§ 3.4 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government—
- (1) whether the International Telex Radio Link with the U.S.A. is monitored by any Government Department or Departments;
- (2) if these calls are monitored, what happens to the transcripts, where are any copies held, for how long are they held and to whom are they available;
- (3) whether calls on this Service coming to the United Kingdom from Overseas are monitored, if so by whom, what happens to the transcripts, where are any copies held, for how long are they held and to whom are they available;
- (4) whether Her Majesty's Government or any specific Government Department have any agreement with Telex Service agents overseas and if so to whom are any of the transcripts of any messages, into or out of the United Kingdom, on this Service, available outside the United Kingdom;
- (5) whether a subscriber transmitting or receiving a message on this Service can be assured categorically that the G.P.O. does not monitor any of these calls, other than for the efficient operating of the Telex Service.]
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, the International Telex Radio Service to and from the United States is monitored by 920 the Post Office. The sole purpose is to assist in the efficient operation of the service, and Her Majesty's Government readily give the assurance for which the noble Lord asks in part 5 of his Question. The monitored copy is kept in steel cabinets for six months by the Post Office at the Central Telegraph Office. The copy is available only for reference by Post Office officials in case of disputed accounts (for example, where there has to be an allowance for adverse radio conditions), and none of the monitored copy is made available to anyone else inside or outside this country. It is finally destroyed by the official process applying to confidential waste. This Answer relates to the procedure in the United Kingdom. Her Majesty's Government would assume that the procedure in the United States is similar, but no detailed information is available.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that satisfactory Answer, and I should like to ask him one supplementary question. If a subscriber asks for a "scrambler" when the message goes on the air, can he have it, on payment? At present, when it goes off the land line it goes on a radio link "in clear." Can he ask for a "scrambler" arrangement, like one has on a "scrambler" telephone?
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, as such, the answer is: No, he cannot. But I think I must say a word about the techniques which are employed in conveying Telex calls over the radio link. They afford a very high degree of privacy, and the Post Office, in common with other administrations and the telegraph companies, have not found it necessary to provide specially against unauthorised reception. These techniques combine a number of separate Telex circuits into one composite signal. Very intricate equipments are required at both the transmitting and the receiving end, and these must be compatible with each other to combine and separate the circuits. Without this specialised equipment it would be quite impracticable for an amateur to pick out any individual circuit and record a message. The equipment is extremely expensive and requires a great deal of skill to operate.