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The Prime Minister: Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, the aid commitment has been hugely helpful in making sure that we can respond very rapidly to the humanitarian needs, but some hard military power is required, not least in stopping these people-traffickers, boarding their boats and arresting them. That requires military power, and you cannot have that without proper spending plans.

Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab): If the UK was outside the EU, which many of the Prime Minister’s right hon. and hon. Friends seem to want more than anything else, what position would he have been in last week to influence European discussions on the refugee crisis, on Syria, and on the middle east? If we were not members of the European Union, would not the border most probably move back from Calais to Dover?

The Prime Minister: The direct answer to the hon. Lady’s question is obviously that if we were not in the EU we would not be in those discussions. I am trying to secure for Britain what I would call the best of both worlds, which is that we are involved in those discussions, but where we have a discrete national interest in not joining the euro, maintaining our border controls and not being in an ever-closer union, we have that specifically set out properly in the treaty. As for her second question—I cannot remember what it was on—

Emma Reynolds: Borders.

The Prime Minister: Oh, borders. Well, I think that is unknowable. There is a very good agreement between Britain and France that is in the interests of both our countries. We know that it can be maintained with the current arrangements, but it will be for those who are arguing to leave the European Union to discuss and explain those points.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): The Prime Minister said that the conclusions set out what is necessary. Let me, if I may, take him to paragraph 4, line 4 of the conclusions, which says:

“The European Council agreed on the need to focus on the fight against DAESH”.

The document makes no reference at all to “ISIL”. Given that the United Kingdom has agreed to this document, will we now officially use the word “Daesh”, which will help us to defeat this evil organisation’s propaganda campaign?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is very persistent and quite convincing. I have just written him a letter to say that, in all our communications with Arab states and partners that use the terminology “Daesh”, we also now use the terminology “Daesh”. Clearly, that now involves the European Union as well. I am comfortable that we should never say “Islamic State” or “IS”, because I think that confers some legitimacy on them, but I think that if we use “so-called” or, indeed, the term “ISIL”, it is clear what we are referring to.

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): On the Prime Minister’s elliptical statement on renegotiation, what particular regulations and red tape does he envisage need be cut to ensure enhanced competitiveness, as he is in danger of sounding a bit vague and of outlining more of a wish list than a to-do list?

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The Prime Minister: It is both a wish list—it is things we want—and a to-do list, because we are going to do them.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Given that hundreds of thousands of migrants are trying to get into the EU from Libya and Syria, is there anything to stop other EU countries giving those people citizenship and therefore allowing them to travel right across the EU, including to the UK, under the principle of free movement of people for EU citizens? Does the Prime Minister accept that the EU will never give up on that principle, and does he therefore agree that anybody who wants proper control of our borders will have to vote to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point that will be debated and discussed a lot in the forthcoming referendum. Obviously, in many cases, people who go to other European states will not get EU citizenship, or citizenship of those states, for many years, so they will not be able to travel freely around the European Union. That is important and we should not mislead people about it. One of the things we want to tighten up in the current rules is the ability of foreign nationals living in other European countries to marry EU nationals and then have access to the UK. We would like that particular judgment to be overturned.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): What exactly is this benefits shopping that the Prime Minister speaks of? It is probably the greatest canard in British politics right now, because I do not know what it is and it seems that his European counterparts do not know either. Rather than being driven by the suspicion of Johnny Foreigner that plagues his Back Benchers and, indeed, his Home Secretary, will the Prime Minister stand up for the freedom of movement, which has enriched this country so greatly over the years?

The Prime Minister: Let me try to help the hon. Gentleman. Of course, there is an issue—a relatively small issue—of people coming to different European countries and claiming benefits to which they are not entitled. That should be, and is being, stopped: it is now not possible to come here and immediately claim unemployment benefit. The bigger problem, which my renegotiation is examining, is that someone who comes from another European country to Britain is able, in the first year, to access in-work benefits of perhaps as much as €10,000 or €12,000. This is about being able to control our own welfare system to reduce the pressures of migration. European leaders and the British people understand that, even if it has not got through to the SNP yet.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): I welcome what the Prime Minister has said about the migrant crisis. He will know, of course, that some of the transit countries are bearing the brunt of it. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has today said that more than 10,000 migrants are currently stranded in Serbia because of limits imposed further west in Europe, and he has complained about aid shortages. Could the Prime Minister say more about what he and other EU leaders are doing to help Syria deal with this crisis?

The Prime Minister: We certainly stand ready to help any country. One point that needs to be made is that all of the countries that migrants are crossing are, of course,

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safe countries for the purpose of claiming asylum. I think that one of the longer-term answers to the crisis is to make sure that we have a system whereby people claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): The Prime Minister is aware of the fact that the British steel industry faces a crisis and that massive dumping of Chinese steel is a major contributory factor. Does he agree that all of the other steel-producing nations in the EU are much smarter at applying anti-dumping measures, and that it is time for the UK to smarten up how it uses such measures and to act unilaterally where necessary?

The Prime Minister: I would say to the hon. Gentleman, first, that we voted with others to put in place the anti-dumping fines—that is important—and we are also working very hard with the steel industry to address excessive energy costs and to get that through the European permission regime. We are also setting out, in our infrastructure plan, our steel needs in the years ahead.

One of the key things we need to do is to look at exactly what other European countries do in making sure, where possible, that we source steel for our own infrastructure needs from our own country. If other countries can do it within the rules, we should do exactly as they do.

Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): We all want to see an end to the Syrian migration crisis. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that will be achieved only if we have a considered and comprehensive approach to tackling the crisis, using British aid to help people in the region to tackle the evil gangs and working to bring to an end the civil war in Syria?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is only going to work if we have such a comprehensive approach. Easily the most difficult part of it is ending the conflict in Syria, but that will be absolutely key to bringing the crisis to an end.

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): Did the Prime Minister not raise the steel crisis because he is embarrassed by the fact that his own carbon floor tax makes us less competitive than our EU allies, that he has personally failed to act on Chinese dumping—unlike our EU and US allies—and that he personally rejected calls to request European globalisation adjustment funds for more than 5,000 directly affected steel workers?

The Prime Minister: I understand that the hon. Gentleman wants, rightly, to stand up for his constituents and the area he represents, but I do not see any point in trying to play politics over this issue. The British Government are doing everything that we can, and every issue that we can take up, we will. What I would say to him and other hon. Members who represent such constituencies is: work with us, and we will do everything we can to help these industries.

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con): Did my right hon. Friend have the opportunity to raise at the meetings the rules already in place through the World Trade Organisation

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to address the dumping of steel on our market? We need action on this, and will he please go away and, on behalf of Members from across the House, make the strongest possible case to the Chinese President that this is unacceptable?

The Prime Minister: As I have said, we will take every step that we can—there is looking at the UK demand for steel, there is looking at energy costs, there is looking at any other issues that affect such companies unfairly and there is making sure that we act in Europe in a way that others do, if it is legal, to source steel from our own country. But, there is a problem, which is that the steel price has fallen by more than a half, and that is affecting steel producers the world over. Acting within those constraints, we will do everything we possibly can.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): To assist the Prime Minister in gaining support among the lawyers and bishops who have been so scathing about his refugee policy, may I suggest that he reconsiders the EU relocation scheme—albeit an EU relocation scheme, which he would be justified in seeking changes to—to ensure it recognises the financial contribution the UK makes to the camps near Syria, the 0.7% of gross national income contribution the UK makes, the projected growth in our population and our population density?

The Prime Minister: I think it is better for us to decide, democratically in this House, the approach we should take. By saying we will take people from the camps and make that our contribution, together with our financial contribution, I think Britain is fulfilling its moral responsibilities in the world, and using its head as well as its heart. I will defend that with any bishop or any lawyer who wants to have the discussion with me.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): A major reason why the steel price has dropped internationally and jobs are being lost—5,000 jobs in the last month alone in the UK—is down to the Chinese dumping of steel. The Chinese dumping of steel is both grabbing market share and taking value out, which is why we want to work, cross-party, with the Government to tackle this issue urgently and to match the standard of the US and some of our European neighbours in tackling this issue. Will the Prime Minister work with us on that?

The Prime Minister: I absolutely will. I know how hard the hon. Gentleman works on this issue. We will look at all the matters that he raises. As I say, we will look very carefully at what other European countries and other European steel producers do. They are suffering, too. This fall in world prices is not caused simply by the action taken by China; it is an economic impact of the changing pattern in world demand, as he well knows. But inside those constraints, we should do everything we can.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): As the Prime Minister has toured Europe’s capitals to talk to his counterparts about subsidiarity, what discussions has he had about the deepening of the common security and defence policy? What does he envisage Britain’s role in that to be, particularly in the European operational headquarters?

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The Prime Minister: Until the last sentence, I was in almost full agreement with the hon. Gentleman. I am a great believer in British influence, prosperity and national security. Those things often mean acting in concert with others. That is why we are a member of the European Union and NATO. That is why we have British frigates operating in the Mediterranean and why we helped to pass a UN Security Council resolution so that we can take action against the pirates. That is all good. It is about political will, action and having a military that we can deploy—love all of that. Is another European headquarters really what this world needs, when there is already a NATO one? I would say that it is duplication, it is wasteful and it is exactly the sort of thing we should not be doing.

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School Expansion

4.51 pm

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on school expansion.

On Thursday, I wrote to the head teacher at Weald of Kent grammar school to confirm that I had approved the school’s proposal to expand to a new site in Sevenoaks in Kent.

The Government are committed to ensuring that every child and young person has access to a high-quality school place, regardless of their background or where they live. As part of our ambition to deliver educational excellence everywhere, it is our policy that all good and outstanding schools should be able to expand to meet the demands of parents in the local area. That was made clear in the Conservative party manifesto that we were elected to implement, which specifically included good grammar schools.

We have a relentless focus on academic standards, with 120,000 more six-year-olds on track to become confident readers thanks to our focus on phonics, a tough new national curriculum and an end to qualification and grade inflation. We have also given head teachers and classroom teachers the freedom to run their schools to achieve the best for their pupils, with 1,000 failing schools having been transformed under the leadership of strong sponsors and more than 300 free schools having been set up so far across the country. That has helped more than 1 million more pupils attend good or outstanding schools today compared with 2010. In this Parliament, I am committed to focusing on the next 1 million.

I am particularly pleased to have seen those improvements in areas of the country that serve some of our most disadvantaged young people. We are committed to closing the gap in attainment, and the investment of £2.5 billion in the pupil premium has helped schools to raise the achievement levels of disadvantaged pupils, including the most academically able.

I took my decision on the proposal from Weald of Kent in line with the legislative framework, which includes a prohibition on the creation of new selective schools that is set out in section 99 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, section 39 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and sections 1A and 6 of the Academies Act 2010. I assessed the proposal in line with our guidelines on making significant changes to an existing academy, which were published in January 2014. I concluded that the proposal represents a genuine expansion.

