HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 cc215-6W
Mrs. Clwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) under what statutory basis the police are able to trace the movement of people by reference to their mobile phone records; [14364]

(2) what discussions he has had with (a) the Association of Chief Police Officers and (b) mobile phone operating companies, concerning police access to mobile phone records to trace the movement of people; [14365]

(3) what guidelines he has issued concerning police access to mobile phone records; and if he will make it his policy to review the current practice in respect of access to mobile phone records; [14366]

(4) if he will list by police authority the number of applications made by the police for permission to access the United Kingdom Cellnet system; and how many applications have been (a) granted and (b) refused; [14629]

(5) which foreign organisations are permitted to receive data obtained from the United Kingdom Cellnet system under existing interception of communication agreements; [14633]

(6) under what circumstances (a) the police including special branch, (b) the security services and (c) the Benefits Agency are allowed access to the national Cellnet system; what are the mechanisms for making and processing such applications; what factors apply in their assessment; who grants access; and what safeguards exist to ensure that information obtained is not misused; [14631]

(7) if he will list by police authority the number of applications made by special branch for permission to access the Cellnet system; and how many applications have been (a) granted and (b) refused; [14630]

(8) how many cases have been recorded by his Department where information obtained by accessing the Cellnet system has been used (a) in proceedings before the civil and criminal courts and (b) in proceedings before statutory and non-statutory tribunals. [14632]

Mr. Howard

The circumstances under which the four mobile telephone operators may disclose personal information which they hold on computer for their own purposes—including for billing, fraud prevention and statistical analysis—are regulated by the Data Protection Act 1984, by the Telecommunications Act 1984, and by the terms of their Telecommunication Act licences which require them to take all reasonable steps to ensure the confidentiality of customer information. It is an offence, under section 45 of the Telecommunications Act, for an operator to disclose any information concerning subscribers' use of the system except where the disclosure is made for specified purposes including the prevention or detection of crime; for the purposes of any criminal proceedings; in the interests of national security or in pursuance of a court order. All operators are also required to observe a code of practice on the confidentiality of customer information, and they are subject to the normal civil law obligations towards their subscribers.

The police and other agencies concerned with law enforcement and national security may request the operators to provide them with data which they require for one or more of the purposes described above. Additionally, the law enforcement agencies may apply for a court order under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Information concerning the number of such applications which have been made to the operators, and the number of cases in which such information has been used in proceedings before courts and tribunals, is not held centrally.

I see no need to intervene in these arrangements which are properly a matter for the relevant authorities and the operators, within the framework of the safeguards which I have described. Interception of communications—as distinct from the provision of subscriber data—is governed by the Interception of Communications Act 1985 which provides that interception may be carried out only under a warrant issued by the Secretary of State, and that material may be disclosed only in accordance with arrangements made under section 6 of the Act.