HC Deb 15 December 1959 vol 615 cc1222-3
8. Mr. Woodburn

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what guidance he has given to police authorities in Scotland regarding the use of telephone tapping; and to what extent it has been his practice to allow information or evidence so acquired to be communicated to others than the proper legal authorities.

33. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland in how many cases, since October, 1957, he has authorised the disclosure of information obtained by telephone tapping to any person or body outside the public service.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

Scottish chief constables are aware of the recommendations of the Birkett Report, which were accepted and are acted upon by the Government. In accordance with these recommendations, no information obtained under the authority of a warrant of the Secretary of State is disclosed to any outside body.

Mr. Woodburn

May we have a general assurance that, so far as possible, conversations on the telephone are private to the people taking part in them, and that at a later date they will not be used in evidence in any kind of court, in cases of divorce or otherwise?

Mr. Maclay

Listening to telephone conversations with the consent of the subscriber does not require my authority, although it is true to say that I am not aware of any such case arising in Scotland. Beyond that it is difficult to go in answer to a supplementary question.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if his original Answer is correct, as I am sure is the case, his standard, or record, in this matter is very much better than that of the Home Secretary? Can he say what sanction we can apply to the Home Secretary to bring his standard up to that of the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Maclay

I am not clear whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to telephone tapping or the listening in to telephone conversations with the consent of the subscriber.

Mr. Lipton

I am referring to the authorisation of disclosure.

Mr. Maclay

I have stated the position in Scotland, for which I am responsible.