Amendment 43

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Co-Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers 5:00 pm, 14th September 2020

My Lords, the Data Protection Act is designed to fundamentally affect the way we use data to market, provide services and run our businesses. It also provides an obligation to warn people how their data will be gathered and used. My noble friend has already spoken about why the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018 does not apply to EEA or Swiss nationals. I support the arguments that have been advanced, particularly in the field of immigration.

Immigration is a fairly emotive issue and the use of data has caused serious problems in this country. There is an insatiable appetite to question migrants about their movements, but to put very little emphasis on what has been said. The Minister arranged a briefing session prior to Committee. I was not satisfied when I asked why some of the agencies can share the information collected but the police have been excluded from this arrangement. We need clarity on this issue, and I hope that the Minister will be able to provide that today.

I do not dispute the procedures, which are to admit those who are eligible and to remove those who are not, but in any administrative system questions arise about priorities. The administration of the immigration system is no exception and we know that the points system is to be introduced at the tail end of this particular withdrawal Bill. The purpose of the data collection is not in dispute. The administration of the immigration system about the need to exclude the ineligible is no exception. It has always been the case that to exclude the ineligible means that checks have to be made to determine who is eligible and who is not. The immigration officers have similar powers to those of the police in this matter. There is always a concern about fishing raids unless they are done on intelligence. The problem is that the more intensive these checks are, the more delay and expense there is to those who are eligible. The matter of proper documentation has been a point of dispute and likely to cause serious problems. We have seen this in relation to Windrush, which is so often mentioned in debates on this subject. Even today, after 70 years, we have not resolved this issue. We may head towards the EU settled migrants with similar problems if we fail to give proper documentation backed up by proper data collection and the proper use of information collected.

There are ample safeguards on how the information on individuals is to be used. It is explicit that such information may not be used for immigration control or enforcement. All we want to ensure is that there is less adversarial contact with migrants. The police need adequate information in their duties as providers of public services, as is the case with public service organisations such as the NHS and schools.