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Telephone Tapping

Volume 22: debated on Thursday 22 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish future Diplock reviews of telephone tapping.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he intends to publish future reviews of the Diplock report on telephone tapping.

Why did the White Paper of March 1981—"The Interception of Communications in Great Britain"—make no reference to the extensive bugging and tapping undertaken under secret police guidelines that were revealed in The Guardian 12 months later? Successive Governments have had an obsessive craze for secrecy. Are not questions blocked in Parliament and virtually anything but the most limited whitewash on telephone tapping and bugging ruthlessly crushed and not published by the present Government?

Successive Governments have always taken the view that matters of national security and the fight against serious crime should not be discussed in the House. I believe that that is right.

Will the Home Secretary arrange for his Department to inform hon. Members when it intends to link questions? Until I came into the Chamber no such information had been passed to me.

I repeat the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). Why did not the Home Secretary reveal in the 1981 White Paper the extent of tapping and bugging that had been undertaken without warrant? Why should we have to find out this information in an article in The Guardian about 12 months later? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a more important and sinister aspect is that secret guidelines were issued covering tapping and bugging?

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, if there has been a mistake, I take full responsibility and apologise. However, I have been complimented by many hon. Members on both sides of the House for the punctilious way in which the Home Office always lets them know about such matters. I am sorry if a mistake occurred on this occasion.

On the second point, the hon. Gentleman is confusing surveillance with interception. They are two very different matters.

Will the Home Secretary give an assurance that he will publish any consultative document that comes from the review that he is currently undertaking into the guidelines on surveillance techniques?

I said that I would publish the guidelines when they were finally concluded, and I will.

On a technical point, does the proliferation of bugging devices in a single exchange affect the efficiency of the service? Will my right hon. Friend investigate what goes on in this building, where almost every call one makes is either a crossed line or an unconnected call?

As Home Secretary I seem to be responsible for many matters, but not, thank goodness, for the efficiency of the telephone service.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Government have a funny set of priorities on intelligence collecting? The intelligence collecting service seems to spend much money on telephone tapping and collecting information about people in the trade union movement, but it could not find out about an Argentine invasion 11 days earlier.

I have said to the House before, and I say again, that telephone interceptions are in the main connected with serious crimes. Surely that is what this country wants done.