Weald of Kent grammar school is an outstanding school that is currently based in Tonbridge, Kent. It is a girls-only school with 1,200 students on roll from the ages of 11 to 18. The school serves a wide catchment area that includes pupils from Tonbridge and the Sevenoaks district. It is consistently one of the top performing schools in the country. In 2014, 99% of its students achieved five A* to C grades in GCSE exams. In the same year, 98% of its sixth-form students achieved at least three A-levels at grades A* to E.

Weald of Kent submitted a proposal for expansion in 2013 that was considered by the then Secretary of State for Education, my right hon. Friend the Member for

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Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). That proposal could not be approved as an expansion because, among other reasons, the new building in Sevenoaks would have been a fully co-educational annexe, whereas the existing school is for girls only.

The school submitted a revised proposal in September 2015. The expanded school will be girls only on both sites from 2017, with a co-ed sixth form also on both sites from September 2018. It therefore fully reflects the existing school. It will share leadership, governance, administration arrangements and admissions policies across the school. The school intends to bring all year sevens together for at least half a day a week, and that will extend to all five-year groups as the extended site fills up.

There will be a range of cross-site curricular activities, including in personal, social, health and economic education, languages and music, reflecting the integrated split-site school. In addition, the school will continue to operate a house system that will apply to students regardless of their site location, and this will further secure regular, cross-site learning. New staff contracts will make it clear that staff are expected to work on both sites.

All policies and procedures, including uniform, behaviour and safeguarding, will apply across the newly expanded school. Furthermore, the expansion will meet the needs of the community within the school’s existing catchment area, with 41.6% of current pupils travelling from the Sevenoaks area, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon) has tirelessly reminded me.

Given the need for more good and outstanding school places, it would have been perverse to reject that application for expansion purely on the basis that the school in question is a grammar school. The decision to approve the proposed expansion of this school was taken on the facts in this case, and it is my firm belief that we should not stand in the way of good schools being able to expand.

I realise that there has been significant interest in the outcome of this case, including from Members of the House, and I confirm that the Government have no plans to change their policy on grammar schools. We fully support the existing 163 grammar schools, and are committed to protecting them. Indeed, we want to support grammar schools that seek to extend their reach and capacity by forming multi-academy trusts and sponsoring other schools, thereby disseminating the best, most effective educational practice found in our top performing schools. Any further applications for selective schools to expand would be considered on their individual circumstances and merits, and as with the Weald of Kent, the school would need to demonstrate genuine expansion.

I hope that the shadow Education Secretary and the whole House will join me in wishing the Weald of Kent the best of luck with this expansion project that will create more places, offering more children a world-class education. I commend this statement to the House.

4.56 pm

Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op): I thank the Secretary of State for an advance copy of her statement, and I would never be so unkind as some of her colleagues and suggest that she get back in her fish tank.

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I want an excellent education for all our children, and over the past 20 years we have seen many advances towards that. However, there are currently real challenges in our schools: a chronic shortage of teachers, especially in science, technology, engineering and maths; huge pressure on places; and a widening attainment gap between the disadvantaged and their peers. Since the election we have heard little from the Secretary of State on those important issues. Instead, it is now clear that she has spent a disproportionate amount of time focused on this thorny and vexed issue. It is a shame that she did not come to the House last week to make a statement, rather than being forced to do so today.

Before I go into detail on this decision and its implications, it is worth putting on record why successive Secretaries of State for Education have not only resisted calls for new grammar schools but—as in the case of the late Margaret Thatcher—overseen their demise. Far from being the bastions of social mobility that some romanticise about, selective grammar schools have entrenched social advantage. As the Sutton Trust recently found, fewer than 3% of those attending grammar schools qualify for free school meals, compared with 18% in the communities that those schools serve. The Weald of Kent intake includes just 1.3% of pupils on free school meals, and further research shows that poorer children do far worse in selective areas. Today’s grammar schools cannot deny that their selection criteria favour the privately tutored and those with the means to acquire that tuition.

The decision to allow a so-called annexe 10 miles from an existing school in a different town is what everybody knows it to be: a new school. As such it will be the first new grammar school to open in more than 50 years. It is also the first test of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, and as such it warrants proper parliamentary scrutiny. That legislation is clear: no new state-funded grammar school can be opened. The Secretary of State has tried her very best—rather unconvincingly—to say that the decision is about the expansion of a good school, but it is already possible for existing grammar schools to expand. Changes to the school admissions code in 2012 made it easier for schools, including grammar schools, to expand. Indeed, the number of places at grammar schools has risen by 34,000 since the 1998 legislation—expanding not only in real terms but as a proportion of all school places. This is, therefore, not about expansion. It is why the Secretary of State’s predecessor withstood pressure and why the Department has been locked in a legal wrangle for the past 18 months.

I wrote to the Secretary of State on Thursday, calling for her to publish the advice she has been given. I reiterate my call for her to do so today. It is vital that we understand the terms under which she feels this is permissible, given that it was previously rejected and that it sets a precedent that could allow for many, many more similar proposals. Those proposing the expansion of an existing school on an additional site

“need to ensure that the new provision is genuinely a change to an existing school and not a new school”.

Her Department has provided a list of factors to be taken into account. Will the Secretary of State set out how this proposal meets the list of factors in each and every case? She has outlined how she feels full integration

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is achieved, but does she really accept that half a day a week is full integration? What is more, will she clarify that full integration includes all admissions?

The Secretary of State’s decision last week will open the floodgates, and there are reports that 10 selective areas are already preparing so-called expansion plans on different sites.

The Minister for Skills (Nick Boles): Ten is a flood?

Lucy Powell: Ten areas.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that further applications are pending? Will she tell the House today what the maximum distance is for a so-called satellite site? Will she outline the advice she was given about the legal precedent and the implications this would have? What steps is she taking to ensure that all grammars are open to many more disadvantaged kids?

During the Conservative party conference, we heard the Prime Minister talk laudably about increasing social mobility, but yet again we see actions and policies going in the opposite direction. I really hope the Secretary of State will rethink this decision.

Nicky Morgan: I thank the hon. Lady for her response, because I think it is customary to do so, but talk about being greeted by the usual Labour party doom and gloom about our education system, the achievements of our pupils and the hard work of professional teachers up and down the country! It was the usual paucity of ideas from the hon. Lady and her colleagues.

The hon. Lady talks about the priority given to this matter since the application was made by the school. My job involves dealing with a lot of different issues all at the same time. [Interruption.] She should stop scaremongering about teacher recruitment. We are ahead on a number of key areas in relation to teacher recruitment, including primary education, but today’s statement is not about that. I am sure we will deal with that, but she should not be talking down a profession that she says she aspires to represent.

The hon. Lady is absolutely wrong to say the advantage gap has increased. It has narrowed since 2010. She talks about social mobility and grammar schools. The greatest tool for social mobility we can give to any young person is a great education, and this is exactly what this expansion is all about. The admissions code, which was changed by this Government, specifically allows grammar schools to give priority to children who are eligible for the pupil premium in their admission arrangements. Half of the grammar school sector has introduced, or intends to consult on adopting, that admissions priority, and I would like more of them to go further.

This is about expanding a new school. There have been no legal wrangles. The hon. Lady will know that we do not publish legal advice given to Ministers. She ought to ask her predecessors in her own party about the publication of legal advice, if she feels so strongly about it.

We are clear about the benefits of integration. I looked in detail at the application made by the Weald of Kent to ensure that the legal criteria have been absolutely satisfied. I am satisfied that they have been.

The hon. Lady talked about floodgates. I think the Minister for Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), got it right.

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I can assure the hon. Lady that there are no applications sitting on my desk at the moment, but if she thinks that 10 is a flood she needs to go away and re-examine this issue.

Finally, “deciding on each case” means exactly that. I am not going to set down criteria; it will mean looking at individual cases that cross my desk.

Recent weeks have taught us that the Opposition are finding it difficult to outline firm policy stances on anything. The Leader of the Opposition has said:

“I would want all grammars to become comprehensives and to end the 11-plus where it still exists.”

May I give the shadow Education Secretary the chance to confirm whether there will be another flip-flop, or is this in fact Labour party policy? Should grammar schools be added to academies and free schools on the list of schools at risk from the Labour party?

At the end of the day, this matter is simple. The Conservative party trusts front-line professionals to run schools and lead our education system and wants parents to have real choice over their children’s school, but the Opposition do not; they do not want to see more good school places and do not believe in parental choice or high academic standards for all. We will leave them to fight the old battles, while we get on with the task of making sure that every pupil in this country has the excellent education they deserve.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I look forward to lively and illuminating exchanges on this important matter. [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) and silence are at best nodding acquaintances in leap years only. However, there has already been far too much chuntering from a sedentary position on both sides, beginning with Mr Nicholas Edward Coleridge Boles, and then followed by Opposition Front-Bench Members. I very gently and in a good spirit say to the Secretary of State that it is always a pleasure to welcome her to the House and to hear from her.

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Michael Gove): Hear, hear!

Mr Speaker: The right hon. Lady does not need chirruping from a sedentary position from the Secretary of State for Justice, but if he feels he just cannot resist, well, we will bear it stoically and with fortitude.

What the Education Secretary should not do, however, is talk about Opposition policy. I remind the House and those listening that this statement is taking place in the Chamber only because I granted an urgent question. The Prime Minister, very properly and understandably, wanting to go first, asked for permission to convert it into a statement so that she would follow him. However, it is happening only because I granted an urgent question, and I granted it to hear about Government policy, not general wittering about Opposition policy from anybody.

Mr Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West) (Con): My right hon. Friend knows that many of us would like her to go much further and make selective education more widely available in parts of the country where it is not already available. I am a little sad that she is not announcing that change of policy, but will she accept

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that many people in parts of the country that have selective education will welcome this small but positive step to extend choice and opportunity to more children?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend. I always hesitate to disappoint the chairman of the 1922 committee —it is not a good place for a Secretary of State to be—but I hear what he says about the importance and popularity of selective education. I have been surprised by how many emails and messages I have received in the past few days from those who have been through the grammar school system or would like their children to do so. However, today’s announcement is an important step. The basic principle is that we want every good school in this country to be able to expand, and that must include grammar schools.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I do not want to get into the tribal politics we always get into as soon as grammar schools are mentioned. [Interruption.] No, I am not going to get into it. I have a new declaration of interest to make, because I am now chair of the advisory committee of the Sutton Trust, and I will take that responsibility very seriously. I must say, however, that our education policy is a rag, tag and bobtail mess, because different Governments under different parties have made it a fragmented mess. Is it not time we got back to the spirit of the Education Act 1944 and asked, cross-party, “What are the great challenges in our country?” The great challenge is not the brightest kids but the poorest kids, who, especially in Kent, do not have a fair crack at using their talents to the full and getting good qualifications and a good job.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should apply for an Adjournment debate, but then, on reflection, I think he has already had it.

Nicky Morgan: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment to the Sutton Trust, which is a very important organisation doing great work, but I disagree with his remarks. The education system in this country is actually doing very well for pupils of all abilities. My task over the next few years is to extend the excellent education that many of our pupils are getting. We have seen 1 million more pupils in good and outstanding schools since 2010, but I now need to focus on the next 1 million across the country and to root out those parts of the country—I will not say which local authorities—where the education is not yet good enough, and make it so.

