HC Deb 17 April 1985 vol 77 cc323-1337
Mr. Golding

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 5, line 27, leave out 'sent to or by him'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 10, in page 6, line 31, at end insert 'or

(iii) an applicant specifies or describes to the Tribunal a person or address specified or described in the warrant;'. No. 11, in page 6, line 36, at end insert 'or if an applicant specifies or describes to the Tribunal an address used as mentioned in paragraph (a)(ii) above which is specified or described in the certificate.'. I understand that it will be for the convenience of the House if we discuss at the same time Government amendment No. 8.

Mr. Golding

It is with some trepidation, and before he goes, that I thank the Home Secretary for placing amendment No. 8 on the Amendment Paper. The last time I was accused by the Home Secretary, wrongly as the record shows, of adding to what he had said. Sadly, my blameless life has been littered with such unjust accusations. I seem to upset equally the Militant newspaper, Tribune, the New Statesman and now the Home Secretary when I adopt a reasonable, moderate, middle of the road approach.

However, I want to thank the Home Secretary once again, whether or not I upset him. Perhaps he has left the Chamber to avoid being upset by my thanks. I thank him because the employees of British Telecom and the Post Office have wished for many years to be able to report unauthorised tapping without risk of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. Following a little gentle persuasion, the Home Secretary has removed that threat.

To avoid adding to what the Home Secretary has said, I shall try to summarise the position. The Minister can indicate whether I have it right. As I understand it, if an employee of the Post Office or British Telecom believes that the law has been broken — this Bill will make unauthorised tapping an offence — he or she may complain to the police. A person who makes a complaint to the police about a breach of the law will not be liable to prosection under the Official Secrets Act. I want to get this clear so that we know the precise position when we come to the tribunal.

Under the Bill, I understand that information can be given to the commissioner because it is called for or volunteered, and the person who gives it need not fear prosecution under section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. It is expected that the commissioner will express his requirement for information and documents in general terms. As the Home Secretary said: Anyone in possession of information which he thinks is relevant to the commissioner, even if he has not been asked for it, would be authorised to disclose it, and therefore not be guilty of an offence under section 2. If there were any doubt, the person need only tell the commissioner that he is in possession of relevant information or documents and the commissioner will ensure that his requirement is framed, or reframed, in terms which cover those circumstances. It is inconceivable that that would not be done. Under the amendment that the Government have tabled, Post Office and BT employees required to give information to the tribunal could do so without fear of prosecution. As I understand it, that is the position. I do not think that I have added to what the Home Secretary said. If I have, I will readily give way to the Minister of State. That represents an important improvement for employees of British Telecom and the Post Office whom I represent as a union official.

Although I do not wish to detract from that, important questions remain. One relates to the security clearance of BT and Post Office staff. It is rumoured that the Government aim to introduce vetting even into the privatised BT. That is a matter of great concern to the National Communications Union, the new name for the enlarged Post Office Engineering Union.

Perhaps the Minister of State will answer my questions. Are the rumours about the extension of vetting true? How wide will the vetting be? In what circumstances will it take place? Following a point made earlier, will those who have been educated at public school and Cambridge be refused the right to climb the telegraph poles of BT, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) used to do? The union is concerned about civil liberties, and I express that concern today.

I am sceptical about the reliability and effectiveness of our security officers. I remember being lectured by a young man in 1964, when I was a Government Whip, on how to spot a Communist. Some of us had been putting the black spot on members of the Communist party long before that security officer had gone to school. He was ill-informed.

The sight of the Social Democratic party Member reminds me of my interrogation on going into the Department of Employment. What a farce it was. The security snoop asked me if I had ever belonged to a progressive organisation. I was able to tell him that there were thousands of people who would willingly testify to the fact that I had never had a progressive thought in my head. He persisted. He asked, "What about the 'troops out' movement?" I told him that the only person I knew who supported the "troops out" movement was Jim Wellbeloved and that the Prime Minister had just put him into the Ministry of Defence, at which the security officer sloped off. I presumed that he had gone to screen my right hon. Friend who was then Prime Minister. I have not been impressed so far by the screenings that I have had from the security forces.

