My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, who has made some very cogent points, both in that speech and when we discussed these clauses in Grand Committee.
I want to make two points. The first is about the structure of Amendment 18. I am not entirely sure that I understand why pharmacovigilance has been singled out in the amendment as a reason why disclosure should be made, as distinct from, for example, public health co-operation or the pursuit of research. Indeed, the Minister referred to the sharing of information in relation to international clinical trials as a very good example. If one were to legislate in this form, it would be inevitable that the reference to pharmacovigilance would be regarded as having additional weight, and the absence of reference to other purposes for which information would be shared would be regarded as less important. I am not sure that that would be at all helpful to have in statute.
My other point is in relation to Clause 7(5). Government Amendment 22 refers to and introduces a provision that assists in understanding the relationship between this legislation and other enactments concerning the disclosure of information. Clause 7(5) states:
“Nothing in this section authorises a disclosure of information which … contravenes the data protection legislation (but in determining whether a disclosure would do so, take into account the powers conferred by this section)”.
Noble Lords may recall the Trade Bill and, in particular, the debate we had on the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Act just before Christmas and new year. We passed legislation the purpose of which was, among other things, to ensure that we clarified the relationship between that enactment and others that authorise disclosures of information or, in some circumstances, prohibit such disclosures. The particular basis for the structure of that Bill was to clarify a situation where there is a statutory gateway and other enactments that put constraints on the disclosure of information.
In subsection (5) it is clear that if someone is considering a disclosure that might contravene the data protection legislation, that legislation must be considered alongside the powers in this legislation. That enables them to satisfy the test in the Christian Institute and others v The Lord Advocate 2016 Supreme Court decision, as referred to in my noble friend Lord Grimstone’s letter to us about the Trade Bill. In the Trade Bill, though, as is the case in this Bill, we have reference both to the data protection legislation and to the Investigatory Powers Act. In the Trade Bill, amendments were introduced on Report to ensure that the saving reference—that is, when determining whether a disclosure would contravene the legislation, it takes into account the powers in this section—was applied to both the data protection legislation and the Investigatory Powers Act. However, in this legislation—Clause 7(5)(b) —the saving reference is applied to the data protection legislation but not to the Investigatory Powers Act.
My question, which I am sorry I have not had an opportunity to give the Minister notice of, as I have started working through these issues only very recently, is this. Having dealt with this matter on the Trade Bill, I would have thought that both these subsections should have the saving reference that allows the question of the contravention of those Acts to be considered, including reference to the powers in this Bill. I wonder if he would agree.