My Lords, I support Amendment 53A, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell. In doing so, I wish to make two specific points that follow on from his speech today. First, the amendment crucially recognises the importance of measuring what we as a nation are doing with data of significance before we take important, industrially strategic decisions on how we make the most of this vital national resource.
The noble Lord and others have made the analogy of data as the new oil. That analogy works particularly well for personal data as, like oil, it is potentially as toxic as it is valuable, and it must be carefully handled and not allowed to be released into the environment without due care. If we are to best manage, protect and distil it, we must first learn where and how it is being moved, used and commercialised. Can we as a nation easily answer the question that we are asking of Facebook or the former Cambridge Analytica: how much data are we commercialising at home and abroad, and to whom? If not, why not? Progressive and young, emerging nations are reviewing how they use their national data for national advantage, and we must make a concerted effort to do the same.
My second point is how the amendment therefore recognises that this measurement should be done centrally, not burdening already stretched government departments with developing their own approaches. While these departments must remain involved to provide domain insight into certain data types—for example, health and social care—the National Audit Office or other bodies should take charge of a cross-departmental process for measuring and tracking these flows of significant and valuable data. In this way we should be able to develop a consistent, coherent view of how we are handling our data reserves, which will give us the best possible evidence upon which to base our decisions on a secure approach to maximising their impact for our future national good. I therefore hope the Minister will be able to shed some light today on how this process is being thought through.