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The Independent Online
Any MI5 tapping of MPs' telephones would have directly breached assurances given to the Commons by all prime ministers over the past 31 years, writes Anthony Bevins.

While Mr Shayler has suggested that Sir Edward and Mr Dalyell had files opened on them, it it not clear whether this included telephone interception.

Although a Committee of Privy Councillors reported to Harold Macmillan, then Conservative prime minister, in 1957, that MPs were in exactly the same position as any private citizen in regard to the interception of communications, Harold Wilson told the Commons in 1966 that "the balance should be tipped the other way'' and he had instructed that there was to be no tapping of MPs' telephones.

In 1980 Margaret Thatcher subsequently confirmed: "As has each of my predecessors since that time, that the policy remains as stated by [Sir Harold]."

As warrants for telephone intercepts have to be signed by the Home Secretary, tapping of MPs' phones cannot have taken place - unless it has been done, illegally, without warrant.

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