Previous Section Index Home Page


Interception of Communications

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I am announcing today the Government's conclusions on the review on the evidential use of intercept material in criminal proceedings. This accompanies the announcement I intend making on counter-terrorism legislation following the House of Lord's ruling on the use of Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, Part 4 powers.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister commissioned the review in July 2003. Its remit was to examine the benefits and risks of using intercept as evidence to secure more convictions of organised criminals and terrorists. In doing so, the review was tasked with considering how a legal model, providing for the use of interception for evidential purposes, could be deployed in a way which is compatible with the ECHR, addresses the practical concerns of the intercepting agencies and takes account of developments in communications technology.

The review, which was the most thorough and far-reaching of five reviews on the subject in the last 10 years, reported last summer. It concluded that evidential use of intercept would be likely to help secure a modest increase in convictions of some serious criminals but not terrorists. The preferred legal model for evidential use of intercept would comprise three types of interception warrant—intelligence only, non-evidential and evidential, the latter requiring authorisation by a judge. Intelligence only and non-evidential warrants would continue to be authorised by the Secretary of State and would provide criteria-based protections against disclosure in court of the most sensitive interception capabilities and techniques. Set against the benefits that this approach might deliver, the review identified a number of serious risks that evidential use of intercept would entail for the intercepting agencies and their present capabilities in fighting serious crime and terrorism.

The review did not make agreed recommendations for or against lifting the prohibition on evidential use of intercept but invited Ministers to consider, in the light of the evidence presented on the balance of benefits and risks, whether or not to do so. Further work on what might be done to mitigate the risks identified in the review report was completed shortly before Christmas. This showed that there was no immediate prospect of
26 Jan 2005 : Column 19WS
removing the main risks, partly because of the difficulty of assessing the impact of major changes expected in communications technologies over the next few years.

The Government have from the outset made it clear that we would change the law on evidential use of intercept only if we could be satisfied that the benefits of doing so clearly outweigh the risks. We have therefore concluded that it would not be right to legislate now to remove the existing prohibition. We will continue to keep these issues under review.

The review report is a classified document which cannot be published in the ordinary way. It will however be made available to the Intelligence and Security Committee to which I will give further evidence if requested to do so. A summary of the report's main findings is set out below:


Girls' Education

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses copies of "Girls' Education: Towards a Better Future for All", published today by the Department for International Development (DFID).

At the turn of the millennium, the international community promised that by 2005, there would be as many girls as boys in school. Despite this promise, there are still 58 million girls worldwide who are not in school. The majority of these girls live in sub-Saharan Africa and south and west Asia. A girl growing up in a poor family in sub-Saharan Africa has less than a one-in-four chance of getting a secondary education. The millennium development goal (MDG) to get as many girls as boys into primary and secondary school by 2005 is likely to be missed in over 75 countries. Later this year, when leaders from around the world come together to take stock of the MDGs, there will be no escaping the fact that we have collectively failed to keep our promise.
26 Jan 2005 : Column 20WS

The paper reminds us of the value of education for lifting people out of poverty and enabling them to build a more promising future for themselves, their families and their nations. Nothing has as much impact on a child's future well being as their mother's level of education. Educating girls helps to make communities and societies healthier, wealthier and safer. It helps to reduce child death, improve maternal health and tackle the spread of HIV and AIDS. Girls' education underpins the ability to achieve all the other MDGs, which is why the timetable was set as 2005.

This strategy is a first step to get us back on track and it acknowledges that we all need to do substantially more to help girls get into school. To this end, we plan to spend at least £1.4 billion on education in the developing world over the next three years. This money will provide additional support to Governments in developing countries to produce plans that prioritise girls' education. This will include providing financial help to those wanting to remove school fees and indirect costs of educating girls. The money will also be used to provide more resources to strengthen international efforts to coordinate action on girls' education. We will also use the UK's 2005 Presidencies of the G8 and EU and our role as co-chair of the fast-track initiative (FTI) to push gender equality in education up the political agenda and make it a priority for the international community.


Office Support Services

The Minister for Work (Jane Kennedy): The Department for Work and Pensions has been reviewing existing support services to ensure that they offer best value for money and continue to meet our changing business needs.

These office support services, which include post opening and despatch, messengerial work, switchboard operations, typing and secretarial services, are currently delivered through a range of external suppliers and in-house teams as well as forming part of the tasks of staff who serve the public directly. These arrangements have served us well in the past, but the review has concluded that current methods of delivery do not now provide best value for money and that, in their current state, would not provide the best service in the future.

The Department's executive team, with my full support, has decided that bids for the future provision of all our office support services should be invited from specialist external suppliers in the private sector. This should bring operational benefits and value for money by moving, as far as possible, to a single organisation to manage these range of activities for us. A specialist supplier would bring the benefits of new technology as well as organisational efficiencies to the provision of these services and will offer the agility to respond to our changing needs as the Department is modernised and transformed.

The appointment of a provider will be determined through a competitive tendering exercise starting shortly, with new arrangements expected to commence in late 2006.
26 Jan 2005 : Column 21WS

This decision will mean that some jobs currently undertaken by DWP staff are likely to transfer to an external contractor. The number of posts likely to be affected equates to less than 1 per cent. of the DWP workforce. We recognise that some staff may not wish to transfer and for these we will, where possible, offer the opportunity to re-deploy within DWP or other Government Departments although we cannot guarantee this.

Senior managers have already met with trade union representatives to outline our plans for the future delivery of these services and will continue to do so as the work continues.
26 Jan 2005 : Column 22WS

Disabled People (Equality)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle): The consultation document "Delivering Equality for Disabled People" (Cm 6255) was published on 21 July 2004, and consultation continued until 23 October. The Government have now completed their analysis of the responses, and I am pleased to place draft regulations in the Library today that have been informed by the consultation process. An analysis of the consultation responses will appear on the Department for Work and Pensions website in due course.