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Hain demands explanation of MP surveillence

On his last day in the House of Commons, Neath MP Peter Hain has demanded an explanation of why he and other MPs allegedly had police surveillance files kept open on them. He said it was hardly a revelation that the special branch had a file on people like him, dating back 40 years to his time as an anti-apartheid activist. But he was concerned at the suggestion that the file remained active after he became an MP in 1991.

Surely the fact that these files were still active for at least 10 years while we were MPs raises fundamental questions about parliamentary sovereignty and privilege—principles that are vital to our democracy. It is one thing to have a police file on an MP suspected of crime, child abuse or even co-operating with terrorism, but quite another to maintain one deriving from campaigns promoting values of social justice, human rights and equal opportunities that are shared by millions of British people. Surely that means travelling down a road that endangers the liberty of us all.

– Peter Hain MP

The claim about files on MPs was made by a former undercover police officer, Peter Francis. The minister responsible for the police, Mike Penning, said this was the kind of allegation that had led the Home Secretary to set up an inquiry under a senior judge.

Undercover policing is an essential tactic in fighting crime. However, we have known for some time that there have been serious historical failings in undercover policing and its practices. To improve the public’s confidence in undercover work, we must ensure that there is no repeat of these failings. That is why the Home Secretary established a public inquiry earlier this month -to investigate thoroughly undercover policing and the operation of the special demonstration squad

– Home Office Minister Mike Penning MP