8 pm

Our union is opposed to the vetting of British Telecom staff because of the implications for civil liberties. The theme of civil liberties brings me to tribunals. I find it difficult to understand why they have been given such a narrow remit, and I do not know whether they will work. The Home Secretary described the work of the tribunals in these terms: It must decide whether official interception has taken place — a relatively simple matter— and whether it should have taken place in the sense of the Secretary of State acting reasonably in applying the criteria when he issues the warrant. —[Official Report, 3 April 1985; Vol. 76, c. 1297–8.]

It would make sense for the tribunals to receive complaints about any interception, passing them to the police if they found them to be illegal and dealing with them themselves if they were authorised.

What is to happen if a complainant is being tapped illegally? Is his only recourse to the police? If the answer to that question is yes, that is undesirable. It would be far better for the tribunal to be able to receive a complaint of any interception and then for officers of the tribunal, having made internal inquiries, to have the power either to proceed with the examination themselves or to refer the matter to the police or the commissioner. I do not see why it is not possible to take complaints about illegal interception to the tribunal. I am not arguing that the tribunals should deal with them, but it is unreasonable that somebody somewhere, who fears that he is being intercepted, has to decide whether the tap is illegal or authorised.

This is the purpose of the amendments in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam). It should be possible for people other than the person whose phone calls or post are being intercepted to refer matters to a tribunal. I think in particular of employees of BT and the Post Office. For example, a tap might be placed on the phone of the convener of a big factory or, worse still, a tap might be placed on the phone of the political officer of the National Communications Union engineering group—to wit, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. What should the BT engineer assume? Let us say that the BT engineer, in either Newcastle-under-Lyme or Hanwell, comes across the tap on my phone. What should he do? How should he behave? Is he to conduct his own inquiries among his colleagues as to whether the tap is authorised or unauthorised?

When the engineer comes across the interception in the normal course of his duties, he immediately starts to ask questions of himself. To determine whether the tap is authorised or unauthorised — there are different procedures now for the two cases that I have mentioned —should the engineer go round his colleagues asking, "Has anybody seen a warrant? Who signed that warrant? When was that warrant produced? By whom was it produced?" Should he do that? It hardly seems desirable. In any case, I do not want engineers going round asking, "Is it official that Golding is tapped?", because that will bring only one response.

How will that person make a judgment? Our secret police may just want to know about wage claims and strike plans from the convener. If they tapped my phone, all that they would find out about would be racing tips—losing racing tips — and good fishing venues. It would be reasonable for the BT engineer to ask, "Is that why the phone is being tapped? Are those security officers hoping to find out who will win the National or the Derby? Is that reasonable?" On the other hand, he may decide that the security service and the Home Secretary have real fears that these pillars of the establishment are subversives. How is the BT engineer to know, on coming across the interception? One thing I know is that unless our members are absolutely certain that a tap is illegal, they will not go to the police. Even if they think that it is illegal, they will be reluctant because BT and Post Office employees do not want to be involved with the special branch in any shape or form.

I say that knowing that in Staffordshire the special branch has always treated me very well. Perhaps that is because they have been informed incorrectly by the Young Socialists that I am an agent of the CIA. Certainly it has not been the experience of all my colleagues that they have had such good relations with the special branch as I have had. Many of my colleagues in the union would not wish to report to the police what they only suspected were illegal acts. They are much more likely to go to the commissioner, and far more likely still to be prepared to go to a local tribunal, particularly if they can be reassured in an off-the-record initial discussion of the confidentiality involved.

Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan)

I am following my hon. Friend's line of argument closely. He knows that my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) and I used to be employed by British Telecom, and we are familiar with many of the things that used to go on in security. I am interested to listen to my hon. Friend describe the series of options that he feels might be available to our colleagues in the industry. My initial reaction to what he has said is that I should have thought that at least there should some proper guidance to members of BT on the right course of action that they should take. If I were still working in BT and in my duties as a telecommunications engineer I had come across a tap of someone's phone, my instinctive reaction would be to report it to my first line supervisor. Is that what my hon. Friend is suggesting we should do, or should there he clearer lines of communication on how we should go about investigating whether that tap is illegal?

Mr. Golding

Perhaps I can explain to my hon. Friend that when he was more happily engaged — perhaps "engaged" is the wrong word—on his honeymoon, I was being reassured by the Home Secretary that our members could go to the commissioner. I shall refer to the point about the first line supervisor later. My advice to our members at the moment would be, "Do not go to the first line supervisor. If you have doubts, go immediately to the commissioner and, if the Government permit it, to the tribunal."

