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Non-devolved Provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020: One Year Report

Volume 692: debated on Monday 19 April 2021

On 22 March 2021, the One-Year Status Report on the non-devolved provisions in the Act was laid in Parliament. The report provided a thorough assessment of whether the provisions within the Act remained necessary and proportionate to support the response to the pandemic.

The report highlighted an intention to expire 12 provisions and suspend a further three. The cautious expiration and suspension of these provisions reflects the progress made in tackling the pandemic. Progress along the roadmap and continued success with the vaccine rollout, show we are moving in the right direction towards the national recovery.

Following the publication of the One-Year Status Report, the Government identified that it contained a factual error. This relates to text on pages 14, 30 and 31 of the report, regarding section 24 of the Act, which covers Home Office responsibilities relating to the retention of biometrics—fingerprints and DNA profiles—that are being retained for national security purposes. I would like to apologise and address the error.

The report, laid in Parliament last month, stated that the regulations made under section 24 would expire in March 2021. However, it emerged that the second regulations made under this power, Coronavirus (Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the Interests of National Security) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, are extant and will continue to have effect until 24 September 2021. This does not affect the substance of the report because the Government will shortly bring forward regulations to expire section 24, alongside other provisions set out in the One-Year Report.

We have taken the appropriate steps to rectify this error, and the corrections can be found at the end of this statement. An un-numbered Command paper will be laid before Parliament and published today setting out the changes. The published One-Year Report will also be updated on www.gov.uk to reflect those changes.

Since gaining Royal Assent on 25 March 2020, the Coronavirus Act has been an essential legislative tool in the Government response, enabling effective action to reduce the impact of the pandemic. The Government remain committed to keeping the powers in the Act under review and to retaining powers only where they continue to be necessary and proportionate.

This table highlights the changes made to the One-Year Report. The bold text represents additional text in the report compared to the previous version.

Amendments to the One-Year Report

Page Revised Text

Original Text

p.14

Section 24 (applies to UK): Extension of time limits for retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles.

This provision established a regulation-making power so that biometrics (fingerprints and DNA profiles) held for national security purposes could be retained for up to an additional six months beyond normal statutory retention deadlines (with the possibility of a further six month extension; enabling retention for up to a maximum of 12 months). This provision has successfully mitigated the risk of a critical national security capability being compromised because of the pandemic, including the risk of losing the biometrics of up to 150 individuals per month (many of whom could be subjects of national security interest). However, this power was exercisable only in relation to biometrics that would (ignoring the effect of regulations made under it) need to be destroyed within 12 months of the Act being passed. Regulations have been made to cover this 12-month period. A further extension beyond the second set of regulations made under this power was not necessary and therefore section 24 will be expired as part of the one-year review as it has served its original purpose. The second set of regulations made under this power - the Coronavirus (Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the interests of National Security) (No 2) Regulations 2020 -will be saved as they provide the current basis for retention of certain biometrics held in the interest of national security that [would otherwise would have fallen to be destroyed between 1 October 2020 and 24 March 2021].

Section 24 (applies to UK): Extension of time limits for retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles.

This provision established a regulation-making power so that biometrics (fingerprints and DNA profiles) held for national security purposes can be retained for up to an additional six months beyond normal statutory retention deadlines. This provision has successfully mitigated the risk of a critical national security capability being compromised because of the pandemic, including the risk of losing the biometrics of up to 150 individuals per month (many of whom could be subjects of national security interest). However, this power cannot be extended beyond the point the Regulations expire in March without primary legislation and therefore it will be expired as part of the one-year review as it has served its original purpose.

p.30

Counter-Terrorism Policing has confirmed that a further extension beyond that provided by the Coronavirus (Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the Interests of National Security) (No 2) Regulations 2020 is not necessary and therefore a decision has been made to expire this provision.

As the regulations under these provisions have expired, and cannot be extended under the Act, the decision has been made to expire these provisions as part of the one-year review.

p.30-31

This provision established a regulation-making power so that biometrics (fingerprints and DNA profiles) held for national security purposes could be retained for up to an additional six months beyond normal statutory retention deadlines (with the possibility of a further extension of up 31 to six months - for a total extension of up to 12 months). This power could only be exercised in relation tobiometrics that would (ignoring the effect of regulations made under it) need to be destroyed within 12 months of the Act being passed.

A further extension beyond the Coronavirus (Retention of extend these under the Act. Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the interests of National Therefore, if the powers were p.31 Security) (No 2) Regulations 2020 was not necessary and needed in the future primary therefore this section will be expired under the UK-wide SI legislation would be required, which will be laid after Easter recess. As such, the powers will be expired under the UK wide SI which will be laid after Easter recess.

This provision established a regulation-making power so that biometrics (fingerprints and DNA profiles) held for national security purposes could be retained for up to an additional six months beyond normal statutory retention deadlines.

The Regulations laid under this power have now expired, and there is no legislative means to extend these under the Act. Therefore, if the powers were needed in the future primary legislation would be required. As such, the powers will be expire under the UK wide SI which will be laid after Easter recess.

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