Submitted to Daily Telegraph – 24 May 2008, but not published.
Having tried for months to challenge the lunacy of publishing MPs’ home addresses, I am grateful to Andrew Pierce for his article "Why make it easy for nutters to hunt down their quarry?" (Notebook, May 24). In order to concentrate a few minds, I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to Jack Straw for the home addresses of High Court judges to be published on the same day as those of MPs.
More than 100 MPs have already signed my Early-Day Motion, stating that no home address should be published if an MP objects on grounds of privacy or security. The judgments of the Information Tribunal appeal ruling and of the High Court do not even attempt to tackle the issues in any serious way. Here are just two of the objections I have repeatedly raised, without contradiction:
Members’ mail is currently screened, on arrival at the Palace of Westminster, to weed out explosive or noxious substances. Which terrorist or other malefactor with even half a brain will send such material to Parliament in future rather than to 646 home addresses, if we are mad enough to publish them? Will screening be introduced at 646 homes? Will our mail at home be diverted to Parliament for pre-screening, including all our personal correspondence? Otherwise, what will be the point of continuing to screen it at Parliament?
Both judgments proclaim that an MP facing a threat from a terrorist, stalker or other criminal, will have his or her address withheld. Terrific! But what happens if an MP becomes subject to such a threat a month after his or her address has already been revealed along with all the others? Do we recall the address, re-house the MP, or just put it down to the luck of the draw?
When the first batch of envelopes containing a dash of white powder and a threat about anthrax arrives at 646 MPs’ home addresses, this insane policy will be scrapped and the same journalists and judges who brought it in will rush to condemn the Security Service, whose advice was never sought in the first place. The fact that some MPs have to reveal some of their addresses some of the time, is no justification for forcing all of them to do so all of the time – for the benefit of every troublemaker and terrorist at home and abroad.
(Dr) JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA