Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley calls for full inquiry into phone tapping claims

By Cate McCurry

Ian Paisley said he is "hopeful" that a full inquiry will be held into claims that his father's phone was tapped when he was an MP.

The DUP politician raised the phone hacking allegations in Parliament yesterday.

Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott revealed that the security forces tapped the late DUP leader's calls despite a long-standing convention that MPs should not have their communications monitored.

Lord Prescott claimed that in 2005 then-prime minister Tony Blair told him that security services had eavesdropped on an MP.

He said that after pressing Mr Blair for a name, the then-premier told him it was the DUP leader, who later became Northern Ireland's first minister and a peer before his death in 2014.

The North Antrim MP said he will formally lodge a compliant with the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow.

"I want to know what steps can he take to verify Lord Prescott's claim and how do we hold those to account who should have informed parliament that this was happening but didn't.

"I also what to know what course of action is parliament going to take to uncover the truth."

The convention that MPs' communications should not be intercepted by police or security services is known as the Wilson Doctrine after former prime minister Harold Wilson, who announced the policy in 1966.

Mr Paisley, who described the bugging as utterly disgraceful, said that an investigation into the claims could uncover whether conversations between MPs and their constituents may have been tapped.

"I think an inquiry will lead to Mr Prescott being asked probably some difficult and uncomfortable questions," he added.

"I think it will be very difficult to get to the truth about something to do with phone tapping and the security services so I'm not holding my breath.

"I think the important issue that needs to be investigated is that parliamentarians ought to have been honest and protected the interests of all of their colleagues.

"I'm not really disappointed that the fact that phone tapping took place because I think it does take place as a matter of course, but what I am disappointed in is that parliamentarians who know what the procedure is to protect each other didn't resort to that."

Following Lord Prescott's claims Mr Blair denied that he had authorised the tapping of Lord Bannside's phone.

Lord Prescott said he would welcome the opportunity to "reopen the debate" on phone tapping.

"I don't believe this ban on tapping the phones and communications of MPs and peers should be absolute.

"If an MP or peer is suspected of a crime, the authorities should be able to listen in if they have obtained a signed warrant."

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