The government has approved an emergency decree making it illegal to store information collected by unauthorised telephone tappings, to use it as evidence in court or to publish it in the media. All illegal wiretaps must be destroyed immediately, according to the governments measure.

The centre-right opposition has expressed its support for the measure and for its rapid passage through parliament.

The decree follows a scandal in which a group with links to Telecom Italia has assembled an archive of classified data on politicians, business leaders and ordinary Italians by making use of illegal tapped phone conversations and unauthorised access to police and government databases.

Phone tapped conversations published in newspapers have embarrassed and damaged several politicians, business executives and public officials in Italy over the last few years.

Telephone tappings are also carried out on thousands of ordinary Italians. Justice minister Clemente Mastella has stated that the decree is aimed to protect "all citizens, not just VIPs".