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House of Lords Hansard
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Digital Economy Bill
20 March 2017
Volume 782

Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Clause 31: Disclosure of information to improve public service delivery

Amendment 25YX

Moved by

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25YX: Clause 31, page 30, line 22, after “person” insert “to the extent the disclosure is necessary and proportionate”

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My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and myself I beg to move Amendment 25YX and will speak to the other amendments in this group, which are all about limiting disclosure—but, I want to stress, limiting it in what we regard as an appropriate way, accepting that there are benefits in information sharing but perhaps with more of an eye to privacy considerations than are in the Bill.

The first of the amendments would provide that disclosure of information should be only to the extent necessary and proportionate in connection with public service delivery. This is both because we regard “no more disclosure than is necessary and proportionate” as being important but also, in this context, because disclosure goes outside and beyond public authorities. We have tabled similar amendments to clauses dealing with debt, fraud and research.

In evidence to the Public Bill Committee, the Information Commissioner wrote:

“Proportionality and necessity are key to ensuring data sharing complies with data protection and human rights law”,

and that,

“the Bill does not directly correlate with these concepts”.

Our amendments would put these notions in the Bill. The ICO also commented on bulk data sharing. She wrote:

“As more data is shared ever more widely … big data analytics are used in complex and unexpected ways”.

Our Amendment 28CB would require the civil registration official to be satisfied that disclosure is proportionate to the recipient’s requirement.

Bulk data sharing is so significant that we think it should be reviewed after three years. Amendment 28CF refers particularly to the review covering public attitudes, the use of the powers, the availability of alternative mechanisms, and security considerations.

Amendment 26A takes us to a point that I raised in Committee. We would like to understand what is meant by individuals’ and households’ contribution to society in the context of improving their well-being. This is a condition for disclosure. What is additional in this phrase to the health and social and economic well-being provided for elsewhere in the clause? The expression is paternalistic and judgmental—and, probably more importantly for this purpose, it suggests a concern more for an advantage to society than to the individual or household. That goes against the thrust of the data sharing for public services, which is framed as being for the benefit of individuals and households.

We are also concerned that the exceptions to the protections include the prevention of anti-social behaviour. In Committee, the Minister said that people have a right to be protected against such behaviour. We would not argue against that, but “balance” is a term often used from that Dispatch Box and we think that the balance here is right out of kilter. Protection against anti-social behaviour is very different from protection against serious physical harm and so on. By definition—the definition being that there is a provision elsewhere—anti-social behaviour is not criminal behaviour.

The Government have explained this, as I said at the previous stage, but we do not believe that they have justified it. Nor have they justified exceptions for any crime, which is why our amendments would limit crime here to serious crime, which we have defined using the definition used in the Investigatory Powers Act. I have to say that not a lot of Clause 36 would fall within the DPA “vital interests” provision.

Next, in Committee we asked about the use of the definition of personal information rather than building on the DPA’s personal data. The Minister told the Committee that to the extent that personal information is not governed by the DPA,

“we still expect that information will be handled in accordance with that framework because of the requirements of the codes of practice”.—[Official Report, 6/2/17; col. 1259.]

Indeed, it would be the codes of practice, not the statute. Our Amendment 28AU is an opportunity for the Minister to answer the Information Commissioner’s observation that there is a gap here. There are compensatory safeguards under the DPA—they apply under the DPA but seem not to apply under the Bill.

We remain concerned that an individual whose information is disclosed should be informed. My noble friend Lady Janke referred to the transparency that is necessary for public trust in the process. I completely agree with that. The Minister was concerned that, if a fraud were being investigated, you would not go out and tell the alleged fraudster what you were doing. I hope that the amendment answers that point, because it is a relatively narrow situation that should not preclude doing what is right more generally.

Amendment 28BM has been tabled to seek an explanation of Clause 40(4), in particular its wording,

“similar to that made by section 38”.

Clause 38 gives powers to HMRC and, as I read it, HMRC will have powers to lift restrictions on disclosure. So, under Clause 40, does this mean that a specified person has a power to lift the restrictions? That does not seem right to me. I have undoubtedly misunderstood it—but, if I have done so, perhaps one or two other people would misunderstand it, too.

Amendment 39 is rather different: a sunrise clause—it could have been a sunset—to explore further how all this fits with the new rules that will come into effect in May 2018, when we will still be in the EU, under the EU general data protection regulation and the law enforcement directive. The GDPR will strengthen provisions on processing only the minimum data, on privacy notices with explicit requirements for data protection by design and default, and on data protection impact assessments.

We were assured in Committee that Part 5 is “compatible”—that was the word used—with the GDPR. Thinking about that afterwards, I wondered whether that meant that Part 5 was not inconsistent but possibly not as wide as the GDPR. We were told:

“When the regulation comes into direct force, we”—

that is, the Government—

“will look at the provisions of the Act and the codes of practice to ensure that they are consistent with it”.—[Official Report, 6/2/17; col. 1490.]

Given that there will be a need to share certain data with other EU states after the date when we leave, how will all this be done? I hope that the Minister can share with the House the Government’s proposals for checking that there is more than just consistency and that, more particularly, nothing is left out. I beg to move.

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My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Amendment 25YX and the related Amendments 28CB, 28CG, 28DV and 28FD seek to impose an express requirement that the public service delivery power may be used to share information only to the extent that it is necessary and proportionate to do so. That covers the changes to debt fraud research and similar civil registration provisions in the Bill. With respect, the amendments are unnecessary as the powers will need to be exercised in line with the Data Protection Act and the codes of practice, which already require that only the minimum data necessary to fulfil the particular objective may be shared. It is therefore unnecessary to amend in accordance with this proposal.

The effect of Amendment 25YYD would be that the list of specified persons permitted to use the public service delivery power could be amended only to add or remove bodies. The removal of the word “modify” would affect the way that minor amendments could be made. I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, expressly referred to this amendment, but as it is listed in this group as her amendment I just mention the point because clearly it is necessary that there should be a degree of flexibility in how that provision operates.

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I apologise; I thought that was in another group, though I received a note later. I would like to understand how extensive a modification might be.

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I am obliged to the noble Baroness. I am happy to explain within this group, where I understand the amendment remains. The removal of the word “modify” would affect the way in which minor amendments could be made. For example, where a body changes its name or the description of the category of a body needs to be adjusted, you would then want to modify rather than delete and start again.

Amendment 26A seeks to remove reference to,

“the contribution made by individuals or households to society”,

from the public service delivery chapter. Again, I venture that the amendment is unnecessary because subsection (10) gives examples of “well-being” but does not provide an exhaustive list. Therefore we have three categories by way of example—but only by way of example. In response to the specific observation made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I respectfully suggest that there is nothing paternalistic or judgmental about any of the examples given in the Bill. Indeed, where a party makes a contribution to society, that benefits the contributor as well as society, which is why it is appropriate that it should be given as an example in this context.

Amendment 28AU would provide a new definition of “personal information” for the purposes of the public service delivery power. This point was raised in Committee as well. The amendment expressly incorporates the definition of “personal data” under the Data Protection Act 1998 into the definition of personal information for the purposes of these powers, as well as making clear that the Bill’s extended definition also includes deceased individuals and companies. We consider that the existing provisions set out the same position, albeit in slightly different words. I note that reference was made to the issue in Committee, and to the provision of codes of practice in that context.

The intention of Amendment 28AY seems to be to provide greater transparency by ensuring that individuals would know when information about them has been shared. Existing provisions in the Bill already require those using the powers to comply with Data Protection Act requirements as to the information that people are given about the usage of their personal data. This, supplemented by the requirements imposed by applicable codes of practice, ensures that the use of these powers will be as transparent as it can be.

Amendments 28AR and related amendments seek to narrow the exceptions to the general rule in Clause 36(1) that personal information received under the public service delivery powers may be used only for the purpose for which it was shared, to the effect that such information may not be shared for the purpose of preventing anti-social behaviour, and to restrict the exception permitting disclosure for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime to “serious” crime, as indicated by the noble Baroness. These amendments would also bring in an offence of disclosing personal information for the purposes of anti-social behaviour. The prevention of anti-social behaviour and the prevention or detection of crime are matters of significant public interest. If information sharing indicates potential criminal activity, public authorities should be able to take action. Similarly, if information received under the powers indicates that anti-social behaviour is occurring or is likely, we consider that this information should be disclosable to maintain public order. Anti-social behaviour may itself be seriously harmful to those who become its victims.

Amendment 28BM seeks to remove the power given by Clause 40(4), which allows regulations to make disclosures by newly specified persons subject to the same conditions that apply to disclosures of information provided by HMRC. That power would be used to require the consent of the original provider to any subsequent disclosures of particularly sensitive information, as is the case for information provided by HMRC under Clause 38. The amendment is undesirable, as it would remove flexibility to give enhanced protection to information from certain sources. I do not believe the noble Baroness read the provision in that form, but it is there so that enhanced protection may be given in a particular circumstance.

Amendment 28CF would impose a duty on the Secretary of State to review the civil registration power after three years, akin to the powers already provided in the debt and fraud powers. This duty was included in the debt and fraud powers to assess whether the powers deliver demonstrable benefit via an initial piloting process. The information gathered in the course of the pilot process will provide evidence for the review. It is our view that a similar duty to review the civil registration power would not be appropriate. First, civil registration information is already a matter of public record. Secondly, the powers are simply looking to update outmoded legislation to simplify and provide the flexibility to share civil registration data within the public sector to avoid the need to enact specific powers whenever a new need arises. The power has been developed to support a range of public authorities at national and local government level to transform the services that they can provide to citizens.

Finally, Amendment 39 is intended to ensure that Part 5 could not be brought into force until after the GDPR comes into effect, which would be in May 2018. This would prevent the use of the powers until that date, which would be unhelpful given that a number of bodies are keen to use the powers to achieve particular objectives, such as extending the warm home discount scheme. As we have said before, we consider that the present provisions are compatible with the GDPR—compliant, therefore, in that context—and we are committed to revisiting the codes of practice before May 2018 to ensure that they reflect the latest best practice of compliance with the GDPR.

In those circumstances, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

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My Lords, I thank the Minister, but all that will bear some reading. We felt it important to extend some of the comments that we made in Committee to get a more extended response. Noble Lords will be pleased to know that I shall not respond to all those points. On the Minister’s first point about “necessary or proportionate”, I do not know whether he means that I misread the ICO’s comments, that the Government disagree with the ICO, or whether some of the changes to the Bill since its initial form have dealt with them. Perhaps I should just leave that hanging.

The fact that the “contribution to society” is an example does not answer our concerns. I remain anxious about it, as I do about “anti-social behaviour”, which the Minister described as being a matter of significant public interest. I do not dispute that, but data sharing is a matter of significant public interest—I suggest, possibly greater. We are told that anti-social behaviour may be seriously harmful, but it is not criminal in this context, because we have other provisions to deal with crime.

I was indeed confused about the application of the HMRC powers to other bodies, and I remain confused about whether that extension is appropriate.

Finally, of course civil registration information is a matter of public record, but the updating takes us into a very different regime. The ability to share information in bulk is very different from that to look up individual pieces of information. Can the Minister tell the House today whether the consultation to which he referred extended beyond the sharing organisations to the sort of bodies concerned with privacy? He may not know, and I may be quite out of order in asking this on Report. I do not think he is going to leap to his feet—pause—no, he is not. I do not hold that against him. It is probably not in his brief. If there was not such consultation, that answers my point.

However, clearly, I should beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 25YX withdrawn.

