Digital Economy Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

– in the House of Lords at 3:08 pm on 6th February 2017.

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Relevant documents: 11th, 13th and 16th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee

Amendment 75

Moved by Baroness Janke

75: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—“Review of sale on the internet of counterfeit electrical appliances (1) Within six months of the coming into force of this Act, the Secretary of State must commission a review of the sale on the internet of counterfeit electrical appliances.(2) The review must consider whether operators of trading websites that allow individual sellers to use those websites to sell electrical items should be required to report to the police and trading standards authorities any instances of the selling of counterfeit electrical appliances which are arranged through their website.(3) The Secretary of State must publish the report of the review, and lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament.”

Photo of Lord Fowler Lord Fowler Chair, House of Lords Commission, Lord Speaker

My Lords, it might perhaps be for the convenience of the Committee if we had a short pause so that those not engaged in the next business may leave the Chamber.

Photo of Baroness Janke Baroness Janke Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 75 and 76, which deal with the sale of counterfeit electrical goods on the internet. There is growing concern about this practice, which has increased massively over the past 20 years—by 10,000%—and is continuing to increase at around 15% a year. The industry of counterfeit goods is worth something like £1.3 billion, according to the Electrical Safety Council, and 64% of these goods are sold on the internet. People believe that they are buying reputable brands, as they are dealing with an online retailer that is well known and they assume that the goods are genuine.

The fact that there are so many accidents and so many problems with these goods is another reason that we are bringing these amendments today, as we see this Bill as an opportunity to do something about this practice. The goods are often dangerous. The Electrical Safety Council calculates that something like 7,000 domestic fires are caused by faulty goods, and many of these are counterfeit goods. The practice of selling these goods undermines genuine brands and causes great difficulty within the industry. Faulty goods can also cause great harm directly to individual people.

These amendments seek to give some responsibility to online retailers to report to trading standards and the police goods that they know to be counterfeit. The second amendment requires the Government to provide a review and report on the extent of this practice as well as its impact on the economy. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

My Lords, my name is also to this amendment, so I support my noble friend Lady Janke. I declare that I am a patron of Electrical Safety First.

My noble friend has stated the problem very well. The ask from this amendment is very modest: we are asking the Government to establish a review. It may not be appropriate for that to be in the Bill, but it gives us an opportunity at this stage for the Government to come back and tell us what they are going to do about counterfeit goods, which are clearly a fast-growing problem.

Our particular concern is with electrical goods, although I could probably add gas goods as well. Counterfeiting clearly is a problem, and I do not minimise it, but a counterfeit handbag is unlikely to kill you; counterfeit electrical goods most certainly can, and do, kill people. I happened to spend my Sunday reading the trading standards journal TS Review, as I imagine many of your Lordships would have been doing. I read that,

“More than 99 per cent…fake Apple chargers failed a basic safety test. Twelve were so poorly designed and constructed that they posed a risk of lethal electrocution to the user”.

On the same page, it is reported that the London Fire Brigade has stated that,

“Across London, 2,072 fires involving white goods have been recorded since January 2011, with more than £118m estimated to have been lost from London’s economy as a result”.

This clearly is a problem, not only to those who produce the products legitimately. Indeed, I noticed that eBay, of all places, is setting up an authentication scheme so that the proper producers can have their goods authenticated by experts as being not counterfeit. This indicates a huge problem.

The purpose of these amendments is to seek a commitment from the Government that they will establish reviews into goods sold and, in particular, goods sold on the internet. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us, first, that the Government recognise this increasing problem and, secondly, if they do, what they are going to do about it.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 3:15 pm, 6th February 2017

My Lords, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that we recognise this problem, although I have to admit that I certainly did not spend my Sunday reading the trading standards review.

Amendments 75 and 76 seek to impose a commitment to review and report on the sale and cost of counterfeit electricals being sold online. The sale of counterfeit goods of all kinds, not just electrical goods, has, as noble Lords said, the potential to cause consumer and economic harm by damaging legitimate traders and often supporting organised crime.

This is an issue the Government take extremely seriously, and that is why the Intellectual Property Office is committed to tackling counterfeiting of all kinds. We do this by working through our IP attaché network in manufacturing countries, targeting import routes in conjunction with UK Border Force and targeting UK sellers and distributors along with trading standards and police services across the UK.

We have heard reference to the challenges of the online world and sales via social media. We absolutely recognise that, and that is why we have supported some very successful work through Operation Jasper, working with police and trading standards to tackle the sale of counterfeits through social media sites.

The full range of work undertaken by government in this area is outlined in the IPO’s IP enforcement strategy, which was published last year. This strategy makes a number of commitments that are very relevant to the ideas proposed in these amendments. The strategy commits the Government to further improving the reporting of IP crime as well as to developing a credible methodology to measure the harm caused. Work is also ongoing with academics to build the structures necessary for commercial entities to share information that they hold about levels of infringement in a safe manner. The IPO also hosts the IPO crime intelligence hub, which is able to receive, develop and disseminate intelligence on IP crime, whether online or physical. The hub is in regular contact with the UK’s leading online sales platforms, and they are continually developing better mechanisms for sharing information about sellers and products.

In addition to this, the IPO, on behalf of the IP crime group, which is a collection of government departments, industry bodies and enforcement agencies which work to tackle IP crime, publishes an extensive report each year on a wide range of IP infringement, including counterfeit electrical goods. The IPO is also working with Citizens Advice to see how it can offer better information to consumers so that they in turn can make more informed purchasing choices. Finally, the IPO is working to encourage trade associations voluntarily to share information about sales of counterfeits that raise safety concerns.

In light of all the things that the Government and others are involved in, I hope the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Janke Baroness Janke Liberal Democrat

I thank the Minister for the information she has shared with us. It is very encouraging. However, there is a feeling that this issue has been around for a very long time and that perhaps stronger enforceability is needed to do something about it. I read that eBay is now producing its own mechanism for preventing the sale of counterfeit goods and that other online retailers will be looking at that, but it still seems that the ability to enforce action on this is missing. I hope to look at the work the Government are already doing on this and consider its future contribution and then consider whether to return with this matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 75 withdrawn.

Amendment 76 not moved.

