Computers and Privacy

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st March 1977.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Forman Mr Nigel Forman , Sutton Carshalton 12:00 am, 31st March 1977

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the present state of the law as it affects questions to do with computers and privacy.

Photo of Mr Brynmor John Mr Brynmor John , Pontypridd

In the White Paper "Computers and Privacy", published in December 1975, the Government announced that there was a need for legislation in this field. The content of the proposed legislation is under consideration by the Data Protection Committee appointed last year.

Photo of Mr Nigel Forman Mr Nigel Forman , Sutton Carshalton

Is it not time that the Government got a move on in this matter as it is now seven years since the problem was first officially identified with the appointment of the Younger Committee? Would it not be a good idea for the Government to give a commitment today of their intention to set up a data protection authority with licensing and enforcement powers?

Photo of Mr Brynmor John Mr Brynmor John , Pontypridd

The Government published a White Paper in December 1975 and the Data Protection Committee started work in December last year. It would be premature for me to accept the hon. Gentleman's invitation.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

As there is a need to make progress following these very lengthy consultations, will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that proposals will be contained in the next Queen's Speech?

Photo of Mr Brynmor John Mr Brynmor John , Pontypridd

I shall give no such undertaking. My undertaking is that when the committee brings forward proposals about the form and content of legislation we shall give them the closest possible examination.

Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that most European countries, particularly the Federal Republic of Germany, already have statutes protecting the individual in this way and that we are way behind other people? Will he give the committee a prod to see that we get its report in the near future?

Photo of Mr Brynmor John Mr Brynmor John , Pontypridd

I am sure the committee is aware that its report is eagerly anticipated, but I cannot tell the hon. and learned Gentleman when it will be produced. The committee started work only four months ago. Hon. Members opposite always want two objectives—perfect solutions reached immediately, or sooner.