Amendment 25YY

Moved by

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25YY: Clause 31, page 30, line 23, leave out “a specified objective” and insert “an objective which is a specified objective in relation to each of those persons”

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My Lords, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee made a number of recommendations on Part 5 of the Bill. The Government developed the information-sharing powers through consultation and partnership over a process that started over three years ago. These measures are about improving the way the Government operate for the public benefit. Of course, data sharing must be done with transparency, safeguards and oversight. It is in that spirit that we have accepted the bulk of the committee’s recommendations. The way in which Part 5 is structured in seven chapters to deal with different data-sharing powers has meant that it has taken nearly 100 amendments to implement the recommendations, so I will spare the House from referring to every one in turn. I believe that my noble friend Lord Ashton has written previously setting out all that detail.

Our amendments place the lists of specified persons able to disclose and use information under the public service delivery, debt and fraud powers on the face of the Bill rather than in regulations. We then also narrow the powers to amend the lists. For public service delivery, specified persons will be permitted to share information only for the purposes of an objective which has been expressly specified as applicable to that person, rather than any specified objective. We have also narrowed the ability to set and amend data-sharing objectives for public service delivery, so that any specified objective must support the delivery of a specified public authority’s functions.

For water and fuel poverty, we have restricted the powers to amend the list of support measures and to add to the list of permitted recipients of information under the clause, as the DPRRC recommended. Finally, we have adopted the committee’s recommendations to remove Henry VIII powers to make consequential amendments to primary legislation, as well as to narrow the powers to review and amend the fraud and debt powers. We have ensured that any amendments can be only to improve the operation of the fraud and debt powers and there will be no way to use these powers to undo the safeguards that the Bill provides.

In addition to the DPRRC’s recommendations, the Government have tabled amendments on the following matters. Amendments 28FE and 28FF remove repetition in Clause 60(5) relating to the criminal offences which protect personal information originating from HMRC, Revenue Scotland and the Welsh Revenue Authority. By removing this repetition, the amendments avoid any confusion which might otherwise be caused.

Amendments 28FG to 28FN correct an unintended consequence of measures that were agreed during Lords Committee stage to prevent disclosures by journalists in the public interest being caught by the anti-disclosure offences in Chapter 5. The unintended effect is that the criminal offence which protects personal information disclosed under Clause 60(1), and which originates from one of the tax authorities, now applies only to disclosures made by the person who first receives the information but not those within the accreditation system who subsequently receive the information—for example, to undertake peer review or via intermediaries. These amendments therefore restore a key safeguard to the research power, which ensures that information is protected in all parts of the process.

Amendments 28FW, 28FX, 37 and 38 provide new data-sharing powers for Scottish Revenue and the Welsh Revenue Authority. Clause 70 provides the power for HMRC to share de-identified data, allowing HMRC to share aggregate and general information more widely, for purposes in the public interest. Following discussions with the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government, as requested by them, we are providing equivalent powers for devolved tax-raising bodies.

Amendment 28FY, tabled by my noble friend Lord Hunt, is supported by the Government. There is a recognised sound public policy argument for supporting the more effective operation of the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office, referred to as ELTO. The discussions at Lords Committee sparked further conversations between HMRC and ELTO officials, resulting in an agreement to take this amendment forward. This Bill has offered a timely opportunity therefore to legislate. The current clause meets the objective of helping ELTO improve its records of employers’ liability insurance policies, making it easier to identify insurers and so enable claimants to pursue compensation. Both parties recognise that there remains some work to do and it is currently unclear as to how effective HMRC data may be in helping to populate missing data. However, an enabling provision would allow more robust testing of the possibilities, with the opportunity to take these forward.

Amendments 40 and 41 enable commencement of measures by area so that the Government can ensure that measures are not commenced for Northern Ireland in the event that the Northern Ireland Assembly has not given legislative consent. Consent from the Northern Ireland Assembly is required on a number of measures, including the extension of public lending right to e-book loans, Part 5 of the Bill on digital government, the Northern Ireland provision in relation to Ofcom and, should the government amendment be agreed, the offence of breaching limits on ticket sales.

In consequence of the potential need to commence the Bill by area, these amendments also provide the power to make necessary transitional provision. The transitional powers will also be used to define small businesses in the statistics chapter of Part 5 until definitions in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 come into force. I beg to move.

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I declare my interest as a partner in the global law firm DAC Beachcroft, and other interests set out in the register, including chairing the British Insurance Brokers’ Association and being president of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health. Taken at face value, Amendment 28FY would appear somewhat technical, but the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office is working well, but it could work better, and this amendment would help to facilitate that.

I am so grateful to the Minister and his colleagues for the support that they have given to this amendment, which could make a substantial difference to the capacity of the office to help to secure compensation, expeditiously and effectively, for those afflicted by industrial illnesses. When someone faces a reduced quality of life and possibly an avoidably and unnecessarily early death because of an industrial illness innocently contracted, the least that we can do is to deliver compensation as quickly as possible in the hope that the individual with the illness can enjoy at least some benefit from it. I believe that in some small way the amendment will serve to make this a more civilised and compassionate country.

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My Lords, we have two amendments in this group. The Minister was just a little previous in answering Amendment 25YYD on modification, so we do not need to go back to that. Amendment 33ZYD would remove several organisations from the list of specified persons for the purposes of fraud provisions, and the amendment is here to enable us to ask whether all these require the data-sharing gateway or, conversely, whether there are many other government-related organisations; I am not quite sure what the correct term might be for organisations such as the National Lottery or the British Council, but I shall use the term government-related organisations tonight. Are there not others that might use the power? What were the criteria used to select the ones that are in the schedule?

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I am obliged to my noble friend Lord Hunt and note what he said with regard to the amendment. On the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, Amendment 33ZYD, which seeks to remove a number of non-departmental public bodies listed in the schedule for the fraud power, I accept that the list in the schedule is long but the fact is that many public authorities are at serious risk of fraud. Each of the bodies was considered individually before being added to the schedule, and the NDPBs have been included because they each administer many millions of pounds in grant expenditure each year, which exposes them to a significant risk of fraud.

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Were any organisations considered and discarded for that purpose?

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I am not in a position to say what number of bodies were considered and discarded, but I will undertake to write to the noble Baroness on that point. All the public bodies included in the schedule must, of course, comply with the data-sharing safeguards in the Bill. Clearly, public authorities may not enter into data sharing lightly. They will have to follow the codes of practice, comply with the Information Commissioner’s requirements on data sharing and privacy and have in place all necessary protections to prevent unlawful disclosure.

The list of public bodies in the government amendments is shorter than the lists we have previously published in draft regulations although, as I indicated to the noble Baroness a moment ago, I do not know how many bodies were considered and removed before the process of listing them in the draft regulations took place. Care has been given to ensuring that we share only where there is a clear benefit, as required by the legislation. I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

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My Lords, I will take this opportunity to briefly comment on this group of amendments. These Benches did submit a series of amendments in Committee. The Minister responded that the Government were giving due consideration to the Delegated Powers Committee report, so there was no opportunity to go through some of those issues in detail. We welcome the Government’s amendments and the fact that they have responded to the Delegated Powers Committee. I have read the Information Commissioner’s briefing for Report, and I welcome the fact that she strongly supports the Government’s adoption of these amendments, which she believes will strengthen parliamentary scrutiny and government accountability.

The next group of amendments deals with the code of practice, on which we had lengthy debates in Committee, but I believe that the Government are now striking the right proportional balance between improving public and government services and the need to protect data.

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I am obliged to the noble Lord.

Amendment 25YY agreed.

Amendments 25YYA and 25YYB

Moved by

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25YYA: Clause 31, page 30, line 24, leave out “Chapter” and insert “section”

25YYB: Clause 31, page 30, line 25, leave out “regulations made by the appointed national authority” and insert “Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of section 31)”

Amendments 25YYA and 25YYB agreed.

Amendment 25YYC

Moved by

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25YYC: Clause 31, page 30, line 26, leave out subsection (3) and insert—

“(3) The appropriate national authority may by regulations amend Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of section 31) so as to add, remove or modify an entry relating to a person or description of person.(3A) Regulations under subsection (3) may add an entry relating to a person or a description of person to Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of section 31) only if—(a) the person is a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description is a public authority, or(b) the person provides services to a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description provides services to a public authority.”

Amendment 25YYD (to Amendment 25YYC) not moved.

Amendment 25YYC agreed.

Amendments 25YYE and 25YYF

Moved by

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25YYE: Clause 31, page 30, line 33, leave out “(2)” and insert “(3)”

25YYF: Clause 31, page 30, line 38, leave out from “which” to “, whether” in line 39 and insert “remove a person from Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of section 31)”

Amendments 25YYE and 25YYF agreed.

Amendment 25YYG

Moved by

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25YYG: Clause 31, page 30, line 40, leave out “had regard to” and insert “complied with”

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My Lords, the published groupings include Amendment 28CY, which should not have been tabled. I apologise to the House; it was a hangover from drafting before the Government tabled their amendments, which we have just dealt with, in response to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I will not be speaking to it and am sorry for the confusion. Similarly, Amendment 28CUA, published on the supplementary list, should not have been tabled—it was drafted a while ago but somebody panicked late on Friday afternoon and thought it had better be published.

Amendment 25YYG and a number of other amendments in this group return us to the status of codes of practice. Some amendments are amendments to the Bill and some are amendments to government amendments. However, the short point is that we believe the codes are documents which should be complied with rather than documents to which regard is to be had, as “regard” seems to us insufficient. The operation of the Bill, when it is an Act, will be heavily reliant on the codes of practice.

In their reply to the DPRRC, the Government refer to handling information to the same standards as public authorities,

“including compliance with the codes of practice and the Data Protection Act”.

If the obligation is the lesser provision—that is, having regard to—it will be enough for an organisation to think about the codes of practice and then decide not to follow them. That is a little too casual for us. We consider that organisations should follow the codes, although we of course appreciate that they do not have the force of law—they are good practice. However, having regard to them, as stated in the Bill, seems to us at two removes from following them more precisely in the way that we would like to see.

As regards Amendments 28BC and three others, the Bill requires the codes of practice to be,

“consistent with the code of practice issued under section 52B (data-sharing code) of the Data Protection Act”.

We wondered whether there should not also be reference to Section 51 of the DPA, which relates to codes promoting good practice.

Digging around, as it were, on screen in preparation for today’s debate, I found the Information Commissioner’s code of October 2016 on privacy, privacy notices, privacy information and privacy impact assessments. That code mentions when it is beneficial to go beyond legal requirements, and many matters to which reference has been made in the debate. The next little clutch of amendments, of which the first is Amendment 28BD, would require the codes to provide specifically for privacy impact assessments and privacy notices.

As regards Amendment 28BF and similar amendments, the Bill contains requirements to consult on the codes, including consultation with such other persons as the Minister thinks appropriate, which is a formula with which we will all be familiar. However, the named consultees might lead the reader to think that other persons would not extend beyond the arms of government, who are referred to specifically, apart from the ICO, which obviously is independent. There is a clear role for the third sector here and for the active, energetic and very knowledgeable organisations working in the privacy and human rights fields. We feel that to have some such reference as we are suggesting and not leave it to the normal sweeping-up provision would be appropriate and, we think, necessary. I beg to move.

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My Lords, in Committee I had my name to an amendment regarding the status of the codes of practice. At that time, the noble and learned Lord referred to the appropriate level of legal obligation. He certainly persuaded me that the wording “having regard to” or “complying with” did not relate to whether a public authority could ignore a code, but whether there were reasons for doing so. I was persuaded about that level of flexibility.

Of course, we were really concerned about what the codes of practice would ultimately look like, what the engagement of the Information Commissioner would be and what the Information Commissioner’s view was. On these Benches we were pleased to see not only the Government’s amendments but the Information Commissioner saying that she was extremely pleased that the Government had accepted her recommendations on there being references in the Bill to codes of practice and the privacy impact assessments.

