A LAW regulating phone tapping - the last bill to be passed by the Legislative Council - must be repealed, government officials said yesterday. The Security Branch said the bill, moved by the Democratic Party's James To Kun-sun, posed big problems for the police and other law enforcement agencies. 'The enactment of the bill would seriously and adversely affect law enforcement work, which would only benefit criminals,' a branch statement said. 'As a responsible administration, we have no option but to seek to repeal it as soon as possible.' Secretary for Justice-designate Elsie Leung Oi-see said earlier this week that the handover government would review several laws on workers' rights, but it is the first time the present administration has recommended that a bill be overturned. 'The Government put forward a white bill on the interception of communications earlier this year but did not table it because they considered it would not have support,' said Mr To last night. 'Now a similar bill is passed and the administration say they will repeal it. This is a blatant hypocrisy.' Under the Interception of Communications Bill 1997, law enforcement officers must obtain judicial authorisation before tapping phones. In granting a warrant, a judge must examine whether the interception is necessary either for preventing or detecting a serious crime, or is in the interests of the security. Any lawful interception is now limited to a period of 90 days, which is renewable for a further 90 days. Speaking in Legco early yesterday, Mr To said the bill sought to safeguard the public from arbitrary invasion of their privacy. 'The bill is warranted as a remedy to the present law, which allows the Governor or any public officer authorised by him to intercept, detain or disclose any message if public interest so requires,' he said. While accepting that tapping was an effective method of preventing crime, Mr To said it had to adhere to the Bill of Rights. But the branch said the bill had big deficiencies. There was no exemption for intercepting communications from unlicensed equipment and it also attacked the restriction on renewals of tapping orders.