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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 15th November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 6:30 pm, 15th November 2017

My Lords, these are narrow but important amendments relating to the liability of joint controllers. I agree with the noble Baroness that there should be clarity as to where liability rests when a controller contravenes the provisions of the Bill. The concept of joint data controllers is not new; indeed, it is recognised in the Data Protection Act 1998. In a similar vein, Clause 56 makes provision for joint controllers under Part 3—the shared responsibility for the police national computer by chief officers is a case in point. Upholding the rights of data subjects is dependent on the clear understanding of responsibilities. Clause 56 requires joint controllers to determine transparently their respective responsibilities so that data subjects know who to look to in order to access their rights or to seek redress. There should be no ambiguity as to who is responsible for compliance with the provisions of Part 3.

The issue of liability is dealt with elsewhere in the Bill. For example, Clause 160 provides that an individual has the right to compensation from a controller if they suffer damage because of a contravention of this legislation. Subsection (4) makes specific provision for joint controllers: it provides that liability for damages flows from the legal responsibility for compliance as determined by an arrangement made under Clause 56. These types of arrangement already exist, and this is as it should be. What matters to the data subject is that the legal position in relation to joint controllers is clear, and Clause 160, read with Clause 56, provides such clarity. I also refer the noble Baroness to Clauses 145, 149 and 158, which make like provision in respect of enforcement notices, penalty notices and compliance orders.

The government amendments in this group, which are technical, address much the same point. As I have indicated, the Bill adopts the principle that a court order in relation to controllers operating under a joint controller arrangement may be made only against the controller responsible for compliance with the relevant provision of data protection legislation. That has to be right, whereas under the noble Baroness’s amendment, they would all be liable, whether or not they were responsible for compliance with the relevant provision. Amendments 143, 147 and 148 are needed to ensure that the principle is carried through when joint controllers are operating under Clause 102 and that the liability of such controllers is clear. Providing such clarity is in everyone’s interests, including data subjects.

I hope I have been able to satisfy the noble Baroness that the position on the liability of joint controllers is clear and that she will be content to withdraw her amendment and support the government amendments.