People being investigated by police over serious fraud-related offences or gang crimes will no longer have the right to remain silent, under a Government bill.

And refusing to give information on a gang murder or fraud-related extortion, could earn a jail sentence of up to one year.

The Search and Surveillance Bill was reported back to Parliament yesterday with significant changes, after an outcry over the sweeping powers it would have given to up to 70 Government agencies.

But Parliament's justice and electoral committee has kept provisions overriding the right to silence, and giving police, Customs and Internal Affairs the right to break into homes to bug and secretly film suspects.

But the agencies can use these powers only if they are investigating offences punishable by prison terms of seven years or more, or for particular Arms Act offences.

The original bill would have enabled police to seek an examination order - removing the right to silence - when investigating any offence that carried a jail term.

The committee has raised the threshold to offences that carry a maximum sentence of at least five years' jail when investigating business-related matters.

For non-business matters, the threshold is for offences that carry a maximum penalty of at least seven years' jail; there is no threshold for offences by organised crime groups.

Production orders can also force people to turn over documents to the police, a change which is being criticised as threatening the ability of media to protect their sources.

The powers are already available to the Serious Fraud Office, which has used them in recent weeks on the National Business Review to recover documents relating to stories on the collapse of South Canterbury Finance.

Labour MP David Parker said he was gaining support from media outlets to include a provision in the bill to exempt media outlets from having to reveal sources.

"Putting the confidentiality of their sources at risk means that sources will be less willing to confide in them in the future. This undermines the role of the fourth estate and is to the detriment of the general public," Labour's minority report on the bill said.

"There are no specific provisions to protect freedom of the press and the confidentiality of their sources."

Green Party MP Keith Locke criticised the orders as a threat to civil liberties.

"The examination orders apply not only to a suspect. The suspect's spouse, friends and colleagues will also be required to answer questions or face a year in jail."

Mr Locke said police should not be allowed to bug or secretly video inside someone's home.

"This is an unacceptable intrusion into people's personal space. Privacy in one's own home should be sacrosanct."

The Legislation

Examination orders:

* Court orders allowing police to require a person to answer questions if investigating: business-related offences carrying a maximum penalty of five years' jail; non-business fraud offences carrying a maximum penalty of seven years' jail; non-business offences committed wholly or in part by organised criminal groups.

Production orders:
* Police could require people to hand over documents related to specific offending.
* Audio and visual surveillance in private homes by police (Customs or Internal Affairs also if approved by order-in-council).
* For investigating offences that carry a penalty of at least seven years' jail, or offences against the Arms Act including the illegal sale, possession or supply of firearms.

Plain view:
* Officers can seize evidence of other offending found in the course of carrying out their duties.
* Warrantless surveillance period dropped from 72 hours to 48 hours.