Incidentally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will have noticed the caution of my hon. Friend. He said that he was employed by BT. Yes, he was. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon actually worked for the Post Office. Confidentiality is important.

My hon. Friend said that the Government should give an assurance that no internal disciplinary action will be taken against staff by management. In Committee, the Home Secretary was silent on this point. I hope that the Minister of State will not be silent upon it tonight. There is no point in the Home Secretary saying to British Telecom and Post Office employees, "In no way will you be subject to the Official Secrets Act if you give information to the commissioner or the tribunal," if there is any risk that, after providing such information, they can be made subject to internal disciplinary action. The Government must face that fact. There ought to be an absolutely explicit understanding that if employ ees respond in the way that the Home Secretary said they should, their action will not be the subject of internal disciplinary action by the management of BT and the Post Office.

The Government ought to respond to that point. Otherwise, what advice can be given to our members when they ask whether they should co-operate with the commissioner or the tribunal? Of course we should be able to say to them that in no way will they suffer as a result of action taken under the Official Secrets Act or disciplinary action taken by management. However, if there is any risk that they will suffer from providing such information, we must advise them to be cautious. The Minister must recognise that this is a very important point.

The members of the National Communications Union are more likely to go to a local tribunal, and they should be allowed to do so directly. It is madness for the procedure to depend upon the victim suspecting that his mail is being intercepted or that his phone is being tapped, because the temptation will be for those who find the taps to tip off the victim. That does not make sense and it is undesirable, particularly if there are good reasons for the interception. What applies to communications with the commissioner should also apply to communications with the tribunal. There ought not to be the temptation to leak information to a journalist, to friends of the suspect, or to the suspect himself. It ought to be possible for the BT engineer or the Post Office employee to go direct to the tribunal.

That, of course, will widen the area for complaints. However, complaints are more likely to be soundly based if they are made by those inside rather than outside the business. As the Minister knows, one can quickly find out whether tapping is taking place. In any case, there is bound to be the problem of ill-founded complaints from very unstable people, but it is a price that has to be paid.

I hope that the Government will take these practical, not party, points very seriously. I have put the facts to the Minister as they have been put to me by honest people who are very worried about this matter. I do not expect an immediate response from the Government. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for tabling an amendment which will provide protection for our members before a tribunal. It adds to the protection that they already enjoy when giving evidence to the police and to the commissioner. The Government have gone a very long way towards allaying the fears and disquiet of BT and Post Office employees, but I ask them to go just a little further, because it would result in the tribunal system working more efficiently. It would allow BT engineers to go directly to the tribunal and give evidence, thus avoiding the nonsensical situation in which only the person whose post is being intercepted or whose telephone is being tapped has the right to complain.

8.15 pm
Mr. Waddington

I was asked by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) to answer a specific question about the vetting of BT staff. The Official Secrets Act applies as a matter of law to the Post Office and to British Telecom as a result of the Post Office Act 1969 and the Telecommunications Act 1984. I am advised that there have long been arrangements to make sure that state secrets in the hands of such organisations are not prejudiced—for example, defence telecommunications. However, the hon. Gentleman will understand that it is not for me to comment on present and future arrangements. I should emphasise that this is not new territory. BT may have been altered as a result of the 1984 Act, and we may now be putting into statutory form powers which have been exercised by successive Governments for a very long time, but the problem to which the hon. Gentleman referred does not arise from the introduction of the Bill. Far from it.

We are considering whether third parties should be able to complain to the tribunal about what they consider to be improperly authorised tapping. The tribunal is being set up to offer a means of redress. Essentially, it fulfils a role which in other circumstances would be carried out by the courts. Those who believe that they have been injured can complain to the tribunal, and if they have been injured they can obtain compensation. Generally speaking, however. a person cannot go to court and complain about what happened to somebody else without that "somebody else" being involved or consulted. We are setting up a tribunal to act in a quasi-judicial fashion and to grant a remedy to somebody who says, "I have been injured because I have been the victim of tapping which was wrongly authorised."

We must keep in the forefront of our minds what the tribunal is there for. I appreciate that other amendments have urged the Government to widen the powers of the tribunal, but the scheme in the Bill is clear. The tribunal exists to hear complaints by people who think that they may have been injured. It is not there to see that the whole interception system is working properly. That is the role of the commissioner. The tribunal is not there to prevent unlawful tapping. It is there to hear complaints by people who believe that they have been the victims of improperly authorised tapping. As article 13 of the convention states, the tribunal exists to provide "an effective remedy" for someone who has been the victim of improperly authorised tapping. Its purpose is not to carry out a general review of the Secretary of State's exercise of his functions. That is a matter for the commissioner.

