Amendment 85A

Part of Trade Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 4:00 pm, 15th October 2020

My Lords, I will deal with Amendments 85A and 89A, in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, together, as they are closely related. My noble friend has written half my speech, because it echoes her remarks. Both amendments concern legal professional privilege, which, as noble Lords know, is a long-standing principle that protects the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and their lay clients, and vice versa. It enables lawyers to consult and advise their clients, without clients fearing that information will have to be disclosed later.

As a matter of general interest, any person who wishes to consult a lawyer must be free to do so under conditions which ensure uninhibited discussion. I do not believe it has been mentioned in this debate that this principle is recognised and protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I can therefore provide an absolute assurance to the Committee that the Government have no intention, either now or in the future, of using these powers to seek or share information that is protected by legal professional privilege.

For Clause 7, the information being requested from exporters will be provided voluntarily. This has already been said by me and other noble Lords. That the information is being provided voluntarily is, perhaps, an indication of the Government’s position on minimising burdens and, therefore, not requiring privileged information to be disclosed.

As part of this short debate, it is crucial to make this point: Clause 8 allows for the sharing of data that is already held by HMRC for its administrative functions. Such information cannot, therefore, be subject to legal professional privilege, as it has already been provided to HMRC. However, I understand your Lordships’ concerns about data sharing, and I reassure the Committee about the safeguards we have put in place around the collection, handling and processing of information collected under this clause. In response to the winding-up speech of my noble friend Lady Noakes, who raised concerns despite my remarks, I take this opportunity to confirm that I will write to her and all noble Lords, and put a copy in the Library of both Houses, concerning those reassurances.

The data-sharing powers in this clause are permissive, so all instances of data sharing must be approved by HMRC. Criminal penalties for any unauthorised sharing of data will apply under the existing Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005. Nothing in the clause permits the disclosure of information that is not otherwise permitted in data protection law, including the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. A lot of this was said in the remarks on the previous amendment. I hope that this provides the reassurance that my noble friend Lady McIntosh seeks on this point, and that she will withdraw her amendment.