Cameron refuses to confirm whether security services are spying on MPs
The prime minister today refused to confirm whether the security services are routinely monitoring communications between MPs and their constituents.
David Cameron was asked by Conservative MP David Davis whether the long-standing Wilson Doctrine, which prohibits the interception of MP's communications was still applicable.
The prime minister has previously claimed the doctrine is still in force.
However, earlier this year the government's own lawyer told the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that the doctrine had no legal basis and placed "no obligations" on the security services not to monitor MPs.
The evidence that security services may be secretly monitoring MPs' communications emerged in a case brought by three current and former parliamentarians back in July.
"In 2011 the prime minister quite rightly confirmed to the house that the Wilson doctrine – the prohibition on the electronic monitoring of MPs – was still in force," Davis told the Commons.
"Unfortunately in July 24th of this year, the governments's own lawyer Mr James Eadie QC, stated in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, in answer to a complaint from the honourable member for Brighton Pavillion, that the Wilson Doctrine is not legally binding, cannot work properly and accordingly places no obligations on the intelligence agencies.
"This is clearly inconsistent with the prime minister's previous statements. Can he clarify the status of the doctrine today and confirm it has real meaning?"
The prime minister refused to do so, saying only that "I have got nothing to add to comments I have made about this issue"
Cameron told his former rival for the Tory leadership that he would write to "the honourable gentleman and clarify the position."
The prime minister normally refers to fellow Conservative MPs as "my honourable friend."
David Davis asking the PM to confirm the Wilson Doctrine still applies
Earlier this year the Investigatory Powers Tribunal heard evidence of the widespread interception of calls by prisoners to their MPs.
Ben Jaffey of Blackstone Chambers told the tribunal that more than half of all calls made by inmates to members of parliament had been illegally intercepted in the past ten years.
An investigation by the chief inspector of prisons found that of 5600 calls made to MPs since 2006, 3,150 had been unlawfully intercepted and recorded.
The prisons inspectorate also found that 280 calls had been downloaded and listened to by prison officers. In at least four cases, evidence suggested the rules had been broken deliberately.
The inspectorate found there were "insufficient safeguards in place to minimise the risk of privileged calls being listened to."
The claimants said this suggested a "systemic" wider interception of parliamentary correspondence is likely to be taking place undetected.
They believe the interception is in contravention of the so-called Wilson doctrine. The Wilson doctrine was established by Harold Wilson in 1966 following revelations that the security services were tapping the phones of MPs.
Wilson declared that MPs' communications would in future no longer be intercepted. Subsequent governments have confirmed the doctrine remains in place. However, the tribunal heard claims that serving prime ministers could choose to suspend the Wilson Doctrine without publicly disclosing they had done so.
The doctrine requires the PM to report any "abrogation" of the doctrine to Parliament. However, the claimants believe this declaration could be delayed indefinitely. The tribunal heard that a serving prime minister could authorise the monitoring of their political opponents, without disclosing they had done so for decades to come.