Telecommunications Act 1984

The Telecommunications Act 1984, an Act of Parliament, gives potentially wide-reaching power to the Secretary of State in relation to communications networks.

  • Section 94: Directions in the interests of national security etc.
    • (1) The Secretary of State may, after consultation with a person to whom this section applies, give to that person such directions of a general character as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary in the interests of national security or relations with the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom …
    • (8) This section applies to OFCOM and to providers of public electronic communications networks.[1]

Little is known about the use of this potentially broad power. There is no list of purposes for which surveillance can be carried out, nor key steps to be followed or limitations to be respected in the course of any investigation. The Interception of Communications and Intelligence Services Commissioners appointed under RIPA have both told the UK Parliament they do not oversee its use [2], but the Interception of Communications Commissioner has since formally agreed to oversee its use.

[1] United Kingdom, Parliament (1984) Telecommunications Act 1984, available at: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/12/contents.

[2] Home Affairs Committee – Seventeenth Report, Counter-Terrorism, 30 April 2014, §175, available at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/231/23102.htm.