Wednesday, February 06, 2008

MSP who censored public testimony at Justice Committee wants 'no bugging' rule at Holyrood

Its fine to censor or bug others, but not when the bugging targets you if you are a politician .... so Christine Grahame MSP, the ex-Justice 1 Committee Convener who famously censored the public from testifying before her Committee's "Regulation of the Legal Profession" inquiry, wants MSPS at Holyrood to enjoy the same 'rules' which apply to the Westminster Parliament, where MPs cannot be bugged ...

However, given the conduct of some of our MSPs who seem to get up to all sorts, whether its mortgage fiddling, expenses fiddling, or even fiddling on CCTV ... why should they be immune from the surveillance which is applied to every other citizen in the UK ...

The Herald reports :

Call for bugging ban to cover MSPs

MICHAEL SETTLE February 06 2008

Calls were made last night for the rules that ban MPs from being bugged to be applied to MSPs and members of the other devolved administrations.

The demands from politicians at Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff for the so-called Wilson Doctrine to be extended beyond the Commons came as the political heat in the bugging row increased significantly, with Gordon Brown being branded a "liar" by the Conservatives, who in turn were called on to apologise for their "dreadful" slur.

At Holyrood, Christine Grahame, the SNP MSP, led the calls for the doctrine to cover her and her parliamentary colleagues. She said: "The apparent abuses of power we have seen in England with the bugging of MPs, despite the Wilson Doctrine being in place, again highlights the difficulty facing MSPs who do not have the same parity as Westminster representatives."

It emerged that Green MSP Patrick Harvie has written to Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, calling for any past bugging of MSPs since devolution in 1999 to be made public.

He, too, demanded an "absolute commitment" that the doctrine be extended to all British parliamentarians.

"The work done by MSPs, AMs, MLAs and MEPs is just as likely to be sensitive as that of MPs at Westminster and the same rules must apply," he insisted.

In Cardiff, Mike German, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, called on Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister, to seek an extension of the Wilson Doctrine so that it applied to AMs.

At Westminster, Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, also demanded "equality of treatment" and called for a new doctrine "for the 21st century, which takes into account the new constitutional arrangements and offers protection across the board" to all UK parliamentarians.

Earlier, the Prime Minister's spokesman asked if Mr Brown thought the Wilson Doctrine should apply to MSPs, replied: "It has traditionally referred to members of the UK Parliament."

Asked if the PM was happy for MSPs to be bugged, the spokesman added: "You are raising questions I don't know if there's any evidence to substantiate and, secondly, the issue here is the Wilson Doctrine."

Sir Christopher Rose, the Chief Surveillance Officer, has begun his investigation into claims that conversations between Sadiq Khan, Labour MP for Tooting in London, and his constituent Babar Ahmad, a terror suspect, were allegedly recorded while the two men talked at Woodhill Prison in Buckinghamshire. The American authorities want Mr Ahmad extradited on suspicion of terrorist activities.

Last night, there was yet another twist in the bugging saga when it was disclosed that Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was informed two months ago about concerns that Mr Khan was visiting a terrorist suspect in prison. However, sources at the Ministry of Justice made clear the minister did not know of the claims that the MP's conversations were being recorded.

One said Mr Straw had simply dismissed the claims as an attempt to "smear" Mr Khan, who is a government whip in the Justice Ministry. "Clearly, had he known more information, he would have done exactly what he did on Saturday which was to announce an inquiry," said the source.

Nonetheless, the disclosure is likely to intensify pressure from the opposition parties for ministers to explain exactly what was known about the bugging allegations in Whitehall. The issue could well be raised today at Prime Minister's Questions.

Earlier, the political temperature rose when David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, claimed the disclosure that Mr Khan's conversations had been secretly recorded by police undermined assurances by Mr Brown that MPs were not bugged.

"It is a breach of a prime ministerial undertaking to Parliament and makes the Prime Minister a liar, basically," asserted the Tory front bencher. This led Harriet Harman, Commons Leader, to call on Mr Davis to apologise for "hurling insults" without justification.

Elsewhere, Mark Kearney, the ex-police sergeant, who admitted to bugging Mr Khan after claiming he had come under pressure from Scotland Yard, said his life was now in danger.

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