UK government forced to delay new surveillance powers

The UK government has had to delay the adoption of a statutory Order - under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 - authorising thousands of national and local officials to require communications data held on an individual, group or organisation to be handed over by communications providers. The Order has to be agreed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, although this is normally a formality (an Order implements a power granted under legislation already adopted). Although the bodies listed in the Order number only twenty-four the total number of public authorities who would have been allowed to issue self-authorising notices totals 1,039.

The government planned to push the Order through on Tuesday 18 June but, due to opposition by civil liberties groups, it was re-scheduled until Monday 24 June and now today (18 June) the Home Office announced that the measure is to be put off until "the next session" of parliament (which means the autumn) to allow for "consultations".

The Order on communications data

The government's attempt to extend the implementation of RIPA by bringing into force, through an Order, Section 22 covering authorisation to obtain communications data ran into strong civil liberties opposition when the list of public authorities who would be given this power was published.

Communications data includes: name and address, service usage details, details of who you have been calling, details of who has called, mobile phone location info, source and destination of email, usage of web sites (but not pages within such sites).

The current list of bodies allowed to serve RIP s22 notices is: Police (all the forces, MOD police, NCS, NCIS) Secret Intelligence Agencies (MI5, MI6, GCHQ), Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue.

The proposed Order (Draft Statutory Instrument 2002 No) was intended to extend this list and to come into force on 1st August 2002. The Orders read:

Article 2


Government departments
1. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
2. The Department of Health.
3. The Home Office.
4. The Department of Trade and Industry.
5. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
6. The Department for Work and Pensions.
7. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for Northern Ireland.

Local authorities

8. Any local authority within the meaning of section 1 of the Local Government Act 1999.
9. Any fire authority as defined in the Local Government (Best Value) Performance Indicators Order 2000.
10. A council constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994.
11. A district council within the meaning of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972.

NHS bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland

12. The Common Services Agency of the Scottish Health Service.
13. The Northern Ireland Central Services Agency for the Health and Social Services.

Other bodies

14. The Environment Agency.
15. The Financial Services Authority.
16. The Food Standards Agency.
17. The Health and Safety Executive.
18. The Information Commissioner.
19. The Office of Fair Trading.
20. The Postal Services Commission.
21. The Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency.
22. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
23. The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary.
24. A Universal Service Provider within the meaning of the Postal Services Act 2000.

RIPA 2000 allows for authorisations (as distinct from warrants for telephone-tapping) and the serving of notices by "a person designated" include the following grounds:

a) "in the interests of national security"
b) "for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder"
c) "in the interests of public safety"

The test here is very, very broad and is simply defined as "crime", however minor,


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