Joint Committee On Human Rights Sixteenth Report


The Draft Voluntary Code of Practice on Retention of Communications Data under Part 11 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and the Draft Retention of Communications Data (Code of Practice) Order 2003 were laid before Parliament pursuant to section 103 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 on 11 September.

When we considered the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, in 2001, we indicated that the terms of the proposed Code of Practice on the retention of communications data would require further consideration in respect of ensuring compliance with human rights. This report is the result of that further consideration.

The report outlines the background to and effect of the Draft Code (paragraphs 1 to 6). Bearing in mind that the communications data to which the Draft Code and Draft Order relate are in many respects sensitive and personal (paragraphs 11 and 12), the report considers whether the Draft Code and Draft Order include adequate provisions to ensure that the rights to respect for private life and for correspondence under ECHR Article 8 would be properly protected. We note that the Government takes the view that communications providers will not be public authorities subject to the obligation to act compatibly with Convention Rights under the Human Rights Act 1998. It is therefore particularly important to establish the necessity for and proportionality of standard retention of all communications data (paragraphs 10 to 12). However, we have insufficient information which would enable us to satisfy ourselves that those requirements are met (paragraphs 18 and 19).

While concerned about the accessibility of retained data to investigators inquiring into matters unrelated to national security, we are satisfied on balance that available arrangements are likely to provide adequate safeguards against inappropriate disclosure (paragraphs 20 to 26) and that the consultation arrangements before publication of the Draft Code were sufficient to meet the Secretary of State's obligations under the 2001 Act (paragraphs 27 and 28).

In view of the very important issues relating to the rights to respect for private life and for correspondence raised by the retention of communications data, and access to them, we consider that more time should have been allowed for Parliament to examine the far reaching provisions of the Draft Code and its relationship to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (paragraphs 29 and 30).

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