Public figures must be granted privacy

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes

What we imagine is as important as what we know. The uniquely human capacity to invent through imaginative creativity, which distinguishes us from all other creatures, means that each of us owns dreams, ideas and secrets which are particular, personal and often only shared with family and the closest of associates.

Sometimes our individual insights and observations are shared confidentially. Who doesn’t remember the childhood thrill of sharing a secret with a special playmate, so tightening the bond of friendship?

Choosing to share confidences cements personal and professional relationships by securing mutual trust. So, Her Majesty the Queen and the Prime Minister were entitled to expect that their recent private conversations remained confidential, rather than being broadcast publicly. Such expectations of privacy are reasonable, as public figures must be allowed private discourse of the kind everyone else enjoys. Too often there is a lazy 
assumption that secrecy is necessarily suspicious.

It seems that the internet age and privacy are hard to reconcile. The ease of digital communications and the rapid growth of social media has fed the extraordinary craze for people to share innermost thoughts, photographs and private moments with strangers!

The internet also poses a different challenge; how to give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to safeguard us by accessing the communications of terrorists and serious criminals, whilst protecting the privacy of the vast majority who are entitled to confidentiality online as elsewhere.

This tension is at the heart of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which I am steering through Parliament. The Bill must weave privacy safeguards for the digital age into the fabric of legislation.

Individuals’ expectations and the national interest are not only compatible, but married. For me, individual fulfilment and communal wellbeing are inseparable - the national interest is the people’s interest.

It is unreasonable to expect public figures not to have private lives beyond the public eye; a place to share with those they choose their personal misgivings and discrete insights.

Public figures, such as the Queen, Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury, must be allowed their privacy and their secrets.