back to article GCHQ can and will spy on politicos, rules tribunal

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled that GCHQ is allowed to collect the communications of MPs. An IPT announcement stated that it "heard and resolved issues relating to the status, meaning and effect of what has been called the Harold Wilson Doctrine, or the Wilson Doctrine, originating in the statement in the …


  1. Dan 55 Silver badge


    Who's in charge then?

    Just asking.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: So


      Answer: THEM. As ever.

    2. phil dude

      Re: So

      That's not important. YOU are number 6.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So

        If I'm going to be a number, can I be a real one, so as to hack them off when they try calling me by name..?

        1. Richard Taylor 2

          Re: So

          So a real number, rational or irrational?

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: So

      It SHOULD be the case that "we,the people" are in charge with our will expressed through parliament and executed by civil service.

      It is a GOOD thing that parliamentarians do not have any privileges not allowed to ordinary citizens beyond those strictly necessary for their jobs as parliamentarians. The key is in this phrase here:

      "upcoming legislation on surveillance must include a provision to protect the communications of MPs, Peers, MSPs, AMs and MEPS from extra-judicial spying."

      Well, that's complete BS. EVERYONE's communications should be protected from *extra-judicial* spying, this is not a privilege to be granted to MPs etc. On the other hand, if there is reasonable suspicion / evidence that is strong enough to get a judge to sign a warrant for surveillance, that *legal* surveillance could be applied to anyone, right up to the PM and the Queen, no exceptions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So

        I agree James. Indeed GCHQ should be reading this; let's ensure they do.

        Bomb attack. Code name Gibbon. The Queen. David Cameron. Allah Akbar. Vestal Virgins here I come. President of the United States. Assassinate. 08:30. Death to the Jews. Semtex in the vase by the cooker. Your's sincerely Jeremy Corbyn.

  2. Velv
    Big Brother

    MPs: "The security services must have the ability to covertly obtain intelligence by monitoring communications. But not our communications"

    Fucking hypocrites!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Welcome to Bulgarian British Republic.

      That actually replicates a similar ruling in Bulgaria from a year back. Nearly word by word too. The mere difference is that there the security services got caught red-handed snooping on actual MPs. It was not deduced out of some Snowdenian revelations.

      To be honest, MP communications being privileged is not a far fetched expectation - that the ones that _SET_ the law should be offered the same protection in their work as the ones that _APPLY_ the law. However, do they (and we) like it or not, the Eu conventions and the law in most countries in Europe do not offer this protection to the legislative branch. Some do. Not all though.

      So the tribunal ruling was expected - the law does not provide any protection, so no surprises here. Same as in Bulgaria by the way. The result in 20+ countries in the Eu would not be different either.

      1. Hans 1
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Welcome to Bulgarian British Republic.

        >However, do they (and we) like it or not, the Eu conventions and the law in most countries in Europe do not offer this protection to the legislative branch. Some do. Not all though.

        However, do they (and we) like it or not, the Eu conventions and the law in some countries in Europe theoretically offer a protection to the legislative branch. The protection is applied nowhere though.

        Fixed that!

        In most countries (if not all), magistrate candidates (e.g., judges to be) must pass security clearance, same for "elected officials" aka politicos.

      2. DryBones
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Welcome to Bulgarian British Republic.

        Bulgaria was invoked, no airbags were mentioned.

        What is this madness?

        1. Robert Helpmann??

          Re: Welcome to Bulgarian British Republic.

          Bulgaria was invoked, no airbags were mentioned.

          Well, we the discussion is about politicos, so we are half way there with "wind bags." Then again, I suppose we might as well take it the rest of the way with "complete boobs."

    2. Quortney Fortensplibe

      What's Sauce For the Goose...

      Fucking hypocrites!

      Too right!

      I don't know why they're getting so annoyed about this, anyway. As they always tell us, when our civil liberties are being eroded:

      "If you're not doing anything wrong, you've nothing to hide!"

  3. Queeg

    So, one rule for them and the same rule for us.

    How refreshing.

    Now they know I wonder how long that will last.

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      "Now they know I wonder how long that will last."

      The answer is at the end of this quote from 1984:

      "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

      And now we know who's wearing the boot...

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Now they know I wonder how long that will last."

      Until private members' bills come round. Clearly they forgot that MPs have the power to make stuff illegal.

