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Data Protection

Volume 22: debated on Thursday 22 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set out in the Official Report those categories of information that will be excluded from consideration in his forthcoming White Paper on data protection.

The White Paper was published on 7 April. It sets out the Government's proposals for legislation to protect personal data processed automatically. Manual records and non-personal data will be excluded and there will be exemptions for certain categories of information in accordance with the provisions of the Council of Europe convention on data protection.

Which categories of police information will be within the White Paper provisions and which will be excluded? Does the Home Office agree with the present situation in which the security services' computers can tap into all personal information on other Government computers? Does the White Paper make no proposals to protect the privacy of the individual in this area?

Our aim is that, as far as possible, police records will be brought within the scheme. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are exemptions to cover State security and the suppression of criminal offences. I think that the hon. Gentleman also knows that it is not the practice to comment on security.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of us wish to see the most modern methods used in advancing benefits and combating crime? However, at the same time there must be some recognition of our responsibility to those whose lives are affected by computer security. In that respect, the White Paper has been somewhat disappointing in comparison with the Lindop proposals.

I do not altogether understand the drift of my hon. Friend's question. It is our view that, where we have differed from the Lindop proposals, we have been entirely right to do so. We are seeking an effective but not over-bureaucratic system. We believe that what we have put forward will meet that criterion and enable our industry to take full advantage of modern conditions.

I realise that the Minister will not answer questions about what is properly called the secret service computer. Therefore, I shall ask him a question about the other side of the equation. Will he give an assurance that computerised information held in domestic Government Departments will not be made available outside in any circumstances?

Normally, information held in Government Departments, unless covered by the exemptions, will be registered with the registrar, and the conditions under which it will be used will be made absolutely clear.