19 April 2000
Thank you for your email of 26 March enclosing an article from the Financial Times dated 24 March about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill entitled “Legal fears over e-mail tapping”. Your queries arising from this article are addressed below.
You ask about the quote, attributed to Mr Clarke, that there are “a large number of legal opinions floating around” concerning the RIP Bill. I believe that this was a reference to the fact that a number of commentators outside Government have opined, publicly, on a number of legal aspects of the RIP Bill. The compatibility of the Bill with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a case in point.
You also ask about the Encryption and Law Enforcement report published in May 1999 by the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) of the Cabinet Office. This report drew on the work of a joint Government/industry task force set up in February last year under the auspices of the PIU. The Home Office understands that the task force did not take legal advice before making its recommendations.
The Government considers that legal advice about the provisions in the RIP Bill is covered by legal professional privilege and thus falls within the fourth exemption to the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. It therefore does not propose to publish the legal advice related to Part III of the RIP Bill.
you are not content with this response you may request an independent review
of the way your request has been dealt with.
This will be undertaken by the Home Office Departmental Record Officer,
Tim Sargent. His address is Room
159, Home Office, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AT.
you then remain dissatisfied, there is a further avenue of appeal to the
Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration ("the Ombudsman") who
may be approached by way of your Member of Parliament.
RIP Bill Team
and International Crime Directorate