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): The parents of Tonbridge and Sevenoaks are very grateful to my right hon. Friend for her statement, and I know that I speak not only for myself but for my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon) when I say “thank you” for expanding the number of places in an excellent school. Maureen Johnson is a fantastic headteacher who will make this work on two sites; I have great confidence in her ability and that of her team. I urge the Secretary of State to remember not only the grammar school, which does such great work, but schools such as Hillview, an academy trust in my Kent constituency in which I declare an interest as a governor, which does fantastic stuff in the arts and for

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kids of all abilities. The wonderful thing about Tonbridge—and, indeed, Sevenoaks, as I know my right hon. Friend will agree—is the range of education available to parents and kids. That is exactly what the Secretary of State has allowed to happen today, for which I thank her.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed. He is absolutely right to say that one of the great things in our education system now is the range of schools available, which leads to real parental choice. Parents are able to choose the right school for their children. It is right that my hon. Friend mentions Hillview, as we have some fantastic academies in Kent and elsewhere, but there is also the free school, situated alongside the expansion and satellite site.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): The Secretary of State said that her policy is that all “good and outstanding schools” should be able to expand to meet “the needs of parents” in their local areas. Byron Court primary school in my constituency is being forced to expand against the needs and wishes of parents in the local area. I shall not go into the details now, but will the Secretary of State meet me, parents and local residents who are desperately concerned about the state of this school’s expansion programme?

Nicky Morgan: I thank the hon. Gentleman. If he can share details, I shall certainly arrange a meeting, either with me or the Schools Minister, to hear about them.

Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood) (Con): I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments today. Although I am not a grammar school girl, I have some fantastic grammar schools in my constituency that are delivering for young people. Will she join me in welcoming the contribution that grammar schools have made to the improvement of underperforming schools in my constituency and across Medway?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend, and I remember the school visits we did together when she was first attempting to become a Member of this House—and I am delighted that she has now done so. She is absolutely right to talk about the good schools in her own constituency and the impact that high-achieving schools such as a grammar school can have on neighbouring schools. In my statement, I mentioned the role of grammar schools in multi-academy trusts, and we see examples up and down the country of how such collaboration can really drive up standards to benefit all students in a local area.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): I was a teacher at a primary school deemed outstanding and inspirational by Ofsted for 10 years. I taught in a selective borough and I spent an inordinate time consoling and counselling parents whose children did not get through to the grammar school. What provision is the Secretary of State putting in place for the majority of parents whose children will not make it to the local grammar school that she is expanding today?

Nicky Morgan: I thank the hon. Gentleman. Although I am delighted that he is a Member of this House, I suspect that the school that he left in order to come here is missing him greatly. The point is that there must be excellent schools—grammar schools, academies, free schools, maintained schools, all types of school—

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everywhere in a local area, so that parents have a choice about which school to send their children. I do not want to fight the old battles; my task for the next four years is to make sure that every child has access to an excellent education everywhere across the country.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: We must hear from the Chairman of the Select Committee, Mr Neil Carmichael.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

I welcome the statement, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the real challenge is ensuring that all children can go to a decent school, and that the real way of doing that is ensuring that good schools co-operate with less good schools to make all schools great?

Nicky Morgan: It will not surprise my hon. Friend to know that I completely agree with him. As I have said, one of the things that we are seeing in our education system now is collaboration between schools that are working to support each other, perhaps as part of formal arrangements such as multi-academy trusts or federations. Individual leaders in education—headteachers and leaders in governance—are supporting other schools and helping the whole system to get better. The last Ofsted report showed that 82% of schools in this country are good or outstanding.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP): It is always dangerous to admit to being a product of a grammar school in case it surprises colleagues in the Chamber. I have listened carefully to the Secretary of State, and I understand that she does not wish to see a change of policy on grammar schools. May I encourage her not to be embarrassed by a grammar school education or by the pursuit of excellence? I believe that such a change would be much more attractive than this wheeze of expansion by distance.

Nicky Morgan: It does not surprise me at all that the hon. Gentleman is a product of a grammar school education, and it is a delight to have him here. I hear what he says, but I repeat that I want to focus particularly on making sure that all our schools are excellent, offering what he described as the pursuit of excellence to all pupils and all schools in the country, rather than always focusing on some of the older battles.

Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): I assure my right hon. Friend that her decision will be welcomed not just in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, but throughout Kent, where thousands of children and parents benefit from our excellent grammar schools. May I ask her once again to refute the false point made by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), who seemed to cast a slur on the many excellent high schools in Kent? If she wants some evidence for that purpose, I should welcome her, and indeed him, visiting some of the excellent and improving academy high schools in my constituency, where children can receive an excellent education.

Nicky Morgan: My right hon. Friend is right. Alongside Sevenoaks is Knole Academy, which also offers an excellent education. It is a novel idea that the hon.

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Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) and I might make a joint visit to Kent, but I am always up for novel ideas, so perhaps I will pursue it further.

Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State explain to me exactly what special educational needs provision there will be at the new annexe, and exactly how it will cater for children living in the area who have such needs? Will she perhaps take a piece of advice from my son, who has Asperger’s and who is currently experiencing the transition to secondary school? We live right next to a grammar school—the one that I went to, incidentally. [Interruption.] It is not my fault, is it? My parents made many mistakes, and I was definitely one of them. [Laughter.]

I should like the Secretary of State to listen to the words of my son. When I asked him which school he wanted to go to, I also asked him if he wished to take the 11-plus. Because he has Asperger’s and takes things very literally, he said to me, “Mummy, a child should pick a school, rather than a school picking a child.”

Nicky Morgan: This is turning into a rather confessional hour, which I had not quite expected.

Our SEN reforms are very much about working with families, the social care system, the health system and schools to ensure that pupils go to the schools that are right for them. I understand from the answers to my questions that the school will operate the same SEN provision on both sites, but I am happy to look into that further. [Interruption.] I do not think that the shadow Education Secretary should cast aspersions and slurs, and suggest that because this is a grammar school, it will not care about less advantaged pupils. That would be wrong of her, and would cut across the very good question put by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips).

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): As an unashamed product of a grammar school education, I think I can say that Dartford will also welcome this announcement. It has four heavily oversubscribed grammar schools next to Sevenoaks, which we hope will receive some relief from the pressures that are placed on admissions. Does the Secretary of State agree that at the heart of her proposal is the fact that it is absolutely right for good schools to be able to expand? Grammar schools make a fantastic contribution to our education system, and it is right that they, and other good schools, are able to flourish.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend and he is absolutely right: at the heart of our reforms is the creation of more good school places. That runs right the way through all our reforms, including the creation of free schools. Conservative Members do not believe that parents and families should just accept what they are offered regardless of whether they are happy with it. We believe they should have the ability to say no, they want to set up a new free school, perhaps, or to have a school expand, offering more good places. I am delighted to hear that the creation of these places will help ease the pressures in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane), the Secretary of State said she wanted to see a good choice of good and excellent

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schools in every area and that that list included grammar schools. She then said she did not want to fight the battles of the past. May I politely put it to her that she cannot have it both ways? If she believes grammar schools should be part of that choice for parents, does she foresee a day when she will change the rules to allow for new grammar schools?

Nicky Morgan: I think the hon. Gentleman has heard from Members on both sides of the House that there is a desire for new grammar schools, but let me be clear: this does not change policy. We do not anticipate changing the law. This is a particular case decided on in particular circumstances.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): Will the Secretary of State join me in paying tribute to the outstanding Rainham Mark grammar school, which took seven forms of entry, for the third year running, to ensure local parents get the choice they need? It gives priority to the pupil premium and it is sponsoring a school in special measures, which clearly shows that it is doing its bit for social mobility. By way of a declaration, I should say I went to that grammar school, having previously been to a failing high school.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend. I certainly do offer my congratulations to Rainham Mark grammar school, and I particularly thank all those working in the school. I was pleased to attend the grammar school heads reception here in the Palace of Westminster last week, and say thank you to everybody working in the schools. I particularly note that that school is sponsoring a school in special measures, and I pay tribute to the work it is doing there.

Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab): There is a fundamental contradiction in the Secretary of State’s statement. We can either have parental choice or we can have school selection: we cannot have both. Either the school chooses or the parents choose; we cannot have both. Does this new position suggest the Secretary of State is backing away from parental choice?

Nicky Morgan: I really do not know where the hon. Gentleman is coming from. The whole point of this is that it is about parental choice. [Interruption.] Families can absolutely choose; there is no compulsion to attend a grammar school. As I have already said, Trinity free school and the Knole academy will be nearby. There will be other schools as well. There is no contradiction. We are very clear: we believe in parental choice and we believe in excellent education for all.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): This is an important statement because a legal precedent has been set; it will be very difficult to stop any good school setting up an annexe if it can prove it can carry on the same ethos, and I would welcome that. I want to ask the Secretary of State about the funding point, however, which is much more important than one extra annexe. Because of the equalisation of funding of successful schools with large sixth forms—not just grammar schools—the funding of grammar schools has declined precipitously in relation to other schools. The best

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performing grammar school in Lincolnshire gets only £3,000 per head per year whereas the worst performing comprehensive, which nobody wants to go to, gets £7,000 per head per year. This is simply not fair. I have asked the Secretary of State in Adjournment debates and in meetings to address this: will she do so?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed. He will know our party gave a clear commitment in our manifesto to fairer funding, and he will also know that we are working on it. I cannot comment on anything ahead of the spending review, but we are all aware of the need to look at this and make the funding fairer, which is why we invested £390 million in this financial year and the last financial year to try to get towards a fairer funding system, but there is further work to do.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): I do not share the Secretary of State’s complacency about the quality of education being provided for most children in Britain today. What we are seeing is actually a picture of decades of entrenched mediocrity. The result of that is that we are falling down the international league table; we are now behind not only South Korea and Shanghai but Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The top jobs in too many professions are now the preserve of the tiny number of people who have been to the best private schools and Oxbridge. We are the only country in the world in which educational outcome is determined largely by parental occupation, and the people entering the workforce are now less well qualified than those who are retiring from it. The Secretary of State should be much more ambitious for Britain’s pupils and for our country. If she really wants to tackle the social mobility crisis in this country, she should look at the excellent work of the Sutton Trust and consider introducing the open access scheme to enable children from poor backgrounds in constituencies such as mine to get into 120 private schools in this country.

Nicky Morgan: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to explore some of those themes in the Select Committee. I would just point out to him that his party was in power for 13 years, during which time there was rampant grade inflation and the assisted places scheme was abolished. In addition, his party failed to introduce the pupil premium. I am delighted to hear that, from the sound of it, he is supporting our education reforms, which will raise standards. We have had five years in government so far, and we are—

Ian Austin indicated dissent.

