Green politicians launch legal challenge over GCHQ surveillance

Green politicians launch legal challenge over GCHQ surveillance

Caroline Lucas and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb claim GCHQ is violating Wilson doctrine barring eavesdropping on MPs.

Two politicians have launched a legal action to challenge the government’s ability to spy on parliamentarians.

The pair allege that GCHQ is violating a long-established rule that bans intelligence agencies from eavesdropping on MPs and peers. They say their communications are likely to have been intercepted by GCHQ, which gathers and stores data on millions of people “on a blanket basis”.

The claim by Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the Green party‘s two representatives in parliament, adds to a growing number of legal challenges over the large-scale harvesting of emails, phone calls and other internet traffic by GCHQ.

Their complaint focuses on a rule introduced by 1966 by the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, instructing Britain’s intelligence agencies not to tap the telephones of MPs and peers unless there is a national emergency.

A government minister acknowledged last July that this explicit ban, still in force and known as the Wilson doctrine, also applied to electronicsurveillance.

Lucas and Jones say: “The Wilson doctrine is a fundamental doctrine of public policy. It not only protects the rights and privileges of elected politicians, but it also protects 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 agents of the state who try to carry out surveillance on them.”

They say there is a strong likelihood that GCHQ spies “have intercepted and are intercepting [their] communications as members of the Houses of Parliament”.

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