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Social Security Fraud Act 2001

Clause 3: Code of Practice about use of information powers

58.Clause 3 provides for the issue and revision of a Code of Practice relating to the exercise of the provisions set out in clauses 1 and 2 of the Act.

59.Clause 3(1) provides that the Secretary of State shall issue a Code of Practice relating to the use of provisions at Section 109B of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 where they are being used to make enquiries of persons listed at Section 109B(2A) - banks, building societies, credit reference agencies etc. The Code would also relate to the use of the powers to obtain electronic access to information - new Sections 109BA and 110AA.

60.Clause 3(2) provides that the Secretary of State may revise the Code of Practice. The Department intends to review the operation of the Code of Practice to ensure that it is working as intended for both investigators and for business. The code could be revised if any review demonstrated this was necessary.

61.Clause 3(3) relates to consultation on the Code. It provides that the Secretary of State shall prepare and publish a draft of the Code of Practice, consider any representations made to him upon the draft, and may make any changes he considers appropriate before publishing the final version.  It provides for the Secretary of State to do the same in relation to any revisions of the code.

62.Clause 3(4) provides that the final, and any revised, version of the Code of Practice should be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

63.Clause 3(5) provides that the Code of Practice, and any revised version, shall come into force when it is issued by the Secretary of State.

64.Clause 3(6) provides that authorised officers must have regard to the Code of Practice currently in force when exercising their powers under the provisions covered by the code.

65.Clause 3(7) provides that failure on the part of an authorised officer to comply with the Code of Practice would not, in itself, render him liable to civil or criminal proceedings. If authorised officers misuse their powers, they are already liable to proceedings under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

66.Clause 3(8) provides that the Code of Practice shall be admissible in any civil or criminal proceedings - for example, if an investigator was charged with misuse of these powers under the offences in the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

67.Clause 3(9) defines authorised officer. It has the same meaning as in the Social Security Administration Act 1992.

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