» Monday, February 4, 2008

Sadiq Khan

Asked about the letter David Davies claimed to have sent the Prime Minister, the PMS told the assembled press that we had done very detailed checks yesterday and we would continue to check our systems, although there was no reason to believe that the check yesterday was incomplete.

Asked if he had any reason to believe that the letter had been posted and was there any trail of any description, the PMS reiterated that we had no record of ever having received any such letter. We also checked with the relevant people in Downing Street who would have seen the letter had it been received and not recorded and nobody had any recollection of ever seeing such a letter.

Asked how many letters the Prime Minister received each week, the PMS said that the Prime Minister received lots of letters, but he did not have the exact number to hand. As we had said yesterday, a number of letters had been received from David Davies on a number of subjects, since the beginning of December, including the Humber Bridge, the Security Industry Authority and the licensing laws.

Asked if there was a different system when Downing Street received letters from MP’s, the PMS replied that what normally happened was that when any letter came in, it was dealt with by the Correspondence Unit in Downing Street, who record that the letter has been received and it was then circulated to the relevant people in Downing Street or in Whitehall.

Asked if there was an internal, cross-party mail system, the PMS replied that he did not know the answer to that question, but said that it was a matter for individual MP’s to decide how they sent their letters.

Asked if there was a timescale that you would expect a privy councillor to get an acknowledgement by or a reply to such a letter, the PMS said he did not have that information to hand, but if Downing Street had received a letter which made very serious accusations, then that would be something dealt with very seriously as you would expect.

Put that the PMS had said that Jack Straw would make a statement on the alleged bugging and did that suggest that it didn’t happen, the PMS said that he was merely making a statement of fact. He advised people to wait for the statement that afternoon.

Asked if the PMS could tell people what he took the Wilson Doctrine to mean, the PMS said that the Government position on the Wilson Doctrine was set out most definitively in a Written Parliamentary Answer given by Tony Blair on the 30th March 2006. All subsequent Parliamentary Questions had referred back to that 30th March 2006 statement. Put that the problem with that statement was that it didn’t define what the Wilson Doctrine actually was and what forms of communication it covered, the PMS replied that the Government’s position on the Wilson Doctrine was set out in a full paragraph.

Asked to read out the paragraph, the PMS did so: "In answer to questions in the House of Commons on 17th November 1966, the then Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold Wilson MP, said that he had given instructions that there was to be no tapping of the telephones of MP’s and that if there were a development which required a change of policy, he would at such a moment as was compatible with the security of the country, make a statement in the House about it. This approach, known as the Wilson Doctrine, had been maintained under successive administrations."

Asked if it was the Government’s policy that if an MP was eavesdropped upon using methods other than telephonic bugging, that that would be notified to the House, the PMS replied that the journalist was asking a series of hypothetical questions. The Government’s position on the Wilson Doctrine was as set out in the statement and he had nothing further to add to that. Asked why the Prime Minister supported the Wilson Doctrine, the PMS said that it had been a longstanding convention and one he had always supported.

Put that the Doctrine had been developed from the original answer in 1966, the PMS reiterated that the most definitive explanation of the Government’s position on the Wilson Doctrine that he had was the Ministerial Statement from the 30th March 2006. If there was anything further, he advised people to wait until the Jack Straw statement that afternoon.

Asked if the Prime Minister would expect to be notified if an MP was to be bugged, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister supported the Wilson Doctrine.

Asked if the Wilson Doctrine banned the bugging of MP’s by any means, the PMS said that the accurate interpretation of the Wilson Doctrine was the one that was set out in the Written Ministerial Statement of 30th March 2006 and for anything further on the matter, it was best to wait for Jack Straw’s statement to the House this afternoon.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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