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  1. Nick Powell

Ban GCHQ spying on AMs, Cameron told

Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham. Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

The Assembly's Presiding Officer has written to the Prime Minister demanding urgent clarification and consultation about reports that the UK Government's electronic surveillance agency, GCHQ, is no longer banned from spying on AMs.

Until last year, GCHQ extended the so-called Wilson doctrine, which forbids targeting MPs, to include members of devolved parliaments and assemblies. The doctrine is named after Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister who ruled in 1966 that the security services could not spy on MPs.

As Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, I am responsible for safeguarding the interests of all Members and I believe that they should be afforded the same treatment and status by the United Kingdom's security services, especially in regard to communications that they may have with constituents, as parliamentarians at Westminster.

– Assembly Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM

The change of policy emerged during a court case about the alleged interception of communications to and from the Green MP Caroline Lucas, Green Peer Baroness Jones of Mouscombe and the former Respect MP George Galloway. When the exemptions under the Wilson doctrine were reviewed, it was decided that it no longer applied at all to Welsh Assembly Members, Members of the Scottish Parliament and Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and the First Minister of Scotland have also written to the Prime Minister. There's concern in Scotland that the change of policy may have legitimised spying on the 'yes' campaign during last year's independence referendum. Plaid Cymru has called on Carwyn Jones to join the protests to David Cameron. The First Minister says he is concerned by the possible infringement of AMs' privacy.

It’s completely unacceptable that any communications between members elected to the devolved administrations and the people they represent might be monitored in this way. I’d like to hear from the UK Government about why this major rule change happened and why the devolved administrations were not consulted about it.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM
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