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Telephone Calls (Interception)

Volume 652: debated on Thursday 1 February 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the number of interceptions of telephone calls authorised by him, year by year, to the most appropriate date, since the publication of the Birkett Committee Report of 1957.

It would not be in the public interest to give the figures for which the hon. Member asks.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am not surprised by that Answer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why ask a silly Question?" Because I wanted to ask a supplementary question. Is the Home Secretary satisfied that this process is under proper control, and can he state categorically that nobody, no matter who, is allowed to tap anyone else's telephone calls without his explicit consent?

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the Report of the Corn-miner of Privy Councillors, when he will see that the operation of this control has been carried on according to the recommendations there made. I think that is sufficient security in answer to his question.

Will the Home Secretary say whether he is satisfied that there have not been any interceptions of telephone calls that he ought to have authorised but that have not, in fact, been authorised by him?

Can the Home Secretary say what conceivable reason in the public interest there can be for not giving the number of interceptions? The Question says nothing about how they are done.

I think that supplementary question is out of order, because it is our practice to be bound by, and for the Chair to support, the refusal of a Minister to answer a Question on grounds of public interest in relation to security.