HC Deb 10 May 1995 vol 259 cc518-9W
Mr. Donohoe

To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what representations his Department has received in relating to the issue of mobile telephone cloning; [23505]

(2) what assessment his Department has made of the need for legislation to prevent the cloning of mobile telephones; [23514]

(3) what discussions his Department has had with regulators of the telecommunications industry concerning the need for legislation to prevent telephone cloning; [23510]

(4) what action the Office of Telecommunications has taken to investigate the problem of cloning of mobile telephones; and what representations this agency has made to his Department on this matter; [23509]

(5) what assessment his Department has made of the costs incurred by mobile telephone users as a result of unauthorised calls being made on mobile telephones which have been cloned; [23511]

(6) what current legislation governs the operation of the mobile telephone industry. [23515]

Mr. Ian Taylor

[holding answers 9 May 1995]: My Department has received a number of representations from the industry and private individuals concerning mobile phone fraud which includes the illegitimate cloning of mobile telephones. Together with the Home Office, Oftel and the Association of Chief Police Officers, we have been discussing with the mobile phone industry what steps can be taken to tackle the problem of mobile phone fraud.

The industry is in the best position to assess the costs arising from cloning and other cellular fraud offences and it is the industry which, in particular, has been taking action to improve the detection of cloned phones and prevent their use. The industry is also considering a number of other ways of combating cellular fraud, including improved control of electronic serial numbers and equipment marking schemes.

Legislation specifically governing the operation of the industry is included in the Telecommunications Act 1984 and the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. Offences concerning cellular fraud already exist under those Acts. In addition, the Theft Acts 1968 and 1978 cover the theft and handling of mobile phones, which often leads to their being cloned. Discussions are continuing with the industry about whether any new offences to combat cellular fraud, including cloning, would be effective in reducing the problem.

Mr. Donohoe

To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what steps his Department has taken to prevent the cloning of telephones being utilised by his Department; and if his Department has discussed this matter with any official agencies; [23454]

(2) what costs his Department has incurred during the last 12 months as a result of cloning of mobile telephones being utilised by his Department, with particular reference to the making of unauthorised calls; [23488]

(3) what use his Department makes of hand-held and car-based mobile telephones; what were the costs for each financial year of these services since mobile telephones were first introduced to his Department; and how many mobile telephones are currently in use; [23448]

(4) how many mobile telephones being used by his Department have been cloned during the last 12 months. [23428]

Mr. Ian Taylor

[holding answer 9 May 1995]: Records are no longer kept centrally of all uses of mobile telephones. However, it is estimated that, excluding next steps agencies, there are currently in the region of 800 mobile telephones in use in my Department at a cost of around £320,000 per annum.

For the same reason, I do not have a figure for the actual number of mobile telephones cloned in the past 12 months, but the information that we have suggests that it is probably fewer than 10. The Department has incurred minimal costs as the service providers have identified the cloning and credited the Department for the costs of unauthorised calls.

It is currently very difficult to prevent cloning of analogue mobile telephones. However, my Department is discussing this issue with the mobile phone industry. Close liaison with service providers helps to identify cloning at any early stage, and increasingly the Department is using digital mobile telephones which, although more expensive, are not easily cloned.