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The monitoring of MPs

Martin Rosenbaum | 14:27 UK time, Tuesday, 21 October 2008

According to the 'Wilson doctrine', laid down by Harold Wilson as prime minister in the 1960s, the phones of MPs should not be bugged by the security services.

Other prime ministers have broadly maintained this line since, and it's been extended to other forms of communication (although last year Gordon Brown limited it to preventing surveillance requiring authorisation by ministers).

This issue, of the monitoring of MPs, hit the headlines some months back when it turned out that some conversations involving the Labour MP Sadiq Khan and a constituent in prison had been bugged.

So under what circumstances might the police and the security services have been monitoring the political activities of the nation's democratically elected representatives?

The sort of MP likely to have been regarded as 'subversive' by some parts of the security establishment is Terry Fields, the former Labour MP for Liverpool Broadgreen who died in June. Fields was a member of the Militant Tendency, the Trotskyist group formed from the Revolutionary Socialist League which adopted a policy of 'entryism' into the Labour party. TerryFields.jpg

Both the Metropolitan and the Merseyside Police have recently refused to tell the BBC what information their Special Branches (which monitor political subversion) may have held about Fields. Merseyside Police confirmed they had collected some material relating to him for the purpose of investigations but declined to release it. The Met refused to confirm or deny whether Special Branch held records about him (although it did confirm that no other part of the force had information on him).

The Police turned down our FOI requests for such information on the grounds that it would allow requesters to deduce what subjects (and which of their activities) the Police have an interest in: 'This could potentially undermine national security, any on-going investigations and any further investigations as it would draw individuals/groups attention to areas of Police interest.'

So we don't know how the Police might have been keeping track of Fields' political activities. However, if they hadn't been monitoring him extensively then I would be very surprised - and so too, I expect, if he were still alive, would be Terry Fields.


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