Data Protection Bill [HL] - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 15th November 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 5:00 pm, 15th November 2017

I shall speak to Amendment 124Q and to a number of amendments in this group. I start with a general point. The number of amendments that we have tabled to Part 3 in particular, but also to Part 4, might suggest considerable opposition to the Bill, but I reassure the Committee that that is not the case. We are on a probing mission generally. We have some serious objections but, in general, we support where the Bill is going.

The probing in many cases is because of the language used. It is about the different uses of language in EU and UK legislation, and how language is used when something is transposed, to use the term non-technically, into UK law. There are different traditions; laws develop in different ways. I might sum it up by saying that it is a matter of style, but the style may have an impact on the meaning. That is why we are using the fact that the Bill has started in this House, where we have a tradition of reading every word and questioning every other word, to get on the record some of the things that we have identified as being helped by explanation.

This group is about definitions. Amendment 124Q would limit “competent authorities”, as they are defined and listed, to the extent of their law enforcement functions. I mentioned just now staff who work at the Ministry of Defence but do not have jobs that come remotely close, in themselves, to defending the country, although they support those who do. It occurred to me that police forces similarly, even if it is above that kind of administrative level, deal with more than law enforcement, if there are still enough coppers around. Prevention work in schools is one example. Then there is dealing with internal human rights—I beg noble Lords’ pardon, I mean human resources—records. I use the acronym HR too often.

The parties to a collaboration agreement are not necessarily policing bodies or even public sector bodies, which fall within these provisions. Criticising my own amendment, I wondered if it would be confusing to have different regimes applying to different activities—the law enforcement ones on one hand and the others on the other—but there are similar distinctions elsewhere in the Bill.

Amendment 124R would make the same point about law enforcement purposes applying to persons added by the Secretary of State to the list. Amendment 124S amends Schedule 7, which lists competent authorities including UK government departments, Scottish Ministers—and Welsh, once one has taken into account amendments which will no doubt be moved formally shortly—and Northern Ireland departments. The point is the same, really: to probe why this is not confined to law enforcement purposes, because clearly those authorities deal with much wider matters.

Amendment 127A would add police and crime commissioners as competent authorities. They have no operational powers, but they have responsibility for crime prevention. They might want to undertake research into the effectiveness of various measures, including individual cases of offending and disposal—is this covered elsewhere?

Amendment 129A would remove from the list of competent authorities contractors in the prison system, youth offending institutions and secure training centres, contractors who undertake prisoner escort arrangement, and persons responsible for electronic monitoring. I am not sure whether the last is within the same category, I suppose it depends how we interpret “responsible”, but the thrust of this amendment is to ask whether contractors’ data fall or should fall within Part 3 of the Bill.

We will all be aware of—let me put it very gently—doubts over the competence and security of and quality of the work done by some contractors; there have been some very bad experiences. In some cases, depending on the corporate structure of the contractor, a number of its arms may fall within these paragraphs. I suppose it depends whether they have several separate subsidiaries or whether different activities are within a single company.

Amendments 129B to 129F take us back to Clause 31. The definition of “profiling” refers to the use of data to evaluate,

“certain personal aspects … in particular … aspects concerning”,

individuals. These all seem to raise issues, hence our list of amendments, although I realise that they largely reflect the wording of the law enforcement directive, which takes me back to the points I made in opening. Profiling is very sensitive, so its definition needs to be very precise. That is why we are suggesting leaving out “certain”, which suggests that there are more things than are listed, especially when the purposes are “in particular”, indicating that this is not an exhaustive list. I thought that the term “attributes” was narrower than “aspects”.

The last of the group is a converse argument—I am probing of course. Behaviour, location and movement may be relevant to crime prevention and detection, but are performance at work, reliability and so on relevant? Not obviously so to me. I beg to move.