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Lord Lucas: My Lords, as an aside, when I send an item by recorded delivery, the post office counter clerk peels off a sticker with a barcode on it and sticks it on the outside of the envelope. Is that barcode

and do all the other records that the post office keeps that use that barcode to track the item and its final delivery count as communications data, which will be available under this section?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as ever, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asks a puzzling riddle. I am not sure that I have the answer. I suppose that the answer must be yes, but I shall ponder on it.

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord McNally, for the way in which they have approached the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, has clearly understood our intent. I have made it clear that we do not intend the definition to cover the content of communications. That is the spirit in which we seek this extra flexibility. We are not conspiring to find a way of gaining access to further information about the detailed content of communications at some later date. I hope that I have expressed that sufficiently forcefully to offer some reassurance.

I entirely understand the spirit in which the amendment to our amendment has been proposed. I am prepared to look again at our wording to try to add some further clarity about what we are after. I cannot give an absolute commitment to come back with something, but I appreciate the point that is being made. It should be crystal clear that we are not after the content of communications. However, we need the flexibility, because, as has been said many times, the rapid pace of technological change could create new difficulties in the future.

I would prefer to persist with our amendment at this stage and I ask the noble Lord, Lord Cope, to withdraw the alternative version on the basis of my undertaking to have a closer look at the wording to see whether there is anything else that we can do to add an extra level of clarification. However, I cannot make an absolute promise.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, in the light of that generous offer from the Minister and the assurances

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that he has given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, leaving open the possibility of returning to it at a later stage should that prove necessary.

Amendment No. 8, as an amendment to Amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 7 agreed to.

The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 9:

    Page 5, line 22, at end insert--

("( ) For the purposes of this section "general reception" shall have the same meaning as in section 1(7) of the Broadcasting Act 1996.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the Minister will recall that we debated the issue at some length in Committee. Indeed, it gave rise to a host of questions about what is deemed to be included in the phrase "general reception". For example, as the Bill is currently drafted there is uncertainty about whether subscription broadcasting or encrypted broadcasting fall within the term. As my noble friend Lord Goschen asked in relation to a later amendment, should we infer that it includes an e-mail system based in interactive television and using television signals? My noble friend Lord Lucas put his finger on the issue by explaining how, on a strict analysis of how the technology operates, pager messages and mobile telephone traffic could well be deemed to fall within the definition.

My major complaint is that the drafting is sloppy and unclear. I freely concede that the Minister offered the comfort that:

    "We do not agree that communications for reception by a closed network come within the provisions for general reception. We are clear that the term 'general' means available to all. However, it specifically excludes those on a closed network".--[Official Report, 12/6/00; col. 1422.]

That is fair enough. I do not doubt for one moment that assertion but, to my mind, that is not what the Bill currently provides. In the absence of a generic definition on the face of the Bill, it remains open to interpretation.

I acknowledge too that the Bill has been drafted with the aim of providing some element of future-proofing. I do not decry that. Because of the Bill's focus on the new technology, it is a worthy aspiration. But that should not be delivered via the expedient of legislative uncertainty; hence my amendment.

I acknowledge that it has its imperfections. My researches to date have not yet unearthed a truly generic definition of the phrase in existing statute. However, the Minister helpfully advised the Committee that,

    "In Section 1(7)",

of the Broadcasting Act 1996,

    "we are told that 'for general reception' means for general reception in, or in any area in, the United Kingdom ... the phrase here has the same meaning".--[Official Report, 12/6/00; cols. 1421-2.]

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In other words, the amendment delivers no more and no more less than the Government's position on the issue, as espoused by the Minister. That being so, I could reasonably anticipate that the noble Lord might be well disposed towards it. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, in Committee, we had an interesting, if somewhat confused, discussion about this issue. During the course of that, we were unable to reach a definitive view on the meaning of "general reception" or "general broadcast".

I welcome the initiative taken by my noble friend Lord Northesk. If the Minister does not like the definition which my noble friend proposes--I have no idea whether or not he does--it is incumbent on him to find something equally good, if not better.

The fact is, as we have said, the world of electronic communications is changing so quickly that the question of whether something is for general broadcast or general reception can easily be argued both ways. We need more clarity on this issue.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Amendment No. 9 seeks to clarify the phrase "general reception". In Committee, I relied on the Broadcasting Act 1996 definition which would mean,

    "general reception in, or in any area in, the United Kingdom".

I also said in Committee that we believed this phrase to be used and well understood in legislation, and that no amendment was necessary. We have given the matter very careful consideration but our view remains the same.

In response to the noble Earl's amendment, I should say first that it does not provide a definition of "broadcast for general reception". That is because the Broadcasting Act does not do so--and we do not believe that we should try to do so either.

In our view, broadcasting for general reception implies that the transmission is intended to be received by anyone who wants to receive it. Whether to receive it is an individual's own choice. A person may, for example, choose not to buy a TV receiver or not to buy a digital decoder; but the transmission is there for him if he wants it.

The question arises of whether pager messages and mobile telephone base station transmissions fall within this category. We believe that the answer is no. A paging message has to be addressed to a particular number or group of numbers and is received only by a person or group of persons whose pager is programmed with that address number. Other people, even though on the same pager system, will not receive the message unless it is addressed to their pager number also. The same is true for mobile phones: many people call on the same system, but a call will be received only by a phone with a number to which the message is addressed.

Finally, I should confess that I referred in error to Section 1(7) of the Broadcasting Act 1996 when I responded to the noble Earl's amendment in

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Committee. Although the definition of "general reception" was indeed originally contained in that subsection, the same definition is now to be found in Section 1(1A). I hope that I have made the position plain and, on that basis, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I remain uncomfortable about the issue but, at this time, I fear that I may have to resign myself to living with the uncertainty for a little longer. I may try to return at Third Reading with a definition of "general reception" which would satisfy both of us.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, if, before Third Reading, the noble Earl wants to share his thinking on that, we shall be more than happy to explore any further views he has on the subject.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that suggestion and I hope that I shall be able to take it up. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Power to provide for lawful interception]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 10:

    Page 7, line 6, at end insert--

("( ) Conduct taking place in a state hospital is authorised by this section if it is conduct in pursuance of, and in accordance with, any direction given to the State Hospitals Board for Scotland under section 2(5) of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 (regulations and directions as to the exercise of their functions by health boards) as applied by Article 5(1) of and the Schedule to The State Hospitals Board for Scotland Order 1995 (which applies certain provisions of that Act of 1978 to the State Hospitals Board).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12. These amendments are minor amendments to take account of different terminology used in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We are not adding or making policy changes. We are merely ensuring that the same regime of lawful interception can be practised in both those countries, as, indeed, will be allowed in England and Wales.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 relate to hospitals in Scotland. The current Clause 4 referring to high security hospitals would not have authorised similar conduct within the state hospital at Carstairs in Scotland. The state hospital is the Scottish equivalent to our high security hospitals. We have discussed this matter with the Scottish Executive and the amendments that we have tabled will ensure that an equivalent regime can operate.

Similarly, Amendment No. 12 adds the term "young offenders centre" in subsection (8)(a) to ensure that the equivalent institution in Northern Ireland is able to operate in exactly the same way as prisons, young offender institutions or remand centres in the rest of the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

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