My noble Friend Lord Rooker has today announced changes in the use of personal data held on the GB poultry register in England and Wales following a public consultation. The changes will come into effect on 1 August 2008. Copies of the report summarising the responses to the public consultation will be deposited in the Library of the House.
The register was set up in December 2005 in response to increased threat of outbreaks of avian influenza. Poultry keepers with more than 50 birds are legally required to provide essential information about their premises to populate the register. To date, the register has been used for avian influenza risk assessment, prevention and control.
Decisions on changes of use of the register took into account the views of individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation as well as the wider public and taxpayer interest, given that the register is a valuable resource. The intention has been to achieve a balance between the benefits of appropriate data sharing, including public protection and improving public services, and the proper respect for personal data in line with our data protection obligations.
Use of personal data on the register will be extended in the following areas:
management of other poultry diseases (in addition to avian influenza), including other notifiable diseases and zoonoses;
planning, response and recovery by the emergency services and other responders in civil emergencies affecting poultry premises, including avian disease outbreaks;
planning of visits related to legislation on veterinary medicines and on animal welfare;
providing information as necessary to the EC to substantiate UK claims for compensation from the EU in the event of a disease outbreak;
informing the work of DEFRA and Welsh Assembly Government statisticians and economists in the development of evidence-based policy;
informing the annual agricultural census and hence enabling the poultry questions to be removed from the census;
facilitating (non-commercial) ad-hoc surveys as part of DEFRA and Welsh Assembly Government’s regional and national activities towards achieving their strategic objectives, including for example England’s sustainable food and farming strategy and GB’s animal health and welfare strategy. This may also include the provision of advice and information to individual poultry keepers; and
informing the development of future customer contact management and registration as part of Animal Health’s business reform programme.
It is important to note that the register will not be available freely to new users in connection with these purposes. DEFRA (Animal Health) will issue extracts of the register as necessary to the new users in response to receiving a specific request for personal data but only if satisfied that access to personal data is necessary for the purposes identified above and that appropriate data management arrangements are in place. These arrangements shall be in line with the advice in the Government’s recently published report on data handling procedures1 which is available in the Libraries of both Houses, and with policies and advice in response to the recommendations from the recently completed independent review on data sharing by Richard Thomas and Dr. Mark Walport2. For example, measures being put in place across Government Departments and agencies include:
mandatory training for all staff involved in handling personal data;
further enhancing the transparency of arrangements, through annual reporting to Parliament on progress and the use of information charters which provide clarity to the public about the use and handling of personal data.
The additional uses of the register will make the best of this valuable resource. We take very seriously our responsibilities for the proper handling of personal data and will ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the personal data of keepers in line with our legal obligations.
1“Data Handling Procedures in Government: Final Report” June 2008
2“Data Sharing Review”, by Richard Thomas and Mark Walport available at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/reviews/datasharing-intro.htm