Nicky Morgan: We are seeing standards rising, with 82% of schools now being rated good or outstanding and 1 million more children in places that are good or outstanding, but of course there is further to go. I look forward to having his support on this.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement, but will she explain the logic of the Government’s position of defending grammar schools in leafy Tory areas and allowing them to expand while denying children in the Bradford district a similar opportunity to benefit from grammar schools?

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Nicky Morgan: My position is very clear. The existing grammar schools are popular with parents, and when an application such as this is made I will consider it just as I would consider an application for any other school expansion. I am meeting one of the Bradford Members of Parliament later this week to discuss this. My task, rather than fighting other battles, is to ensure that all schools in a local area are excellent. There are some excellent schools in Bradford, but there is more to come.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): I commend my right hon. Friend for ignoring ideology and making a straightforward judgment on how she can improve the number of good school places. Does she recognise, however, that the test for this Government will be whether we provide more good schools, and good school places, in areas that have had educational underachievement and economic deprivation for a long time? Does she also recognise that, in carrying out that task, her responsibility will be to be the champion and nurturer of people who want to set up free schools? Will she rise to that challenge as strongly in the next five years as we have done over the past five years?

Nicky Morgan: I absolutely will be that champion. The latest application round for free schools has just closed, and the appetite to set up new ones remains undimmed. I have already made it clear that we now have 1 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. My task is to focus on the next million, and on those who follow them, to ensure that every child in the country has access to an excellent place. Free schools are very much a part of the answer.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): Given the confessional mood in the Chamber this afternoon, let me confess that I, too, went to a grammar school. Is not this expansion about fulfilling unmet need, and will it not therefore appeal to those parents and children who really want to get on?

Nicky Morgan: I am delighted to hear that my hon. Friend was also a grammar school boy. He is absolutely right to suggest that the request for this expansion reflects the need for more good school places in that particular area. It is also about parental choice. Those are two important criteria. I mentioned in my statement that just under 42% of the school’s current intake comes from the Sevenoaks area, which is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon) has also welcomed this decision.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): I very much welcome the expansion in Kent. In Rugby, we have an outstanding and heavily subscribed bilateral school, Ashlawn school, which has selective and non-selective places. It has been seeking to provide additional grammar places for some time, and I wonder whether the parents in my constituency who are seeking the best opportunities for their children might be able to take some comfort from the Secretary of State’s decision.

Nicky Morgan: They can take comfort from the fact that we want to create more good school places across the country. We firmly believe in having a variety of schools and real parental choice. If my hon. Friend wants to contact me or the Schools Minister with further details, we will of course always be delighted to look at them.

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Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): In welcoming my right hon. Friend’s excellent statement, may I ask her to encourage good academy chains, such as the Mercia Primary Academy Trust, to expand their remit into secondary education so that we can better vertically integrate our primary and secondary schools?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend very much for that. I welcome the work the Mercia Primary Academy Trust does. One of the most exciting things we are seeing now is the growth of good multi-academy trusts across the country. Like him, I believe in the power of all-through schools. I visit schools where the primary and secondary are working together, and it is inspirational to watch the older pupils supporting the younger ones and for the younger ones to have the aspirational role models that the older pupils provide.

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that creating an environment in which our children can achieve their full potential is a core responsibility of government, and that therefore the expansion of an outstanding school must surely be welcomed by anybody sensible and signals good government?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for that—he put it so beautifully. This expansion should be welcomed by anyone sensible, which presumably is why the Labour party is having difficulty with it. He is absolutely right to say that our core duty is about ensuring that every child can fulfil their potential. I am extremely conscious of that, and that is what we are all striving to ensure in the Department for Education.

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): This expansion will also be welcomed by anyone who is not concerned with dogma. I particularly welcome the Secretary of State’s response to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller). Is it not true that if one were really concerned about raising educational standards rather than about dogma, one would see that more than half the free schools have been in areas of real disadvantage, improving the educational opportunities for children there?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for that. He rightly says that more than half of the free schools set up have been in the 30% most deprived areas of our country and that I am pragmatic, not dogmatic. We should all be focused on outcomes; this is all about making sure that every child fulfils their potential and gets the great education they need, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) said.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Can the Secretary of State explain why parents and pupils in my constituency should be denied the choice available to parents and pupils in places such as Trafford, Kent and Lincolnshire?

Nicky Morgan: The reason is historical, in the sense that, as we know, there was a change and a number of grammar schools either closed or converted. I have made it very clear that this is not about setting up new grammar schools. I visited an excellent school in my hon. Friend’s constituency with him—I cannot recall its

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name off the top of my head, but he will remember it—and I want all pupils to have that same access to an excellent school that they have in the one he showed me.

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): I represent a small market town that 800 young people leave every day to go to school, many across the border in Lincolnshire, so I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement. I understand and appreciate the consequences for other schools of so many talented young people leaving the area, but who are we to challenge the views of parents when the demand is so clear, as it is in my town of Newark? May I reiterate the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) that one of the barriers to “more orthodox” expansion of grammar schools is the relatively poor funding they receive? As he said, schools in Gainsborough receive as little as £4,000 per pupil whereas schools elsewhere in the country may receive £7,000, £8,000 or £9,000 per pupil. That is a major barrier to the expansion of successful grammar schools.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for that, and let me agree with him on the two points he is making. First, parental choice is essential; we want all parents to have a real choice about the education that is right for their children and to have confidence in the good places that are available. Secondly, I hear what he is saying about fairer funding and I know that many other colleagues from all parts of the House make similar points.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): I strongly endorse my right hon. Friend’s view that all good and outstanding schools should be able to expand. I was particularly delighted that in her party conference speech she praised teachers at Whitefield infant and nursery school, which is one of the four schools in Pendle to benefit from a brand new building in the past three years. Does she agree that this is about the provision of more excellent school places, not about a change in Government policy?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend very much for that. He is absolutely right to say that this is about the provision of more good school places, such as those on offer at Whitefield infant and nursery school. I still remember that as being one of the most enjoyable visits I have made since taking up this job, and I thank him very much for the invitation.

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Wilson Doctrine

Emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

5.35 pm

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House has considered the operation of the Wilson Doctrine.

Let me start by paying tribute to all those who have kept up sustained questioning on this topic: my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson), the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick), the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and, most importantly, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), whose court case has brought so much new information to light. They have done the whole House and the country an invaluable service.

Until last Wednesday, it was thought that the Wilson doctrine was still in force. MPs and Members of the Lords—[Interruption.] I hear the Home Secretary saying that the doctrine is still in force. Well, we look forward to hearing her argument on that later on.

MPs and Members of the Lords, as well as those who communicated with them as whistleblowers, constituents and members of the wider public, thought that parliamentarians’ communications were not, would not and could not be tampered with or intercepted, and that they could rely on a guarantee from the Government that that was so. That is because the doctrine was originally laid out in unambiguous terms on 17 November 1966 when Harold Wilson, the then Prime Minister, told the House that there was to be

“no tapping of the telephones of hon. Members.”—[Official Report, 17 November 1966; Vol. 736, c. 634.]

That was our decision and that was our policy. Five days later, the Lord Privy Seal, Lord Longford, announced that the policy also applied to their lordships’ House.

Despite changes of Government and advances in technology, the policy has enjoyed remarkably consistent declarations of support from Harold Wilson’s successors. It was reasserted by Mrs Thatcher, who said in a written answer on 6 February 1980 that

“the policy remains as stated by the right hon. Gentleman.”—[Official Report, 6 February 1980; Vol. 978, c. 245W.]

The right hon. Gentleman to whom she referred was Harold Wilson.

The policy was reasserted by Tony Blair in the same terms on 30 October 1997. On 4 December that year, he said that the policy

“applies in relation to telephone interception and to the use of electronic surveillance by any of the three security and intelligence agencies.”—[Official Report, 4 December 1997; Vol. 302, c. 321.]

On 21 January 2002, he clarified:

“The policy extends to all forms of warranted interception of communications.”—[Official Report, 21 January 2002; Vol. 378, c. 589W.]

Like Wilson, Blair made it clear that he was acting on consideration. When Sir Swinton Thomas, the then interception of communications commissioner, advised him against maintaining the Wilson doctrine in 2006, Mr Blair told the House in a written ministerial statement, after consultation in Cabinet:

“I have considered Sir Swinton’s advice very seriously…I have decided that the Wilson Doctrine should be maintained.”—[Official Report, 30 March 2006; Vol. 444, c. 96WS.]

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The doctrine was also reasserted by Gordon Brown on 12 September 2007. As late as 15 July 2014, the Home Secretary stated that

“obviously the Wilson doctrine applies to parliamentarians”,

as if nothing had changed—exactly as she has done just now.

I give this history merely to point to the absolute nature of the Wilson doctrine, the categorical nature in which it has been stated to this House, and the consistency with which it has been supported, at least in public, by successive Governments, despite changing security threats and changing technology. Even after the introduction of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Governments repeatedly made it clear that the Wilson doctrine remained in place—until last Wednesday, when the Investigatory Powers Tribunal revealed that a completely different regime is now in operation under this Home Secretary. From the evidence given to the tribunal, it is clear that the Wilson doctrine has been altered beyond recognition without Parliament being told and that the Wilson doctrine is, to all intents and purposes, defunct.

Harold Wilson joked that his postbag suggested that

“a very high proportion of the electorate generally are under the delusion that their telephones are being tapped. This delusion spreads to hon. Members and I should say that I used to suffer from it myself at one time.”—[Official Report, 17 November 1966; Vol. 736, c. 636.]

He, of course, was joking, but as one who knows for certain that his phone was tapped by The News of the World, I say to the Government, “Do not take us for fools. We in this House are not naive. Be open and honest with the House and with the public.”

Last year, the former police officer Peter Francis said that he had seen old security files on Jack Straw, Peter Hain, Joan Ruddock, Ken Livingstone and my hon. Friends the Members for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) and for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). The Government tried to silence Peter Francis then, but it now seems that his revelations were probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Most worryingly, last week’s IPT ruling included the partial disclosure of the Government’s official guidance to the three security agencies, which includes a lengthy piece on the Wilson doctrine. The official guidance states categorically: first, that

“it is not, and has never been, Government policy that Parliamentarians’ communications may not be the subject of interception”;

secondly, that the Wilson doctrine does not apply to requests for communications data relating to parliamentarians, nor to the communications of a Member of the European Parliament or of a devolved Administration; thirdly, that parliamentarians are not exempt from bulk interceptions of communications under section 8(4) of RIPA and that any such material that relates to parliamentarians can be interrogated within MI5 and can be disclosed to an outside body; fourthly, that the Wilson doctrine protects only

“the communications of Parliamentarians in the performance of their Parliamentary and constituency duties without fear that their communications are being targeted other than exceptionally where there is a compelling reason for doing so”;

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and, fifthly, that the Home Secretary can, having consulted the agencies and the Prime Minister, via the Cabinet Secretary, issue a warrant for the deliberate targeting and interception of parliamentarians’ communications.