Amendment 77

Moved by Lord Foster of Bath

77: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—“Copyright and the role of active hosts(1) The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 are amended as follows.(2) At the end of Regulation 19 insert—“(2) Where an information society service is storing and providing access to the public copyright protected works, and is playing an active role, including the promotion and optimising the presentation of those works, sub-paragraph (1) shall not apply.(3) The service provider of an active host under sub-paragraph (2) is required to secure licensing agreements with rightsholders.””

Photo of Lord Foster of Bath Lord Foster of Bath Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, in moving Amendment 77, I shall speak briefly to Amendment 79. Amendment 77 probes the Government’s intentions with regard to the recent proposals for an EU directive on copyright in the digital single market. The amendment would clarify that the hosting defence contained within paragraph 19 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 does not apply to digital services that play an active role in the provision of online content, specifically those user upload services that optimise the presentation and promotion of copyright-protected works. The amendment would require those services to secure licensing agreements with rights holders.

To explain in more detail, many services are passive hosts, which are defined in EU law as those that provide a,

“technical process of operating and giving access to a communication network over which information made available by third parties is transmitted or temporarily stored, for the sole purpose of making the transmission more efficient”.

Examples would include internet service providers such as BT, TalkTalk or Virgin, cloud locker services such as Dropbox, Microsoft’s One Drive or Google Drive, and online bulletin boards such as HootBoard or MyBB. Services such as these are accepted as essential to the operation of the digital market and so quite reasonably have what is called “safe harbour protection”—that is, a limitation of their copyright liability on the basis that they have no knowledge of copyright infringement. On the other hand, there are sites that also give access to works made available by third parties, but actively provide functionality that promotes works, makes recommendations and optimises the upload for the purpose of presentation. It is this functionality that provides users with the ability to find what they want when they want it. These are active hosts. They directly compete with licensed providers. Examples include Facebook, YouTube, Dailymotion, Bandcamp, Vimeo and Metacafe. They should not have safe harbour protection and should be required to secure licencing agreements with rights holders.

Therefore, while there was, and in some areas continues to be, justification for exemptions for passive hosts, like all exemptions they must reflect the balance between the rights of rights holders and users. There is a strong argument that the existing provisions are not sufficiently defined and as a result are open to deliberate misinterpretation. This means that some services can use copyright-protected content to build their businesses without fairly remunerating rights holders. UK Music’s recent report Measuring Music highlighted that the user-uploaded service YouTube, the most frequently used global streaming platform and one that currently benefits from the safe harbour provisions, increased its payments to music rights holders by only 11% in 2015 despite consumption of the service growing by 132%. This further underlines what is called in the trade the “value gap”. The current legal ambiguity and imbalance has created distortions in the digital market with services like YouTube benefiting from these exemptions whereas Apple Music and Spotify, providing similar services, do not. The growing significance of the music streaming market must not go unremarked. Over a four-year period, the UK music industry has grown by 17%, and during the same period, there has been a massive shift from consumers owning music to streaming it. The value of subscription streaming services jumped from £168 million in 2014 to £251 million in 2015.

There has been a number of legal cases seeking to clarify the situation. In 2011, in the L’Oréal v eBay case, the Court of Justice of the European Union held that online marketplaces cannot benefit from the hosting exemption where they play an active role, for example by promoting and optimising content. This amendment seeks merely to clarify what should already apply in the law right across the EU, including in this country. However, some services are still arguing that they are not active hosts, and as a result, avoid licences or are underlicensed, hence the need for the clarification that may be provided by this probing amendment.

There is another reason why we need greater clarity from the Government. Initially, the Government made it clear that they believed:

“Clarification of terms used in the Directive would, we believe, help to address … concerns”, about the active/passive host issues. However, in a letter to the EU institutions in April last year, the then intellectual property Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, argued in relation to digital services that,

“we should avoid introducing legislation that might act as a barrier to the development of new digital business models and create obstacles to entry and growth in the European digital market”.

This probing amendment seeks to ensure that that sort of view does not preclude strong and robust positions being taken in support of safe harbour clarification. The proposals in the draft EU directive in this regard are welcome, and we ask that the UK Government continue to support the clarification in the law that the draft directive seeks and that they continue to engage in this important process.

The referendum result and the path towards Brexit raise many issues in relation to these proposals. It is highly conceivable that we will be Brexiting at the very time that Europe begins to adopt copyright rules for the digital age, so an opportunity to clarify UK law will be lost as a consequence of other factors. It is therefore necessary to consider how we can take this opportunity of having a Digital Economy Bill to safeguard these important principles once we leave the European Union. I hope very much that the Minister will confirm that the Government are committed to implementing the draft directive, and Article 13 and Recital 38, into UK law, if they are not implemented by the point that we leave the European Union. Finally, I am well aware that the Government have been consulting stakeholders on these issues. I hope we get a commitment from the Government to publish the consultation and that the new IP Minister, Jo Johnson, will commit to a meeting with representatives of the music industry and others to discuss these issues.

Briefly, we on these Benches fully support Amendment 79 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, which my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and I have also signed. I have no intention of stealing the thunder of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and will leave him to explain the importance of the amendment, which seeks simply to help the Government achieve their own manifesto commitment to reduce copyright infringement and ensure that search engines do not link to the most offending sites.

I will say merely that the Government have already hosted a number of round tables to seek ways forward, and some sources are telling us that a voluntary agreement for a code of practice is close to finalisation. If that is true then I am delighted to hear it, but this amendment would not preclude a voluntary agreement. Already many have argued to us that tabling the amendment may have helped to speed up the process towards a voluntary agreement with teeth, but the amendment would not do anything other than ensure that we had a backstop mechanism in the event of a failure to get a voluntary agreement or if the voluntary agreement fails. I hope that on that basis Amendment 79 will also be considered seriously by the Government.

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 3:30 pm, 6th February 2017

My Lords, it is extremely kind of the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath to introduce my amendment for me, saying that he was not going to speak to it and then covering all the points I was going to make. That means we will move a little faster than we would otherwise have done. I think I can limit my speech to three points, in the sure and certain knowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, will cover any points that I do not cover in great detail.

