Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
That the draft Regulations laid before the House on
My Lords, these regulations add more public authorities to the list of those who can access sensitive personal information in the form of communications data, such as itemised telephone bills. So sensitive is the issue that Parliament decided that additions to the list of public authorities had to be approved by the super-affirmative procedure. When these regulations were debated last week in Grand Committee, we were told that the Home Office had agreed to the addition of those public authorities on the basis of detailed business cases submitted to it by the public authorities concerned, which Members of this House have been unable, until 12.30 pm today, to see. The Minister agreed that it was not possible for this House to properly scrutinise the decisions of the Home Office without seeing the business cases, and that the business cases had not been published as they contained sensitive information, but said that she would arrange for Members to scrutinise the business cases in a private meeting.
This morning, when I saw that these regulations were due to be approved by the House, I inquired of the Minister’s office why we had not been offered a private meeting to examine the business cases. As a result of my inquiry I was emailed, at 12.06 pm this afternoon, and invited to view the business cases at 12.30. There are five business cases, and from memory, I think the Minister said that they were “lengthy”. I do not think it reasonable to expect Members of this House to scrutinise five business cases, which apparently justify giving the five additional public authorities access to sensitive personal data, in the 45 minutes between the offer being made to view them and the regulations being approved on the Floor of the House. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that this House should be given the opportunity to scrutinise regulations properly before it approves them, rather than afterwards.
I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. A private meeting before this SI is approved would certainly have enabled him and others to form a view on whether they agreed with the SI in the light of the business cases they had seen for adding these further public authorities to the list. I listened with interest to the Minister and, as I understand it, that opportunity has not been made available until the last few minutes, almost literally. I wait with interest to hear what she has to say on the points that he made.
I acknowledge the points of both the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick. I did indeed say that I would set aside some time for a private meeting so that noble Lords could look at the business cases. I have those business cases with me and will arrange that meeting. It probably would have been preferable to have had it before proposing the statutory instrument. I continue to give my word that that meeting will be arranged. Obviously, it would now be preferable to have it sooner rather than later, and I will make that time available.