'Stingray' Scanners (2)

Committed By: 
The Mayor

Commitment

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thanks very much, Joanne, and you are quite right to take this up, frankly.  On the first point on what the police are doing, I do not know the extent to which the police have so far detected illicit use of these scanners.  You are right in what you say about the possibility of buying them on the market.  I cannot give you any information about that, but I would be happy to write to you and of course I will be taking it up with Sir Bernard [Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis].

On the second point, it is absolutely correct.  To the best of my memory, in the old days when everybody used landlines, if the police or the security services wanted to intercept a phone conversation, they had to get an individual warrant from the Home Secretary for the wiretap.  What seems to be at least plausible from this account is that the police and the security services are able to listen in randomly, as it were, to all the conversations that may be taking place in a certain vicinity of this ‘stingray’ scanner.

If that is going on, it is clearly unacceptable.  That is Stasi-like monitoring of people’s private conversations and transactions in a way that I do not think we would want to see in London.  I very much share your concerns about that and I would want to establish that it was not going on.  On the other hand, if they are validly in pursuit of known suspects, people who might mean us serious harm who are making use of mobile telephony or other means of communication to plan outrages against this city and this country, then clearly they are right to do what they do.  In either event, there needs to be proper judicial supervision or some proper accountability and control of what is going on.

Joanne McCartney AM:  Mr Mayor, therefore, as Mayor of London and as the Member of Parliament (MP) now for a London constituency, would you be able to write to the Home Office expressing that concern and the concern that has been expressed by the Independent Reviewer and saying that there needs to be some legal framework for the oversight of this apparatus?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Do you mean following David Anderson’s words?

Joanne McCartney AM:  Yes.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes.  What I will perhaps do, if I may, is wait until I get an answer back from Sir Christopher Rose, see exactly how he accounts for what is going on and see whether he is willing to share information.  Then, depending on his account of it, we will definitely take it up with the Home Secretary.

Joanne McCartney AM:  Mr Mayor, when you get that response, will you send it to the Chairs of the --

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I will make sure to.  It will all be obtainable under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and transparent.  You will get it all.