Digital Economy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 13th September 2016.

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Photo of Calum Kerr Calum Kerr Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Digital) 1:46 pm, 13th September 2016

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I look forward to tabling specific amendments in Committee.

We on these Benches also offer our support, albeit with reservations, for the measures in the Bill relating to digital Government and information sharing. We welcome the recognition that the Government need to move towards being “digital by default”, and we understand the huge benefits for citizens and for Governments that new approaches to digital and information sharing can bring. Our concerns relate to how these measures will be executed and implemented.

Securing the trust of citizens will be vital in harnessing the power of data to improve the workings of the Government, but we do not want to offer the Government a blank cheque on these matters. We have concerns about the lack of detail on how citizens’ data would be put to use and what form of protection would be put in place to cover areas such as human rights, privacy and data ownership. There is a clear logic, on a purely technical matter such as the universal service obligation, in enabling legislation to allow the detail to be defined by an external agency, but this is an area that requires ongoing parliamentary oversight and it is not clear at this stage how such an obvious democratic requirement will be met.

Scotland already has a well-established data linkage framework and a set of guiding principles designed to proportionately balance the risk to confidentiality against the public benefit of using data for research. The Scottish Government will want to be fully involved in the development of the relevant codes of practice that will govern the disclosure, use and processing of information under these powers. In summary, we welcome several measures in the Bill, which covers a wide range of areas, but we are committed to pushing for much greater clarification and, where we can, for much more ambition as the Bill moves into Committee.