While home secretary David Blunkett shelved plans to allow local councils, the NHS and other bodies to have access to records of mobile calls and e-mail traffic, the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise, security services and the police have all been granted more draconian powers under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords this week.
Parliament has also given legal status to a new Code of Practice for the use of these powers.
Home Office parliamentary under-secretary of state Lord Filkin explained: ‘The code sets out the procedures to be followed by agencies when applying for an interception warrant from the secretary of state.’
The code also sets out how, under RIPA, interception can lawfully take place without a warrant in specific circumstances, such as when there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties have consented to an interception.
Importantly, it provides guidance on the necessity and proportionality considerations that must be taken into account to ensure consistency with human rights obligations.