HC Deb 10 June 1996 vol 279 cc13-4W
Mr. Luff

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if the Government have yet decided how encryption services may be provided for business and commerce. [32544]

Mr. Ian Taylor

Following the discussion between Departments to which I referred in my replies to the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) of 6 March 1996,Official Report, column 229, and 25 March 1996, Official Report, column 411, I am today publishing a paper outlining the Government's policy on the provision of encryption services on public networks. Copies of the paper are available in the Library of both Houses.

The Government aim to facilitate the development of electronic commerce on the emerging global information infrastructure. This is of significant importance in maintaining the UK's competitiveness and is a component of the Department's information society initiative. There is a growing demand for encryption services to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of electronic information transmitted on public telecommunications networks. The Government therefore propose to make arrangements for licensing trusted third parties who would provide such services. These TTPs would offer digital signature, data integrity and retrieval, key management and other services for which there is a commercial demand. The licensing policy will aim to protect consumers as well as to preserve the ability of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight serious crime and terrorism by establishing procedures for disclosure to them of the encryption keys, under safeguards similar to those which already exist for warranted interception under the Interception of Communications Act 1985.

Officials within my Department have held preliminary discussions with industry groups on the concepts set out in the paper. The Government intend to bring forward proposals for legislation following consultation by the Department of Trade and Industry on detailed policy proposals.