HC Deb 22 July 1985 vol 83 cc753-4

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 5, at beginning insert Subject to the following provisions of this section,

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The Minister of State, Home Office, (Mr. David Waddington)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

With this it will be convenient to take the following Lords amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 7, leave out from "offence" to end of line 15 and insert "and"

No. 3 in page 1, line 20, at end insert— (2) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under this section if—

  1. (a) the communication is intercepted in obedience to a warrant issued by the Secretary of State under section 2 below; or
  2. (b) that person has reasonable grounds for believing that the person to whom, or the person by whom, the communication is sent has consented to the interception.
(2A) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under this section if—
  1. (a) the communication is intercepted for purposes connected with the provision of postal or public telecommunication services or with the enforcement of any enactment relating to the use of those services; or
  2. (b) the communication is being transmitted by wireless telegraphy and is intercepted, with the authority of the Secretary of State, for purposes connected with the issue of licences under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 or the prevention or detection of interference with wireless telegraphy."

No. 15, in clause 10, page 9, line 23, at end insert— "wireless telegraphy" has the same meaning as in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949;

Mr. Waddington

The amendments implement an undertaking that I gave in Committee to narrow the exception to the new offence which dealt with giving consent to an interception. The amendments make a drafting change to the exception for interception for purposes connected with the provision of postal or telecommunications services. We are making it clear that the exception covers Post Office powers to open letters believed to contain inflammable material or to monitor obscene telephone calls, which is an offence under the Telecommunications Act.

Finally, the amendents incorporate a further but limited exception for those acting under Wireless Telegraphy Act powers who monitor radio transmissions for purposes connected with the issuing of licences or for the protection or prevention of radio interference. Certain forms of telecommunications on the public system are nowadays conveyed by radio for part of their journey. In certain circumstances, those acting to prevent interference might have to monitor across a band that is used by such a system and this exception is introduced against that possibility.

I hope that I shall be excused for mentioning one other matter and setting the scene for our consideration of the eight groups of amendments that we shall be discussing. This group of amendments, and Lords amendment No. 5, fulfil undertakings. The others respond to submissions made in another place, which in some instances followed on from what was said in this place a few months ago. In the course of the earlier proceedings in this place the Government demonstrated their readiness to meet submissions made to them by making a number of significant changes. The nature of the amendments now before us is further evidence of the Government's willingness throughout to accept constructive suggestions from whichever side of the House they have come and to deal with these important issues in the non-partisan spirit which I am sure the House would wish.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I speak for the union which sponsors me, the Union of Communication Workers (Engineering Group). There is still some disappointment that unofficial telephone tapping has not been tackled further. All the amendments made in another place have improved what we consider to be a fundamentally unsatisfactory position. I welcome the slightly greater protection that will be given to employees by Lords amendment No. 3 in subsection (2A)(a). It widens the definition to cover the enforcement of any enactment relating to the use of public telecommunication services.

We shall have to consider the operation of this measure extremely carefully. It will be important for the Government to give thorough consideration to the detailed working of the measure within a few months, or perhaps within a year, to ensure that it is operating satisfactorily and fairly.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3 agreed to.

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