Bill to allow Commons searches with no warrant — The Independent

From The Independent:

The vow by Commons Speaker Michael Martin to prevent “unauthorised” raids on MPs’ offices in the wake of the Damian Green affair was seriously undermined last night as it emerged that the Government is preparing new laws to allow investigators to mount parliamentary searches without a warrant.

Defending his position, Mr Martin last week pledged that no one would be allowed to search any parliamentary office until they had produced a warrant and obtained his personal permission. However, legislation included in the Queen’s Speech on the same day Mr Martin made his promise will make it simpler for officials to enter the House of Commons to carry out searches without the permission of parliamentary authorities.

The Political Parties and Elections Bill, aimed at tightening up the law on political donations, would extend the authority of Electoral Commission inspectors – or police on their behalf – to give them access to MPs’ offices as part of any investigation of alleged breaches of funding regulations. The only authorisation required would be a “disclosure notice” issued by the commission itself.

The Bill also permits the watchdog’s inspectors to enter the homes and offices of MPs and anyone who has donated to a political party, if there is a “reasonable suspicion” of a breach of the rules. A magistrate’s warrant is required but no prior notice will be given and parliamentary authorities would not be consulted in advance.

MPs have also pointed out that the infamous Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 allows covert surveillance of politicians in Parliament. We all ought to ask if our democracy is heading in a healthy direction. Many may be sick of politics and politicians but I hope and believe that the majority wish to live in a country where it is possible to oppose the government of the day, and to support financially opposition parties, without the threat of prosecution.

You can write to your MP here. If you live in a Labour constituency, or you know someone who does, I particularly recommend a letter.

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