A body blow for parliamentary democracy - IPT rules that Wilson Doctrine has “no legal effect”

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has, today, handed down judgment in the case brought by Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jenny Jones and in a separate complaint brought by George Galloway.  The issue before the Tribunal was the application of the “Wilson Doctrine” - a promise made by successive Prime Ministers that members of the Houses of Parliament would not be subject to surveillance.  In the light of revelations made by Edward Snowden about mass surveillance of electronic communications, it seemed clear that the security services may not be applying the Wilson Doctrine as it had been understood.


In its judgment, the IPT ruled against the Parliamentarians.  It held that the “Wilson Doctrine has no legal effect” and accepted the government’s arguments that the doctrine is “a political statement in a political context, encompassing the ambiguity that is sometimes to be found in political statements.”  The IPT’s judgment is available here.


Caroline Lucas MP has described the judgment as a “body blow for parliamentary democracy”.  Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said that the judgment was “deeply worrying”: “Our job is to hold the executive to account, and to do that effectively it’s crucial that people feel they can contact us without their communications being monitored.”  A summary of the judgment, and an explanation of the background to the claim, is available on the Leigh Day website.


Jude Bunting acted for Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, led by Ben Jaffey and instructed by Rosa Curling of Leigh Day.


Abigail Bright and Rupert Bowers QC acted for former MP, George Galloway, instructed by Chambers Solicitors.

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