Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) considered the draft Council Resolution on New Technologies at its meeting on 5 May.

  The Committee noted that the 1995 Resolution, which sets out the interception "requirements" of law enforcement agencies, is not legally binding on telecommunications operators in the UK, and that this will remain the case if the proposed amendments are agreed. The effect of the changes would seem to be to enlarge the scope of the 1995 Resolution, so that it applies to operators providing satellite services and Internet service providers, without adding further requirements.

  JUSTICE has drawn the Committee's attention to two earlier drafts of the Resolution which gave a detailed explanation and interpretation of the requirements of the 1995 Resolution. This detail has been largely stripped away in the current draft Resolution. It appears, in the Preliminary Remarks drafted by the Austrian Presidency, that this detail might be incorporated in technical manuals. Is it intended to flesh out the Resolution by drawing up manuals containing more technical detail and, if so, would these be published?

  A further point noted by JUSTICE is that Part III (Explanatory Definitions in the Glossary) no longer includes an explanation of the term "lawful access" which appeared in the earlier versions. Can you explain the reason for this omission?

  The Committee has been informed that there is a later draft of the Resolution (6715/99, ENFOPOL 19). According to this version, the requirement for a number or other electronic identifier in the 1995 Resolution includes, in relation to Internet service providers, a credit card number (in Part I, "General Explanations"). In the version under scrutiny, the requirement is for access to the "account number" of the interception subject. Could you please clarify the status of ENFOPOL 19 and the reason for the discrepancy in the requirements for Internet service providers?

  As you are aware, this Committee also has under scrutiny the draft Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. The Committee notes your assurance that the draft Resolution is separate from the consideration of the legal framework for co-operation on interception in the context of that Convention. Can you please clarify whether there will be any connection between the draft Resolution and the possible requirement in the draft Convention that satellite telecommunications operators provide a facility for "remote" interception?

  The Committee looks forward to receiving your response to the points raised above. In the meantime, the draft Resolution remains under scrutiny.

6 May 1999

Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing in response to your letter of 6 May with further comments on the draft Council Resolution.

  You ask whether it is intended to flesh out the draft Resolution by preparing technical manuals. Although this was suggested by the Austrian Presidency last year, there has been no further discussion of the proposal.

  You ask why "lawful access" no longer appears in the draft. This was the Presidency's decision, but we assume that it was considered no longer necessary. We are content with the present text.

  You ask why the latest draft contains a reference to "credit card number" rather than simply "account number". We assume that the Presidency has included the reference to credit cards to reflect the fact that credit card numbers are often the main way of identifying users on some Internet accounts. We can accept this approach.

  You also ask whether there is any connection between the draft Resolution and the "remote access" provisions in the MLA Convention. As I have stated previously, there is no direct connection. This is a source of continuing confusion in the media and in other Member States.

  Finally, you also refer to ENFOPOL 19. This particular document was not deposited because the substance is identical to ENFOPOL 98 REV 2 except for the very minor change described above (a reference to credit cards).

  We will, of course, continue to deposit versions of this document when there are any significant changes. I hope this is acceptable.

15 June 1999

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  Thank you for your letter of 15 June which was considered by Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) at its meeting on 30 June.

  The Committee is grateful for the information and explanation given in your letter and decided to clear the draft Resolution from scrutiny, subject to two points.

  First, the Committee considers that the Government should provide to Parliament and to the public a fuller explanation of the different purposes of, and the relationship between, the draft Resolution and the interception provisions of the draft Convention on Mutual Assistance. This would be helpful in dispelling any confusion which may at present exist.

  Secondly, the Committee expects the Government to keep it fully informed of developments and to continue to provide it with copies of further versions of, or amendments to, the draft Resolution in accordance with scrutiny requirements.

  In view of the interest JUSTICE has expressed in this matter, I am copying to them this letter as well as my previous letter to you of 6 May and your reply of 15 June.

1 July 1999

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