In the light of the Information Commissioner’s overall comments and the fact that the Government have responded, we certainly welcome these amendments. However, I give notice that—the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to this—what is in the codes and how public authorities operate them will be very important, and parliamentary scrutiny of and engagement in them will be critical in the future. I hope that we will see further drafts of the codes before they are ultimately laid before Parliament. It is really important not only that there is the highest level of consultation on them but that Members of Parliament are properly engaged in them.

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I thank noble Lords for their observations on these matters. There are of course government amendments in this group as well and perhaps I may begin with those.

This group of amendments concerns the codes of practice issued under Part 5 and those issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office. It includes the government amendments that implement the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, observed, the recommendations of the Information Commissioner’s Office. In addition, there are some opposition amendments on similar points.

We have already published draft codes of practice on data sharing. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee recommended that the first codes of practice and the UK Statistics Authority’s statement of principles should be laid before Parliament in draft and should not be brought into force until they had been approved under the affirmative procedure. Revisions were to follow the draft negative procedure. We agree and have tabled amendments to achieve this, and it is intended that Parliament should have a suitable opportunity to consider these drafts and any amendments thereto in due course.

A further series of government amendments will require persons disclosing personal information under relevant chapters of Part 5 to have regard to the Information Commissioner’s codes of practice on privacy impact assessments and privacy notices, transparency and control in so far as they apply to information which is being shared. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, observed, the Information Commissioner called for explicit reference to these two codes to be made on the face of the Bill. We have worked with her office to develop these amendments, which supplement the existing requirement that the codes of practice prepared under the Bill must be consistent with the commissioner’s own code on data sharing, and I understand that she is satisfied with the steps we have taken in that regard. I hope that this will provide further assurance to noble Lords that we are committed to ensuring that best practice concerning compliance with data protection and transparency will be applied to the exercise of powers under Part 5 of the Bill.

I now turn to the opposition amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I hope I can persuade them that their amendments are no longer necessary, as the government amendments fully address the concerns of both the Information Commissioner’s Office and the DPRRC.

As the noble Baroness has explained, the amendments in their names seek to ensure further consistency with the ICO’s codes and to strengthen the role of those codes in the regime set up by Part 5, as well as providing for greater parliamentary oversight of the Government’s codes, and I believe that we are now there. The Bill already requires that codes of practice issued under Part 5 of the Bill must be consistent with the ICO’s data-sharing code of practice. The government amendments further require persons to have regard to the ICO’s codes on privacy impact assessments and privacy notices, transparency and control when exercising relevant powers under Part 5. So we are now referencing all the codes which the ICO felt were critical for the operation of Part 5.

Of course, this is not the first time we have discussed amendments that seek to strengthen enforcement of the codes of practice by requiring authorities that use the powers of determined specified bodies to “comply with” rather than “have regard to” these codes. The Government’s position remains that “have regard to” is the right weight to give to codes of this type. That is itself a legal obligation, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, noted. Moreover, the public law will expect those who are subject to the codes to follow their stipulations unless there are cogent reasons why they should not. We note that the Information Commissioner’s own codes are themselves advisory. A requirement to “comply with” the codes could lead to their being applied in a tick-box fashion, without due regard to whether the recommendations are actually applicable to and desirable in the context of the specific data share.

On the issue of adding additional persons to the consultation obligations for the codes, since Ministers have committed before Parliament to consult publicly on the Part 5 codes of practice, we suggest that such a requirement is unnecessary. The present provisions reflect what the noble Baroness noted to be the normal position.

Finally, on parliamentary oversight, the Government’s amendments fully implement the DPRRC’s recommendations, including, exceptionally, the use of the affirmative procedure for the first codes and the draft negative procedure thereafter. They go further than the noble Baroness’s amendment, and I hope that that will be welcomed by all noble Lords. I therefore invite the noble Baroness not to press her amendments.

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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I had forgotten to say that I was glad to see the government amendments about the affirmative procedure—it was because of looking at those that we got those two stray amendments that were tabled in error.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, is absolutely right about the codes of practice. I simply say, before begging leave to withdraw, that it will not be possible for amendments to be made once the codes are put formally to Parliament. That is why wide consultation and—I do not like the term—an iterative process is very important on what will be significant documents. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 25YYG withdrawn.

Amendments 25YYH and 25YYJ

Moved by

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25YYH: Clause 31, page 31, line 1, after first “objective”” insert “, in relation to a specified person,”

25YYJ: Clause 31, page 31, line 1, after “specified” insert “in relation to that specified person”

Amendments 25YYH and 25YYJ agreed.

Amendment 26

Moved by

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26: Clause 31, page 31, line 9, at end insert—

“( ) the facilitation of improvements in health conditions which could be exacerbated by living in a cold home.”

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My Lords, I raised this issue in Committee. It concerns one of the major justifications for data sharing that was proclaimed by the Government in their original justification for this Bill, which relates to dealing with fuel poverty. I first record my appreciation for the fact that both the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, and the noble Lord, Lord Ashton of Hyde, met me last week to discuss these amendments, which may well shorten proceedings this evening.

My main concern is that all public authorities should interact in order to deal with the problem of fuel poverty. Take, for example, the support that the fuel poor get from the warm home discount. There is a certain group, mainly the elderly that is automatically subject to the provisions of the warm home discount. However, there are other groups—in particular vulnerable families or families that are subject to certain illnesses—that have to be referred specifically in order to gain that benefit. They also, in those areas where there is still some local authority provision for intervention on fuel poverty, have to get through that hoop in order to qualify. As we know, there is no nationally financed fuel poverty eradication programme any more in England; there is, however, in Scotland and Wales, and there are a number of local authorities that do intervene in these matters.

People in that particular group are most likely to be identified through health provisions. In other words, doctors, district nurses and other health professionals are most likely to identify the fact that they have a problem in relation to the state of their home and the lack of heat or ventilation which results in respiratory, pulmonary or other diseases. I have been engaged in the fuel poverty area for 10 or 15 years and it has always been the reference of that group into whatever scheme has been available at the time which has been lacking.

As I say, the easiest and most obvious way in which they are referenced into the scheme is through health professionals. That is why Amendment 26 deals with the ability of data sharing to come into effect through the identification of a potential benefit for improving the health of people whose condition is aggravated by living in damp or poor housing with poor heating and ventilation. It is not explicitly a benefit and not explicitly a service and therefore it needs to be added to the criteria in this respect.

The other reason for my concern about the inadequacy of the provisions in this area is that the amendments which your Lordships debated two groups ago while I was still dining downstairs dealt with the list of public authorities to which data sharing would apply. Government Amendment 33ZX and the next two amendments cover government departments and local authorities but do not cover health authorities. I understand from the other debates that have been engaged in on this Bill that the issue of health information is particularly sensitive. However, here I am simply talking about a GP or a district nurse identifying that one of the problems of a family is that they cannot afford to heat or ventilate their house on their income and that the health conditions from which they suffer are being aggravated thereby.

This is not disclosing their whole health record. It is not even necessarily sharing it with the energy companies or anybody else in the private sector; it is simply alerting DWP or, indirectly, the energy supplier, through information that this particular group ought to qualify for the warm home discount and for any locally available interventions to improve their homes.

I understand from having spoken to Ministers that this is a difficult issue for them. The inclusion of health professionals and health bodies within the list of people who share data is delicate and controversial. All I am asking from the Minister tonight is to indicate that it would be possible under secondary legislation, at the point where these issues are more positively resolved, to add GPs, district health authorities and other health authorities to the list of people who could share data in this particular respect. The addition of my paragraph (c) would allow them to refer or identify people who are potentially affected through their health condition but not disclose their total health record.

That is what this is about. I accept that it is complicated and delicate, but I would like a positive indication from the Minister that in this way, if all the other difficulties about health information were overcome, they could add health authorities to the list and thereby deliver what I am asking for in this respect.

My other two amendments were largely dealt with in Committee. I retabled them because I would like to be a bit more explicit. Having discussed the issue with Ministers, I think that they have the authority to add gas and electricity networks to the list. They are the bodies with which fuel-poor households are increasingly likely to engage, as distinct from the supply companies, so at some point they should be added to the list. If that is a relatively easy process, I will not pursue Amendments 27 and 28. However, I would like on the record a clearer indication from Ministers that the ability to add health authorities and health professionals, including GPs, to the list could come further down the line, because it would address an issue that was clearly identified by the Government as one of the most important reasons for engaging in information and data sharing in the first place. I beg to move.

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My Lords, I have tabled amendments in this group. I start by thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, and his Bill team for having met with me and for dealing patiently with my queries. I know from that meeting that the Government are not minded to accept my amendments, but I would like the arguments to be put on the record.

I have listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. While I do not dispute at all that his amendments are well intentioned, I can see enormous difficulties arising in determining the threshold of the condition—how severe it has to be, which co-morbidities might be aggravating one another, which members of the family would be involved and so on. I am not sure from the way he argued for his amendment whether an email notification system against a set of clear criteria that had been pre-negotiated with the consent of the patient or family would meet the needs and be simple and straightforward. Would it be a communication system free from the risk of mining the patient’s clinical records? The reason I ask is that at the moment health bodies are not specified in the Bill, but if they were included, that would certainly need legislation because in effect it would override the common-law duty of confidentiality.

I know that at the previous stage the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, said that the Government were minded to consider bringing health and social care bodies within the scope of these powers in the future and that that would be done using a statutory instrument passed by the affirmative procedure. I appreciate that the Minister said that there would be wide consultation before that happened.

The difficulty is that in Clause 36(7) it appears that the duty of confidence, which could apply to the duty of medical confidentiality, could be removed if health is brought within the scope of the Bill. It could provide a legal gateway for sharing medical records for purposes that are not currently specified among a wide range of government departments and public service providers. The concern is that to date a special legal status has been afforded to health data in the common-law duty of medical confidentiality due to its sensitivity and the importance to the public of a confidential health service. This common-law duty of confidentiality protects health data over and above the safeguards provided by the Data Protection Act, so simply referring to the Bill’s requirement to comply with that Act when making disclosures does not maintain the current level of protection.

If the Bill proceeds unamended and the Government include health bodies in the list of specified bodies, which they could do by statutory instrument, I think that would be viewed as a serious assault on medical confidentiality because it would open up the power to share confidential information. Indeed, problems with the failure of the current safeguards in the system were aired this weekend over TPP, the IT system that many general practitioners use. In a way, that demonstrated that the current safeguards in place around the IT systems are, frankly, inadequate.

NHS Digital could be drawn into the Bill’s information-sharing powers. It holds vast quantities of confidential data, which would mean that the Bill could give the Government direct access to them without consent, because the process would override the current common-law duty. This needs to be considered in the context of the National Data Guardian, who has spoken about the need to build trust in the health system’s ability to handle data, and a real concern among many patient groups of the general mistrust that their very confidential data could be shared.

I believe that my amendments will not be accepted, but if they are not I hope the Government will be able to reassure me that if health data were to be brought into the Bill’s information-sharing powers they will not just be added to the current framework created by the Bill and then the duty of medical confidentiality deemed to be protected, but that there will be full public engagement and full parliamentary scrutiny prior to proceeding, and that the protections in place would include independent oversight and real-time monitoring of the data sharing. In Wales, the IT system overseeing NHS Wales has instituted real-time monitoring because there was concern that staff could have used their access rights to unprofessionally access healthcare records of people with whom they did not have a direct care relationship. I am afraid that human nature is that people are rather inquisitive about what may be happening to people they know, but those may be very sensitive and very private data. Therefore, they need the highest safeguards around them.

The problem is that once there is a data leak it really cannot be pulled back and closed. I hope the Government will provide the reassurance that, as well as the other aspects, there will be real-time monitoring and independent oversight of the whole process, with additional sanctions that will be of a high enough level to, I hope, act as a major deterrent for any breaches of any data-sharing agreement.