That blatantly flies in the face of successive Prime Ministers’ statements to this House. Why would the Government need a separate warrant process for the interception of MPs’ communications if they were still abiding by the Wilson doctrine that MPs’ communications should not, could not and would not be intercepted? How can it be right that the process depends on three highly subjective judgments: first, about what constitute parliamentary and constituency duties, which is a notoriously difficult matter in determining parliamentary privilege; secondly, about what constitutes a sufficiently significant exception; and, thirdly, about what would count as a sufficiently compelling reason? How can it be right that under the Home Secretary’s new dispensation all those judgments are made solely by the Home Secretary, with one politician deciding on the targeting of another politician?

One other element of the Wilson doctrine was that the Prime Minister, “on his own initiative”—those were the then Prime Minister’s words—would notify Parliament of any change to the doctrine. No such statement has been volunteered by this Prime Minister, yet the tribunal makes it very clear that the doctrine has been changed. It states that

“changes in the Doctrine…have resulted in its operation as now described by Mrs May”.

Those words are “changes in the doctrine”. It adds:

“It is clear to us that the Wilson Doctrine as now constituted is as explained by Mrs May”

and goes on to point out that the Wilson doctrine is not in operation.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for his explanation. We hear about changes, but could those changes have been made a very long time ago and not just by this Government?

Chris Bryant: Of course, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is perfectly possible that changes have been made previously, but we cannot judge that. All we can judge is the decision of the IPT, which has been able to review substantially more evidence than this House would ever be able to review and concluded that “changes in the Doctrine” have resulted in its operation as it is now. I suspect that it would be impossible for us ever to know whether changes were made prior to this Government taking office, but we certainly know that the doctrine as previously espoused by every Prime Minister since Wilson is not that which is in operation under the present Home Secretary. In other words, the Wilson doctrine has no legal effect. It is no longer in force. It is no more than a self-denying ordinance that could easily be rescinded and has already been ignored, all without notifying Parliament.

It is clear that the situation is unsatisfactory and I believe that it is time that the Government were straight with the House, so let me ask the Home Secretary some simple questions. What did she mean when she said that the Wilson doctrine “obviously” applies to parliamentarians? Will she now finally admit that the Wilson doctrine is no longer? Will she tell us when she resolved to change the Wilson doctrine? Was there any

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discussion of these changes at Cabinet, as notified in the IPT judgment? Will she tell us how often warrants have been issued for the targeted interception of parliamentarians’ communications? Has she issued such warrants herself, and did she have any direct correspondence with the Prime Minister about this?

Let me be clear that I am not calling for individual warrants or interceptions to be identified. It is a long-standing policy of both parties of government that we will not comment on individual applications for interception. Indeed, it is an offence under RIPA to reveal that information. Neither do we want the operational security of ongoing investigations to be undermined, but we need to know the truth about whether parliamentarians have been spied on, and on what authority that happened.

Let me end by laying out the parameters for a possible new Wilson doctrine. First, there may be situations when it is necessary for a parliamentarian’s communications to be intercepted in the interests of securing the nation and preventing serious criminality. MPs cannot ever be above the law, but our democracy cannot function properly without the freedom of MPs to communicate with their constituents, whistleblowers, or the wider public without fear of interception. Just as, in the interests of a free press and a sound justice system, journalists and lawyers are granted enhanced protection from warranted surveillance, the legal presumption should be that parliamentarians are not to be targeted, nor their metadata interrogated, without good cause. That means that, as the Anderson report of the investigatory powers review, “A Question of Trust”, concluded, a judge, not a politician, should make the decision on a warrant. It means that the bar for granting a warrant should be high. Agencies should be required to show due cause and specific suspicion of serious criminality.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) rose

Chris Bryant: Of course I give way to the former Attorney-General.

Mr Grieve: Perhaps I might intervene briefly in my position as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Committee takes a close interest in privacy and security, and published a report in March. We will continue to take a close interest in these matters, particularly when the Home Office publishes the draft investigatory powers Bill. I would like to assure him that when we do so, we will look at the terms of heightened protection for certain categories of profession, such as lawyers, journalists and doctors. I expect that the Committee will consider whether additional protection should be afforded to MPs’ communications in the light what is in the draft Bill and this debate.

Chris Bryant: That was a helpful intervention. In the official guidance, due consideration is given to lawyers in regard to privileged material. Due regard, as provided for in the European convention on human rights, is given to journalists and the protection of their sources. The guidance includes doctors, but it also refers to ministers of religion, and I have some anxiety about the direction we may be taking. There is a perfectly legitimate debate to be had about what separate categories there might be. I am glad that the Committee will look at

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precisely how MPs—and, I presume, other parliamentarians —will be treated in the draft Bill, which we will need plenty of time to consider. Last year, we had one day in the House to consider some of the most important matters of personal freedom and liberty, which was wholly inappropriate. The clock is ticking on the High Court ruling, which the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden won earlier this year, so I hope that the Government will move speedily with their draft Bill.

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): The shadow Leader of the House is telegraphing that the Opposition will support an amendment to the upcoming legislation to provide that protection of privilege. He should be aware that the revelations on the Wilson doctrine were preceded by serious breaches of the legal privilege protection, and—this has changed in the past decade, because I spoke to the previous Home Secretary about the matter—that intercepted communications between the legal representative and the suspect, as it were, are now recorded and given to lawyers who may prosecute that suspect. That is a serious breach of what is known as equality of arms in natural justice.

Chris Bryant: The right hon. Gentleman is correct. He does not need to intercept this communication; I am not only telegraphing, but semaphoring and using every other means of communicating to the House, that there should be a proper debate about the several categories of people that might benefit, in the interests of national security and a wider democratic interest, from a specific provision in law.

There is a separate debate to be had about whether all warrants, as Anderson suggests, should go through a judicial process anyway. In particular, the right hon. Gentleman is right that the European convention on human rights makes specific provision for legal privilege so that lawyers are able to guarantee a fair and proper hearing for a defendant, but that has been breached in the past. Moreover, if we want to guarantee a free press, there must be provisions for journalists.

We cannot have a proper debate, however, unless draft legislation is produced in sufficient time for the House to be able to consider all the issues in the round before the process of tabling amendments begins. I very much hope that the Home Secretary will come forward early and not leave things to the very last minute, as she did last year.

Secondly, it is time that we abandoned our reliance on the doctrine in favour of statute law. Apparent ambiguities in the Wilson doctrine need to be clarified. A sensible course needs to be drawn that guarantees the independence of Parliament, but ensures our national security. We argue that this can be done only through legislation and we stand ready to work with the Home Secretary on this. As I said, she has to come back by the end of March with a new Bill to replace the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, given the High Court ruling, but I earnestly hope that she will introduce new draft legislation in the forthcoming weeks.

Thirdly, it is our contention that the new legislation should apply to all parliamentarians: Members of the House of Commons; Members of the House of Lords, although not necessarily all peers; Members of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly; and UK Members of the European Parliament, although obviously not all Members of the European Parliament.

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Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): Will the shadow Leader of the House clarify whether he includes in that list Members of the House who do not take their seats—the absentee Sinn Fein MPs from Northern Ireland? Does he expect the new legislative exemption to apply to them?

Chris Bryant: There is a legitimate debate to be had about how that should operate. I am not arguing that any MP should be above the law or that there should be a blanket ban on any interception ever of the communications of Members of Parliament. I am arguing that in a new era we need a rational approach that involves judicial oversight, rather than political oversight, of warrants to make sure that the country is defended, but with the rights of constituents who approach a Member of Parliament protected, too. It is perfectly easy to draw that distinction. If a Member of Parliament is engaged in criminality, they should face the full force of the law—they should not be able to evade it. I hope that that clarifies the matter for the hon. Lady.

I believe that parliamentarians had a legitimate expectation that the doctrine provided an absolute guarantee. It has been stated and restated, and iterated and reiterated in this House without qualification. I note that the Government’s lawyer argued at the tribunal that the original statement of the doctrine was ambiguous because it was

“a political statement in a political context”.

I do not suppose that all of us think a political statement is of necessity ambiguous, but I am not sure how much less ambiguous a statement Harold Wilson could have made. He expressly stated that he had considered the issue; he admitted that there were opposing views; he referred to a previous report from Privy Counsellors that had recommended a different course of action; and he said that he had changed the policy and that if he were to change it again, he would tell the House. He left himself remarkably little wriggle room, and each succeeding Prime Minister relied on exactly the same formulation.

There will be those who think that the Government should be able to intercept MPs’ communications at will, saying that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. However. I urge Conservative Members who think like that to consider two different courses of action that this country has taken in the past. In the first world war, the rule was that MPs’ correspondence could not be intercepted, even from the front. Thanks to that rule, the uncensored letters of Major Harold Cawley MP from Gallipoli to his father, who was a Member of the House of Lords, led to the Dardanelles commission that enabled the world to know the truth, which in turn led to many thousands of lives being saved. Without that provision, there would have been no means of our knowing the truth of what happened in Gallipoli.

By contrast, in the late 1930s, the Chamberlain Government tapped the phones of many of the Conservative MPs who were campaigning for an end to Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, including Churchill and Eden’s friends and allies. Three of them died in the second world war and have their shields up on the wall. Fortunately, they were brave souls and refused to be intimidated by such practices in the 1930s.

The truth is that the security of this country has always been better served when the power of the Executive, especially the secret power of the Executive, is curbed

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and kept under check by Parliament. That requires openness and transparency from the Government. I am therefore asking the Home Secretary to do two simple things: first, to come back to the House with a proposal for putting a new doctrine with independent judicial approval into law; and secondly, to reveal whether, when and how often parliamentarians’ communications have been targeted and intercepted under warrant.

5.56 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I recognise that there has been much lively interest from Members of this House on the matter of the Wilson doctrine, and I welcome the debate and congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) on securing it.

It is right that the House should be debating this important issue, touching as it does on the ability of hon. Members to do their duty as Members of Parliament, the need to protect civil liberties and, just as important, the need to protect national security and to keep our constituents safe from harm. As the hon. Gentleman set out, and as the House is aware, the doctrine refers to the general policy outlined on 17 November 1966 in this House by the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The policy has become known as the Wilson doctrine.

It is important to quote exactly what Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, as he was to become, stated. In the opening section of his speech, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) quoted only the beginning of the statement. Harold Wilson said

“that I should give this instruction that there was to be no tapping of the telephones of Members of Parliament. That was our decision and that is our policy. But if there was any development of a kind which required a change in the general policy, I would, at such moment as seemed compatible with the security of the country, on my own initiative make a statement in the House about it.”—[Official Report, 17 November 1966; Vol. 736, c. 639.]

Since that time successive Prime Ministers have been asked questions in this House in relation to the Wilson doctrine, and successive Prime Ministers have confirmed that the doctrine continues to apply. That position remains unchanged, as the Prime Minister himself has confirmed in this House on a number of occasions.

Although it is clear that the Wilson doctrine continues to apply, I understand the significant interest of the House following the judgment given last week by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the case brought by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), her noble Friend, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, and a former Member of this House, George Galloway. I hope it will be helpful if I set out for the benefit of the House the Government’s position in relation to that judgment. Indeed, I believe there have been a number of misconceptions about the judgment that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has made and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.

