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Volume 497: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) pursuant to the answer of 9 July 2009, Official Report, column 963W, on the internet, what estimate his Department has made of the cost of sponsoring such systems in each of the next five years; (289050)

(2) for what reasons such communications data are collected;

(3) on how many occasions stored communications data have been used in the last two years;

(4) what contribution internet service providers make to the cost of systems sponsored by his Department;

(5) what proportion of the cost of sponsoring systems to enable communications service providers to store communications data his Department funds;

(6) to what use his Department puts the information stored by communication services providers; how often it has accessed such stored information in each of the last five years; what steps his Department takes to ensure the security of such information; and on how many occasions in the last five years such information has assisted in the positive identification of a person preparing terrorist acts.

Communications service providers (CSP) are reimbursed by Government grant for their reasonable and agreed costs in retaining communications data that they are required or permitted to retain under the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 or under the code of practice on data retention approved by Parliament under Part 11 of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA).

The Regulations require the retention of communication data for the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime. The ATCSA permits communications data retention for the purposes of safeguarding national security and for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime. The Government grant covers the total cost of installing or modifying equipment or implementing new processes to enable the effective and efficient retention of communications data. An independent and regulated audit firm is retained by the Home Office to ensure that costs are reasonable; that the reimbursement is for legitimate expenditure; and that CSPs do not derive commercial benefit from processes developed with these grants. CSPs are required to contribute if they receive a commercial benefit.

The independent and regulated audit firm also conducts security assessments to ensure that each CSP's data retention solution meets both industry best practice and Government and law enforcement rules on handling personal data.

The passing of the security assessment is a requirement of being reimbursed by the Home Office.

The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) is the only part of the Home Office that is able to acquire communications data. The UKBA acquires communications data to prevent and detect crime in relation to immigration offences or customs detection work at the UK borders. The Interception of Communications Commissioner compiles statistics on the acquisition of communications data by public authorities under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. In calendar year 2008 there were 504,073 requirements made of CSPs; the corresponding figure for 2007 was 519,260. The Interception Commissioner has not detailed the figures by individual public authority.

The forecast expenditure on communication data retention systems is £30.35 million which is broken down as per the following table:

£ million

Financial year