Data Protection Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 13th November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 7:30 pm, 13th November 2017

Tonight the noble Lord can because the Secretary of State is leading on this important matter. She is as committed as I am to ensuring that such a body is set up shortly. She has been consulting widely with civil society groups, industry and academia, some of which has been mentioned tonight, to refine the scope and functions of the body. It will work closely with the Information Commissioner and other regulators. As the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Patel, mentioned, it will identify gaps in the regulatory landscape and provide Ministers with advice on addressing those gaps.

It is important that the new advisory body have a clearly defined role and a strong relationship to other bodies in this space, including the Information Commissioner. The Government’s proposals are for an advisory body which may have a broader remit than that suggested in the amendment. It will provide recommendations on the ethics of data use in gaps in the regulatory landscape, as I have just said. For example, one fruitful area could be the ethics of exploiting aggregated anonymised datasets for social and commercial benefit, taking into account the importance of transparency and accountability. These aggregated datasets do not fall under the legal definition of personal data and would therefore be outside the scope of both the body proposed by the noble Lord and, I suspect, this Bill.

Technically, Amendment 78 needs to be more carefully drafted to avoid the risk of non-compliance with the GDPR and avoid conflict with the Information Commissioner. Article 51 of the GDPR requires each member state to appoint one or more independent public authorities to monitor and enforce the GDPR on its territory as a supervisory authority. Clause 113 makes the Information Commissioner the UK’s sole supervisory authority for data protection. The functions of any advisory data ethics body must not cut across the Information Commissioner’s performance of its functions under the GDPR.

The amendment proposes that the advisory board should,

“monitor further technical advances in the use and management of personal data”.

But one of the Information Commissioner’s key functions is to

“keep abreast of evolving technology”.

That is a potential conflict we must avoid. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, alluded to some of the conflicts.

Nevertheless, I agree with the importance that noble Lords place on the consideration of the ethics of data use, and I repeat that the Government are determined to make progress in this area. However, as I explained, I cannot agree to Amendment 78 tonight. Therefore, in the light of my explanation, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.