Data Protection Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 14th May 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 3:45 pm, 14th May 2018

My Lords, I support Amendments 53A and 53B, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell.

I must express my general frustration at the Bill. There is so much information, so much data of national significance that, it is clear, will be abused by the Government, whether or not they know that they are doing so. The Windrush scandal showed just how badly the Home Office gets things wrong, and the Bill’s provisions allow the sharing of people’s data which would further the “hostile environment” policy. I am very disappointed that the Government have not tabled amendments to curtail the broad powers in the Bill that will allow for such abuse.

There are so many cases of people who are victims of serious crime—of rape, violence and people trafficking—who are being reported by the police to the Home Office and then being arrested, detained and deported. At least 27 police forces have admitted that they do this. Ministers cannot possibly claim to be learning from those instances, just as they appear not to have learned from Windrush, while they continue to include such cruel and intrusive powers in the Bill. The fact that the Government can get things so horribly wrong is why the amendment should be included.

We have heard that data is more valuable than oil. It is more valuable than oil or gold. It is the boom industry of our times, and the temptation for government to allow its exploitation by the commercial sector—the predatory big tech organisations to which the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, referred—will be overwhelming, especially in this age of austerity when money appears to be so short.

This is not just an issue of exploitation in a negative sense: there are lots of opportunities for government data to be used to empower communities. We can do things such as monitor air pollution and hold the Government to account by using this data. I am excited by those opportunities, but they need proper regulatory oversight to ensure that data is used for good. The control and processing of nationally important data must be properly overseen by the Information Commissioner and the National Audit Office. The Government recognised this in the Bill as drafted, and I do not understand why that has been removed—perhaps the Minister could explain.

I really hope that the Minister will support the amendments, but I rather suspect he will not.