We understand that there is a voluntary code in circulation that has been offered to all parties, and it is thought that it might be signed some time this week—at least, that is the deadline that the Government have given. If that is the case, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, says, then that is obviously good news and takes us a step down the road, but my amendment would be necessary if not everyone who has been offered this signs up to it, which I think is quite likely. There may be new entrants and other companies that participate in this area for which the activities that facilitate copyright infringement by users will remain a problem, and of course there may be changes in technology that we cannot even anticipate at this stage that may make it necessary, as adumbrated by the amendment, for the Secretary of State to return to this issue in future. For all the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, this is a helpful amendment, intended to ensure that this long-running problem gets solved. I hope very much that the Government feel able to accept it.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, on Amendment 77, over recent years the UK has made great strides in the enforcement of intellectual property, and we are now judged to have one of the best IP enforcement regimes in the world. This is definitely a position that we are keen to maintain, and the Bill sends a clear signal that the Government believe copyright infringement is a serious matter, irrespective of whether it is online or offline. This includes measures to increase the penalty for online copyright infringement from two years to 10 years. We understand that there are concerns in the music industry particularly that online intermediaries need to do more to share revenues fairly with creators, which the amendment seeks to tackle. However, we need to find balanced solutions that provide clarity without undermining basic freedoms or inhibiting the development of innovative digital models.

As the e-commerce directive is EU single-market legislation in origin, we will in effect have to wait until after we exit the EU and then possibly initiate a debate as to whether this regime, or indeed the e-commerce regulations as a whole, is still fit for purpose. We are also wary of making piecemeal changes to this important regime that has helped to foster the development of online services and has been helpful to the development of the UK’s burgeoning tech sector without a proper debate involving all parties.

That said, the current law, including the exemptions from liability, has fostered an open and innovative internet, giving online services the legal certainty required to start up and flourish. This has been good for creators, rights holders, internet businesses and consumers alike. Platforms, like all businesses, have a role to play in helping to remove copyright-infringing material, and there is no place for a system that encourages copyright infringement online. However, the UK Government are fully committed to ensuring that our creative industries receive fair remuneration for their work. We want to see creators remunerated fairly, while encouraging investment in new content and innovative services. We will carry forward these principles when engaging at policy level with the EU while considering our own UK-based solutions.

The Government are clear that we must maintain our rights and obligations as members of the EU until we leave. That means that we carry on making arguments within the EU concerning our preferences for EU law. Once we leave the EU, we may choose to reconsider a range of issues, including the limited liability regime, but for now, government policy remains unchanged. The European Commission has recently published a series of copyright proposals in that area, and we are in the process of carefully considering those proposals. While we remain a member of the EU, we will continue to engage with policy development in this space, alongside considering the development of our own copyright framework.

Amendment 79 would mean that the Government take a power to impose a code of practice on search engines, to dictate how they should work to prevent copyright infringement. The return of that suggestion, which was also discussed in another place, gives me an opportunity to update noble Lords on progress in this important area. Since the idea was last discussed in the other place, IPO officials have chaired a further round-table meeting between search engines and representatives of the creative industries. While there are still elements of detail to be settled, the group is now agreed on the key content of the code and I expect an agreement to be reached very soon. All parties have also agreed that the code should take effect, and the targets in it be reached, by 1 June this year. The search engines involved in this work have been very co-operative, making changes to their algorithms and processes, but also working bilaterally with creative industry representatives to explore the options for new interventions, and how existing processes might be streamlined. I understand that all parties are keen to finalise and sign up to the voluntary agreement, and so we believe there is no need to take a legislative power at this time.

Surely it is better to act on a co-operative basis now, and start tackling this serious issue right away. If, however, a voluntary deal cannot be achieved, we will re-evaluate our options. I hope therefore that the noble Lord is reassured, and feels able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Foster of Bath Lord Foster of Bath Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. On the second amendment, my concern is that although she is optimistic that we will have a robust agreement in place, if that does not happen—or if the agreement breaks down at a future date, for whatever reason—she has said merely that the Government will re-evaluate their position. She will be as aware as I am of the difficulty of bringing new legislation before your Lordships’ House to address any decision they might make at this time. The amendment would provide that backstop mechanism if it is needed in the long run, which is why I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss that at further stages of the Bill.

On the first amendment, the Minister has not been able to reassure me that the Government are committed to introducing appropriate legislation if the EU legislation has not been finalised at the time we leave the European Union. I hope therefore that we will have an opportunity to discuss that matter in more detail on a future occasion. For the time being, however, with an opportunity for us to reflect on what the Minister has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 77 withdrawn.

Amendment 78

Moved by Lord Clement-Jones

78: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—“Transparency and fairness obligations(1) Authors, artists and performers (“creators”) shall receive on a regular basis timely, adequate and sufficient information on the exploitation of their works and performances from those to whom they have licensed or transferred their rights as well as subsequent transferees or licensees, and the information shall include information on modes of exploitation, revenues generated and remuneration due. (2) The obligation in subsection (1) may be met by complying with a code of practice collectively bargained between relevant representative organisations of creators and the representative organisations of those who exploit their works, taking into account the characteristics of each sector for the exploitation of works.(3) Any such code of practice is to provide that each creator is to be entitled to a statement of income generated under such licence or transfer arrangements at regular intervals during each annual accounting period, and provide an explanation as to how the creator’s remuneration has been calculated referencing any contract terms relevant to the calculation.(4) In the event of failure of a transferee or licensee mentioned in subsection (1) to comply with a code of practice, or in the absence of such a code of practice, the creator shall be entitled to apply to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court for a detailed account of revenues due to the creator generated from the modes of exploitation referred to in subsection (1), and in the event of failure, the Court may award damages in the amount of any shortfall in the total amount due to him.”

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Foster of Bath has referred to the draft directive on copyrights on the digital single market. Many authors, writers and artists welcome the provisions to balance the playing field for creators announced in that draft directive and would like to see them incorporated in our domestic law through the Digital Economy Bill. Some of my concerns about the timing of the adoption of the directive mirror exactly those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Foster.

The directive proposes in article 14 one particularly important safeguard—namely, transparency: a right to regular, timely, adequate and sufficient information on the exploitation of their works and performances from those to whom they have licensed or transferred their rights, including details of modes of exploitation, revenues generated and remuneration due. This right will apply even if copyright has been assigned and will allow authors and performers to assess how their work has been used.

