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Intercept as Evidence

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 25 March 2010

My written ministerial statement of 10 December 2009, Official Report, column 31WS reported the conclusions of the work programme set in train following the Privy Council review of January 2008, to implement the use of intercept as evidence, consistent with protecting the public and national security. This concluded that the “PII Plus” model of IAE, recommended for further work by the Privy Council review, would not be legally viable, and would worsen rather than enhance our ability to bring the guilty to justice. The Advisory Group of Privy Counsellors (the right hon. Sir John Chilcot, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), and my noble Friend the right hon. Lord Archer of Sandwell) established to advise on the work programme, agreed with this conclusion.

My written ministerial statement confirmed the Government’s commitment to report back on further scoping analysis, intended to establish whether the problems identified were capable of being resolved, prior to the Easter recess. The areas to be examined were:

Further enhancing the judicial oversight available.

Full retention of intercept material alongside alternative review requirements.

Advances in technology which might make full retention and review more manageable.

I am having placed in the House Libraries copies of a progress report to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on behalf of the Advisory Group.

The findings underline the complexity and difficulty of the issues raised. None of the approaches examined successfully reconcile the requirements for trials to remain fair with those necessary to protect operational capabilities. In some cases the problems are such that further work is not justified. In some others the position may be less categorical. Reflecting this, the Advisory Group has suggested further, more focused work building on that undertaken previously and intended to establish whether the remaining approaches could be implemented in way that is operationally sustainable and affordable. The Government agree that this would be useful.

I should like to express my thanks to the Advisory Group for their continued contribution to this programme of work.