Let me begin by saying that it is important to note that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal found against the claimants in all respects. It agreed with the Government’s interpretation of the Wilson doctrine. The position therefore remains unchanged and—I stress this—the protection for MPs’ communications which the doctrine offers remains unchanged. However, it seems that there has been an element of confusion about what the Wilson doctrine actually means. On that, let me say first that it

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cannot be the case that MPs can never be the subject of interception. Members of this House are not above the law or beyond the scope of investigatory powers. I hope that the whole House will understand this important point. From the nods from a sedentary position, I understand that hon. Members accept that.

Chris Bryant: I said that.

Mrs May: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding us of that, but he also interpreted the Wilson doctrine as meaning that there would never be any interception of Members of Parliaments’ communications. That was not what the Wilson doctrine said, and it has not been the position. Indeed, last week’s judgment from the IPT quoted a statement that I made last year in response to an intervention from the current deputy Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson). It might be helpful if, for the benefit of the House, I repeat what I said:

“Obviously, the Wilson doctrine applies to parliamentarians. It does not absolutely exclude the use of these powers against parliamentarians, but it sets certain requirements for those powers to be used in relation to a parliamentarian. It is not the case that parliamentarians are excluded and nobody else in the country is, but there is a certain set of rules and protocols that have to be met if there is a requirement to use any of these powers against a parliamentarian”.—[Official Report, 15 July 2014; Vol. 584, c. 713.]

Mr Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): I have gained the impression so far that we are all agreed that parliamentarians are not above the law, and if there is reasonable suspicion of serious criminality or a threat to national security then they should have their communications intercepted. I think we are also all agreed that powers should not be used to intercept parliamentarians’ communications to find the source of whistleblowing leaks or to see what their tactics are going to be when criticising Government errors or whatever it happens to be. Will the Home Secretary get rid of the whole problem by agreeing that she will eventually bring forward a form of the Wilson doctrine in the Bill that she is about to produce? Then the status of the doctrine can be debated properly and clarified, and I think she will find that there is not a very wide range of views about what it should and should not apply to.

Mrs May: I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. He sets out exactly why it is important that there is a high threshold for decisions in relation to Members of Parliament, as in relation to certain other categories of individual. As he said, we will be bringing forward the investigatory powers Bill. In response to the hon. Member for Rhondda, it will not simply be introduced and then immediately debated in this House because it will be subject to consideration by a Joint Scrutiny Committee of both Houses of Parliament before it comes to this Chamber and the other Chamber for consideration in the normal way. We will look at the issue of safeguards in relation to the Bill; I can give my right hon. and learned Friend that guarantee.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Following on from the comments of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), does the Home Secretary view it as desirable to have judicial oversight of any decision to intercept Members of Parliaments’ correspondence and communications?

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Mrs May: As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, all three reviews of investigatory powers that have taken place came out with a different solution on the oversight and decisions authorisation process for warrants. This is still under consideration, but when the draft Bill is published he will be able to see what the Government have decided.

Chris Bryant: At the beginning of her speech, the Home Secretary chastised me for not reading out the whole of Harold Wilson’s comments and read out the lines where he continued that

“if there was any development of a kind which required a change in the general policy, I would, at such moment as seemed compatible with the security of the country, on my own initiative make a statement in the House about it.”—[Official Report, 17 November 1966; Vol. 736, c. 639.]

She seemed to be suggesting that there has been a change but she does not want to tell us about it because it is not compatible with national security. Is that really what she is saying?

Mrs May: The point I am making is about the interpretation of the Wilson doctrine that the hon. Gentleman set out at the beginning of his speech—that is, that there absolutely would not be, and never could be, any interception of communications of Members of Parliament. That is not the correct interpretation of the Wilson doctrine, as the statement from Lord Wilson of Rievaulx makes very clear.

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con): As part of the consideration of the Bill, might it be worth thinking about introducing a triple lock that would involve the Home Secretary, a judge and the Speaker of the House of Commons having to sign a warrant in order to try to give greater comfort to Members?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion; he might see the interest that is being shown by Members. One of the three reviews that took place—the Royal United Services Institute review—suggested a hybrid solution with not just Secretary of State authorisation or judicial authorisation but a mixture of the two. As I said, when the draft Bill comes out Members will be able to see what the Government have decided to do in relation to that.

Mr Bone: I follow the line that the shadow Leader of the House took. When I heard what the Home Secretary said, my conclusion was that over the years a number of Prime Ministers have authorised the interception of Members’ telephone calls and decided that it was not in the national interest to reveal that, which would keep it completely within the Wilson doctrine. Am I right in thinking that?

Mrs May: We never speak about whether a particular interception has taken place; indeed, there is a RIPA requirement in relation to that. Lord Wilson said that if there was a change and it was not compatible with national security to bring that change to the House, then it would not be brought to the House, but if it was compatible with national security to bring it to the House, then it would be.

The Wilson doctrine set out by Lord Wilson of Rievaulx has remained in place, and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal identified it as remaining in place.

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The tribunal confirmed that it continued to apply in respect of targeted interceptions of parliamentarians’ communications. It said that the agencies must comply with the relevant RIPA codes of practice and its own guidance. That guidance makes it clear that if it were proposed to obtain a warrant to target a parliamentarian’s communications, the Prime Minister must be consulted, exactly as the Wilson doctrine originally set out, and accordingly prime ministerial oversight remains in place.

The judgment also considered interception under section 8(4) of RIPA, which relates to external interception, also called bulk interception. The tribunal found that at the point of collection of such material the Wilson doctrine could not sensibly apply because the material is not in any way examined at that point. However, the judgment confirmed that for the examination of any material that has been collected, the spirit of the Wilson doctrine continues to apply.

Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I am intrigued by the use of the term “the spirit of the Wilson doctrine”, because we have a very different constitutional architecture now than we had at the point when the doctrine was first promulgated. Will the Home Secretary clarify the position with regard to parliamentarians not in this House or the other place but in the other Parliaments and legislative Assemblies that are now part of the United Kingdom?

Mrs May: Yes, I am happy to do that. The position was set out in in this House in 2008 by a former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, who said that the doctrine did not apply outside Parliament. The draft interception of communications code of practice says:

“Particular consideration”


“be given in cases where the subject…might reasonably assume a high degree of privacy, or where confidential information is involved.”

It refers to Members of Parliament and includes Members of Parliament from the European Parliament and the devolved Administrations. We will be giving further consideration to this matter.

Mr Carmichael: Surely if the spirit of the Wilson doctrine is to be observed then it should apply to parliamentarians whether here or in one of the devolved Administrations.

Mrs May: As I said, we are giving further consideration to the matter.

Lady Hermon rose

Mrs May: If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I need to make some progress, because this is a time-limited debate and I am sure that a number of Back Benchers wish to speak. She may catch my eye further on in my speech.

I want to turn to the question of legality. Some concern has been expressed about the legal effect of the doctrine, and it is right that these matters should be debated. As I am sure the House is aware, the tribunal found that the Wilson doctrine was a political statement and, as such, has no legal effect. Perhaps that is not surprising because it has not been put into any Act passed by this House. The tribunal was also clear that the security and intelligence agencies must comply with—

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and, indeed, are bound by—the draft interception code of practice published in February 2015, which I have just referred to, and their own internal policies on the doctrine, which I have just described.

In addition, Members should be clear that there is no absolute exemption when a serious criminal or terrorist is the target of an interception warrant and communicates with his or her Member of Parliament. I am sure the House will appreciate that it cannot be the case that those communicating with parliamentarians should be above the law simply as a result of the act of speaking to a Member of Parliament. If a terrorist or a serious criminal contacts an MP, it cannot be the case that they are considered beyond the scope of investigatory powers; but, of course, in such circumstances additional safeguards will apply. The draft interception code of practice is clear that particular consideration should be given where communications between a Member of Parliament and another person may be involved.

That consideration also applies in other cases where the subject of the interception might reasonably assume a high degree of privacy or where confidential information is involved. That includes where the communication relates to legally privileged material; where confidential journalistic material may be involved; and where interception might involve communications between a medical professional or a minister of religion and an individual relating to the latter’s health or spiritual welfare. The code sets out the additional safeguards that apply in those circumstances, just as it does for MPs’ communication with their constituents.

As I have already indicated, the judgment of the tribunal bears close reading. The Government are, of course, considering it very carefully. As I said in response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), the Government propose publishing a draft Bill on investigatory powers very shortly and we will be looking at further safeguards in the Bill.

Lady Hermon: I am genuinely grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way. Could she clarify a small but interesting point relating to her comment about the devolved institutions? A number of Members from many parties also sat in the Northern Ireland Assembly—it was not popular with the public, but they held a dual mandate—so if the Wilson doctrine did not apply to Members of the Assembly, was that just set aside because they were also MPs? Which prevailed—their membership of the Northern Ireland Assembly or their membership of this House?

Mrs May: The hon. Lady has identified a conundrum, which perhaps makes it all the more significant that we look at the issue in due course.

I reiterate that the protection offered by the doctrine remains in force and nothing in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling changes that position. These are serious matters that touch on the wider debate about the right balance between privacy and national security.

Chris Bryant: I am terribly sorry to be so irritating to the Home Secretary, but she said that the protection still applies to parliamentarians. Precisely what is the protection afforded to parliamentarians by the Wilson doctrine?

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Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman himself made reference to the Wilson doctrine and I have read out what Lord Wilson said. I am perfectly happy to do so again. He said that

“I should give this instruction that there was to be no tapping of the telephones of Members of Parliament. That was our decision and that is our policy. But if there was any development of a kind which required a change in the general policy, I would, at such moment as seemed compatible with the security of the country, on my own initiative make a statement in the House about it.”—[Official Report, 17 November 1966; Vol. 736, c. 639.]

I have also alluded to other safeguards as a result of the change—

Chris Bryant: The change?

Mrs May: Yes, I am going to use the word “change”. The legislative framework in which these matters are dealt with has changed over the years—more than once, I suspect, but most recently in 2000, with the introduction of RIPA, which contained a number of safeguards in relation to these matters. As I have indicated, and as the IPT repeated, the draft code, which was published in February 2015, makes very clear that particular care has to be taken if it is proposed that certain communications of certain categories of people should be intercepted.

These matters touch on the wider debate about the balance between privacy and national security, and the first duty of a Government is to protect their citizens. I have repeatedly stated my determination to ensure that the police and security agencies have the powers, support and capabilities they need to keep us safe.

In recent years, however, we have seen many wild and inaccurate allegations about the extent of surveillance carried out by the agencies, the legality of the intelligence agencies’ actions and the effectiveness of the oversight of their actions. Recently, three independent reviews have considered the investigatory powers used by the police and security agencies.