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My Lords, we have Amendment 28AV in this group, which is also about the common-law duty of confidentiality. Obviously that includes doctor-patient confidentiality. We are with the noble Baroness in her concerns. Apart from wanting to see that duty preserved, the reason for the amendment is to seek confirmation that it is to be overwritten rather than preserved. I found subsection (7) quite difficult. When we were contacted by a member of the public who was clearly qualified to read the legislation with a query about it, it seemed appropriate to raise this because it is quite difficult to follow. Clearly, one should be quite certain about what we are doing.

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My Lords, I hesitate before intervening in this group of amendments because, the last time I intervened, my noble friend said that I must be slightly confused, as I was talking about electoral rolls, bread rolls and toilet rolls. We are, of course, conflating a number of issues in this group, but I think that there is a really good point. My noble friend has raised an important area where the public good can be served not by sharing confidential information but by ensuring the availability of information that will serve a specific purpose in relation to fuel poverty. We on these Benches are very sympathetic on that point. In Committee we tabled amendments on the common-law duty of confidentiality, and the noble and learned Lord responded to those amendments. The only point I would make now is that it is vital that medical records remain confidential. They contain information that can affect not only people’s health but their access to jobs and to insurance. Access to a whole range of things is at risk if it is felt that this information will not remain confidential. Of course, the consequence of that is another public health issue, because if people do not have confidence that their records will remain confidential, they will not go to their doctor, they will not tell their doctor and they will not seek the treatment that they perhaps should. So there is a very strong case here.

One other point—it is not related to this group of amendments so I ask for forgiveness—is that there is a balance between maintaining confidentiality and security. Many of the problems in the health service, and why people lack confidence in it, are not about policies and procedures but about the health service’s ability to maintain a secure IT system. I hope the noble and learned Lord will be able to address those issues. The assurances that my noble friend has sought about future ability are really important. The ability to communicate—not the details of people’s confidential records but one government department to another and one public agency to another, to serve a very clear public need—is vital.

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I am obliged to noble Lords, and in particular I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for his continued interest in this area and for taking the time to meet and discuss this matter at some length with me and the Bill team. Clearly, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, observed, this is an important part of the fuel poverty agenda. That is why it takes on such considerable importance even when faced with issues such as medical confidentiality.

On the point about common-law confidentiality, and medical confidentiality in particular, it is not an absolute; there are already statutory gateways through which information can and must flow on occasions, and therefore one must not take it that medical confidentiality is somehow completely ring-fenced and separate from the world that we actually live in. There are circumstances where there should be, has to be and is disclosure. It may be possible—I put it no higher in terms of this Bill—to address a further gateway. However, one should not confuse any mechanism within the Bill with the consequences of human or IT failure, however regrettable they may be. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that one has to have regard not only to the structure within which information is shared but to the need to ensure that the sharing process is itself secure. But they are separate issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, acknowledges that some parts of his amendment may not be necessary. Amendments 27 and 28 would provide that information can be shared with licensed electricity and gas distributors for the provision of fuel poverty assistance. They can already be added to the data-sharing arrangements in Clause 32 by regulations. The Government will consider whether to exercise this power in the context of considering the future role of electricity and gas distributors in delivering fuel poverty schemes. I reassure the noble Lord that the provision made by Amendment 26 is already covered by Clause 31, which provides powers to share information for,

“the improvement of the well-being of individuals or households”.

Of course, this includes,

“their physical and mental health and emotional well-being”.

While we do not consider the noble Lord’s amendment necessary in this instance, the objectives that he highlights are an example of how in appropriate circumstances information held by healthcare providers could, in future, be valuable to support the more effective delivery of public services to those in need. It underlines why the Government are unable to accept Amendments 28AV, 28AW and 28AX, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Hamwee.

The Government do recognise the particular sensitivities with identifiable health information, as highlighted in the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care’s recent review of data security, consent and opt-outs. Health bodies in England are therefore not included in the list of bodies now in the Bill that will be permitted to use these powers. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, noted, health issues are a key factor in the complex social problems faced by people, whom we are aiming to support with these powers. Excluding the use of identifiable health information altogether would remove the possibility of including such information in the future without amending legislation. It would be premature to take this step in advance of the implementation of the National Data Guardian’s review and the public consultation that that will engage.

An amendment to maintain the common-law duty of medical confidentiality is not considered necessary. Those powers enable information to be shared only where it is already held by specified persons, acquired in a different context from the patient-doctor relationship. Any information that would have been subject to medical confidentiality would have found its way into a specified person’s hands only through an existing gateway. As I indicated earlier, there are already statutory gateways through which such information can move. Of course, we are dealing with permissive powers.

At this late hour, I will attempt the impossible: to satisfy the interests of all parties in the context of these provisions. Beginning with the inquiry from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, health bodies are not presently included in the schedules. As drafted, it would be possible for health bodies to be added to the schedules at a future date but—and I emphasise this—no decision will be taken until, first, the Government publish their response to the Caldicott review and any recommendations have been embedded and assessed; secondly, there has been a public consultation on the issue and the views of the National Data Guardian and appropriate representative health bodies such as the GMC and BMA have been sought; and, thirdly, there has been a debate in both Houses pursuant to the affirmative procedure required to add bodies to the schedule. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that it can be done, although it has yet to be done, and that there are steps that we will take to reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Hamwee, before any such step is implemented.

If health bodies or information were to be expressly excluded in the Bill, it would require primary legislation to enable those bodies to share information under the powers. If and when we decide that it would be helpful to have those powers—in implementing the fuel poverty initiative, for example—it would be most unfortunate if we were delayed by literally years before we could actually achieve the objective, when in fact there is provision here to do it by way of the affirmative procedure so that both Houses have ample opportunity for debate.

If we take those steps, there will be safeguards. When considering whether to add any health bodies to the schedules in the public service delivery, debt and fraud chapters, clear safeguards will apply. First, before a new body may be added to the schedule, it must show that it fulfils the relevant criteria relating to that specific power designed to ensure that only bodies with relevant functions for holding or requiring information relevant to that particular power may be added. The Minister must consider the procedures in place for secure handling of information before any new body can be added to the schedule—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Collins. A decision will be taken on whether it is in the public interest and proportionate to share identifying health information in order to achieve a specified objective. There would be no question of simply sharing this information more widely. The powers must be exercised in accordance with the Data Protection Act, which requires that only the minimum information necessary to achieve the objective may be shared. Under the Bill—and under the Data Protection Act—personal information may be used only for the purpose for which it was shared and data must be stored securely to ensure compliance with that Act. Again, this point was raised a moment ago.

Identifying health information will constitute sensitive personal data and so to ensure fair and lawful processing, it must fulfil one of the more onerous Schedule 3 conditions as well as the Schedule 2 condition under the Bill. In addition, new criminal sanctions have been included for wrongful disclosure with a maximum penalty of up two years’ imprisonment, a heavy fine or both. Further steps can of course also be taken to remove a body from the schedule if it does not comply with the requirements of the Act.

I do not suppose that I have satisfied anyone with that explanation at the end of the day. But, if nothing else, I hope that it has assisted in informing your Lordships as to why we consider that these amendments are not appropriate and that it would be appropriate to retain the ability to introduce health bodies by way of appropriate regulation. We feel that there will be appropriate safeguards and extensive consultation before any such step is taken, so I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

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May I ask for clarification over one issue? Would a statutory instrument, when brought forward, envisage adding health bodies to the Bill in a blanket way, or would it be envisaged that there would be statutory instruments for specific purposes, such as health bodies for the purposes of identifying fuel poverty, and that when something else emerged it would require a separate statutory instrument so as to keep that gateway as narrow as possible?

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With respect, we clearly intend to maintain any gateway in as narrow a manner as is reasonable. The point that the noble Baroness raises is really a question for another day. We are not there yet; health bodies are not included in the schedule. If and when it is contemplated that they will be, there will be extensive consultations on the very issues that she raises.

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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his ability to deliver a compromise position between what appeared to be diametrically opposed attacks in this group of amendments. He has done very well and almost satisfied me—I thank him for that and for his previous discussions.

Clearly, my amendments envisage a fairly narrow gateway, and in her latest remarks the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, was responding to that. I am very grateful to the Minister for his assurance that the procedure could add health authorities and health bodies to the list in specific circumstances. When we come to the statutory instrument phase, I am arguing for only a relatively narrow inclusion, which may well be carried by the form of the statutory instrument which we eventually have to consider. I also recognise that the Minister has to await the outcome of these other considerations.

On the other hand, I would impress on the Minister that fuel poverty is a really big issue and that the lack of communication between the health and social security sides, and the other interventions, has proved a major inhibition in tackling fuel poverty. The information to be shared is in two directions. It would also allow a medical GP, for example, to access DWP information as to whether people in a household qualified for help. It is not simply a matter of disclosing medical information; it is one of ensuring that the medics actually understand the broader context of the household with which they are concerned.

I thank the Minister for his help in this direction. We will no doubt return to this at some subsequent stage but in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 26 withdrawn.

Amendment 26A not moved.

Amendment 26B

Moved by

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26B: Clause 31, page 31, line 16, at end insert—

“( ) The third condition is that the objective has as its purpose the supporting of—(a) the delivery of a specified person’s functions, or(b) the administration, monitoring or enforcement of a specified person’s functions.”

Amendment 26B agreed.

Clause 32: Disclosure of information to gas and electricity suppliers

Amendment 27 and 28 not moved.

Amendments 28AA to 28AH

Moved by

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28AA: Clause 32, page 31, line 40, at end insert—

“( ) In this section and section 33 “specified person” means a person specified, or of a description specified, in Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 32 and 33).”

28AB: Clause 32, page 31, line 41, at end insert—

“(za) amend Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 32 and 33) so as to add, remove or modify an entry relating to a person or description of person;”

28AC: Clause 32, page 31, line 44, at end insert “so as to add, modify or remove a reference to a fuel poverty measure”

28AD: Clause 32, page 31, line 44, at end insert—

“( ) Regulations under subsection (4)(za) may add an entry relating to a person or a description of person to Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 32 and 33) only if—(a) the person is a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description is a public authority, or(b) the person provides services to a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description provides services to a public authority.”

28AE: Clause 32, page 31, line 44, at end insert—

“( ) Regulations under subsection (4)(a) may add a person or a description of person to subsection (1) only if the person or (as the case may be) each person of that description—(a) provides assistance of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) to people living in fuel poverty,(b) monitors or enforces the provision of such assistance to such people,(c) administers a fuel poverty measure, or(d) provides services to a person within paragraph (a), (b) or (c).”

28AF: Clause 32, page 32, line 1, leave out “(4)(a)” and insert “(4)(za) or (a)”

28AG: Clause 32, page 32, line 6, after “from” insert “Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 32 and 33) or”

28AH: Clause 32, page 32, line 17, at end insert—

“““fuel poverty measure” means—(a) a scheme, arrangement or set of arrangements, or(b) a function or set of functions,which has as its purpose (or one of its purposes) the provision of assistance of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) to people living in fuel poverty;”

Amendments 28AA to 28AH agreed.

Clause 34: Disclosure of information to water and sewerage undertakers

Amendments 28AJ to 28AP

Moved by

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28AJ: Clause 34, page 33, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) In this section and section 35 “specified person” means a person specified, or of a description specified, in Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 34 and 35).”

28AK: Clause 34, page 33, line 8, at end insert—

“(3A) The appropriate national authority may by regulations—(a) amend Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 34 and 35) so as to add, remove or modify an entry relating to a person or description of person;(b) amend subsection (1) so as to add or remove a person or description of person to whom information may be disclosed;(c) amend subsection (3) so as to add, modify or remove a reference to a water poverty measure.”

