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Data Protection

Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether officials from (a) the Inland Revenue and (b) HM Customs and Excise who have access to records relating to electronic contacts between individuals have access to the content of such contacts; under what powers in (i) the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and (ii) other legislation access is permitted; how many requests for access were made in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [104521]

Although the Inland Revenue will have access to communications data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) 2000, that access will not extend to the contents of communications, whether electronic or otherwise. Under the Taxes Management Act 1970, in criminal investigations the courts can issue warrants and make orders that give the Inland Revenue access to evidence which may include the contents of electronic communications. The number of cases in which the contents of electronic communications were made available to the Inland Revenue as part of wider evidence gathered is not known as separate records are not kept on this specific issue.HM Customs and Excise, in the 12 months to date, have accessed the 'electronic contacts' of an arrested person by virtue of Production Orders under three pieces of legislation. There have been 12 orders raised against 19 accounts as follows:

LegislationNumber of times accessed
Drugs Traflicking Act 1994, s.5510
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 19821
Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, s.118D(1)1