In March, the Intelligence and Security Committee published its “Privacy and Security” report, which set out a comprehensive review of the intelligence agencies’ capabilities and the legal and privacy frameworks that govern their use. In June, David Anderson published his report on the operation and regulation of law enforcement and agency investigatory powers, with specific reference to the interception of communications and the separate issue of communications data. This summer, a panel co-ordinated by the Royal United Services Institute and established by the former Deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg), reported on the legality, effectiveness and privacy implications of the UK’s surveillance programmes and assessed how law enforcement and intelligence capability can be maintained in the face of technological change.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): What the Home Secretary quoted from Harold Wilson’s response to a question from Tom Driberg was, of course, correct, but he also said, in the same answer:

“I am aware of all the considerations which I had to take into account and I felt that it was right to lay down the policy of no tapping of the telephones of Members of Parliament.”—[Official Report, 17 November 1966; Vol. 736, c. 639.]

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Surely the point is that neither he nor successive Prime Ministers—nor, indeed, Ministers in any other Department—have made a statement changing what was said by Lord Wilson.

Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman refers to Lord Wilson’s statement, from which I correctly quoted with regard to changes.

The three reviews represent a substantial independent review of the frameworks and oversight governing the use of investigatory powers. As the three reports make clear, the use of investigatory powers by the police and the security and intelligence agencies is absolutely vital for national security, in the fight against crime, and if we are to protect the people of this country from harm.

In addition to those reports, I today welcome the fact that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal found no suggestion of improper activity by our security and intelligence agencies. I am pleased to say, once again, that an independent tribunal has declared their activity lawful, and I am grateful for this opportunity to put on record our gratitude to the men and women who, necessarily out of the limelight, do so much to keep the people of this country safe.

The Wilson doctrine recognises the special nature of parliamentary communications and affords parliamentarians important protections. However, as I have said, it can never be the case that MPs can consider themselves above the law. That is a position I hope the whole House can well understand. It is right and proper that we are discussing these issues today, and I look forward to hearing the remaining contributions to this debate.

6.18 pm

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP): May I begin by echoing the tribute paid to those Members who have harried the Government on this issue in recent years? It is important to remind ourselves of why we are having this debate. It is because four recent events have called into question the nature and scope of the Wilson doctrine and, indeed, whether it is in any way meaningful.

First, the submissions made on behalf of the Government to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the case brought by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) appeared to attempt to undermine the Wilson doctrine and to suggest that it was impossible to have it in the modern age, given the existence of the mass trawling of data.

Secondly, the content of last week’s IPT ruling seemed to be to the effect that the Wilson doctrine has no legal force and is just an ambiguous political statement. We are looking for clarification of that ambiguity.

Thirdly—this is very important from the perspective of Scottish MPs and, indeed, MPs from other areas with devolved Administrations—during the IPT hearing, official and hitherto undisclosed guidance that entered the public domain appeared to show that a change of policy regarding the scope of the Wilson doctrine had occurred around about 2014.

Fourthly, we are having this debate because of the Home Secretary’s comments last July, during a debate on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, in response to a question from the hon. Member for West

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Bromwich East (Mr Watson), who is now the deputy leader of the Labour party. It seems to me that many of us agree that that was the first time the Wilson doctrine had been described on the Floor of the House in caveated terms. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) has rightly drawn to our attention the fact that while we may not all disagree about what the Wilson doctrine should actually say, we need to know what the Government think it says.

In July 2014, the Home Secretary talked about certain rules and protocols that would enable interference with parliamentarians’ communications, but she did not say what they were. Instead of explicitly notifying Parliament that the Wilson doctrine was being in any way redefined, the Home Secretary simply presented her comments as a restatement of the original doctrine. However, as other Members have said, previous Prime Ministers, from Harold Wilson in 1966 to Gordon Brown in 2007, had not stated the doctrine with any such caveats. It is interesting and important to remember that, in paragraph 11 of the judgment, the IPT said it was satisfied that what the Home Secretary was referring to in Parliament in July 2014 was the contents of the official guidance to the security services, which we know had changed.

We are having this debate because it is not acceptable for the Executive unilaterally to abandon or modify such a doctrine without explicitly saying that that is what they are doing and informing Parliament. The removal of the protection given by the doctrine or its modification should not occur without any consultation or democratic scrutiny. The Chamber requires from the Government straight answers on their view of the nature and scope of the Wilson doctrine. There needs to be no more prevaricating. There is considerable discontent across the House. The Government should be in no doubt that there will be growing support for the early-day motion tabled by a cross-party contingent over the coming weeks. They need to take this issue very seriously.

If we look at statements by previous Prime Ministers, we can see that they were unambiguous about the doctrine’s existence, nature and extent, despite the fact that there was sometimes pressure from those who argued against the absolute nature of the doctrine. I believe that such pressure was brought to bear on Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, and he resisted it. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) has repeatedly reminded us that, in 2011, the present Prime Minister confirmed to the House that the Wilson doctrine was still in force. However, since the Home Secretary’s comments last July, hon. Members, including the right hon. Gentleman, have repeatedly sought clarification from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary without success.

As the first Scottish MP to speak in this debate, I must address an important matter that emerged from the IPT hearing. It emerged that the most recent versions of the operational notes to the security services seem to exclude Members of the Scottish Parliament, the other devolved Assemblies and the European Parliament from any protection by the Wilson doctrine. That appears to be in contrast to versions of the same operational notes that appeared before 2014. SNP Members cannot imagine what event in 2014 could have provoked such a renewed interest in the activities of Members of the Scottish Parliament.

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I hear the Home Secretary’s point about the discrepancy between what Jacqui Smith said when she was Home Secretary and the code of practice. However, we need to know why the code of practice and the official guidance seems, at least during some period before 2014, to have encompassed parliamentarians in the Scottish Parliament, the other devolved Assemblies and the European Parliament, but were subsequently changed. We need the Government to tell us what is going on. When the Wilson doctrine was first enunciated, there was no Scottish Parliament, other devolved Assemblies or European Parliament—[Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin John Docherty) says, some people might like to return to that position, but that is highly unlikely.

We need to know why there has been a change in practice in relation to other parliamentarians in this country. The First Minister of Scotland wrote to the Prime Minister on 24 July seeking urgent clarification about this apparent change of policy, but two and a half months later she has still not received a reply. Liberty’s legal director James Welch has commented that removing the protection from the Scottish Parliament shows

“an arrogant lack of respect for democratic institutions”.

It might be said that such an arrogant lack of respect for the Scottish Parliament is often felt by SNP Members and Scottish parliamentarians.

I understand the Prime Minister to have said that there is supposed to be a respect agenda in relation to the Scottish Parliament. We need to know why the intelligence services and this Government think the Scottish Parliament is less of a Parliament or less deserving of such protection. Do they think Scots deserve less protection of their privacy when communicating with their MSPs than with their Westminster counterparts? As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) asked, why should unelected peers of the realm enjoy greater protection than elected Members of the Scottish Parliament? Unlike Members of the House of Lords, Members of the Scottish Parliament and of the other devolved Assemblies have constituents’ interests to serve and protect. If there is a matter of principle about protecting communications between constituents and those who represent them, it should apply to all parliamentarians.

I want to stress that insisting on proper protection for the communications of parliamentarians with others is special pleading not on behalf of parliamentarians, but on behalf of the constituents, whistleblowers and campaigners who communicate with them. When people contact parliamentarians they are often in a vulnerable position—for example, somebody in a big Government body or a big corporate entity who wishes to blow the whistle on some official scandal. Yes, hon. Members of the House, the Scottish Parliament, the other devolved Assemblies and the European Parliament also have to be protected from intimidation or oversight by the Government so that they can help such sometimes vulnerable people and do their jobs without fear or favour.

What is to be done? The draft investigatory powers Bill to be brought forward in the autumn is an opportunity to refine the law to protect civil liberties and set minimum protections and safeguards across the board and, I suggest, for communications between parliamentarians and constituents. I very much welcome the Home Secretary’s statement that she will give further consideration to the

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position of parliamentarians in the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved Assemblies. I echo the call made by other hon. Members that there must be sufficient time to consider the Bill, but I am reasonably hopeful that we will be given sufficient time, because the Home Secretary has said that a draft Bill will be brought before the House.

Chris Bryant: I urge the hon. and learned Lady not to be too confident. Last time we had to pass such legislation, we had to pass the whole lot in a single day. We had to suspend all the normal processes in the House to take through the Bill in a single day.

Joanna Cherry: I was not in the House at that time, but I watched it on the television. I am aware of that, but I am giving the Home Secretary the benefit of the doubt, because she has indicated that it will be a draft investigatory powers Bill.

Mrs May: I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for giving me an opportunity to restate what I actually said earlier in response to a comment by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). We are committed to and will shortly bring forward a draft investigatory powers Bill, which will be available for scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. The expectation is that it will report sometime in the new year, with a view to our introducing the Bill for its passage through Parliament. The aim is to make it a carry-over Bill, with a deadline of December 2016.

Joanna Cherry: I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for confirming that. I fully understand the concerns of those who were Members of the previous Parliament. If things were to be done in such a manner again, there would clearly be an enormous public outcry.

Lady Hermon: The Home Secretary has given a very interesting response to the hon. and learned Lady. Indeed, all the responses have been very interesting. Speaking as a Member from Northern Ireland, it is a growing concern that representatives from the devolved regions, particularly from Northern Ireland, have not been welcomed on to Standing Committees. I urge the hon. and learned Lady to insist that the Joint Committee that considers the draft Bill includes representatives of the devolved regions from this House.

Joanna Cherry: As a novice parliamentarian, I am not sure of the propriety of such a proposal. If the House would find it acceptable, I would endorse the hon. Lady’s suggestion enthusiastically. If the draft investigatory powers Bill encompasses a clause that impacts on any sort of privilege for the Scottish Parliament or the devolved Assemblies, it is crucial that there is consultation with those Administrations.

Lady Hermon: Last week, we looked at the Immigration Bill, which rightly extends to the whole of Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, it appears that no Member from Northern Ireland will be on the Standing Committee. Given that the matter we are discussing today is of such importance, it would be very helpful to have an MP from Northern Ireland on the Joint Committee. I am not saying which party they should be from, but there should be a representative from the region.

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Joanna Cherry: I feel the hon. Lady’s pain. At present, it appears that the Standing Committee that will consider the repeal of the Human Rights Act will not contain a representative from Scotland. My party has taken up that matter. I very much endorse the spirit of the hon. Lady’s comments. There must be full and proper consultation with the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved Assemblies in relation to any legislative proposal about privilege for parliamentarians’ communications.

I am coming to the end of my comments and am conscious of the time. In my respectful submission—I stress the word “respectful”—there should be a strong legislative presumption in the forthcoming Bill against interception and other forms of surveillance in respect of parliamentarians. That presumption may be rebutted, but only on the basis of a clear and specific suspicion that a particular parliamentarian’s communications contain evidence of serious criminality or in truly exceptional circumstances, such as where national security is involved. The protection should extend to all parliamentarians, as I have said. The legislation should require independent judicial approval for any surveillance of a parliamentarian or interception of their communications.

Given the constraints of time, I will leave it to others to deal with whether the Wilson doctrine applies to metadata, such as numbers, email addresses, times and locations, as opposed to the contents of communications. However, I will say that metadata may often be all that is needed to understand the nature of a communication, for example that it is from a whistleblower. At present, the interception of metadata does not require a warrant. In my respectful submission, it should do in the circumstances that we are discussing.