28AL: Clause 34, page 33, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) Regulations under subsection (3A)(a) may add an entry relating to a person or a description of person to Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 34 and 35) only if—(a) the person is a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description is a public authority, or(b) the person provides services to a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description provides services to a public authority.”

28AM: Clause 34, page 33, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) Regulations under subsection (3A)(b) may add a person or a description of person to subsection (1) only if the person or (as the case may be) each person of that description—(a) provides assistance of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) to people living in water poverty,(b) monitors or enforces the provision of such assistance to such people,(c) administers a water poverty measure, or(d) provides services to a person within paragraph (a), (b) or (c).”

28AN: Clause 34, page 33, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) In determining whether to make regulations under subsection (3A)(a) or (b) in relation to a person or description of person the appropriate national authority must have regard, in particular, to—(a) the systems and procedures for the secure handling of information by that person or persons of that description, and(b) in the case of regulations which remove a person from Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 34 and 35) or subsection (1), whether that person, or any person providing services to that person, has had regard to the code of practice under section 39 as required by that section.”

28AP: Clause 34, page 33, line 12, at end insert—

“( ) In this section “water poverty measure” means—(a) a scheme, arrangement or set of arrangements, or(b) a function or set of functions,which has as its purpose (or one of its purposes) the provision of assistance of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) to people living in water poverty.”

Amendments 28AJ to 28AP agreed.

Clause 36: Further provisions about disclosures under any of sections 31 to 35

Amendment 28AQ to 28AY not moved.

Clause 37: Confidentiality of personal information

Amendment 28BA and 28BB not moved.

Clause 39: Code of practice

Amendment 28BC to 28BF not moved.

Amendments 28BG and 28BH

Moved by

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28BG: Clause 39, page 36, line 38, at end insert—

“(6A) The relevant Minister may not issue the code of practice unless a draft of the code has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(6B) Before reissuing the code the relevant Minister must lay a draft of the code as proposed to be reissued before Parliament.(6C) The relevant Minister may not reissue the code if, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it.(6D) In subsection (6C)“the 40 day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or(b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(6E) For the purposes of subsection (6D) no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”

28BH: Clause 39, page 36, line 42, leave out paragraph (a)

Amendments 28BG and 28BH agreed.

Amendment 28BJ

Moved by

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28BJ: Clause 39, page 37, line 2, at end insert—

“(8) In disclosing information under any of sections 31 to 35 , a person must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(9) The duty in subsection (8) does not affect any other requirement for the person to have regard to a code of practice in disclosing the information.”

Amendment 28BK (to Amendment 28BJ) not moved.

Amendment 28BJ agreed.

Clause 40: Regulations under this Chapter

Amendment 28BL

Moved by

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28BL: Clause 40, page 37, line 14, leave out subsection (3)

Amendment 28BL agreed.

Amendment 28BM not moved.

Amendments 28BN to 28BR

Moved by

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28BN: Clause 40, page 37, line 19, leave out from “of” to first “this” in line 20 and insert “—

( ) regulations under section 31 (3) which amend Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of section 31) so as to add an entry relating to a person or description of person,( ) regulations under section 32 (4)(za) which amend Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 32 and 33) so as to add an entry relating to a person or description of person, or( ) regulations under section 34 (3A)(a) which amend Schedule (Public service delivery: specified persons for the purposes of sections 34 and 35) so as to add an entry relating to a person or description of person,”

28BP: Clause 40, page 37, line 20, leave out “provision amending this Chapter so as” and insert “power”

28BQ: Clause 40, page 37, line 39, leave out “or 32(4)(b)” and insert “, 32(4)(b) or 34(3A)(c)”

28BR: Clause 40, page 38, line 7, leave out “31(2) or 32(4)(a)” and insert “ 31(3), 32(4)(za) or (a) or 34(3A)(a) or (b)”

Amendments 28BN to 28BR agreed.

Clause 41: Interpretation of this Chapter

Amendments 28BS to 28CA

Moved by

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28BS: Clause 41, page 38, leave out line 32

28BT: Clause 41, page 38, line 34, leave out “31(2) which specify” and insert “ 31(3) or 32(4)(za) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

28BU: Clause 41, page 39, line 1, leave out “31(2) which specify” and insert “ 31(3), 32(4)(za) or 34(3A)(a) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

28BV: Clause 41, page 39, line 3, after “32(4)(a)” insert “or 34(3A)(b)”

28BW: Clause 41, page 39, line 5, leave out “or 32(4)(b)” and insert “, 32(4)(b) or 34(3A)(c)”

28BX: Clause 41, page 39, line 7, leave out “relates to a matter” and insert “could be specified by provision falling”

28BY: Clause 41, page 39, line 16, leave out “31(2) which specify” and insert “ 31(3) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

28CA: Clause 41, page 39, line 35, at end insert—

“( ) The power of the Secretary of State in section 69(2) of the Wales Act 2017 to amend an enactment contained in primary legislation in consequence of any provision of that Act includes power to amend this Chapter, and section 97 so far as relating to this Chapter, in consequence of section 48 (water and sewerage) of that Act.”

Amendments 28BS to 28CA agreed.

Clause 42: Disclosure of information by civil registration officials

Amendment 28CB not moved.

Amendment 28CC

Moved by

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28CC: Clause 42, page 41, leave out lines 37 to 39 and insert—

“(6) The Registrar General may not issue the code of practice unless a draft of the code has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(7) Before reissuing the code the Registrar General must lay a draft of the code as proposed to be reissued before Parliament.(8) The Registrar General may not reissue the code if, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it.(9) In subsection (8)“the 40 day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or(b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(10) For the purposes of subsection (9) no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”

Amendment 28CC agreed.

Amendment 28CD

Moved by

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28CD: Clause 42, page 41, line 39, at end insert—

“(7) In disclosing information under section 19AA, a civil registration official must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(8) The duty in subsection (7) does not affect any other requirement for the civil registration official to have regard to a code of practice in disclosing the information.””

Amendment 28CE (to Amendment 28CD) not moved.

Amendment 28CD agreed.

Amendment 28CF not moved.

Clause 44: Disclosure of information to reduce debt owed to the public sector

Amendment 28CG not moved.

Amendments 28CH to 28CU

Moved by

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28CH: Clause 44, page 42, line 30, leave out “specified person” and insert “public authority”

28CJ: Clause 44, page 42, line 32, after “section” insert “and Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the debt provisions)”

28CK: Clause 44, page 42, line 32, leave out “specified person” and insert “public authority”

28CL: Clause 44, page 42, line 34, leave out “specified person” and insert “public authority”

28CM: Clause 44, page 42, line 38, leave out “The reference in subsection (1) to” and insert “For the purposes of this section and Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the debt provisions)”

28CN: Clause 44, page 42, line 39, leave out “specified person” and insert “public authority”

28CP: Clause 44, page 43, line 4, leave out “regulations made by the appropriate national authority” and insert “Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the debt provisions)”

28CQ: Clause 44, page 43, line 5, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“(5) The appropriate national authority may by regulations amend Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the debt provisions) so as to add, remove or modify an entry relating to a person or description of person.(5A) Regulations under subsection (5) may add an entry relating to a person or a description of person to Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the debt provisions) only if the following conditions are satisfied.(5B) The first condition is that—(a) the person is a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description is a public authority, or(b) the person provides services to a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description provides services to a public authority.(5C) The second condition is that the person or (as the case may be) a person of that description (“P” in either case)—(a) requires information from a public authority or a person providing services to a public authority to improve P’s ability to identify, manage or recover debt owed to a public authority or to the Crown,(b) has information which, if shared with a public authority or a person providing services to a public authority, has the potential to improve that authority’s or that person’s ability to identify, manage or recover such debt, or(c) has functions relating to the management or recovery of such debt the exercise of which may be improved by the disclosure of information by or to P.”

28CR: Clause 44, page 43, line 12, leave out “(4)” and insert “(5)”

28CS: Clause 44, page 43, line 17, leave out from “which” to “whether” in line 18 and insert “remove a person from Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the debt provisions),”

28CT: Clause 44, page 43, line 21, leave out “(4)” and insert “(5)”

28CU: Clause 44, page 43, line 26, leave out “(4)” and insert “(5)”

Amendments 28CH to 28CU agreed.

Clause 48: Code of practice

Amendments 28CUA to 28DB not moved.

Amendments 28DC to 28DJ

Moved by

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28DC: Clause 48, page 46, line 38, at end insert—

“(6A) The relevant Minister may not issue the code of practice unless a draft of the code has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(6B) Before reissuing the code the relevant Minister must lay a draft of the code as proposed to be reissued before Parliament. (6C) The relevant Minister may not reissue the code if, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it.(6D) In subsection (6C)“the 40 day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or(b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(6E) For the purposes of subsection (6D) no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”

28DD: Clause 48, page 46, line 42, leave out paragraph (a)

28DE: Clause 48, page 47, line 2, at end insert—

“(8) In disclosing information under section 44 , a person must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(9) The duty in subsection (8) does not affect any other requirement for the person to have regard to a code of practice in disclosing the information.”

28DF: Clause 49, page 47, line 25, at end insert—

“( ) The power in subsection (5) to amend this Chapter—(a) may be exercised for the purposes only of improving the effectiveness of the operation of the power in section 44 (1), and(b) may not be used to remove any of the safeguards relating to the use or disclosure of information in section 45, 46 or 47 .”

28DG: Clause 49, page 47, line 30, leave out “44(4)” and insert “ 44(5)”

28DH: Clause 49, page 47, line 42, leave out “44(4)” and insert “ 44(5)”

28DJ: Clause 49, page 48, line 10, leave out “44(4)” and insert “ 44(5)”

Amendments 28DC to 28DJ agreed.

Clause 50: Regulations under this Chapter

Amendments 28DK to 28DR

Moved by

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28DK: Clause 50, page 48, line 34, leave out subsection (3)

28DL: Clause 50, page 48, line 39, leave out “44(4) which specify” and insert “ 44(5) which amend Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the debt provisions) so as to add an entry relating to”

28DM: Clause 50, page 48, line 40, leave out “provision amending this Chapter so as” and insert “power”

28DN: Clause 50, page 49, line 1, leave out “44(4)” and insert “ 44(5)”

28DP: Clause 50, page 49, line 3, leave out “44(4)” and insert “ 44(5)”

28DQ: Clause 50, page 49, line 6, leave out “44(4)” and insert “ 44(5)”

28DR: Clause 50, page 49, line 9, leave out “44(4)” and insert “ 44(5)”

Amendments 28DK to 28DR agreed.

Clause 51: Interpretation of this Chapter

Amendments 28DS to 28DU

Moved by

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28DS: Clause 51, page 50, line 14, leave out “44(4) which specify” and insert “ 44(5) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

28DT: Clause 51, page 50, line 17, leave out “44(4) which specify” and insert “ 44(5) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

28DU: Clause 51, page 50, line 20, leave out “44(4) which specify” and insert “ 44(5) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

Amendments 28DS to 28DU agreed.

Clause 52: Disclosure of information to combat fraud against the public sector

Amendment 28DV not moved.

