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Telephone Tapping

Volume 979: debated on Thursday 28 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has completed his review of the law on telephone tapping.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he anticipates making a statement on telephone tapping following completion of his review.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to complete his review of the law on telephone tapping.

Does the Minister realise that there is grave disquiet and considerable unease now that it is known that up to 1,000 telephones can be tapped at any moment by one device? Does he realise that there is a sense of urgency in a wide section of the community? Will he give an assurance that his review of the law will come out as soon as possible?

I do not accept some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I realise that there is considerable interest in this matter. That is why I promised the House that I would make a statement before Easter.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that there is continuing public concern and unease that this issue is being swept under the carpet by the issue of D notices on the recent New Statesman articles? There is concern that only one warrant is being used for a multipicity of tappings. Before assessing the Malone position, will he make a statement on his intentions as soon as possible, preferably next week?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's first supplementary question. I turn to the broader issue. I think it right that I should make a full statement dealing with the Malone position and with all the other matters that arise at the same time. I have promised to make a statement before Easter. Bearing in mind all the complicated circumstances, that is a reasonable way of dealing with a matter of urgency.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is necessary not only for there to be a full statement but for the Government to provide time for a full debate?

I have promised a statement before Easter, and that is where I shall remain for the moment.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the use of telephone tapping by Customs and Excise as part of its investigation of VAT evasion represents a dangerous sledgehammer that is being applied to a comparatively small nut in our free society?

If I were to respond to my hon. Friend I should tresspass on what I said I will not do before my statement. I wish to rest on the fact that I shall make a statement before Easter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Opposition are glad that he is to make a statement? As has already been said, we hope that he will announce that there will be an inquiry. Many allegations are made which I cannot deny or agree with, and it is important that the matter is cleared up.

The right hon. Gentleman has considerable knowledge of these matters, and I take careful note of what he has said.