HC Deb 08 December 1965 vol 722 cc420-1
37. Mr. Edelman

asked the Attorney-General how many prosecutions he has initiated in the last year in connection with the illegal use of electronic equipment designed for intrusion into privacy.

The Attorney-General


Mr. Edelman

Does that mean that the Attorney-General has no power to deal with this modern nuisance? Is he not aware that the laws against intrusion into privacy have not been changed since the days of Edward III? Will he consider taking powers to deal with the nuisances of the electronics age?

The Attorney-General

I do not contend that the state of the law is entirely satisfactory in this matter, but the House should be reminded that under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949, it is an offence to use any stations or apparatus for wireless telegraphy without a licence from the Postmaster-General. Last March, the Chief Constable of Manchester successfully prosecuted a man for intercepting police messages. Since the Act came into force, 12 criminal proceedings have been brought.

The House should also be reminded that eavesdropping has long been an offence at Common Law. In 1957, a man was charged in that he did listen under walls or windows or the eaves of a house to hearken after discourse and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales and the House will be glad to know that he was bound over to keep the peace under the Justices of the Peace Act, 1361.

Mr. Will Griffiths

Is the Attorney-General not aware that there are in London people selling these so called micro-bug transmitters to private detectives and a wide range of other people? Is he not of the opinion that every time the vend Dr exhibits these electronic devices to a prospective purchaser, he is surely in breach of the provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act?

The Attorney-General

My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General has already indicated that he is considering what should be done. In the meantime, he has directed that licences for this kind of device should be issued only on his personal authority.

Mr. Doughty

Can the Attorney-General tell us whether the Act to which he refers has any relation to the Labour Party meeting this morning, a full report of which appears on the tape?

The Attorney-General

I cannot give any indication about action in any particular case.