Some assignees and licensees are exemplary, but by no means all. Authors and performers under these provisions will have a right to detailed and full statements on the uses of and revenues from their work, unless such reporting is disproportionate. That in itself would be an enormous improvement on the present situation, whereby authors and artists often do not know how widely their work is used and have no way to check whether payments made to them are correct. This problem can become more acute in the digital age, when work can be disseminated in many ways and there is no physical stock which can be counted to ensure that accounting is correct.

As for music, subscription streaming is set to become the most significant revenue stream for the recorded music market in the near future. Streaming requires a fundamentally new licensing model from those who control the recording and song—lyrical and musical—copyrights, which the digital service providers wish to exploit. A complex model was developed, and is now utilised by most subscription services. The evolution of this licensing process for streaming music has resulted in a number of transparency issues for artists and songwriters which have not yet been fully addressed—not least, the presence of non-disclosure agreements between the digital service providers and the record labels, distributors, publishers and collective management organisations, which mean that artists and songwriters are not always allowed to know the revenue share and minimum guarantee arrangements that each digital service provider uses to calculate what the copyrights from which they benefit are due each month. There is also a lack of clarity over how labels and publishers apply contract terms that impact on how creator payments are calculated.

The amendment would work in a similar fashion to the proposals in the draft directive, ensure that creators can audit the royalties they receive from streaming and other services, and assess the relative merits of different services and business partners. Licensees and assignees already have systems in place for recording usage and revenues and reporting to creators. These systems are increasingly detailed in the digital age, and could easily be adapted to take account of any increased requirements. According to a medium-sized book publisher, reporting on 600 titles on the basis of spreadsheets takes 80 man hours per year, and the average time required for compiling and sending a report on a title is eight minutes. Simpler cases can be dealt with in two to three minutes, while the more difficult ones can take 10 to 15. The advantages far outweigh any cost and would help to make creative careers more attractive. Greater transparency would give a powerful message to consumers as they are generally more willing to pay for copyright-protected works if they know that fair remuneration would reach the original creators.

The directive itself is now subject to further consideration and review and may take 12 to 18 months, at best, to adopt, and perhaps even longer, as my noble friend indicated. As the Minister, or the Minister’s noble friend, reminded me recently, the Government have published a call for evidence on the copyright proposals. When will they take a definite view on the proposals, including these transparency provisions? The UK has an unparalleled opportunity to create a fairer playing field for creators by incorporating these provisions into the Digital Economy Bill, irrespective of whether we want to or can sign up to the directive. The question is whether it will. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench

My Lords, I fully support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I do not have much to add to his thorough analysis of the issue other than to say that the right of artists, authors and performers to know what is being done with their work, and to obtain fair remuneration for the exploitation of it, is incontestable. This amendment would, in an effective manner, enshrine that right.

In one sense, information is money. This amendment will doubtless have hidden benefits in that anything that can be of further help to artists, particularly those who are less well off, to survive and thrive, and, perhaps, to become the high earners of the future, is a worthwhile long-term investment and can only be good for the individuals, the creative industries and the UK economy as a whole.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 3:45 pm, 6th February 2017

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for raising this issue. Our creative industries ultimately depend on the efforts of authors, musicians and other creators, and I agree with the principle that they should be fairly remunerated when their works are used. We want to create an environment where the UK’s creative industries can continue to thrive and retain their world-leading edge. The creative content tax reliefs are one of the Government’s flagship policies, and the film tax relief alone supported over £1 billion of expenditure in the UK in 2015-16. The Government are also investing in skills to create a pipeline of future talent. Since 2013, we have made available up to £20 million match funding to the skills investment fund to help employers address priority skills needs in the screen sector. Over the last 18 months, this has supported more than 500 graduate placements.

The amendment would require those organisations exploiting copyright works via licences to provide the relevant creators with regular information on their use and the revenue they generate, and states that this obligation could be met by complying with a code of practice determined at sector level. It would also provide creators with recourse to court if these requirements are not adhered to. The principle of transparency is an important element of well-functioning markets. I am aware that some creators and their representatives find it difficult to access information on the use of their works owing, for example, to difficulties in negotiating suitable contractual terms. I am, however, happy to confirm to your Lordships’ House that the Government are already engaged in discussions to address this issue. The European Commission has made proposals in this area as part of its current draft directive on copyright, and the UK will actively engage in these debates while we remain a member of the European Union. As such, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, will understand the Government’s wish to allow this process to develop before considering the case for domestic intervention.

I welcome the noble Lord’s recognition in his amendment of the important role that collectively agreed industry standards can play in this space. Creators and publishers alike have highlighted the role that such standards can play in improving transparency and fairness. Examples in the UK include the Publishers Association’s Code of Practice on Author Contracts, and the fair digital deals declaration operated by the Worldwide Independent Network. I believe that it is worth giving careful consideration to the part that these industry-led initiatives can play, and I hope the debate at EU level will be a chance to explore that. With this explanation, and the assurance that these issues are under active consideration, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the Minister for an extraordinarily well-crafted response—it seemed to throw bouquets in various directions, but I am not quite sure where the petals will fall at the end of the day. It was splendidly positive at the outset, and I felt a speech on industrial policy for the creative industries might be coming on. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for his very supportive contribution.

The Minister talked about transparency being an important element of a well-functioning market and went on to talk about codes of practice, the Government’s active engagement in discussions of elements of the EU draft directive, and so on, but she never actually agreed that the principle of transparency should be incorporated into UK law. Clearly, if the EU directive is passed within the two-year period after notice of Brexit is given, it may well be incorporated into UK law. However, the Minister did not say, “Yes, and moreover, given the call for evidence, we have heard the evidence on transparency and we fully support that element of the directive”. It was rather a case of saying, “Let’s keep talking and actively engaging”, and so on and so forth. I suspend disbelief slightly given that the Minister supported the principle but I am not sure she went so far as to support its incorporation into law. That is a rather different matter. We may well return to this issue on Report. In the meantime, I thank the Minister and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 78 withdrawn.

Amendments 79 to 79B not moved.

Clause 30: Disclosure of information to improve public service delivery

Amendment 80

Moved by Lord Collins of Highbury

80: Clause 30, page 30, line 8, at end insert—“( ) Information disclosed from one specified person to another specified person should be used for the purposes of a specific objective only.( ) Where the information is to be used for purposes other than the specified objective, additional approval must be provided.”

