Belfast Telegraph

Blair didn't order tap on Paisley's phone: Prescott

By Noel McAdam

Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott has stood by his claims that Ian Paisley was bugged by British spooks.

The peer claimed recently that former Prime Minister Tony Blair told him in 2005 that the security services had eavesdropped on the firebrand DUP leader's calls.

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

The late MP's son Ian Paisley jnr, himself now an MP, described the bugging as utterly disgraceful and criticised Mr Blair.

But Lord Prescott yesterday said Mr Paisley was wrong to do so, as Mr Blair had not sanctioned the tap.

Lord Prescott, however, said he would welcome answers to the questions which the North Antrim MP now intends to raise in Parliament when it resumes after the Easter recess.

Writing in his Sunday Mirror column yesterday, Prescott insisted: "I can't see how (Prime Minister Theresa) May can refuse Paisley's request to uncover the truth.

"I for one welcome the chance for us to reopen the debate on phone tapping.

"But 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.

"But calls between constituents and MPs must never be tapped.

"No MP is above the law, but members of the public deserve to have their privacy protected."

The peer added: "It seems Ian junior got the wrong end of the stick and thought I was claiming Tony Blair had authorised the tap.

"Blair only told me that he'd been informed by the outgoing Interception of Communications Commissioner Paisley was tapped in the past."

After the initial revelations, a spokesman for Mr Blair insisted: "No authorisation for the phone tapping of a Member of Parliament was given during Mr Blair's time as Prime Minister."

Blair was PM from 1997 to 2007.

The UK security services are not supposed to intercept MPs' communications under a convention known as the Wilson Doctrine, introduced in 1966 by the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Belfast Telegraph


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