Data Protection Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 14th May 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 7:00 pm, 14th May 2018

My Lords, these amendments relate to the immigration exemption in paragraph 4 of Schedule 2, which was debated at some length during the passage of the Bill through this House. It may assist the House if I briefly restate the case for this provision.

The Bill and the GDPR extend and strengthen the rights of individuals, giving them easier access to their data and greater control over its use and processing. This is something we can all welcome. However, it is necessary to balance such enhanced rights of data subjects with other competing interests. The Bill therefore provides mechanisms to ensure that data rights cannot undermine investigations by law enforcement agencies, regulators and others. For the same reasons, the Bill makes provision to protect the integrity of the immigration system; for example, to prevent the release of information which would undermine imminent enforcement action.

As I have previously explained, the immigration provision is limited in nature. It does not allow the Home Office—or, indeed, any other controller—to set aside all the safeguards in the Bill; rather, it allows a number of specific rights to be restricted on a case-by-case basis and only to the extent to which giving effect to those rights would be likely to prejudice the maintenance of effective immigration control in an individual case. Decisions will also be subject to oversight by the Information Commissioner and, ultimately, the Information Tribunal.

On Report noble Lords supported the retention of the exemption by a majority of 130. Last week the House of Commons similarly supported the inclusion of the exemption in the Bill by a clear majority of 28. None the less, it is of course right that the exemption should be as tightly drafted as possible. The Government firmly believe that unless there is a compelling reason to the contrary, data processing should always be fair and transparent and it should not be possible to collect data for one purpose and then to retrospectively apply a policy of processing for further, incompatible purposes. It was always the Government’s intention that processing for immigration purposes should have to meet both these principles. But, on reflection, we agree that the provisions in paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 left room for doubt as to the intended approach. Therefore, Commons Amendments 174 and 175 further narrow the exemption to put the matter beyond doubt.

We are also committed to reviewing the operation of the exemption in the light of experience 12 months after these provisions come into force. To inform the review we would naturally welcome the views of interested parties, such as the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association. Clause 16 would enable us to narrow the scope of the exemption still further should the review conclude that it would be appropriate to do so.

I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has to say about her Amendment 175A, but for now I beg to move.