§ Mr. Corbett
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons, holding office under the Crown, are expressly authorised by the Secretary of State to issue warrants in emergencies in his stead.
§ Mr. Brittan
I assume that the hon. Member has in mind the procedure proposed in clause 4(1)(b) of the Interception of Communications Bill for the issue of interception warrants in urgent cases. This procedure is intended to replace the existing arrangements (as described, for example, in paragraph 9 of the White Paper "The Interception of Communications in Great Britain"—April 1980, Cmnd. 7873) under which the Secretary of State may give oral authority for interception. Under the new procedure, the official to whome the Secretary of 512W State conveys his oral authority will sign a temporary warrant valid for a maximum of two working days, after which it must be renewed personally by the Secretary of State over his own signature if it is to remain valid. As under the present arrangements, only the Secretary of State personally will be empowered to authorise interception, and the official chosen to sign a warrant under clause 4(1) (b) will have to be expressly designated and instructed by the Secretary of State to sign a specific warrant. It is not possible to say in advance how many officials, over a given period of time, might be called on to sign warrants.