Amendments 28DW to 28EE

Moved by

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28DW: Clause 52, page 50, line 28, after “section” insert “and in Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the fraud provisions)”

28DX: Clause 52, page 50, line 37, leave out “The reference in subsection (1) to” insert “For the purposes of this section and Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the fraud provisions)”

28DY: Clause 52, page 51, line 2, leave out from “in” to end of line and insert “Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the fraud provisions)”

28EA: Clause 52, page 51, line 3, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

“(6) The appropriate national authority may by regulations amend Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the fraud provisions) so as to add, remove or modify an entry relating to a person or description of person.(6A) Regulations under subsection (6) may add an entry relating to a person or a description of person to Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the fraud provisions) only if the following conditions are satisfied.(6B) The first condition is that—(a) the person is a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description is a public authority, or(b) the person provides services to a public authority or (as the case may be) each person of that description provides services to a public authority.(6C) The second condition is that the person or (as the case may be) a person of that description (“P” in either case)—(a) requires information from a public authority or a person providing services to a public authority to improve P’s ability to identify or reduce the risk of fraud against P or a public authority to which P provides services,(b) has information which, if shared with a public authority or a person providing services to a public authority, has the potential to improve that authority’s or that person’s ability to identify or reduce the risk of fraud against that authority, or (c) has functions of taking action in connection with fraud against a public authority, the exercise of which may be improved by the disclosure of information by or to P.”

28EB: Clause 52, page 51, line 10, leave out “(5)” and insert “(6)”

28EC: Clause 52, page 51, line 15, leave out from “which” to “, whether” in line 16 and insert “remove a person from Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the fraud provisions)”

28ED: Clause 52, page 51, line 19, leave out “(5)” and insert “(6)”

28EE: Clause 52, page 51, line 24, leave out “(5)” and insert “(6)”

Amendments 28DW to 28EE agreed.

Clause 56: Code of practice

Amendments 28EF to 28EJ not moved.

Amendments 28EK to 28EM

Moved by

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28EK: Clause 56, page 55, line 7, at end insert—

“(6A) The relevant Minister may not issue the code of practice unless a draft of the code has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(6B) Before reissuing the code the relevant Minister must lay a draft of the code as proposed to be reissued before Parliament.(6C) The relevant Minister may not reissue the code if, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it.(6D) In subsection (6C)“the 40 day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or(b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(6E) For the purposes of subsection (6D) no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”

28EL: Clause 56, page 55, line 11, leave out paragraph (a)

28EM: Clause 56, page 55, line 14, at end insert—

“(8) In disclosing information under section 52, a person must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(9) The duty in subsection (8) does not affect any other requirement for the person to have regard to a code of practice in disclosing the information.”

Amendments 28EK to 28EM agreed.

Clause 57: Duty to review operation of Chapter

Amendments 28EN to 28ER

Moved by

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28EN: Clause 57, page 55, line 37, at end insert—

“( ) The power in subsection (5) to amend this Chapter— (a) may be exercised for the purposes only of improving the effectiveness of the operation of the power in section 52 (1), and(b) may not be used to remove any of the safeguards relating to the use or disclosure of information in section 53 , 54 or 55 .”

28EP: Clause 57, page 55, line 42, leave out “52(5)” and insert “ 52(6)”

28EQ: Clause 57, page 56, line 10, leave out “52(5)” and insert “ 52(6)”

28ER: Clause 57, page 56, line 22, leave out “52(5)” and insert “ 52(6)”

Amendments 28EN to 28ER agreed.

Clause 58: Regulations under this Chapter

Amendments 28ES to 28EY

Moved by

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28ES: Clause 58, page 56, line 46, leave out subsection (3)

28ET: Clause 58, page 57, line 5, leave out “52(5) which specify” and insert “ 52(6) which amend Schedule (Specified persons for purposes of the fraud provisions) so as add an entry relating to”

28EU: Clause 58, page 57, line 6, leave out “provision amending this Chapter so as” and insert “power”

28EV: Clause 58, page 57, line 13, leave out “52(5)” and insert “ 52(6)”

28EW: Clause 58, page 57, line 15, leave out “52(5)” and insert “ 52(6)”

28EX: Clause 58, page 57, line 18, leave out “52(5)” and insert “ 52(6)”

28EY: Clause 58, page 57, line 21, leave out “52(5)” and insert “ 52(6)”

Amendments 28ES to 28EY agreed.

Clause 59: Interpretation of this Chapter

Amendments 28FA to 28FC

Moved by

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28FA: Clause 59, page 58, line 19, leave out “52(5) which specify” and insert “52(6) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

28FB: Clause 59, page 58, line 22, leave out “52(5) which specify” and insert “52(6) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

28FC: Clause 59, page 58, line 25, leave out “52(5) which specify” and insert “52(6) which add, modify or remove an entry relating to”

Amendments 28FA to 28FC agreed.

Clause 60: Disclosure of information for research purposes

Amendment 28FD not moved.

Amendments 28FE and 28FF

Moved by

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28FE: Clause 60, page 59, line 6, at beginning insert “subject to sections 63(5), 64(5) and 65(5)(information disclosed by tax authorities),”

28FF: Clause 60, page 59, line 7, leave out subsection (6)

Amendments 28FE and 28FF agreed.

Clause 62: Bar on further disclosure of personal information

Amendment 28FG

Moved by

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28FG: Clause 62, page 61, line 1, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

“( ) for the purposes of enabling anything that is to be published as a result of the research to be reviewed before publication, where the disclosure is made to a person who is accredited under section 67 as a person to whom such information may be disclosed for that purpose”

Amendment 28FG agreed.

Clause 63: Information disclosed by the Revenue and Customs

Amendments 28FH and 28FJ

Moved by

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28FH: Clause 63, page 62, line 42, at end insert “, or

( ) by a person to whom the information is disclosed by virtue of subsection (3).”

28FJ: Clause 63, page 62, line 46, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

“( ) for the purposes of enabling anything that is to be published as a result of the research to be reviewed before publication, where the disclosure is made to a person who is accredited under section 67 as a person to whom such information may be disclosed for that purpose”

Amendments 28FH and 28FJ agreed.

Clause 64: Information disclosed by the Welsh Revenue Authority

Amendments 28FK and 28FL

Moved by

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28FK: Clause 64, page 63, line 39, at end insert “, or

( ) by a person to whom the information is disclosed by virtue of subsection (3).”

28FL: Clause 64, page 63, line 43, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

“( ) for the purposes of enabling anything that is to be published as a result of the research to be reviewed before publication, where the disclosure is made to a person who is accredited under section 67 as a person to whom such information may be disclosed for that purpose”

Amendments 28FK and 28FL agreed.

Clause 65: Information disclosed by Revenue Scotland

Amendments 28FM and 28FN

Moved by

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28FM: Clause 65, page 64, line 43, at end insert “, or

( ) by a person to whom the information is disclosed by virtue of subsection (3).”

28FN: Clause 65, page 65, line 3, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

“( ) for the purposes of enabling anything that is to be published as a result of the research to be reviewed before publication, where the disclosure is made to a person who is accredited under section 67 as a person to whom such information may be disclosed for that purpose”

Amendments 28FM and 28FN agreed.

Clause 66: Code of practice

Amendments 28FP to 28FS not moved.

Amendments 28FT to 28FV

Moved by

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28FT: Clause 66, page 66, line 17, at end insert—

“(8A) The Statistics Board may not issue the code of practice unless a draft of the code has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(8B) Before reissuing the code the Statistics Board must lay a draft of the code as proposed to be reissued before Parliament.(8C) The Statistics Board may not reissue the code if, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it.(8D) In subsection (8C)“the 40 day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or(b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(8E) For the purposes of subsection (8D) no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”

28FU: Clause 66, page 66, line 20, leave out paragraph (a)

28FV: Clause 66, page 66, line 23, at end insert—

“(10) In disclosing information under section 60, a person must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(11) The duty in subsection (10) does not affect any other requirement for the person to have regard to a code of practice in disclosing the information.”

Amendments 28FT to 28FV agreed.

Amendments 28FW to 28FY

Moved by

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28FW: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—

“Disclosure of non-identifying information by the Welsh Revenue Authority

(1) A relevant official of the Welsh Revenue Authority may disclose relevant information to any person if— (a) the information is non-identifying information, and(b) the official thinks that the disclosure would be in the public interest.(2) Information is non-identifying information for the purposes of this section if—(a) it is not, and has never been, identifying information, or(b) it has been created by combining identifying information, but is not itself identifying information.(3) Information is identifying information for the purposes of this section if it relates to a person whose identity—(a) is specified in the information,(b) can be deduced from the information, or(c) can be deduced from the information taken together with any other information.(4) In this section—(a) “relevant official of the Welsh Revenue Authority” means a person within any of paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 17(2) of the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Act 2016, and(b) “relevant information” means information which—(i) is held by the Welsh Revenue Authority in connection with its functions, or(ii) is held by a person to whom any of the functions of the Welsh Revenue Authority have been delegated in connection with those functions.”

28FX: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—

“Disclosure of non-identifying information by Revenue Scotland

(1) A relevant official of Revenue Scotland may disclose to any person information held by a relevant person in connection with a relevant function if—(a) the information is non-identifying information, and(b) the official thinks that the disclosure would be in the public interest.(2) Information is non-identifying information for the purposes of this section if—(a) it is not, and has never been, identifying information, or(b) it has been created by combining identifying information, but is not itself identifying information.(3) Information is identifying information for the purposes of this section if it relates to a person whose identity—(a) is specified in the information,(b) can be deduced from the information, or(c) can be deduced from the information taken together with any other information.(4) In this section—(a) “relevant official of Revenue Scotland” means a relevant official as defined by section 15(2) of the Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Act 2014,(b) “relevant person” has the meaning given by section 13(2) of that Act, and(c) “relevant function” means a function mentioned in section 13(3)(a), (b)(i) or (c)(i) of that Act.”

28FY: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—

“Disclosure of employer reference information by HMRC

(1) A Revenue and Customs official may disclose employer reference information held by the Revenue and Customs to the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office for use by it for the permitted purpose.(2) The Employers’ Liability Tracing Office is the company registered in England and Wales with the company registration number 06964651.(3) The permitted purpose is the purpose of providing assistance in connection with— (a) claims against an employer, or an employer’s insurer, arising from personal injury or death that occurred, or is alleged to have occurred, in the course of a person’s employment by that employer, or(b) applications for a payment under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme established under the Mesothelioma Act 2014.(4) “Employer reference information” means any of the following information relating to an employer—(a) the employer’s name and address;(b) any combination of numbers, letters or characters that is uniquely associated with the employer and used by Revenue and Customs to identify or refer to the employer, whether generally or for particular purposes.(5) References in this section to an employer include references to a person who has at any time been an employer.(6) In this section—“employer” and “employment” have the same meaning as in the employment income Parts of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003;“Revenue and Customs official” has the meaning given by section 18(4)(a) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005;“the Revenue and Customs” has the meaning given by section 17(3) of that Act.”

Amendments 28FW to 28FY agreed.

Clause 71: Disclosure of information by HMRC to the Statistics Board

Amendment 28GA

Moved by

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28GA: Clause 71, page 69, line 29, at end insert—

“( ) After subsection (4) insert—“(4A) In disclosing information under subsection (1), the Commissioners or an officer of Revenue and Customs must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(4B) The duty in subsection (4A) to have regard to a code of practice does not affect any other requirement for the Commissioners or an officer of Revenue and Customs to have regard to a code of practice under the Data Protection Act 1998 in disclosing the information.(4C) In determining how to comply with the duty in subsection (4A) the Commissioners or the officer of Revenue and Customs must have regard to any views of the Board which are communicated to the Commissioners or the officer.”

Amendment 28GB (to Amendment 28GA) not moved.

Amendment 28GA agreed.

Clause 72: Disclosure of information by public authorities to the Statistics Board

Amendment 28GC

Moved by

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28GC: Clause 72, page 70, line 18, at end insert—

“(7A) In disclosing information under subsection (1), a public authority must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(7B) The duty in subsection (7A) to have regard to a code of practice does not affect any other requirement for the public authority to have regard to a code of practice under the Data Protection Act 1998 in disclosing the information.(7C) In determining how to comply with the duty in subsection (4A) the public authority must have regard to any views of the Board which are communicated to the authority.”

