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Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 3:

The noble Lord said: I am interested in the word "postal" which appears twice in the Bill, where my amendments seek to delete it. The reference is to "postal items". So far as I can see, the term is not defined in the Bill; nor does it appear in the Postal Services Bill—the closest that that Bill comes is in its use of the term "postal packets".

The general sense of the interception capability ought to be that the authorities, when suitably authorised, can look at any item in the course of transmission if that item contains a communication. My amendments would make sure that anything is considered "post"—it could be a piece of heavy plant, but if there is a communication with it, the provision in the clause would apply. If the restriction is to something "postal", I should like to know what the word means in this context and why there is no common definition with the Postal Services Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I, too, am interested in the definition, which does not seem satisfactory. What it really says is that a "postal service" means any service that consists in the collection and so on of postal items. So it does not define anything at all. It is fairly obvious that the service has to do with collection and I am not sure that the definition is necessary. I accept that lawyers may think it wise to include a definition, even if the Bill does not define "postal", which is the nub of the matter.

The matter becomes difficult in relation to considerations arising out of the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, at Second Reading. The noble and learned Lord complained about the definitions in Clauses 2 and 72. The Minister was kind enough to send me a copy of a letter that he wrote to the noble and learned Lord. It is undated, but is recent—I saw it this morning, therefore it may have arrived after I left at the end of last week.

In the letter, the Minister explains that,

    "Part I of the Bill introduces some difficult and complex concepts relating to interception and telecommunications",

and says that,

    "These are fundamental to the subject matter of Chapter I of Part I".

The Minister goes on to say that that is why it has been thought right to put them at the start.

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Whatever it is, this definition is not a difficult and complex concept relating to interception. It is a much simpler definition than that. I should have thought that it could well have been left in Clause 72, where there is already a reference to it in any case.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: "Postal service" and "postal item" are found in two different parts of the clause. I am sure that noble Lords will have read them. On reading "postal service" I thought that it was pretty clear what it meant. For the purposes of the record, I point out that the clause says, in subsection (1),

    "'postal service' means any service which—

(a) consists in the following...the collection, sorting, conveyance, distribution and delivery (whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) of postal items".

Subsection (10) says:

"postal item' means any letter, postcard or other such thing in writing as may be used by the sender for imparting information to the recipient, or any packet or parcel".

If noble Lords can find more than that defining "postal item" or "postal service", I should be most grateful if they would tell me.

As I understand their effect, Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 would dramatically extend the offence of unlawful interception by applying it to any goods at all, rather than communications, as intended by the Bill. As I have said on a number of occasions, the Bill is designed to update legislation, primarily the Interception of Communications Act, in the light of new technology and legal and market developments, not to extend the powers, which would I think be harmful to the Bill. That would be the effect of the amendments.

I think that the phrases "postal item" and "postal service" cover everything that we would wish to catch within the legislation, without extending the criminal offence unnecessarily. If the noble Lord has some examples of things he thinks we have missed, I should be most grateful for further elucidation of his point, but perhaps in view of what I have said he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Lucas: I had missed the fact that "postal item", rather than being in the alphabetical list in subsection (1), is stuck away in subsection (10). For the purposes of this Bill we have a different definition from that current in another Bill going through the House—the Postal Services Bill. I should be grateful if the noble Lord the Minister would consider whether those two definitions might not with advantage be brought into coincidence.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for reminding me of that important point. I shall of course look at the two definitions and see whether they in any sense contradict each other in terms of effectiveness of the law. I am certain that they will not, but we shall make a further check on that.

Lord Lucas: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Lord Phillips of Sudbury Moved Amendment No. 5:

    Page 3, leave out lines 23 to 33 and insert—

(""private telecommunication system" means any such parts of a telecommunication system which do not comprise a public telecommunication system;").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 9 and 11, which are grouped with it. The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, will speak to Amendment No. 14, which is in the same group.

I must declare an interest, to this extent: I might reasonably claim to be a highly experienced lawyer, but I am a remarkably inexperienced computer buff. Maybe that is an advantage, in that the world at large will have to grapple with this extraordinary legislation. While we all criticise it, and try to be constructive in our criticisms, I acknowledge as a lawyer that drafting this measure must have been one of the most complex and difficult jobs that the parliamentary draftsman has had to confront in many a long day.

The amendments to which I am speaking are both purposive and probing. After listening to me the Minister may say that they could be better dealt with in some other way, but the point revolves around the difference between Chapter I and Chapter II of Part I. The Committee will recognise that I am here referring to the fact that access to information under Chapter I can be gained only with a warrant and that access to communications data under Chapter II can be gained without warrant, on a self-authenticating authorisation procedure that obviously gives far less protection to the citizen.

The reason we propose these three amendments to the definition clause is that if the definitions are right a great deal of the nuts and bolts of the Bill that follow will be correct, although what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said reminded me of the point made on Second Reading about the unhappy fact that the definitions are spread around the Bill. Nevertheless, if we get the definitions right, the Bill is more likely to be right. If the definitions are inappropriate, everything else will collapse, particularly in a Bill of this nature, which is so complex and interlaced.

The points that we seek to rectify by the three amendments concern requests for information, or for what are sometimes called datagrams, which, as the Bill is drawn, will fall within Chapter II as being communications data and not within Chapter I, which covers the content. On the face of it a request for information using the huge search engines that are now a feature of this world would seem to concern what are classically communications data, rather than significant content. However, I am advised, and can readily understand, that in investigating all the requests for information from various web servers over a period of time, using one of the now commonplace analytical programmes that can draw salient points, salient trends and so on, out of a mass of detail, one has an extraordinary tool for obtaining a profile of those in respect of whom the searches are

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made that will build up to a highly sensitive intrusion into their lives. It will get at their life's concerns, contacts, political views, plans—all by building up patterns that emerge from analysing a thousand separate datagrams.

It should be made absolutely clear—and we believe that it is not—that that sort of inquiry, that sort of access, must be possible only by warrant, and not under Chapter II. I am told that the rate at which the technology is developing makes this point, which may seem arcane to some, one of immense importance, since most telephonic conversations will be carried by these means, by so-called datagrams, in the near future. We believe that changing the definitions in this clause, as would be done by Amendments Nos. 5, 9 and 11, would achieve our purpose.

Finally, we seek to establish that the end points of a transmission are not part of the telecommunication system—that is, that no interception warrant may require any interference with the origin or destination. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): I have to advise the Committee that if Amendment No. 5 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 inclusive.

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