Data Protection Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 14th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Labour 4:30 pm, 14th May 2018

My Lords, I have some sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has said, but equally I think that we are in danger of making this yes or no, black or white and getting ourselves boxed into corners. Something remarkable happened a couple of weeks ago. The Sun carried a story based on a report from the Resolution Foundation. I shall not go into the full details, but the Resolution Foundation had found that private renting was likely to increase by one-third over the next couple of decades and the Sun reported that there would be an 80% fall in owner occupation in that period, which it had somehow deduced from the one-third increase. That is not remarkable, but what is remarkable is that the charity Full Fact, of which I am deputy chairman, pointed out the error to it and—do you know what happened?—it apologised and corrected it.

This may just mean that the Sun has completely changed its coat and that, in future, we can expect page 3 to consist entirely of corrections of its errors, but there is another explanation, which is that the Sun realises, as does the whole press, the pressure that it is under from these Houses of Parliament and from the victims to mend its ways. The danger, however, is that that will last just so long as Section 40 has not been repealed and there is no Leveson 2, and then it will return to its old ways.

I think that there is a way through on this. In Amendment 109, the Government are introducing a requirement that the Information Commission review after four years how the press and media are getting on with data protection. If they were to widen that concept of a review after four years, it would keep the pressure on the newspapers to behave differently. I believe that they have made some progress. The institution of the arbitration scheme by IPSO, which was the glaring fault in its original constitution, was a big step forward even though it has its flaws. If we can keep the pressure on in the way that I suggest, by Ministers agreeing to extend Amendment 109 to a wider forum, we may find a solution to this mess without us having Lords versus Commons. Rather, we would meet a common need to have a better press free to report, as is its duty.