  4. JakeMS

    Oh.. so they've been pushing for all this spying on us.. and now they too are being spied on they don't like it?

    Tuff luck, they wanted spying they got it. Let them be spied on too. Let them have a taste of their own medicine..

  5. Tony S

    Mr Cynical

    To be honest, even if it were completely illegal, I'd still expect them to be doing something like this on the entire population, especially the politicians.

    What worries me is what they will do with that information. Who will be responsible when they get it wrong.

    I was going to change my name; was it Buttle or was it Tuttle?

    1. Richard Taylor 2

      Re: Mr Cynical

      One might plausibly argue that monitoring politicians is careful targeted surveillance - given their historical behaviour

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mr Cynical

      Changing mine to 'Buttlicker Arse'.

    3. Quortney Fortensplibe
      Thumb Up

      Re: Mr Cynical

      "...I was going to change my name; was it Buttle or was it Tuttle?..."

      Thumbs up for the reference to my favourite film evvarrrr!

  6. Gordon 10
    Thumb Up

    Someone should be exempt

    Probably the judiciary and the home sec - then we would get to understand if our Home Secs have always been authoritarian fascists or just become that way after a visit from the Gmen with a file on them.

    Although on general principles I should state that I am against exceptions for Teresa May for anything.

    Or hows about just stopping bulk collection GCHQ? I rather suspect if you dropped it down to soley 2 degrees of Kevin Bacon on known loons + some fairly targeted keyword collection you would get almost the same amount of good intel as you do with the current "get everyone" policy.

    1. joed

      Re: Someone should be exempt

      I bet GCHQ exempted itself - so someone is.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Someone should be exempt

        Perhaps not. If there is anywhere that you might want to monitor for traitors...

        More generally, I thought lawyers had long ago established that the only privileged communications are those of lawyers. Priests, doctors,etc, are just hoi polloi.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The IPT declared that the Wilson Doctrine could only be considered to apply to "targeted, and not incidental" interception of parliamentary communications."

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      This is the real reason. I'm sure GCHQ would be quite content to not bulk collect anything from a address, but if they're bulk collecting everything from, then they might inadvertently hoover up an MPs private email.

      Far better for them if they have the loophole in place before any MPs get annoyed about their personal emails getting trawled.

      1. Hans 1

        @ phuzz is part of the dragnet, however, they are SPECIFICALLY TARGETING addresses, pretty sure they have ppl listening in on/reading each and every email, call, or whatever is made by UK officials - I am pretty sure they keep a list of all foreign bank accounts these guyz have as well (if applicable*) ...

        * I have to add this or my comment will be censored on here ;-)

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Well, it will expose all the parlimentary paedos hopefully but realistically they'd just use this info for blackmail, er I mean leverage, against IPT members.

  9. TitterYeNot

    The Wilson Doctrine.

    You've got to laugh. Only a politician could come up with this.

    "We promise not to monitor an MP's telephone calls.

    Apart from the times when we want to.

    And then we'll tell you about it.

    Afterwards. A very long time afterwards.

    If we feel like it. But we don't really feel like it..."

  10. hatti



    "This judgment is a body blow for parliamentary democracy," said MP. "My constituents have a right to know that their communications with me aren't subject to blanket surveillance – yet this ruling suggests that they have no such protection."


    "Oh God no! my expenses claim," said MP "How the hell am I going to claim this amount without anyone finding out."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Transparent

      Clearly not what this was about... as the security services don't care about such things...

      1. SolidSquid

        Re: Transparent

        The public might be though. If, y'know, they really needed to know about it. Like if the MP was sponsoring a bill to constrain GCHQ. They wouldn't *release* that information though, that would be unthinkable. There might just be a... leak, that such information should be requested via FoI between certain dates. Or maybe not even anything criminal, maybe just some interests the MPs have which might cause embarrassment or hurt election chances and they'd rather weren't made public knowledge

        The point of the Wilson Doctrine isn't just to protect the public from being spied on, but also to prevent intelligence services from being able to build portfolios which can be used to pressure elected officials into towing the party line on security, whether directly through warnings about "national security threats" to places they know that MP cares about to third parties who the information is "leaked" to

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Transparent

          I'm voting you up there even though you misspelt "toeing"!

  11. Wommit

    Well, if they've got nothing to hide...

  12. Graham Marsden

    But... but...

    ... it's different for *us*...!!!