The House will note, however, that the category of people who can complain to the tribunal is very wide. It includes not just those named in a warrant, but entirely innocent people whose communications have been unavoidably intercepted because they live or work at an address specified in a warrant. The hon. Gentleman will not need to be reminded that that arises from the definition of a relevant warrant or certificate under clause 7(9). therefore, although it may appear at first sight that only those who think that they have been named in a warrant may complain to the tribunal, the number of people entitled to complain is actually much greater.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme raised the important issue of BT staff who are worried about interceptions which they know to have taken place and believe to have been improperly authorised. I have no doubt that in such circumstances the people concerned would in the first instance take their worries to their senior officer. I have not had the privilege of working in the telecommunications industry, and the hon. Gentleman may say that that would not be the case, but, looking in from the outside, I should have thought that that would be the obvious first course. I would expect the person to tell his superior officer that something fishy was going on and that tapping was taking place when it should not be taking place. I am sure that the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) was right when he said that his inclination would be to report to his first line superior in those circumstances.

Be that as it may, if for some reason, the person involved felt that that was not the right course but remained worried and wanted to do something about the situation, he could go to the commission. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme accurately described what should happen, exactly as my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary explained it. If the person goes to the commissioner, but is worried that he is not protected by clause 8 unless he is required by the commissioner to provide the information, his course is plain. He simply asks the commissioner to require him to provide the information because he is nervous about his legal position if the commissioner does not do so. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said a few days ago, it is hard to believe that the commissioner, having been alerted to the fact that something might be going wrong with the system, would not do as he was asked by the member of BT staff who had come to see him.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I took part in the debate on this issue in Committee and suggested amendments on these lines. I do not understand why the Government rely on the assertion that the commissioner will no doubt require people to produce the information if he is asked to do so. Why cannot we provide a statutory defence enabling people to proffer the information in the first place?

Mr. Waddington

If my argument is correct, there is no need to do so. The circumstances described by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme would arise extremely rarely, and there is an easy way round the problem which the hon. Gentleman suggests might exist but which in my humble belief would very rarely exist. Frankly, I cannot believe that anyone so determined to take information to the commissioner and to ensure that something was done to right a wrong would be troubled for one moment about the remote possibility of being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for giving that information. It seems a nonsensical proposition, but we are saying that if there is any reality at all in such a fanciful suggestion the problem can he met.

I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman satisfaction on the other important point that he raised. He asked about the position of BT staff who are afraid to go to the commissioner in case they are then subjected to internal disciplinary proceedings. Again, looking in from outside, it seems to me inconceivable that that should happen. It would be a most extraordinary management who thought it right to take disciplinary proceedings against a member of staff who was so conscious of his duties to the public as to go to the commissioner and whose public spirit had been proved by the commissioner requiring him to provide the information. It seems fanciful to suggest that in those circumstances the person might be subjected to disciplinary action. Of course, the hon. Gentleman would not have raised the matter if he did not regard it as important, but now that it has been raised everyone can read about it in Hansard. Nevertheless, it cannot be for the Home Office to give directions to BT as to its disciplinary code, any more than any Home Secretary would have dreamt of doing so before the 1984 Act.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

That is precisely the point that I made in Committee. I agree that it is unlikely that the management would take disciplinary action. What concerns the House is that unless there is a general policy declaration by BT, employees may fear that they would be in breach of their contract of employment and may therefore be reluctant to go to the commissioner. That being so, all that the Government can do is to provide them with a statutory defence. That is what I was aiming at in Committee.

8.30 pm
Mr. Waddington

With respect, that has nothing to do with the point raised a short time ago, which was that there should be a statutory defence to protect a person against prosecution under the Official Secrets Act if he went to the commissioner. My hon. Friend is now talking about purely internal disciplinary proceedings, not criminal proceedings. What we are discussing is whether, after the passage of the Bill, BT should alter its disciplinary code to make it plain to its servants that they would not be disciplined internally if, in a public-spirited fashion, they went to the commissioner.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme has done us a public service by raising the matter today. Everyone can now read about it. However, I doubt whether the matter could possibly be the responsibility of the Home Office. If the hon. Gentleman would like me to ensure that the matter is brought specifically to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, I shall gladly take pen and paper and write to my right hon. Friend.