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development)

My Lords, this group includes a wide range of amendments and our debate on it will be one of our key debates on this section of the Bill. Clause 30 allows specified persons to share data for a specified objective. Our amendments seek to define and limit this and to ensure that additional approval is required where there is broadening or leakage

My honourable friend Louise Haigh thoroughly scrutinised this provision in the other place. Certainly, it took me most of Saturday to read what was said in that Committee stage. I do not intend to repeat all the arguments that were made—but I give fair warning that it will take me some time to go through these key elements, given that the principles in these clauses have given rise to concern, certainly in your Lordships’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

I start by saying that we on these Benches are completely in favour of effective data sharing across government to achieve public sector efficiencies, value for money, improved public sector services, improved take-up of benefits for the most vulnerable such as the warm home discount, free school meals and, most importantly, an improved experience for those who use public services. We will come to a lot of those issues in later groups today where we have tabled specific amendments.

The public also support these objectives, but their trust is fragile. In recent years we have seen a number of failures in managing data. The Information Commissioner said in her recent briefing distributed to all noble Lords:

“Transparency and a progressive information rights regime work together to build trust”.

This part of the Bill gives the Government considerable powers to share data. But those building blocks in restoring trust that the Information Commissioner and just about everyone else agree are needed are sadly not mirrored in the Bill. That is the crux of today’s debate.

Instead, the building blocks are covered in regulations and codes of practice. As I said, many, including the Information Commissioner and your Lordships’ DPRRC, have stressed the importance of including such measures in primary legislation as opposed to codes of practice. Having read through all the codes of practice, I sometimes asked myself what we were dealing with. Is this Bill really at the stage of being submitted for parliamentary consideration? So much of it needs further work and further consultation that I really do wonder whether it should be in this House at all at this stage. This is something that we may have to return to.

A specified objective to permit disclosure must meet conditions set out in subsections (6) and (10) of the clause, but they are so all-encompassing that it is difficult to see anything that the public sector does that is not covered by the clause. The published codes give examples of objectives that would fall foul of these criteria, including those that are punitive, and it is useful to see those examples. But it is a real concern that such a clarification of the power is not in the Bill. Why does the Bill not explicitly contain or exclude a punitive objective? What are we avoiding here?

The codes also give examples of objectives that are too general rather than too specific, and it would help if the Minister could say exactly where that line could be drawn. Not only are the objectives not limited in the Bill but the bodies that can share or receive data are not particularly limited either. Subsection (3) states:

“A person specified in regulations under subsection (2) must be … (a) a public authority, or (b) a person providing services to a public authority”.

This is another area that gives people a lot of concern.

In the Government’s original consultation on the Bill, they stated their intention to proceed with proposals to enable non-public sector organisations that fulfil a public function on behalf of a public authority to be in scope of the powers. In that consultation, they said:

“We will strictly define the circumstances and purposes under which data-sharing will be allowed, together with controls to protect the data within the Code of Practice. We will set out in the Code of Practice the need to identify any conflicts of interest that a non-public authority may have and factor that information in the decision-making”.

I read the code of practice. Paragraph 71 refers to this and mentions non-public sector organisations. It says that,

“an assessment should be made of any conflicts of interest that the non-public authority may have”— but it does not give any examples of what those conflicts of interest might look like. I hope that in his response the Minister will be able to give more examples of what they might look like. We will come back to this issue in our consideration of other groups of amendments to this section.

The code also states that data-sharing agreements should,

“identify whether there are any unintended risks involved with disclosing data”, to an organisation. In the Commons, my honourable friend Louise Haigh—I congratulate her on this work—raised the behaviour of Concentrix, which was mentioned again on the radio today. It was contracted by HMRC to investigate tax credits and fraud. But the code of practice does not list any examples of risks or set out how specified persons might go about ascertaining them. We heard on the radio today that that contract and the mismanagement of the data has caused huge distress to tens of thousands of people, and that it is ongoing.

The code also states:

“Non-public authorities can only participate in a data sharing arrangement once their sponsoring public authority has assessed their systems and procedures to be appropriate for secure handling data”.

It does not give any sense of what conditions they will be measured against and how officials should assess them. I hope it is not going to be on the same basis that the HMRC gave the contract to Concentrix. It is that that we need to know about. This draft code—and I will keep coming back to it—is in an extremely draft form and needs substantially more work done on it. I hope that the noble Lord will assure us that these codes will be revised and I hope that, within the revisions, he will acknowledge that substantial improvements will be made.

This is an important time to strengthen cybersecurity and the minimisation and protection of data, which is why it is so important that we get this part of the Bill right. The new EU GDPR and the law-enforcement directive that were adopted in May will come into effect from May 2018. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for distributing the huge bundle of factsheets. I took the time to read them. I was interested that, in the factsheet Q and A circulated to noble Lords, in answer to the question of whether the new powers in the Bill are compliant with the GDPR, we are told that they are “consistent” with the codes. I am not sure I quite understand what is meant by “compliant” and “consistent”. It could be that a lot more work has to be done.

The GDPR includes stronger provisions on processing only the minimum data needed, consent, requirements on clear privacy notices, explicit requirements for data protection by design and by default and on carrying out data protection impact assessments. Indeed, as the Information Commissioner said when she gave evidence to the Commons Bill Committee:

“There may be some challenges between the provisions and the GDPR … There would be a need to carefully review the provisions of this Bill against the GDPR to ensure that individuals … have the right to be forgotten, for example, so that they could ask for the deletion of certain types of data, as long as that was not integral to a service”.—[Official Report, Commons, Digital Economy Bill Committee, 13/10/16; cols. 112-13]

At the moment this Bill makes no mention of consent and the codes are clearly not designed to support a consent-based model. In the other place, Chris Skidmore, the Minister asserted that,

“these powers do not erode citizens’ privacy rights. They will operate within the existing data protection framework. The new powers explicitly provide that information cannot be disclosed if it contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998 or part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Further, they are carefully constrained to allow information to be shared only for specified purposes and in accordance with the 1998 Act’s privacy principles … The codes are consistent with the … data sharing code of practice. Transparency and fairness are at the heart of the guidance”.—[Official Report, Commons, Digital Economy Bill Committee, 25/10/16; col. 312]

We need to be reassured about this because we are not actually dealing with all the information. We do not have before us the finalised codes—at least I hope we do not, because they are totally inadequate. We need to know more and I think that these probing amendments lay down some very clear markers about how we should proceed with caution in relation to this Bill.