Amendment 28GD (to Amendment 28GC) not moved.

Amendment 28GC agreed.

Clause 73: Access to information by Statistics Board

Amendments 28GE and 28GF

Moved by

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28GE: Clause 73, page 76, line 12, at end insert—

“(9A) The Board may not publish the original statement under this section unless a draft of the statement has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(9B) Before publishing a revised statement under this section the Board must lay a draft of the statement as proposed to be published before Parliament.(9C) The Board may not publish the revised statement if, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it.(9D) In subsection (9C)“the 40 day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or(b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(9E) For the purposes of subsection (9D) no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”

28GF: Clause 73, page 76, leave out line 15

Amendments 28GE and 28GF agreed.

Amendment 28GG

Moved by

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28GG: Clause 73, page 76, line 18, at end insert—

“(11) In exercising any of its functions under section 45B, 45C or 45D to require the disclosure of information, the Board must have regard to any code of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998 which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information, so far as the code applies to the information in question.(12) The duty in subsection (11) to have regard to a code of practice does not affect any other requirement for the Board to have regard to a code of practice under the Data Protection Act 1998 in exercising the function.”

Amendment 28GH (to Amendment 28GG) not moved.

Amendment 28GG agreed.

Amendments 28GJ and 28GK

Moved by

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28GJ: Clause 73, page 77, line 26, at end insert—

“(5A) The Board may not publish the original code of practice under this section unless a draft of the code has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(5B) Before publishing a revised code of practice under this section the Board must lay a draft of the code as proposed to be published before Parliament.(5C) The Board may not publish the revised code of practice if, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it.(5D) In subsection (5C)“the 40 day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or(b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(5E) For the purposes of subsection (5D) no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”

28GK: Clause 73, page 77, leave out line 29

Amendments 28GJ and 28GK agreed.

Clause 74: Disclosure by the Statistics Board to devolved administrations

Amendment 28GL

Moved by

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28GL: Clause 74, page 78, line 39, at end insert—

“(8A) In disclosing information under subsection (1), the Board must have regard to the following codes of practice issued by the Information Commissioner under section 51(3) of the Data Protection Act 1998, so far as they apply to the information in question—(a) any code which makes provision about the identification and reduction of the risks to privacy of a proposal to disclose information;(b) any code which makes provision about the information to be provided to data subjects (within the meaning of that Act) about the use to be made of information collected from them.(8B) The duty in subsection (8A) to have regard to a code of practice does not affect any other requirement for the Board to have regard to a code of practice under the Data Protection Act 1998 in disclosing the information.”

Amendment 28GM (to Amendment 28GL) not moved.

Amendment 28GL agreed.

Amendment 29 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 80: Appeals from decisions of OFCOM and others: standard of review

Amendment 29A

Moved by

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29A: Clause 80, page 84, line 3, at end insert “and taking due account of the merits of the case”.

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Wow, my Lords, what a tour de force.

Some time ago, we were debating the last string of amendments, during which the Minister sought to achieve the impossible and, according to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, almost succeeded. In moving Amendment 29A, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, I am going to ask the Minister not to achieve the impossible, but merely to give a very clear statement to the House at the end of the debate, with which I hope we will then be satisfied, so that we can move on.

In Clause 80 at the moment, the Government seek to change the regime for appeals from Ofcom decisions from an appeal on the merits to one which follows a judicial review standard. As the Minister is well aware, the move is opposed by the vast majority of the telecoms industry, including the most significant investors in telecoms infrastructure. It is also opposed by many smaller players, by new entrants and by the industry bodies, the CBI and techUK.

Ofcom is an immensely powerful regulator which can make life-or-death decisions for these companies and their investors. The industry players feel that it is only fair that they should have the protection of due process. They believe that changing the appeals regime in the way proposed introduces significant regulatory uncertainty into the UK investment environment.

There is no evidence that has convinced us that Clause 80 is necessary, let alone desirable. Many claims have been made to support the need for a change that have transpired to be simply wrong. For example, it was initially claimed that it would bring Ofcom appeals into line with other sectors, but that point has now been dropped. The Minister made that very clear at col. 1737 in our deliberations in Committee on 8 February. It was also claimed that the new approach would be quicker, but evidence clearly shows that judicial reviews can take at least as long as current telecoms appeals. Many other claims were made which were effectively debunked in Committee by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones.

Despite all that, in Committee, the Minister refused to accept an amendment which would have done no more than duplicate the wording of the EU directive, which implements the right to appeal under consideration. Rather strangely, the Minister said:

“I acknowledge that the amendment essentially replicates the wording of Article 4 of the EU framework directive, albeit it is not identical to it. While this would in one view remove the gold-plating of the existing standard in a technical sense, the Government consider that it would not lead to any substantive change in approach”.—[Official Report, 8/2/17; col 1739.]

In that statement, he seems to indicate a lack of faith in the judicial bodies responsible for hearing appeals, almost implying that they are not capable of applying the law properly. I say that because the only alternative interpretation of what he said is that the Government now intend to underimplement the framework directive and put in place a standard which does not meet the European requirements.

On the one hand, we are assured by the Government that the words in Clause 80 will allow appeal bodies to take due account of the merits, but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, by saying that a substantive change of approach was required, implied something different. After all, the language of Clause 80 plainly refers only to judicial review. As traditionally understood, this would absolutely not encompass consideration of “merits”.

I argue that there is a real risk of ambiguity that could cause confusion when the first cases are taken under the provision. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not only respond to the general point but give a clear statement about what exactly is intended by Clause 80 and whether the appeal bodies will be allowed to do what the framework directive says, which is to ensure that,

“the merits of the case are duly taken into account”.

Just before I finish, I ask the Minister to give one more clarification on an issue about which there is confusion. He will recall that during debate in Committee, my noble friend Lord Lester raised with him the point that judicial review in cases that do not relate to European directives do not have merits taken into account, whereas in relation to European directives they do. The debate was about proportionality. The Minister was very clear when he said,

“here we are dealing with judicial review in the context of the EU framework directive, which requires that the merits of the case are duly taken into account in any appeal”.—[Official Report, 8/2/17; col 1738.]

That is the sort of clear statement that I hope that he will repeat today. I hope that he can go further and explain what will happen post Brexit—although I assume that the entire EU directive will be transposed into UK law. Then, perhaps we will maintain the proportionality to which he referred and the merits will continue to be taken into account. I hope that he can clarify that for me, as well as give that clear statement—not an impossible task—and we can then quickly move on.

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My Lords, I should like to speak briefly in support of Amendment 29A. Removing merit-based appeals, as Clause 80 would do, seems both unfair to appellants in cases where Ofcom may make decisions that are materially wrong even if they reflect due process, as will inevitably occur on occasion, and undesirable, potentially harming consumers and deterring investment. This seems precisely the opposite of what is needed in such an important, strategic, high-value, fast-changing, innovative and growth-oriented sector.

I will not try to restate the arguments made in Committee, or those made by the noble Lord, Lord Foster. I just make two points in response to the helpful letter from the noble Lord, Lord Ashton, on 14 March. The letter describes the merits appeal as,

“akin to a retaking of the whole decision”,

but an appeal will normally be made only on specific grounds where an appellant believes there is a clear error. So the amendment would not require whole decisions to be re-examined, only those aspects specified in the notice of appeal.

Secondly, I accept that the judicial review process is,

“perfectly able to meet the current EU law requirement that the merits of the case are duly taken into account”

if the judges so decide in a given case. Rather than leaving it to judicial discretion, however, why not spell out in the Bill that they should be taken into account even after they are no longer banned by the EU framework directive, thereby future-proofing it for the post-Brexit world?

Ofcom decisions are of crucial importance for both consumers and telecom providers, and indeed for investors. As we have heard, the change to a judicial review standard is strongly opposed by the great majority of industry participants, from the major incumbents such as BT and Virgin to much smaller, newer market entrants, such as CityFibre, along with the CBI and techUK, the latter representing 900 tech sector companies, the majority of them SMEs.

I claim no specific expertise on judicial review, and I am no great fan of BT, but it is important that the relatively modest requirement set out in Amendment 29A should be incorporated into the Bill.

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Briefly, the ground has been well covered by the noble Lords, Lord Foster and Lord Aberdare, and I have little to add. Three things strike me. I recalled in Committee that this was one of the areas where we had received the most external notifications and correspondence. It is still something that we need to take carefully. As has just been said, it is surprising that almost the entirety of the industry affected by the judgments of Ofcom have joined up to make the case.

Following on from both speeches, what is required is a statement from the noble and learned Lord. I am sure he is straining at the leash to give us all another compromise solution that will do the trick. He is shaking his head; maybe there are other things he has to cover as well. However, the situation seems to hinge on whether Article 4 of the EU directive applies sufficiently well after this Bill goes through, as before. Yet, as has been mentioned, there will be an opportunity, presumably in the great repeal Bill, to cover exactly this point. So what is the hurry?

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My Lords, I am obliged to noble Lords. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, observed, there have been quite a lot of external communications on this. Indeed, I notice that the quotation that the noble Lord, Lord Foster, gave on my observations in Committee was identical to that quoted in a letter from Towerhouse LLP to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on 17 March. Everybody seems to be singing from the same hymn book.

At present, Section 195 of the Communications Act 2003 requires that appeals against Ofcom’s regulatory decisions are decided by the Competition Appeal Tribunal on the merits. I shall come back to “on the merits” in more detail in a moment.

Appellants argue that appeals “on the merits” should allow for a bottom-up review of the decision, inviting the tribunal to substitute its own view for that of the regulator—in effect, two tiers doing the same thing. Appeals are therefore seen as an opportunity to rerun arguments that were considered and rejected by Ofcom in reaching its decision, or to put forward swathes of new evidence to persuade the tribunal to reach a different decision. Such appeals can lead to extremely lengthy and costly litigation, with extensive cross-examination of experts and witnesses. This depletes the regulator’s resources and means that other regulatory action by Ofcom is inevitably delayed, allowing for the potential for providers to frustrate the regulator with speculative or even spurious appeals, causing considerable uncertainty in the market and delay to other regulatory decisions.

The Government consider that appeals in the communications sector need to be rebalanced to ensure that Ofcom is held properly to account for its decisions, but also enabled to regulate in an effective and timely manner in the interests of citizens and consumers, as it is required to do. Clause 80 does just that; it requires that instead of merits appeals, the tribunal must decide appeals against Ofcom’s decisions by applying the same principles as would be applied by a court on a judicial review. Judicial review is generally a well-understood standard of review against which very significant decisions made by most public bodies are tested. Importantly, this will ensure that appeals are focused on identifying errors in Ofcom’s decisions, rather than simply seeking to persuade the tribunal to reach a different conclusion.

Those affected by Ofcom’s decisions will remain able to challenge them effectively. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said that judicial review was,

“solely concerned with whether the decision is unlawful in a technical sense—that is, was the correct process followed?”.—[Official Report, 8/2/17; col. 1734.]

I hope I can reassure him that this is simply not the case. First, appellants are able to argue that Ofcom’s decisions are based on material errors of fact or law. Material errors will therefore be identified and corrected in a judicial review process. Secondly, judicial review is a flexible standard of review, which allows the court to decide on the appropriate intensity of review according to the individual circumstances of the case. For example, there may be more intensive review processes in the context of matters pertaining to human rights. In particular, Ofcom has various statutory duties to ensure that its decisions are proportionate—in other words, that they go no further than is appropriate and necessary to attain a legitimate aim. In reviewing whether a decision is proportionate, the courts can carry out a closer and more rigorous review of the decision.