It is all-important that one should not exaggerate the likelihood of BT staff wishing to intervene. It is right that these matters should be raised, but, on examination, the point is somewhat unrealistic. The task of BT staff is to execute a warrant. However, quite rightly, no member of staff will be told any of the reasons for the issue of the warrant. That being so, how could he reach an informed judgment on whether the tapping was right or wrong? The most that he can have is an instinctive suspicion that something must be wrong. He cannot have an informed suspicion. If the system works as it always has. the member of staff will not have the faintest idea whether or not the Home Secretary has authorised the interception correctly.

I would not like the hon. Gentleman to think that I do not take seriously what he has said. His contribution has been extremely valuable, and I am grateful to him for what he said about Government amendment No. 8, which I should now like to move.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister need not formally move the amendment at this stage, but it is in order to discuss it with this group of amemdments.

Mr. Waddington

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Amendment No. 8, is designed to bring the duty to disclose to the tribunal into line with the duty to disclose to the commissioner in clause 8(3). This is being done deliberately to meet the point made by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme in Committee. We have written to the hon. Gentleman and are indebted to him for having raised the matter. I hope that the House will accept Government amendment No. 8, which is a useful addition to the Bill, but I cannot commend the Opposition amendments to the House.

Mr. McWilliam

First, I must again declare my interest. Secondly, I thank the Minister for meeting the points raised and for discussing amendment No. 8, which is valuable and helpful and will help to set at rest the minds of the staff of BT, Mercury, and any other public telephone systems.

Some of the Minister's comments on the Opposition amendments cause a problem. He says that there is no change in connection with vetting. I am not sure that that is so. I speak as someone who has worked for BT in defence and other installations. It was unusual in the past for formal vetting to take place. When Bob Mitchell was the chairman of the Fife branch of the Post Office Engineering Union, he was very upset when he was told that he could not go into Rosyth naval dockyard. However, as he was an avowed member of the Communist party at the time, that seemed reasonably fair and nobody became worked up about the matter. In general, vetting was no more stringent, and went no higher, than that.

The Minister also seems unaware how much information a qualified telephone engineer can pick up about an installation by looking at it. A qualified radio engineer can tell roughly what the function of an aerial is by looking at the size of it and noting whether or not it is steerable. That will tell him what frequency it operates on, and therefore roughly what it is used for. There is no point in vetting when such matters are plain to see. Many telecommunications engineers are qualified radio engineers.

Mr. Waddington

I have made no attempt to comment on the present or future arrangements for vetting. I said that the problem existed in the past and continues to exist. There will continue to be a need for vetting because the new BT will carry communications of the same type as the old. I do not have the faintest idea about what goes on in the case of vetting. My point was that the problem is no different from the problem which existed when the 1984 Act was passed.

Mr. Mc William

With respect, the problem is different. In the past, we were all established civil servants and subject to the Civil Service code of discipline. Today, BT engineers and other engineers are employees of a private company whose duty is to make profit for its shareholders. The investigation that preceded the issue of the certificates that made one an established civil servant no longer takes place. Circumstances have changed, and that change gives rise to some of the concern expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding).

The Minister says that the tribunal offers a means of redress. That is fine. The problem is that the provisions in the Bill apply only to an individual or an address. A telephone is useless if there is no one on the other end of the line, and an interception picks up both ends of the line. It might be that the person who was under surveillance had no idea what was happening but that, because of actions taken on the basis of a telephone call, the person at the other end of the line became suspicious. He might suspect that it was not his line, but someone else's, that was being intercepted.

Years ago, an hon. Member with whom I used to share an office said to me, "John, I think my phone is tapped." I took the phone apart and spread the bits over his desk. There was nothing untoward there. I asked him why he thought that it was tapped. He said that every time he called the Palestine Liberation Organisation the security services found out about it. I was not at all surprised to learn that the PLO was tapped. The hon. Member, of course, was not.

That is an illustration of one of the problems raised by the Bill. Amendment No. 5 is designed to help someone making a call to a tapped telephone, who suspects than an interception may have taken place and who knows that the person concerned is not engaged in espionage or in any subversive or criminal activity. Such a person should have the right to go to the tribunal and report his belief that an illegal interception has taken place.