In her evidence the Information Commissioner advised that additional safeguards were needed in the Bill. She recommended that the Government should consider an addition to the Bill that would make it clear that the codes of practice established under Part 5 should be consistent with the ICO’s statutory data sharing code and so forth. She was pleased that the Government had accepted her recommendation—and of course there are now references to her statutory data-sharing code in the data-sharing chapters. It will certainly help to put the consideration for the protection of privacy at the centre of any data-sharing initiative.

We have all received this brief, which is fairly strong in terms of the direction of travel. The commissioner welcomed the references to the privacy impact assessments, but she said that she was still,

“strongly in favour of having reference to them in the Bill”.

The commissioner said that she,

“welcomes the Government’s positive commitment to … address this issue”, and that:

“Constructive discussions are at an advanced stage”, and work is taking place with regard to the codes of practice. But when will we get further information from the Government about these possible changes? Will we be presented with key elements of principle in amendments from the Government on Report or even later, when we will not have the same opportunity that we have today to probe, seek explanations and ask questions? It will be a very different sort of forum, and not one that will enable us to satisfy our concerns.

On the issue of timeframes and consultation, whatever revisions are made to the codes, we want to be satisfied. I know that we have tabled further amendments on this issue in terms of consultation, but we need in this first group to understand what those timeframes really mean.

I now turn to the Delegated Legislation Committee’s report. I do not think that I have seen such strong language from a committee that has not had a response from the Government. I assume that the Minister will tell us that they have received the report and are considering it—but how long will that consideration take? When will we know what the Government’s response is to it? I will not read out the committee’s full report, but we have tabled amendments. There is one specific recommendation. The committee felt that it was inappropriate for Ministers to have the “untrammelled” powers given by Clause 30 that would allow them to prescribe extensively. That sort of language needs to be responded to today in detail. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

At the end of the day, we tabled this amendment and we want to emphasise that we need an explanation from the Government about why these powers are needed and what safeguards will be in place. If we do not get that explanation, we will need safeguards on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Janke Baroness Janke Liberal Democrat 4:00 pm, 6th February 2017

My Lords, I, too, wish to speak to this group of amendments, many of which are in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, we on this Bench support the sharing of information. I have been a local councillor for many years and I certainly see the benefits of being able to share information. It would make people’s lives a great deal easier and enable them to access benefits and exemptions that they have not easily been able to in the past. We feel, however, that far more privacy safeguards are needed in this part of the Bill. The amendments introduce some tightening of the terms of the Bill, but more clarity is needed, with a number of principles involved in this.

Many of the people to whom the information relates are among the most vulnerable: they are people who are unemployed or on benefits, perhaps with children involved, and not necessarily in a position to understand what is happening if there is no transparency and some idea of consent in sharing the information. It is also important that we are assured that data being shared are minimised—that as little as possible is shared. There needs to be a clear justification for sharing data; the purposes must be clear and the definitions governing that must be tight.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned Concentrix. We know that there have been other issues with the Government’s breaches of information and that government departments are not always as well equipped to deal with sensitive information as they might be. It is therefore all the more important that we have much more tightly defined terms in the Bill. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said about our not having those before us at the moment and about what is needed to reassure us on that if we cannot see them at the moment. The codes of practice are dealt with in the next group of amendments, and we will want to say a few words about them then, but there needs to be much more rigour and clarity, and many more conditions and safeguards to protect vulnerable people of the future, not just from wilful misuse of their personal information but from errors that could pursue them throughout their lives. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us about this and I look forward to his comments.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 85, which is linked with this group. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for his introduction. I believe in data sharing; I declare that straightaway. However, it needs to be well managed, because, the noble Baroness has just stressed, we do not want information to be used in a way that is, unfortunately, not fair to some of the very vulnerable families of which she has spoken.

Although the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, deals with Clause 30, my amendment relates to Clause 33. I have asked that Clause 33(2)(c) to (f) be deleted, if only to give me an opportunity to express my concerns about this aspect of the Bill. In these two clauses, we are talking about information being disclosed by gas and electricity companies and information being given by other authorities to gas and electricity suppliers. That is why one or two of my thoughts went searching as to why they would be in this group.

My amendment is very much a probing amendment and seeks clarification. The Explanatory Notes state that these paragraphs are included to enable personal information to be used in,

“criminal investigations, civil or criminal legal proceedings or the prevention or detection of crime or the prevention of antisocial behaviour”.

My amendment refers particularly to subsection 2(c) in that group. Will the Minister explain in what way the gas and electricity suppliers will be involved in such activities other than reporting persons and their behaviour to the police? I do not quite see what responsibility the gas or electricity suppliers have with this part of the Bill in that context.

I also confess considerable alarm at the prospect of power suppliers having access to very personal and private information to enable them, as I understand it, to investigate, detect, prevent or prosecute anything outside the realm of their normal expertise. Surely, their original expertise was the supply, maintenance and, where necessary, repair of power lines and pipes, but in this part of the Bill it seems to go very wide. I shall speak to other amendments later, so I will not go on at great length at this stage, but this part of the Bill raises questions for me. I can see some of the advantages of data sharing, but how do we define antisocial behaviour and what does that have to do with gas and electricity boards? I may be wrong; I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 4:15 pm, 6th February 2017

My Lords, I come rather late to the table with the Bill, but fresh, if that is the term, from the Investigatory Powers Act, as does the noble and learned Lord. Like me, he may have reflected on the fact that one of our basic documents in debating the Investigatory Powers Act was called by David Anderson A Question of Trust; the issue of trust is equally relevant to the provisions in the Bill. Like other noble Lords, I see the value of sharing information but—and for me it is a big “but”— with constraints, limits, conditions, checks. I would say balances but I do not think they always do the job. It would be too easy in this area to let convenience obscure other considerations. I have concerns about fundamental issues and I have difficulty, as I suspect do other noble Lords, knowing quite what to raise where, but my most fundamental concern is about respect for privacy. The use of bulk data, which we will come to, is bound to raise this.

