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Home secretary David Blunkett has shelved plans to allow local councils, the NHS and others to have access to records of mobile calls and e-mail traffic, but both the Commons and the Lords last week authorised the continuation of existing powers to intercept and read communications under the provisions of the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act 2000.
They also gave legal status to a code of practice for the use of the powers. Home Office parliamentary under-secretary of state Lord Filkin, said, "The code supports the RIP Act by providing clear and unambiguous guidance on the lawful interception of communications in the UK."
The RIP Act takes account of the development of new technologies, and Human Rights Act obligations.
The minister is still required to issue a warrant to businesses authorising interception only for the purposes set out in the Act. Warrants may be applied for only by the security and intelligence services, the police, Customs & Excise officers or the chief of defence intelligence.
"The code sets out the procedures to be followed by agencies when applying for an interception warrant from the secretary of state, as well as giving guidance to agencies and others on giving effect to warrants and the disclosure, copying and retention of material obtained through warranted interception," Filkin said.