The Minister is right to say that a BT engineer will rarely come across a tap. The mainframe of a major telephone exchange is as long as the Chamber and roughly the width of two Benches. Nowadays, there are up to 40,000 numbers on such a frame, and the chances of a BT engineer seeing a tap on one of them is small, but such things happen.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)


Mr. Waddington

That was not quite my point. I said that if an engineer came across a tap he would not have the faintest idea whether it had been properly authorised.

Mr. McWilliam

I shall answer the Minister after giving way to the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels).

Mr. Bruinvels

What does the engineer do when he finds that a telephone has been tapped?

Mr. McWilliam

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question, because the regulations will have to change as a result of the Bill. When an engineer discovers a tap, he knows which number is being tapped because all telephone lines must be terminated on a number. Knowing the number, he can go to a card index and discover who is registered as having been allocated that number. That information will probably mean nothing to the engineer except in cases such as that which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme mentioned. A BT engineer in the Newcastle-under-Lyme telephone exchange might see a tap, notice that the number is registered with my hon. Friend and knowing that my hon. Friend is not a member of the Communist party, a Fascist or damaging the economic interests of the country. By his own admission, my hon. Friend might be damaging the economic interests of a few bookmakers—

Mr. Golding

And my economic interests.

Mr. McWilliam

Indeed. The engineer might think that it is not reasonable for my hon. Friend to have his telephone tapped and therefore make a complaint to the tribunal. It is self-evident that any such complaint would be upheld. My hon. Friend might know nothing about the interception but he will have the satisfaction of knowing that the lads will check it out.

The Minister talked of warrants as though the chap who makes the interception is armed with a warrant signed by the Secretary of State in his grubby little hand. That is not the case. He is instructed to put an interception on a given number to a terminal on a terminal block. He does not know whether it is authorised. Present legislation provides that if a colleague in BT comes across an interception and is worried about it, he telephones someone who is designated as the security officer, who is usually employed by the traffic division of BT and has various duties, one of which is to ensure that warrants are all right.

As I said on Second Reading, interceptions are still put on correctly but without a warrant. There is a loophole which allows that. I hope that the Bill will stop that, but there is a problem — how is the engineer to know whether the warrant has been issued, especially if he is putting an interception on somebody he knows is probably all right? The security services might know something adverse about that person. In such circumstances, the tribunal will investigate and find that the paper work is OK and nothing will happen. The person making the report will not be told whether the tap was authorised. It will remain secret. Nevertheless, the BT engineer would be happier for knowing that he has done his duty and that the matter has been checked.

We do not want taps put on without warrants and we want to ensure that any interception is made with a warrant. We also want to ensure that the aggrieved party is not considered to be just the person who has had the interception put on. There are two possible aggrieved parties. It is obvious that we cannot cater for an innocent person telephoning somebody who is not innocent and who has an interception. We should be prepared to go along with that if the person who made the call had redress. There is no redress under the Bill as drafted.

8.45 prm

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, if somebody is suspected of a vast VAT fraud, of drug offences or of being a security risk and his telephone is tapped, anybody who telephones him and who most likely has no knowledge of any tap should be protected? There is a limit. The Bill introduces a remedy which we have not had hitherto. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that we should protect anyone who telephones someone under surveillance? That would not work.

Mr. McWilliam

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman if I am not being clear. I am talking about the grievance of the person making a telephone call to another whose telephone has been tapped illegally. I am not talking about a telephone call to someone who has been tapped legally, and said that we are prepared to go along with that.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Can the hon. Gentleman clarify what he means by "legal" in this context? Does he mean a tap that is not in accordance with the warrant or for which there is no warrant at all?

Mr. McWilliam

I mean one that is not legal when the Bill becomes an Act.

Mr. Hogg

It can be several things. It can be an unlawful tap for which there has never been a warrant, it can be a warrant which should not have been issued or it can be a warrant the time of which has expired. There is a variety of combinations. I should like to know what the hon. Gentleman means.

Mr. McWilliam

I mean the combinations that the hon. Gentleman has just described. I apologise for using loose language, but I am a telephone engineer not a barrister. I am trying to do my best. I have difficulty sometimes and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his help and advice. I do not want what I am saying to be misunderstood; and the hon. Gentleman has made clear what I meant to say.