I share concerns which have been raised about providers—not the public authorities and public services themselves, but the providers. Maybe we have to be realistic, as our public services are now provided so much through commissioning and procurement but, as I read the Bill, the regulations will not be required to list specific providers. I may be wrong about that. If providers have to be included, it would be appropriate for the public to be reassured, for instance, that the public authority in question maintains a register of its providers and publishes it. Maybe, also, all records of information held under these provisions should be destroyed at the termination of the provider’s contract.

The purposes set out here include well-being, which includes the contribution to society. I am not going to let this pass without saying that that risks being read, and I read it, as very paternalistic. I cannot see how it properly covers anything that is not covered by the other well-being provisions. Others have suggested that Clause 30 might lead to profiling. There is certainly a concern over health information, which we will come to separately. I also find it quite hard to think: if you are not contributing to society, are you not deserving of or entitled to public services? I think it is a very unfortunate term to use in legislation.

I share the concerns about Clause 33. At the very least, to share personal information to prevent anti-social behaviour which is not a crime—we know it is not a crime; you do not even need to go to the legislation about anti-social behaviour to know that, because it is referred to separately from crime—is going several steps too far. I start—I am not suggesting that others do not—from the premise that personal information should be kept confidential unless there is good reason not to do so, and if it is not confidential it needs to be treated with the greatest care and sensitivity. Respect for private life is one of our basic values. The Minister would be able to quote Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights—as I will do—without reading it. It says that there are “necessary”—I stress that word—exceptions in the interests of national security, public safety, the economic well-being of the country, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. I support the amendments—I think they are in this group—that would import the term “necessary”.

Article 8 refers to disorder and crime, but—I will not be surprised if the Minister quotes some case law at me on the definition of “disorder”—I would have thought that in this context it must refer to something a good deal more serious than what may fall within “anti-social behaviour”.

The Investigatory Powers Act includes the much-welcomed and much-discussed “privacy” clause; during the debate on that we considered the requirements of both necessity and proportionality. The Act also refers specifically to the Human Rights Act and to crime as a consideration when it is a serious crime, and it refers to using “less intrusive means”. These points are all relevant to this debate.

For my part, this amounts to support for all the amendments in the group and a concern to persuade the Government to look at the issues through the lens of rights to privacy as well as efficiency. Most citizens accept—indeed, expect—that in a digital age government departments will share information, but with narrower purposes and stricter checks than the Bill offers.

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, I am obliged to noble Lords for their observations on this group.

The powers in Chapter 1 of Part 5 will support the delivery of better services to achieve specified objectives, such as providing assistance to those suffering, for example, from fuel poverty. Your Lordships would all appear to be agreed on the need for effective data-sharing, but when we talk about that we must mean data-sharing that is secure and commands the trust of the general public—that is sufficiently ring-fenced to give confidence in the whole process. No one would take issue with that.

In that context I make this observation at the outset. It applies not only to this group of amendments but to further groups that we will come to this afternoon and perhaps much later this evening. We have to look at the provisions in this Bill in the context, first, of the Data Protection Act 1998, because the provisions of that Act apply in the context of this Bill. Therefore, as we look at the Bill, we must remember the protections that already exist in law with regard to data in this context. First, processing of personal data must always be fair and lawful. Secondly, data cannot be processed in a way that is incompatible with the purpose for which they were gathered. Thirdly, personal data must be,

“adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed”.

The personal data should be “accurate”, so a subject may be in a position to demand that they should be corrected.

Furthermore, on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, personal data can be kept no longer than is necessary for a particular objective. Where, therefore, they have been employed for a particular objective—or a party has received them for a particular purpose—and a need to keep the data for that purpose can no longer be displayed, they cannot be retained.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord address—in a later group, if not this one—why the terminology in the Bill is “personal information” rather than “personal data”, which might have made the marrying-up of the legislation a bit easier?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

Indeed I can. The reason is that in the present context, personal information extends to bodies corporate and other personalities that are not otherwise covered by the first definition. I will elaborate upon that later but that is why there is a distinction between the two terms. We can see that the two terms substantially overlap but it is only because of that technical distinction that they are employed in this way. I hope that that satisfies the inquiry from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.

The Data Protection Act not only circumscribes the use of data in very particular ways—for example, personal data must be processed in accordance with the data subject’s rights under the Act and be held securely to guard against unlawful or unauthorised processing, which addresses a point that many of your Lordships referred—but provides remedies in the event that those obligations are not adhered to. Generally speaking, that involves a complaint to the Information Commissioner.

Of course there have been lapses in data control. We are well aware of many of them. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, alluded to Concentrix, where there clearly appeared to have been lapses such that the Revenue terminated its contract without further notice in November of last year. We recognise that there are risks associated with data and data-sharing. That is why we emphasise the need to look at the provisions in the Bill not only alone but in the context of the Data Protection Act.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development)

There were obviously risks associated with the contract for Concentrix and the fall-out from that contract is certainly ongoing, because of the people who have suffered hardship. The Government will undoubtedly have to investigate even more because at the moment, we are dealing only with the people who have appealed. Can the Minister tell us exactly why the existing provisions for a risk assessment did not stop this contract from going sour?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

As the noble Lord is aware, Concentrix was not the only incident in which there were data breaches. They have happened not only in the context of parties operating with government but also entirely in the private sector. So far as I am aware, no one has made a claim for infallibility where data protection is concerned. Albeit that we aspire to the highest standards in data protection, we are not making claims of infallibility.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, also referred in the present context to the GDPR, which will come into effect as a European regulation in May 2018. I reiterate that the provisions in Part 5 of the Bill are compatible with the GDPR. The noble Lord appeared to take some issue with that term, but let me be clear: the provisions of Part 5 are drafted in such a way as to be compatible with the regulation. When the regulation comes into direct force, we will look at the provisions of the Act and the codes of practice to ensure that they are consistent with it. That is the way in which these things are done. The regulation is not yet in force and will be applied to the existing statutory structure from May 2018. I reassure him that it has always been intended that Part 5 of the Bill should be compatible with the regulation, for very obvious reasons.

Then there is the matter of the draft codes of practice. At this stage they are, of course, a draft. Those drafts have incorporated comments and advice from practitioners right across the public sector, from the Information Commissioner and from the devolved Administrations, so they have brought in that body of knowledge at this stage.

