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Information Tribunal appeal decision on the "Wilson Doctrine"

The Information Tribunal has heard an Appeal against a Decision by the Information Commissioner regarding the "Wilson Doctrine":

Appeal Number EA/2006/0045 Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) (.pdf - 30 pages)

Heard on papers at Procession House, London
Date 12th February 2007

Decision Promulgated 28 February 2007

CHAIRMAN John Angel And
LAY MEMBERS John Randall and Marion Saunders



Decision The Tribunal upholds the decision notice dated 11th July 2006 and dismisses the appeal.


The Information Tribunal, could not find a single, concise legal definition of the term "National Security".

The Cabinet Office , in exceptional "Sir Humphrey Appleby" word weasel mode, managed to convince the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal, that, because the Freedom of Information Act grants an absolute exemption to matters concerning the Security Service MI5, the Secret Service MI6 or GCHQ, that their policy of "neither confirm nor deny" must somehow also be extended to the other current or previous public bodies which have been authorised to conduct telephone or other electronic or postal interceptions under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 e.g. the Military, the Police, HM Customs & Excise, but which do not have specific exemptions under the FOIA.

The Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal, did not, in our view, properly consider non-National Security telephone interception of Members of Parliament and the public who contact them, e.g. for Serious Crime purposes.

They managed to somehow dismiss, out of hand, Liberty's arguments regarding the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights Article 8 (1)

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

1 Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

They managed to do this by claiming that Members of Parliament were, by virtue of the "Wilson Doctrine", in a special position compared with ordinary members of the public, who were somehow protected from abuse of surveillance powers by the Independent Interception of Communications Commissioner.

However, the Information Tribunal seems to have been considering the Appeal on 12th February 2007, i.e. a week or so before and the deliberately delayed publication on 19th February 2007, of the Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2005-2006 (.pdf 19 pages), by Rt. Hon. Sir Swinton Thomas, in which he sets out his views on the constitutional position of MPs and the "Wilson Doctrine"

Rt. Hon. SIr Swinton Thomas is of the opinion that MPs should not be treated differently from anyone else, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, but the Information Tribunal claims the opposite, i.e. that they are different under the law, due to the "Wilson Doctrine".

Even if this is so, we cannot see how that is a justification for denying MPs and their constituents their ECHR Article 8 fundamental human rights.

We will give this lengthy and complicated Appeal some more thought, and may end up submitting our own Freedom of Information Act request. Norman Baker is a Member of Parliament asking about the "Wilson Doctrine", which concerns MPs and others, but we have the same rights, no more, no less, as he does under the Freedom of Information Act..

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