Data Protection Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 14th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 6:00 pm, 14th May 2018

All things are relative.

I appreciate that a great deal of passion has been exhibited, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord McNally, talked about a passionate and balanced debate; it has been both. It has certainly been balanced when we consider the contributions made on all sides of the House. However, I would seek to touch on one or two points that have been raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, raised the question of Northern Ireland. To clarify in respect of that matter, the commitment made last week did not relate to the Cairncross review; it related to the review that would be carried out pursuant to Commons Amendment 109, in particular paragraph 4 which refers to a review that will take into account all parts of the United Kingdom and will ensure that there is an independent named reviewer for Northern Ireland. I hope that that covers the point.

My noble friend Lord Attlee raised certain issues with regard to VAT. He is right about VAT on e-publications, which are classified as electronic services. EU VAT law specifically excludes such services from the reduced rate of VAT. Further consideration of that matter is beyond my pay grade and is one for Her Majesty’s Treasury in due course, so I shall not elaborate upon that. As regards the repeal of Section 40, the Government are committed to doing that at an appropriate time on the basis of appropriate legislation, so the noble Lord, Lord McNally, can anticipate that coming forward in due course.

I shall move on to certain points that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Prescott. On the royal charter, the Press Recognition Panel, which was set up by the charter, remains a feature of our regulatory landscape so there is no need to intrude upon the charter or to consult further on it at the present time. On his reference to the Sunday Times and the allegations regarding John Ford, that was a matter of self-incrimination as far as I can see in respect of criminal acts that took place before 2011; they are not recent events. On the position regarding Ireland, the press may sign up to the Press Council of Ireland, but they are not obliged to do so, in order to secure the benefits of being members of that council. They may approach that by a different regulatory regime, provided that it has suitable terms, so I do not consider that we can go immediately to that.

Reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, to the Manchester Arena review. I appreciate his direct involvement in that, and of course we recognise that for the victims and their families, dealing with the media at such a time can be very distressing. In fact, the Government have recently published guidance for victims and their families on handling media attention in the aftermath of similar events, but diverse reports with regard to the media have come out of that. As the noble Lord observed, only one complaint was made to IPSO regarding the conduct of the regulated media at Manchester, and on 24 April 2018 at a meeting of the National Police Chiefs’ Council on media engagement, the senior press officer at Greater Manchester Police observed that after the Manchester Arena bombing, the media had been exceptional and had treated everyone involved with the utmost respect. In her view, the only qualification was in respect of certain international outlets and social media which had caused families problems. There are clearly diverse views—