§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to extend the privacy protection afforded to the Royal Mail to electronic mail correspondence; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Straw
[holding answer 6 December 1999]: I have been asked to reply.
Section 1 of the Interception of Communications Act 1985 makes it an offence to intercept a communication in the course of its transmission by post or by means of a public telecommunications system. It therefore provides privacy protection for electronic mail (e-mail) when it is carried on the network of a public telecommunications operator (PTO), but not when it passes over networks which are not operated by a PTO. We recognise the need to extend legal protection to all communications on non-PTO networks. In June 1999, the Home Office published a consultation paper, "Interception of Communications in the UK", which contains the Government's proposals for legislation in this area. I will carry these proposals forward in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill which was announced in the Queen's Speech.