The Opposition's proposals are all square with complaints to the Press Council. In that context, a complainant does not have to be the aggrieved party. The Minister prayed in aid article 13 of the European convention, saying that the Bill was designed to protect the victim of unauthorised tapping. Even on a legally tapped line, somebody on one end of a line will be the victim of just that. We accept that but do not accept that that person has no right to make a complaint. If the amendments are carried, such a complaint could be dealt with by the tribunal.

If the amendments are not carried, we shall have to rely on the person who believes the interception to have taken place illegally informing the person who is being intercepted. That will cause a problem which the Minister does not want to occur, because it will raise suspicions among people who are lawfully intercepted.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Is not the mischief remedied because, under clause 1, which contains the substantive offence of tapping when there is no warrant, a person who has become aware of that fact, although the communication was neither sent to or by him", can, none the less, raise the matter with the police or the DPP? However, clause 7 is related exclusively to applications to the tribunal.

Mr. McWilliam

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. Unfortunately, a suspicion is that most unauthorised tapping is carried out by the police and not by the security services. Therefore, it is not much of a remedy to complain to the police about an unauthorised tapping if it has been carried out by the special branch. That problem should exercise our minds.

The tribunal has been set up as the independent body. We accept that. The amendment merely seeks to make certain that all possible evidence and complaints are properly investigated by that independent body. It will probably prove that the slander which I have just perpetrated on the police is quite untrue. I hope that is so, but we want that perk to be available to individuals; otherwise they could be aggrieved. If the amendment is carried, they will at least have some means of seeking redress if it is justified.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I wish to make a few comments on amendments Nos. 5 and 8. What the Minister has done in amendment No. 8 to schedule 1 is useful, in that he has met a point made by the Opposition as well as by myself in Committee. However, I do not think that it goes quite far enough.

What happens to a BT employee who believes that some improper act has taken place and wishes to make a complaint to the tribunal? Amendment No. 8 protects the BT employee if he is required to deliver up the documents or information, but it does not protect him if he wishes to volunteer the information. It is perfectly true that no sensible management would discipline an employee who referred information to the tribunal in good faith. But there is another point with which the Minister has not come to grips. Unless that fact is well known and generally accepted, the risk is that employees will never be ready to make a complaint in the first instance. We therefore require statutory protection to meet that difficulty.

I am very fond of notes from the Whips, and because I like to oblige the House on occasion, I shall bring my remarks to an end.

Mr. Golding

It is a wise Member who responds as quickly as that to a Government Whip. When in opposition, one does not have to respond quite as quickly.

Dozens of Conservative Members are pouring into the Chamber. They have come either to hear my speech or to vote. I shall not disappoint them on either count—we shall vote. However, before doing so, I should be delighted if the Minister were to write to his colleague in the Department of Trade and Industry and say that, as this is a serious problem, could he not have a chat to the management of BT and to the management of the Post Office and arrive at a sensible understanding that employees acting responsibly will not be subject to disciplinary procedures.

I do not wish to exaggerate the size of the problem in BT. I merely wish to make absolutely sure that, in the unlikely event of finding something wrong, the employees will have confidence that there is a proper procedure for pursuing their concerns.

We shall vote on the amendment because I do not think that the Minister yet understands the deficiencies in the Bill. BT and Post Office staff can go to the commissioner. The commissioner can report and tell the Prime Minister that not all in the world is right, but he has no specific powers. That is the difference between the commissioner and the tribunal.

The tribunal has a direct power. It will investigate whether there is a warrant and whether it is in order. If it determines that there has been an infringement, it can give notice to the applicant stating that conclusion, and make a report of their findings to the Prime Minister; and— this is the important distinction from the commissioner— if they think fit, make an order under subsection (5)". It can quash the relevant warrant or the relevant certificate", and direct the destruction of copies of the intercepted material or, as the case may be, so much of it as is certified by the relevant certificate". It could be that irrelevant information could be ordered to be destroyed. The powers of the tribunal are very different from the powers of the commissioner. It ought to be possible for an employee to lay the same sort of information before the tribunal as he is permitted to lay before the commissioner. In one case the tribunal can act to stop the offence taking place, whereas the commissioner can draw general conclusions and report to the Prime Minister. The Bill does not deal with what the Prime Minister should do.

I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will join me in voting for the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 88, Noes 218.

