Interception of communications

15.15Exclusive cognizance suggests that telephones within the parliamentary precincts should not be tapped. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has concluded that in certain circumstances ‘phone hacking’, which it defined as ‘gaining of unauthorised direct access to a remotely stored mobile telephone communication’, in respect of Members' mobile phones could potentially constitute a contempt.1 There is no statutory bar on tapping Members' phones by those with proper authority but s 26 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 stipulates that certain warrants to intercept the communications of members of specified legislatures shall only be issued with permission of the Prime Minster.2 Section 111 of that Act similarly requires the Prime Minister's permission for warrants under s 99 of that Act, which include warrants on equipment interference. For the previous convention on tapping Members' phones, see Erskine May (24th edn, 2011), p 264.

Footnotes

  1. Fourteenth Report, HC 628 (2010–12).
  2. Those covered by this provision are Members of either House of Parliament; Members of the Scottish Parliament; members of the National Assembly for Wales; Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly; and members of the European Parliament elected for the United Kingdom. See Investigatory Powers Act 2016, s 26(3).