§ Lord Roper
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether the prohibitions by Mr Harold Wilson, when Prime Minister, of tapping the telephones of Members of Parliament remains in force; and whether such a prohibition also applies to the telephones of members of the House of Lords; and [HL3673]
Whether they will extend the prohibition on tapping the telephones of Members of Parliament to the interception of any form of electronic communication. [HL3674]
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
With permission, the reply covers both questions. As stated in the Prime Minister's answer to the honourable Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) on 30 October 1997 (Official Report, col. 861) the Government's policy on interception of telephones of Members of Parliament remains as stated in 1966 by the then Prime Minister, and as applied by successive governments since. In answer to questions on 17 November 1966, the Prime Minister said that he had given instructions that there was to be no tapping of telephones of Members of Parliament and that, if there was a development which required such a change of policy, he would at such moment as seemed compatible with the security of the country, on his own initiative, make a statement in the House about it.
Further, pursuant to the answers given to the Lord Balfour of Inchrye by The Lord Privy Seal on 22 November 1966 (Official Report, col. 122) stating that, exceptionally, the statement made by the Prime Minister extends to the House of Lords, the Government can confirm that the policy described in previous answers applies in relation to the use of 138WA electronic surveillance as well as to telephone interception.