My Lords, it is a pity I have to be brief, but I will try. The amendment is interesting and worth debating in greater detail than the time today allows. Remarks have already been made about the report from the Royal Society and the British Academy, which suggested setting up a body but did not define whether it ought to be statutory. It is a pity it did not because, if it had, perhaps the Government would have taken greater notice of the suggestion and taken on board what pages 81 and 82 of their manifesto said that they would do—set up a commission.
To me, there are three important things for any body that is set up. First, it must articulate and provide guidance on the rules, standards and best practices for data use, ideally covering both personal and non-personal data. I see this amendment as restrictive in that area. Secondly, it must undertake horizon scanning to identify potential ethical, social and legal issues emerging from new and innovative uses of data, including data linkage, machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, and establish how these should be addressed. Thirdly, and importantly, it should be aligned with, and not duplicate, the roles of other bodies, including the ICO as the data protection regulator and ethics committees making decisions about particular research proposals using people’s data. This important amendment allows us to discuss such issues and I hope we will return to it and perhaps make it wider.
Is such a body necessary? The debates we have had suggest that it might be. The Nuffield Foundation was mentioned. It has suggested that it will set up an ethics commission, and we need to know what the purpose of that will be. What would its role be in the regulatory framework, because it would not be a statutory body? I look forward to that debate but, in the meantime, I support the amendment.