Finally, the suspicionless surveillance of parliamentarians and the wider public is contrary to a democracy governed by the rule of law. Intrusive surveillance must always be targeted and proportional.

6.33 pm

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): Before I start on the substantive argument, which is fairly simple, I will say one thing to the House. Those who are interested in this matter should look not just at the judgment that was handed down by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, but at the transcript of the hearing.

I attended part of the public session. It was an illuminating process and did not necessarily give one much confidence. As the House will know, I have been involved in this subject for many years and am loth to criticise courts, but I was not impressed by the IPT’s understanding of the technology that is available to the agencies to enable them to sift and limit the damage that is done by their intrusion of privacy. To me, that seemed rather important.

Secondly, it is apparent that the ruling means something very specific. It means that the inquiry that was brought by Baroness Jones, George Galloway and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) is very unlikely to receive an answer because if something is not illegal, they will not be told about it. That is the rule. The hon. Lady will not be told whether something has happened. She will be told only if something illegal has been done. One of the outcomes of this situation is that it will prevent her or any of the complainants getting an answer.

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James Eadie, the very skilful lawyer who argued on behalf of the Government, made the point that the Wilson doctrine has no legal basis whatever, is not practical—that is why the tribunal’s lack of understanding was very important—and, therefore, is not binding on the agencies. That is a really serious finding. He spent the best part of two days in incredibly convoluted argument. The only inference that I can draw from the incredible effort he put into getting this outcome is that they had something to hide and that what was happening in secret was a statement that the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion or one of the other two complainants had been intercepted.

In the course of the exchanges with the judges, James Eadie was very illuminating on the attitude to this matter. He said, in effect, that if the Prime Minister had come to the House and explained the truth of the matter, post-RIPA, he would have been committing an

“act of political hara-kiri, or something quite close to it.”

That was the attitude of the tribunal to the Wilson doctrine.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I accept what my right hon. Friend has said, but is not one concern that the Wilson doctrine is 50 years old? It was written in a very different world, before the internet. He has drawn various conclusions from what was said, such as that the Government had something to hide. It might simply have been that the Government recognised that the legislative process, which we are updating, was not fit for the purpose of a modern-day Wilson doctrine.

Mr Davis: I take my right hon. Friend’s point, but that is why I urged Members to read the transcript. What I said is very apparent from the transcript. He is, of course, right that there has been a huge transformation. Metadata, which I will come back to later, simply did not exist in their current form in Wilson’s day. Many of the things that are now available, including email, did not exist in his day. A whole series of things that we all assumed had been swept up in the Wilson doctrine have not been swept up in the Wilson doctrine. That is why the Home Secretary’s case that it is the same as what was enunciated by Harold Wilson all those years ago is simply not tenable. I will come back to that point, too.

Members will notice that the Press Gallery is nearly empty. Over the past week or so, the newspapers have been very derogatory about this case and the argument that we are putting. They say, “Why should MPs be treated any differently from anybody else?” Those, by the way, are the very same newspapers that were in an uproar of anger about the fact that somebody had checked out the metadata of one of their journalist’s telephones. Perhaps they were right in that, but it is an odd dichotomy.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): What does my right hon. Friend think the deputy leader of the Labour party will think about the stance that has been taken by the shadow Leader of the House, given that the deputy leader of the Labour party is making a career out of exposing the alleged wrongdoings of Members of this House and the other place? Presumably that would be made much more difficult were we exempted from the investigatory instruments that are available to the agencies.

Mr Davis: My hon. Friend tempts me, but the inwardness of the Labour party is far above my pay grade. I will stick to the substance of the issue before us.

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Chris Bryant: I can confirm that the deputy leader of the Labour party is perfectly content with the policy that we are arguing for. Indeed, he is the person who got the Home Secretary to confirm for the first time that she had changed the Wilson doctrine.

Mr Davis: I will return to the subject of the debate.

The answer to those journalists, commentators and editors who think that this is about the House getting above itself, or that in some sense it is not important, is simple: we should not tolerate the Government intercepting or interfering in any way with any of our communications—there is one tiny exception that I shall return to—because MPs are the people who are charged with holding the Government to account. We forget this line from time to time in the sort of schoolboy antics that pass for the reporting of Parliament in this day and age, but we are the ones who hold the Government to account. In doing so, we deal with campaigners, journalists, whistleblowers, other MPs and, of course, our constituents. The text of the judgment states that the only protected component is our constituents, and although they are incredibly important, in some ways they are the least salient of the components that we deal with.

The Home Secretary, quite properly, reminds the House of the demands of national security. She is right to do that because 58 people have died owing to terrorism within the United Kingdom since 2000, and the figure is about 90 if we include those in Tunisia and elsewhere. Security is a serious issue, but so are matters that are brought to our attention by whistleblowers. Mid Staffs occurred because whistleblowers were supressed or ignored—the same effect that we get by diluting the Wilson doctrine. How many people died unnecessarily at Mid Staffs? It was 1,200. We must not forget that whistleblowers are incredibly important and they would, or will, be supressed by what is seen as the demise of the Wilson doctrine.

Let us consider the possible cases. A police officer calls an MP about corruption, but he might be intercepted by other police officers. A prisoner calls his MP about ill treatment in prison, but he might be intercepted and recorded by other prison officers. A tax official calls the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee about sweetheart deals on tax with big companies and Parliament being lied to—hon. Members might begin to realise that these are real cases—but that person might have his life destroyed because of activities under RIPA. Imagine an official from the Ministry of Defence telling an MP about the mistreatment of a prisoner by the British Army, or an immigration officer telling a shadow Home Secretary about Government deceiving Parliament—that case led to the arrest of one of our colleagues, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), some time ago. The absence, failure or demise of the Wilson doctrine would undermine or deter all those cases.

The Home Secretary has a difficult task, because technology is changing under our feet and has been doing so for decades. The difficulty today is that the Wilson doctrine that most people believed was in place is not. The idea that all our communications are protected is untrue for a number of reasons. I cannot find the first reference—I think it was Gordon Brown, but it might have been earlier—but one Prime Minister limited such

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protection to cases with a warrant from a Secretary of State. Before then it was not limited in such terms. Let us understand what a limitation that is. The report on surveillance by David Anderson, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, points out that there are more than 65 different statutory mechanisms for initiating intercepts and other sorts of communication surveillance. Very few of those require a warrant from the Secretary of State. It is a very narrow protection.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I have reviewed 27 written parliamentary answers on this subject from the last few years. Most tell us absolutely nothing, but those that do have added the words “Secretary of State’s warrant” to give the impression that something is happening when it is not.

Mr Davis: My hon. Friend is exactly right and that leads me to a case that the previous Justice Secretary brought before the House when it was plain that there had been interception and recording of telephone communications between prisoners and their Members of Parliament as a matter of course. As I have said, that could lead to serious outcomes for those prisoners. The Justice Secretary was able to tell the House that the matter was not subject to the Wilson doctrine because it was not subject to a Secretary of State’s warrant.

Many of those parliamentary questions were also about the wider ramifications of the doctrine, particularly with respect to metadata. It took the Government approximately nine months to answer my question about whether metadata were involved. They told another colleague who is no longer with us—Nick de Bois—that metadata were not included, but when I challenged them it took them nine months to come to a conclusion. The collection of metadata cripples whistleblowers, because it tells us precisely who has talked to whom, when and where. Metadata tracking led to the arrest of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. That area is material to the operation of our holding the Government to account.

The House should be unsurprised that agencies use their powers to the limit. If I were working for MI5, MI6 or GCHQ, I would use every power that I was given to the limit, just as I would if I were a policeman. If I am charged with the security of the state, of individuals and of safety, that will be what I am concerned about, but that is precisely why we must be careful about controlling what people do. The tendency is to stretch the limits or for those limits gradually to move.

The IPT judgment is not the first to have shown agencies moving the goalposts. The most obvious example of breaches by police and agencies concerns journalists, but because journalists are a sensitive group the Government moved very rapidly to provide protection for them—they moved so fast it was rather undignified. Breaches also involve innocent non-governmental organisations—not long ago Amnesty International was intercepted, although the Government did not move on that—and, of course, lawyers.

Intercepting lawyers is serious. Indeed, it is arguably more serious than House of Commons intercepts. In the past when some criminal—by that I mean a terrorist, paedophile or whatever category we are looking at—had

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their telephone calls intercepted, that intercept would stop when their lawyer came on the line. I went through that in some detail with our erstwhile colleague, Jack Straw, as that was the case when he was Home Secretary although it is no longer true. Now, not only is the intercept not stopped, but it can continue and be recorded. The intercept used to be put in a protected file and was specifically not shown to prosecution lawyers who might be bringing that criminal to justice, but now that is not true. That serious breach will, at some point, lead to a killer being put back on the streets of Britain because they can claim in the European Court, or somewhere like that, that they have not received natural justice because of a breach in equality of arms. That serious and stupid change of policy was made clear by the IPT a little while ago.

The shadow Leader of the House listed MPs who have been affected by intercept. Looking at my list of 10, all I say is that I think they are pretty harmless—that is probably the biggest insult I could give them. Look at who they are. It demonstrates the mindset that leads people to misuse intercept. What on earth were people doing? Of course Jack Straw and Peter Hain had colourful early lives, but what about when they were in Parliament and became Cabinet Ministers? It is extraordinary how this matter is being pushed.

I side with the Home Secretary in one respect: the Wilson doctrine was always a bit slippery. Harold Wilson was a very clever man, but he was not, shall we say, known for his linear thinking. It has always been to some extent deceitful and misleading, but the truth now is that the doctrine is dead. Whether or not it is legally dead, it is in practice dead. It is dead in the eyes of the people—whistleblowers, campaigners and so on—who might come to us, and we have to do something to replace it.

I am glad to hear a commonality of view from those on all Front Benches that we need to put this in statute. That is the only way forward. When the next Bill on this subject goes through the House, I hope it brings together all 65 statutory mechanisms for allowing intercepts and surveillance. Let us understand what it should do. We all know there will be times when the police and the agencies are properly allowed to intercept or put Members of Parliament under surveillance when there is a strong suspicion of a known crime. Frankly, however, that should not be on the Prime Minister’s say-so. It should not be, with respect to her, on the Home Secretary’s say-so. I mean no insult to either of them, but if ever these powers are misused it will almost certainly be by a politician, because they are the people subject to most temptation. It should be on the say-so of a senior judge, or even a court, after presentation of compelling evidence, subject to challenge.

The Government have in place the process they use for terrorism prevention and investigation measures, where the individual cannot know what the evidence is and so will have a special advocate. Those are the measures that should be in any Act. I give notice now that if they are put in the Bill by the Home Secretary, I will support it. If they are put in the Bill by the Opposition, I will support it. If neither put it in, I will propose it myself, because that is the only way to put right what is now in effect a major breach of our democratic traditions.