We are of course aware that the Delegated Powers Committee has made a series of observations on these matters. As the noble Lord so ably anticipated, we are considering its recommendations. With regard to timescale, we fully intend to respond to those recommendations before we reach the Report stage of the Bill. I cannot be more precise at this stage but clearly it is in everyone’s interest that we should be able to respond within such a timescale. That certainly is our present intention.

Perhaps I may move on just a little. Amendment 80 requires that additional approval be obtained where information received under the powers is to be used for purposes other than the specified objective. Again, one is reading this against the background of the DPA. While we appreciate the need for limitations on these powers, this amendment would undermine the policy rationale behind including these exceptions. Information-sharing could highlight problems or issues where public authorities would be expected to act. Exceptions included in our powers include investigating criminal activities, safeguarding vulnerable adults or children, and protection of national security. These exceptions are included to enable action to be taken in respect of matters of pressing public interest.

As I mentioned earlier, the second data protection principle of the Data Protection Act requires that data shall be obtained only for a specified purpose and shall not be further processed in a manner incompatible with that purpose. If a data controller wishes to make use of information for a purpose other than the one for which it was originally gathered, fairness will be a key consideration in deciding whether the additional purpose is compatible with the original purpose. The restrictions on use of personal information in these clauses are therefore intended to be consistent with this approach, and all processing of data under the powers must, I repeat, be compliant with the DPA. The combination of the restrictions in our gateways and the existing rules under the DPA mean that, in our view, this additional approval requirement, as set out in the proposed amendment, is not required.

I turn to Amendment 80A, which seeks to remove the provision from the public service delivery power which enables persons providing services to a public authority, such as charities and private companies, to be listed as “specified persons” permitted to make use of the power to share information. This in effect would mean that only public authorities can be “specified persons” as defined by the Bill.

We posed the question of whether such bodies should be included within the definition of specified persons within our public consultation on these powers. The majority of respondents supported their inclusion. After all, effective public service delivery depends on multi-agency co-operation, and increasingly this involves charities and private and third-sector organisations. Bodies outside the public sector provide public services in a way that often leaves them holding valuable information about public services. It is important that public authorities can access this information to improve public service delivery. These powers provide for a consistent and transparent framework for sharing information. Removing the ability of public authorities to share with charities and private sector organisations in this way would significantly restrict the effectiveness of the public service delivery provisions.

I turn to Amendment 85, tabled by my noble friend Lady Byford. This amendment intends to restrict the exceptional purposes for which personal information may be used or disclosed for purposes other than the specified objective by limiting the existing exceptions to circumstances where the information has already been made lawfully available to the public or the data subject consents. I remind noble Lords that public authorities would need to apply the DPA, and specifically its third principle of data minimisation, to the processing of personal information under these powers. As such, only personal information that is necessary to fulfil the specified purpose will be shared.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised the question of power suppliers having certain powers. Those powers are circumscribed by the principles enunciated in the Data Protection Act. It is in that context that these powers have to be considered. That includes the reference to anti-social behaviour, a point taken up by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. As she perhaps anticipated, I was going to quote the fact that Article 8 of the convention refers not just to “crime” but to “disorder or crime”. One has to remember that there is a need for respect for private life, but that need for respect for private life works in two directions. Those who are victims of anti-social behaviour also have a right to a private life. It is in that context that we have to consider these provisions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, then embraced all the remaining amendments in the group, and I shall respond to them shortly. Amendments 94 to 98, 122 to 127, 142 to 146 and 164 to 168 relate to the public service delivery, debt, fraud and research powers and seek to impose tighter controls restricting the onward disclosure of personal information disclosed under these powers. Clauses 34, 43, 51 and 59 prohibit the onward disclosure of personal information disclosed under the powers. Anyone who knowingly or recklessly breaches that prohibition will commit an offence. The limited exceptions to this general prohibition are set out in subsection (2) of each clause and have been drafted with input from other government departments to ensure that the Government comply with their obligations—for example, in terms of disclosing documents following court orders—and that our unlawful disclosure provisions do not have unintended consequences for operational arrangements, such as those supporting the police and other emergency services.

Amendments 94, 122, 142 and 164 propose limiting some of these exceptions to what is “required by” rather than “permitted by” existing legislation. The remaining amendments restrict further disclosure of such personal information to where its disclosure is necessary in certain circumstances, such as for the purposes of a criminal investigation or national security. I respectfully suggest that these amendments are not necessary. The principle of data minimisation, which I have already alluded to, applies to the processing of personal information under these powers, and so only that which is necessary to fulfil that purpose will be shared. Preventing the use of these powers for the onward disclosure of information where it is already permitted under existing legislation would simply introduce unnecessary complexity and could inhibit the disclosure of information for legitimate purposes.

On that basis, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. I say very fully that these are well-intentioned amendments because we understand what lies behind them and why the probing amendments in this group have been tabled.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative 4:30 pm, 6th February 2017

I specifically asked why the responsibility has been placed on gas and electricity suppliers to have regard to some of the things stated in the Bill, and I would be grateful for an answer. I do not mind if the answer is not given now, but if that could be clarified I would be grateful.

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

I am perfectly prepared to write to my noble friend to clarify that point, and I will place a copy of any letter in the Library.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development)

I thank the Minister for his response. One of the things that we will encounter as we go through this section is the fact that the 1998 Act has some fundamental principles, but that we have the Bill before us because there is a need for greater clarity. The world has changed in the past 20 years, certainly in the way that we handle and interrogate data. We no longer simply say that this set of data will go to that person and so on. We do not necessarily even have to share the whole dataset. The point is about how one might interrogate data. It is a very different world. I am not suggesting for one moment that errors do not occur, accidents do not happen and mistakes cannot happen, but in the modern world we conduct risk assessments to understand how we can minimise those things. That is what I want properly addressed when we come back to some of these issues.

The Minister says that the Government will consider the report of your Lordships’ committee. If there are to be further amendments, I hope that we will have time to consider them and even to put down our own amendments to ensure that the principles about which we are concerned will be able to be addressed. With those comments and, if you like, fair warnings, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 80 withdrawn.

Amendment 80A not moved.

House resumed.