Select Committee on European Communities Second Report


27.  INTERCEPTION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS—DRAFT COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  Thank you for your letter of 15 June[8] which was considered by Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) at its meeting on 30 June.

  The Committee is grateful for the information and explanation given in your letter and decided to clear the draft Resolution from scrutiny, subject to two points.

  First, the Committee considers that the Government should provide to Parliament and to the public a fuller explanation of the different purposes of, and the relationship between, the draft Resolution and the interception provisions of the draft Convention on Mutual Assistance. This would be helpful in dispelling any confusion which may at present exist.

  Secondly, the Committee expects the Government to keep it fully informed of developments and to continue to provide it with copies of further versions of, or amendments to, the draft Resolution in accordance with scrutiny requirements.

  In view of the interest JUSTICE has expressed in this matter, I am copying to them this letter as well as my previous letter to you of 6 May and your reply of 15 June.

1 July 1999

Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 1 July.

  You ask for a full explanation of the different purposes of, and relationship between, the draft Council Resolution on New Technologies and the draft Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance. As I have explained previously, there is no direct relationship between them. They are separate instruments, and are being considered in separate working groups. The only connection between them is that they cover the same subject area: the interception of communications (particularly satellite telephones).

  The draft Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters is by far the most significant instrument. It is legally binding, and will establish a framework for co-operation on the interception of communications between the Member States of the European Union. It now contains text specifically intended to provide a legal basis for the "service provider" solution to the interception of satellite telephones.

  The draft Council Resolution on the interception of new technologies is not legally binding. It is intended to supplement the 1995 Council Resolution on the lawful interception of communications. It seeks to clarify that law enforcement agencies' interception "requirements" annexed to the 1995 Council Resolution (which were originally drafted in the context of public telecommunications networks) apply also to new technologies such as satellite telecommunications and the Internet. It does not deal with the "service provider" solution for the interception of satellite telephones.

  In fact, as explained in previous explanatory memoranda, the draft Council Resolution serves very little purpose for the UK Government. The Government recently published a consultation document on the interception of communications which covers a wide range of issues relevant to the future structure of the UK's interception legislation, including the proposal to extend the scope of the legislation to cover new technologies such as satellite telephones and the Internet. The proposal for the draft Council Resolution will not prejudice this consultation process.

  Finally, you will wish to note that the future of the draft Council Resolution is currently under consideration by the Finnish Presidency. Our position remains that we are content with the principle that law enforcement agencies' requirements for the lawful interception of criminals using the Internet and satellite telephones are similar to those for public telecommunications networks. But we have explained to the Finnish Presidency that we see very little need for the draft Resolution, particularly since it is being confused with the draft Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance.

  We will, of course, continue to inform the scrutiny committees of any developments and deposit relevant documents in accordance with scrutiny requirements.

21 July 1999

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Barbara Roche MP, Minister of State, Home Office

  Sub-Committee E has considered Kate Hoey's letter of 21 July clarifying the different purposes of, and relationship between, the draft Council Resolution on New Technologies and the draft Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and is grateful for your explanation.

  The Sub-Committee has noted the Government's assurance that there is no direct connection between the draft Resolution and the draft Mutual Assistance Convention. The latter, as you know, remains under scrutiny. The Sub-Committee thanks the Government for its undertaking to keep it informed of developments.

21 October 1999


8   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers 17th Report, Session 1998-99, p 78. Back


 
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