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Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour 4:45 pm, 18th February 2019

I was not suggesting that they were his personal expensive lawyers, just expensive lawyers who have chosen to brief him; I know that he could not possibly afford expensive lawyers. When he said that it depends on what happens as time goes on, he put his finger on a very important point. The whole point of no deal, with a separate regime under our ICO, is that we could quite quickly find ourselves diverging, and as we diverge, that will quickly impose burdens over and above those that would apply even if we left the EU with a deal.

I am also not sure it is true to say that there would be no burdens as a result of the regulations even at the outset. I am a lay man in this business, and trying to understand what is going on is very difficult, particularly because there has been no consultation and we do not have the opportunity to assess what people who are expert and directly affected have said. The reason I intervened on the Minister in his opening remarks is that, having been a company director who has had to deal with the implementation of the GDPR, I know that having a representative dealing with data matters inside the EEA is very important. Many companies have offshored a lot of their data-control activities, and the requirement of the GDPR that they must have a representative inside the EEA—which I think is the correct thing to do—is a definite burden. It means that companies have to employ not only additional individuals but have to set up additional offices, in essence, to cope with those flows in many cases, particularly if they are dealing with significant data-handling exercises which are outside the EEA at the moment. This happens all the time with call centres in India; many companies are in this territory.

My understanding of what the Minister said in our earlier exchange is that if we leave with no deal and therefore must set up our own UK data-monitoring regime immediately, there will be a requirement for every company operating outside the EEA—which must, under the GDPR, have a representative inside the EEA—to have a representative in the United Kingdom. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that because if it is true, that is an immediate and potentially significant burden.

The other important point is that people need to understand that these arrangements are reciprocal. One reason why we as a country have such a good services industry is because a lot of companies based in the UK do substantial business in the EEA and beyond. That is great. My assumption, although it is not spelled out in the Explanatory Memorandum, is that in a no-deal scenario, data controllers who are based in the UK but do substantial business in the EEA will be required by the European Union to have representatives in the European Union over and above their data controllers in the UK; these are not currently needed. I would be grateful if the Minister could address that point. This flows logically from the new regime being set up. I would be astonished if that is not the case because I do not think that the European Union would regard having a data controller in the United Kingdom as meeting its standards of data adequacy. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that.

On that point, it is apparent that this immediately imposes a burden, potentially a significant one, on every company that handles data in the European Union or the EEA, as opposed to just in the UK. That represents a substantial proportion of our companies. If we had had an impact assessment, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, suggested, this issue would have been brought out and we would know its effect. If there had been public consultation, we would know, but there has been none—and we have had no impact assessment. To my surprise, the Select Committees of this House that oversee instruments and put them to us have not raised these issues, which seem substantial and should have been raised before these instruments came to this House.