in relation to content. Metadata is stored for 30 days. Metadata includes the persons to whom communications are sent as well as, for instance, the time of sending and location of sender. The information is processed and sifted and some is stored and analysed.
4. The Wilson Doctrine was implemented by the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, on 17th November 1966. It provides that no Member of Parliament’s telephone shall be tapped, unless there is a major national emergency, and that any changes to this policy will be reported by the Prime Minister to Parliament.