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Lord Lucas: These are old technology and obsolete practices indeed! We should be looking at a Bill written in hypertext, as it would be and should be on the Webit is notso that one can click straight to the definition. No one will then care one fig where the definitions are; they could be peppered in every other clause but the whole thing would have the same meaning.
The Government have promised to be entirely Web-based by 2005, but their progress so far has been distinctly unimpressive, particularly as regards this House. I hope that the Government can assure us that we are looking at publishing Bills on the Web in hypertextand the Home Office should be at the forefront of thatso that definitions can be found exactly where they should be, which is next to the word that is defined.
Viscount Goschen: Perhaps I may ask the Minister a general question in respect of Clause 2, but it could probably be asked about every other clause. In terms of the definitions, the specific offences, exemptions and so forth, can he give the Committee a further explanation of the efforts that have been made to try to develop a multi-national approach to such
I believe that in order to make the legislation credible we must have an integrated approach with colleagues in other governments. The party opposite has been keen on integrated government, on an integrated transport policy and on integrating everything under the sun. I should be grateful if the Minister could explain how his approach to this legislation will fit in with our colleagues in the EU, the US and beyond.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I shall begin by commenting on the remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen. I am loathed to enter into a lengthy discourse on the Question that Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill, but I believe that the noble Viscount has made a good point. Perhaps we should try to contextualise the discussion around this legislation. We have been working closely with our European partners and are looking at ways in which we can do so with the Cyber Crime Convention, the Telecommunication Data Protection Directive and the Mutual Legal Assistance Convention.
Perhaps I am not as familiar as I should be with all of those, but, together with our commitments in this legislation and on e-commerce generally, they give an indication of our concern to ensure that we get right the legislation and the quality of regulation and provide the right kind of framework for business and enterprise. Therefore, it is proportionate and part of the debate around this legislation. I take the noble Viscount's point. I am not sure that I want to enter into a debate, but perhaps the House should have such a debate because I am sure that it would be useful and wide-ranging.
Tonight, it is my intention to recommend that Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill and to set out some of the background relating to it. In doing so, I shall attempt to address the points made in this short debate. The clause sets out the definitions of telecommunications and postal services and systems relevant to the Bill. The purpose of the clause is to interpret the meaning of "interception" and related items.
The Interception of Communications Act 1985 contained no definition of "interception", an omission which the Bill rightly seeks to rectify. These definitions seek to reflect both current and future technology. These are not easy matters to set down in legislation, but this set of interlocking definitions certainly takes us forward from the position which we inherited with the 1985 Act.
Part I of the Bill introduces some difficult and complex concepts relating to interception and telecommunications. These are fundamental to the subject matter of Chapter I of Part I. As these are matters of great importance, they appear at the beginning of the Bill in Clause 2. This clause has been positioned with the substance of the matters to which they relate.
It is quite usual to define the basic concepts for a legislative proposition in the main part of a Bill and in this instance the Bill has a signal point of reference at Clause 72 for expressions that are defined for all the provisions of the Bill. Therefore, we have two clauses for that purpose. Clause 2 relates particularly to the important issues which are dealt with in Chapter I of Part I and Clause 72 has a definition which relates to the generality of the Bill. That is why we have two definitional clauses.
I know that that creates complexities, but it means that in Clause 72 we have an index to the expressions to be found in Clause 2. This Bill, and Part I in particular, contains a great deal of complex and interlocking concepts and definitions are contained in Clause 2 to assist the reader who wishes to demystify, to understand more precisely, Clause 1. That is why we have the juxtapositioning of those two clauses. That is the main reason for the way in which the Bill is set out.
Perhaps I may take an example raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, on Second Reading. The word "modification" receives two treatments, in Clause 2 and in Clause 72. However, subsection (6) of Clause 2 simply amplifies the phrase as it is used in a very specialist sense in subsection (2). It does not contradict or undermine the definition which is found in Clause 72.
I have tried to answer the valid points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, on Second Reading. There are good reasons for the definitions included in Clause 2. While I retain some sympathy for his point, I believe that on balance it is more helpful to see the definitions there than to see all of them at the end. I think it makes for a better understanding and demystification of Clause 1. The reader of the Bill will find that Clause 2 definitions are carefully cross-referenced in Clause 72.
Today I received further correspondence from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. I am extremely grateful to him for writing because he does so from his hospital bed. He has suggested some small changes which I am happy to take away and consider. In the mean time and with that explanation, which I think is clear, I commend Clause 2 to the Committee.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am, as it were, formally grateful and, in part, genuinely grateful to the Minister for what he said, although I am not entirely convinced. So far as concerns the points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, obviously we shall have to wait to see how the later stages of the Bill turn out.
However, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, believes that Clause 2 contained wider issues, and I agree with him. He referred to the Bill as being rather a "pantomime horse" because it adds technological aspects to the traditional controls over interception. Of course, the problem with that is that it makes the Bill extremely difficult to amend. It seems to me and to many commentators outside, as we have already discussed, that the provision deals only with the
My noble friend Lord Goschen raised an important point with regard to the international dimension. That produced the interesting comment from the Minister that the Government are working closely with European partners. In the circumstances, that seemed to me to be a rather provocative remark. Our nearest EU neighbour, Ireland, is in the middle of proposing a Bill which, in some respects, is flatly the opposite of this legislation and provides protection for some issues which we are attempting to open up. However, that will be considered at a later stage.
A general criticism of the Bill was made by the Government's own adviser, Professor Turner, who is also connected with the Institute of Directors. He said that the Bill was an attempt to deal nationally with a problem which should be dealt with internationally. I have a great deal of sympathy with that approach, and it was reflected in what was said by my noble friend Lord Goschen.
We, and our Government, are not alone in wanting to catch criminals. However, for the moment among similar countries we are almost alone in trying to advance this particular set of propositions regarding how one deals with the Internet in this respect. But at this juncture I shall not press the Committee to oppose Clause 2.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Amendment No. 25 seeks to ensure that under this subsection postal and telecommunications service providers are not at liberty to carry out interception for purposes other than those connected with the issues described in paragraph (b). The few words in question here are copied directly from Section 1(3)(a) of the Interception of Communications Act 1985, a provision which we believe, as I consider noble Lords opposite believe, has worked really rather well over the years and is well understood by the industry.
A provider may intercept a communication if it takes place for purposes connected with the issues listed. The question arises as to what effect the Bill might have where a provider intercepts for a number of purposes, some within the scope of subsection (3) and others not. Do the legitimate purposes provide an excuse for others? That is certainly not how the equivalent provision in the current interception Act
That is our understanding of the amendment. I believe that I have described fairly its effect. We are relying on something that has worked well in the past, and I trust that with that explanation the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will feel more than able to withdraw his amendment.
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