    Signed - Your MPs

  13. Dan Paul

    Yet, have you ever met a politician......

    that didn't deserve to be monitored? One way or another?

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Yet, have you ever met a politician......

      Yes, actually I have. Though they tend to be the ones marginalized away from the centres of power in the party, excluded by the Blair or Cameron cabals in control of their parties. They're the reason Parliamentary Whips exist.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All ears

    They have been tapping phone lines of MPs in HOC and HOL for at least 4 decades. It was all very hush hush back in the day.

  15. paulf
    Big Brother

    Goes around, comes around

    Makes a change for MPs to eat their own swill. Normally that kind of thing is only for the peons^H^H^H voters.

    I'd like to think this means surveillance will be curtailed but it just means a new law to curtail it with respect to MPs. But only those MPs deemed worthy enough and who've kissed the right arses.

    As for "Wilson promised that MPs' and peers' phones would not be tapped by the security services. However, he also said that he might secretly remove this rule, and only tell parliament that he had done so at some later point decided by him."

    This sounds to me more like it was written by Sir Humphrey on behalf of one of his chums in GCHQ and the PM was asked to sign it when he was in a hurry and thus didn't read it (see Yes, Minister). It clearly wasn't worth the paper it was written on. Perhaps it could be redubbed the Chocolate fireguard rule?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    as this Stasi data will show. . .

    when Germany temporarily (sic) introduced mass data retention (including their MPs) before 2010, it did improve the crime solution rate. It increased by 0.06%.

    problem is that in Germany the full data-take is shared 50% spooks - 50% cops, routinely. Whilst in UK the cops hardly get a look at the full-take material as it is too secret, (no one knows about it), and so it can't be used in court to avoid challenges as to where it might have come from, and god-forbid that the defence team should ever have a trawl through the raw muck! That wouldn't be cricket

  17. Syntax Error


    I don't really see what business it is of GCHQ to spy on MPs. Who do GCHQ report to? Who do GCHQ represent? The government? The Queen?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MPs

      A higher power than either of those.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Now an EnigmatICQ Riddle wrapped inside a Mysterious AIMastery

      Who do GCHQ report to? Who do GCHQ represent? The government? The Queen? ... Syntax Error

      Valid questions, Syntax Error, which methinks because it be best and prudent, will never be answered fully and frankly. All that can be currently transduced is that their intelligence product is principally sub-prime and of no practical use to that and they who would/could be of specific mutually beneficial interest to them, should they be in any way effective in playing Great Games and virtually leading the mass with remote anonymous command and absolutely fabulous fabless control .......... aka Heavenly Ubiquitous Direction.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Now an EnigmatICQ Riddle wrapped inside a Mysterious AIMastery

        Are you ill today? That one made sense.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Now an EnigmatICQ Riddle wrapped inside a Mysterious AIMastery

          Are you ill today? That one made sense ..... theodore

          Feeling real fine and dandy, theodore. Thanks for asking.

          And they all make sense at the levels and to the agents they are addressed to.

          I am pleased to imagine and accept that we are brighter than before and are better able to communicate and understand where we be coming from and/or going to too because of what is being so freely shared and posted worldwide.

          And we all have El Reg to thank for that ISP facility and capability.

          Three cheers, El Reg.... Hip, Hip, Hooray

          Hip, Hip, Hooray

          Hip, Hip, Hooray

          1. Tail Up

            Re: Now wrapped inside AI

            you can add one mine

  18. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Big Brother

    HM Queen

    Is Her Majesty also being spied upon?

    I imagine she is as the way GCHQ works is to hoover-up everything as "collection" rather than "spying".

    I wonder how she, and the rest of the family, feel about that?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadiq Khan MP

    Sadiq Khan found this out in 2008 when conversations between him and a constituent were bugged. Quite why Caroline Lucas is surprised escapes me.

  20. Red Bren
    Big Brother

    How exactly can the security services continue their immoral/illegal snooping on the general populace while not snooping on MPs? A "do not snoop" blacklist of MPs email addresses? Excellent plan! If you want to secure your email, just CC a random MP and the securocrats will ignore it.

  21. JaitcH

    If a 'Doctrine' has ...

    no legal force, how much reliance can be placed on government 'guidelines' or 'guidance'?

    Since GCHQ operates under government 'guidelines' and 'guidance', does this ruling mean that the amoral scum in Cheltenham are free to do whatever they want?


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like