With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take questions Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17 together.
As I indicated in a reply to questions on 19 March 1980, the position is that except in certain well defined cases, such as calls monitored at the request of the subscriber, telephone calls are intercepted by my Department only in compliance with warrants issued by the Minister for Justice.
No individual subscriber's line is observed or monitored for the purpose of checking the quality of service or to meet other needs of my Department. However, in the course of handling manually-operated calls operators are expected to monitor that calls have been connected satisfactorily, particularly in the case of emergency calls, that conversation is in progress and that the duration of calls for charging purposes is correct. Technicians in testing faulty trunk lines may occasionally, as part of the testing procedure, check that conversation is taking place on the trunk circuit concerned and that the quality of it is satisfactory. The instructions prohibit staff from listening-in on such calls. If any failures to observe these instructions occurred, they would be regarded in a most serious light.
Since calls are intercepted by my Department only under warrant issued by the Minister for Justice, the question of conformity with European Court of Human Rights standards does not arise for my Department.