Division No. 185] [8.59 pm
Anderson, Donald Canavan, Dennis
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Ashton, Joe Clay, Robert
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Bidwell, Sydney Cohen, Harry
Blair, Anthony Coleman, Donald
Boyes, Roland Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Cowans, Harry
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Craigen, J. M.
Caborn, Richard Cunliffe, Lawrence
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'!)
Campbell, Ian Dewar, Donald
Dixon, Donald McKelvey, William
Dormand, Jack Madden, Max
Duffy, A. E. P. Marek, Dr John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Michie, William
Eastham, Ken Milian, Rt Hon Bruce
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fatchett, Derek O'Brien, William
Faulds, Andrew O'Neill, Martin
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Park, George
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Pavitt, Laurie
Flannery, Martin Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Foster, Derek Prescott, John
Foulkes, George Redmond, M.
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Golding, John Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Gould, Bryan Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Skinner, Dennis
Haynes, Frank Snape, Peter
Heffer, Eric S. Spearing, Nigel
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Stott, Roger
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Strang, Gavin
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Tinn, James
John, Brynmor Torney, Tom
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert White, James
Lamond, James Wilson, Gordon
Leadbitter, Ted Winnick, David
Leighton, Ronald
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Mr. John Mc William and
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Mr. Robin Corbett.
Aitken, Jonathan Conway, Derek
Alexander, Richard Coombs, Simon
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cope, John
Alton, David Corrie, John
Amess, David Couchman, James
Ashby, David Cranborne, Viscount
Ashdown, Paddy Critchley, Julian
Aspinwall, Jack Crouch, David
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Dickens, Geoffrey
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Dicks, Terry
Baldry, Tony Dorrell, Stephen
Batiste, Spencer Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dover, Den
Beith, A. J. Dunn, Robert
Bellingham, Henry Durant, Tony
Bendall, Vivian Evennett, David
Benyon, William Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bevan, David Gilroy Fallon, Michael
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Farr, Sir John
Blackburn, John Favell, Anthony
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fletcher, Alexander
Bottomley, Peter Fookes, Miss Janet
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Forth, Eric
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Freeman, Roger
Bright, Graham Gale, Roger
Brinton, Tim Galley, Roy
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Bruinvels, Peter Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bryan, Sir Paul Goodlad, Alastair
Budgen, Nick Gorst, John
Bulmer, Esmond Gower, Sir Raymond
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry
Butterfill, John Gregory, Conal
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Cash, William Hanley, Jeremy
Chapman, Sydney Hannam, John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hargreaves, Kenneth
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Harris, David
Cockeram, Eric Haselhurst, Alan
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hawksley, Warren Murphy, Christopher
Hayes, J. Needham, Richard
Hayward, Robert Neubert, Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, David Newton, Tony
Heddle, John Nicholls, Patrick
Hind, Kenneth Norris, Steven
Hirst, Michael Osborn, Sir John
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Parris, Matthew
Holt, Richard Pawsey, James
Howard, Michael Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Penhaligon, David
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Porter, Barry
Hunt, David (Wirral) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Powley, John
Hunter, Andrew Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Proctor, K. Harvey
Jessel, Toby Raffan, Keith
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rathbone, Tim
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rhodes James, Robert
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Kennedy, Charles Roe, Mrs Marion
Key, Robert Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Rost, Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Knowles, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knox, David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lang, Ian Silvester, Fred
Latham, Michael Sims, Roger
Lawler, Geoffrey Skeet, T. H. H.
Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Speed, Keith
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Spence, John
Lightbown, David Spencer, Derek
Lilley, Peter Stern, Michael
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Lyell, Nicholas Taylor, John (Solihull)
McCrindle, Robert Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
McCurley, Mrs Anna Temple-Morris, Peter
Macfarlane, Neil Thornton, Malcolm
MacGregor, John Trippier, David
Maclean, David John Twinn, Dr Ian
Maclennan, Robert Viggers, Peter
McQuarrie, Albert. Waddington, David
Madel, David Walden, George
Malins, Humfrey Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Maples, John Wallace, James
Marlow, Antony Walters, Dennis
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Watson, John
Mates, Michael Watts, John
Mather, Carol Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Maude, Hon Francis Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Wheeler, John
Meadowcroft, Michael Whitfield, John
Merchant, Piers Wolfson, Mark
Meyer, Sir Anthony Wood, Timothy
Mills, lain (Meriden) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Miscampbell, Norman
Moate, Roger Tellers for the Noes:
Monro, Sir Hector Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Moore, John Mr. John Major.

Question accordingly negatived.

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