HC Deb 19 January 1987 vol 108 c595
31. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many telephone calls from the Palace of Westminster have been logged in the past six months.

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

As I made clear in earlier replies to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 5 December, at column 802, and on 10 December, at column 203, and to the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) on 19 December, at column 721, the call logging equipment is capable of storing only the date and time of each call made within the United Kingdom from extensions of the Palace of Westminster exchange; it does not cover direct lines or international calls. This information is stored for no more than two months. Figures for the number of calls logged in the past six months are, therefore, not available.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the Lord Privy Seal saying unequivocally that there is therefore no logging whatsoever of any calls that may have taken place between the office of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the office of Mr. Malcolm Turnbull in Australia?

Mr. Biffen

Certainly, If the hon. Gentleman studies tomorrow my answer, he will see that direct lines or international calls are specifically excluded.

Mr. Hickmet

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the embarrassment of the Leader of the Opposition in conducting conversations with a lawyer representing a defendant in a case where the Crown is the plaintiff and where issues of national security are concerned will not be saved by making spurious allegations about his telephone being bugged? The answer is that for cheap political gain and cheap political purposes the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to stoop to whatever tactics are available.

Mr. Biffen

I do not think that I can helpfully add to the reply that I have just given.

Mr. Williams

The Leader of the House said that direct calls and international calls are not logged. Have I misunderstood the House of Commons system? Is it not a fact that if somebody wants to make an international call he has to go via the House of Commons operator? Therefore the call must be logged.

Mr. Biffen

I do suggest that the hon. Gentleman should study the answers that I have given. I have said specifically that international calls are not logged. The hon. Gentleman could check that with the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee, which was responsible for the equipment being installed.

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