David Davis comments on the launch of the Home Office’s consultation on the codes of practice for handling communications data


In response to the Home Office’s launch of a consultation on the updated acquisition and disclosure of communications data code of practice, and the new retention of communications data code of practice, Mr Davis said:

“The Home Office has taken far too long in realising that the codes of practice regulating the acquisition of, access to and disclosure of communications data are utterly unfit for purpose.

It is only after numerous scandals surrounding the unauthorised use of people’s private data, from police officers authorising their own access requests, including the police acquiring journalists’ communications data without judicial authority, and even the intelligence agencies accessing the legally privileged communications of those taking legal action against them, that the Home Office has finally seen fit to consider very necessary reforms.

However, the new proposed codes of practice fall far short of what is required. Without judicial oversight of the process, with a full judicial consideration for any request to handle any confidential or privileged information, and with the Prime Minister’s express authorisation to handle the communications and communications data of any Member of Parliament, we are likely to see more of the sort of abuses that have become so unfortunately commonplace. The Cabinet Office has stated that communications data is not covered by the Wilson doctrine. This is an inappropriate and improper ruling; it could, for example, put whistleblowers at risk.

As they stand, the proposed changes will bring little accountability or transparency to the use of communications data. The Government should ban either interception or collection of metadata without explicit approval by a judge for journalists and lawyers, and Prime Ministerial approval for MPs. It should also consider replacing the current ministerial approval system, which has lost all credibility, and replace it with a judicial approval system for all other interventions in electronic communications.”