Of course, appeals in the communications sector are required to ensure that,

“the merits of the case are duly taken into account”,

as a matter of EU law under Article 4 of the EU framework directive. That will remain the case under a judicial review standard. I understand that there is uncertainty about the extent to which requirements in EU law may become a part of UK law after the United Kingdom leaves the EU, but that will be a matter for Parliament to determine when the great repeal Bill is introduced, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, observed, and will be looked at in the context of the overall future regulatory framework for electronic communications, including the appeals regime, once the UK has left the EU.

A number of Ofcom’s regulatory decisions are already appealable only by way of judicial review, and the Court of Appeal confirmed as long ago as 2008 that judicial review is capable of taking account of the merits of the case, as required by EU law and, in particular, by Article 4 of the EU directive. Lord Justice Jacob in the Court of Appeal in the T-Mobile case in 2008 said that it,

“is inconceivable that Art. 4 in requiring an appeal which can duly take into account the merits, requires Member States to have in effect a fully equipped duplicate regulatory body waiting in the wings just for appeals. What is called for is an appeal body and no more, a body which can look into whether the regulator had got something material wrong”.

He also held that,

“there can be no doubt that just as JR was adapted because the Human Rights Act so required, so it can and must be adapted to comply with EU law and in particular Article 4 of the Directive”.

Indeed, in a more recent case involving judicial review and Article 4 in 2016, Mr Justice Cranston observed that, as the Competition Appeal Tribunal had said:

“Ofcom enjoys a margin of appreciation on issues which entail the exercise of its judgment”,

and that,

“the Tribunal should apply appropriate restraint”.

It is not a second-tier regulator, and the fact that it might have preferred to give different weight to various factors in the exercise of a regulatory judgment would not in itself provide a sufficient basis to set aside Ofcom’s determination. It should not interfere with Ofcom’s exercise of a judgment unless satisfied that it was wrong.

These are the relevant judicial review standards that will be applied in these circumstances. We do not want a complete retrial—if I can call it that—or a situation in which, at two levels, we begin at the beginning and end at the end with an entirely different opinion and approach to the evidence, and, perhaps, entirely new arguments being advanced evidentially in support of the merits of a case. That is a never-ending process and is not common to any other area of regulation by a public authority.

The judgments I have referred to have been considered in a number of subsequent cases and it is clear that a judicial review standard is consistent with the requirements of Article 4 of the framework directive. In these circumstances, it is not considered that there is any real need for this amendment. It is appropriate that we proceed with Clause 80 and I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

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My Lords, it is late but I would love to rebut some of the Minister’s remarks about rerunning arguments, swathes of evidence, frustrating delays, uncertainty and so on. If he looks at the Ministry of Justice’s own figures over the last 10 years, judicial review took on average between 9.3 and 13 months. I can compare that with many merits-based cases that have taken considerably less time under the current Ofcom regime. He talked about no other regulators operating in that way: I point out that the water, electricity, health, aviation and post sectors all currently face scrutiny under regimes that do require consideration of merits.

However, I do not want to go into all those details. I thank the Minister because he has, in effect, said what I wanted him to say. It was half put on the record on 8 February when he talked about the requirement for the merits of a case to be,

“duly taken into account in any appeal”.—[Official Report, 8/2/17; col. 1737.]

That has been repeated today. Disappointingly, the Minister said no more about what will happen post Brexit, other than that it is a matter we will consider in due course. Nevertheless, I thank the Minister for at least going some way to providing what I asked for and beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 29A withdrawn.

Amendment 30 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment 31

Moved by

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31: After Clause 81, insert the following new Clause—

“The independence and funding of the BBC

(1) The Communications Act 2003 is amended as follows.(2) After section 198ZA (inserted by section 81 of this Act) insert—“198ZB The independence and funding of the BBC(1) The BBC is to be independent in all matters concerning the content of its output, the times and manner in which its output is supplied, and the governance and management of its affairs.(2) The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, the BBC, OFCOM, and all other persons and bodies with responsibility for matters relating to the governance and establishment of the BBC must ensure that the BBC is able to operate independently from Ministers and other public authorities in the United Kingdom.(3) The licence fee is to be for the exclusive benefit of and use by the BBC to fund the performance of the BBC’s functions and public purposes.(4) Subject to sections 365 and 365A, the Secretary of State may not transfer to the BBC responsibility, including liability and costs, for any public expenditure.””

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My Lords, in the absence of two of the United Kingdom’s leading courtroom advocates, it is left to me to make the case for Amendment 31. The rationale for the amendment—and for a number of others to which I and other noble Lords put our name—is very simple. It is based on the fact that we have here, as your Lordships all know, a state-funded broadcaster: the BBC. It seems to us to follow that, in a democracy subject to the rule of law, its independence from government must be honoured and seen to be respected. At the same time, for very obvious reasons, they have got to have a relationship with each other, and it seems to us that the nature of that relationship is not properly defined.

With many others, not least the Lord Speaker in his previous incarnation, I have felt that establishing the BBC by royal charter, using the royal prerogative, is, in the reality of the world we live in, no guarantee of its independence. Indeed, it is rather the opposite, since we all know that, over the years, there has been a whole series of deals completed in smoke-filled rooms—not least in the case of money, where Governments of all persuasions have seemed to take Dick Turpin as their role model.

In the context of this matter, it seems relevant and germane that there has been over recent years and months—we have had a lot of it in this Chamber—debate about press regulation, and the Press Recognition Panel and its relationship to statute and the use of the royal prerogative. At heart, the essence of what we are talking about is the same, and the principles that apply seem to me the same—which is why we hope that the Government will accept the logic, and hence the desirability, of what is proposed in these amendments.

The purpose of this amendment is to point out the flaws, weaknesses and shortcomings of the existing arrangements and to draw attention to the need for a clear, simple public set of properly legally founded rules of engagement for this relationship. In so doing, it sets the ground rules for the parties and gives the rest of us, both in Parliament and more widely in the country, a benchmark against which we can judge the propriety and sense, or otherwise, of what goes on. I very much hope that the Government will be able to indicate that they feel sympathetic—indeed, supportive—of this approach, which seems to me a very fundamental one in a society of the kind in which we are living. I beg to move.

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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. I think the principle of maintaining the independence of the BBC unites virtually everyone in this House. However, the question is: do we agree on what constitutes a challenge to that independence, and do we agree to provide extra protection to the BBC when the independence is under threat?

This amendment sets out concerns about three kinds of independence being compromised: editorial independence, operational independence and financial independence. As the debate in Committee showed, there are widespread concerns about independence of these three varieties being challenged in different ways. Therefore, I think the statements of intent and principles in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, enjoy widespread support. I think most people would agree that they should govern the approach of the legislature and the Executive to the BBC. However, I wish to bring a couple of issues to the surface. Although the amendment raises these crucial principles, it also suggests the difficulty of using the power of the state to protect bodies outside the state against interference from the state.

I have two concerns in particular. First, there is a larger principle here of putting the independence of a major institution of British public life on a statutory footing. I am personally sympathetic towards that but it is a principle which deserves debate on its own terms, both as a principle and as applied to specific cases such as the NHS, which has been debated before, or the BBC. Secondly, what exactly constitutes independence—not simply politically but legally—needs clarification and precision. Imposing a duty on Ministers and other bodies to ensure that the BBC can operate independently opens the question of how that can be defined, both so that we can recognise it in the observance and the breach, and enforce it. Again, this is something that needs further debate and discussion.

The amendment touches on a cornerstone issue for the BBC and broadcasting policy and the ethos and integrity of public life more generally. However, it raises a broader issue which deserves a more lengthy proper scrutiny in future.

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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their remarks. In returning to this issue, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, is not here to speak to his amendment as we have debated this issue at length with him as part of the recent discussions on the BBC’s royal charter. We have debated it at Second Reading, in Committee and in other debates and Questions. The amendments that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has tabled, and my noble friend Lord Inglewood has proposed, seek to constrain future royal charters for the BBC through statute. I should have said that I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lester, makes a speedy recovery and returns not to bring this subject up again but other subjects.

I note that, following the discussion we had in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, made a number of changes to his amendments proposed tonight in the areas of governance and funding. I appreciate the thought that he put into this and the dialogue that we have had on this so far. However, we still maintain that very serious risks are associated with the amendments and therefore we cannot support them.

As noble Lords will by now appreciate, the disagreement between the Government and those who tabled this amendment comes down, as the noble Lord, Lord Wood, said, to a matter of principle. Is the BBC best governed and protected through a charter or through a charter underpinned by legislation? I accept that there are instances where it is desirable and appropriate for a charter to be underpinned in statute but it is the Government’s view that this does not apply to the BBC.

Noble Lords may be interested to know that this is a discussion as old as the BBC itself—indeed, it is almost exactly 10 years older than the noble Lord, Lord Lester. When the then Postmaster-General announced in July 1926 that the BBC would be established through its first royal charter, he remarked that the new corporation would derive its authority from royal charter rather than from statute to make it clear to the public that it was not,

“a creature of Parliament and connected with political activity”.

In practical terms, noble Lords will appreciate that there is little difference between the effect of the BBC’s charter and its accompanying framework agreement and an Act of Parliament. Both are binding on the BBC and on Ministers. Article 3 of the current charter provides:

“The BBC must be independent in all matters concerning the fulfilment of its Mission and the promotion of the Public Purposes, particularly as regards editorial and creative decisions, the times and manner in which its output and services are supplied, and in the management of its affairs”.

That carries the same weight in a charter as it does in primary legislation, but in my view the latter option carries unacceptable risks to the independence of the BBC. From a practical point of view, amending an Act of Parliament in the event that a change is required—with all the party-political debate and pressure that that would entail and the uncertain legislative timetable—is not the right vehicle to make sure that the BBC can be governed effectively. Who can tell what political pressures will exist entirely unconnected to the detail of the BBC charter when the charter comes up for renewal?

Charter review remains the right vehicle. It affords an ample opportunity for debate and consultation but also allows for full consideration of all the connected and complex key issues, for effective decision-making and, crucially, for a negotiated agreement with the BBC.

Incidentally, I cannot resist mentioning that my noble friend Lord Inglewood referred to the Government as Dick Turpin in this case. I may be entirely unfamiliar with the story of Dick Turpin but I did not realise that he gave £3.7 billion annually to his victims.

Therefore, I submit that a statutory underpinning will leave the BBC under constant threat of change and monitoring what the Parliament of the day sees as the national interest. I fear that fellow parliamentarians, some of whom may not have my noble friend’s pure motives, will find it an irresistible temptation to tweak here and there, and, even with the best of intentions, we cannot expect the BBC to operate effectively and plan for its future in such circumstances.

I believe that this should be a matter for the Government of the day to decide ahead of the next charter review. The charter model has stood the test of time since 1926—through economic depressions, world war and huge technological change—to achieve what has been praised throughout the passage of this Bill as the BBC we have today. Given your Lordships’ ongoing interest and informed views, I am confident that the Government of the day will be minded to consider this carefully. With that explanation, I hope my noble friend will be able to withdraw his amendment.

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My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for his very full response to the remarks that have been made on this amendment. He went to the heart of it at the outset when he said that he was opposed to the suggestion in the amendment because it would constrain the royal charter in the future. But that is precisely the reason why we moved the amendment. The mechanism of the royal charter enables the Government, in practice, to have a huge and relatively unscrutinised and uncontrolled ability to adapt and adjust the framework for the relationship they have with the BBC to their own preferred ends.

As I listened to my noble friend, it occurred to me that it was about 25 years ago that I stood at the Dispatch Box at which he was standing a moment ago, discussing the same issues. It crossed my mind—ignoble though it may be to say it—that almost the same speech could have been given to me to deliver all those years ago.

It is perhaps a mistake to simply assume that because something gives the impression of having worked reasonably well for 70 years—it may or may not have—it will continue to work equally well in the years to come. I look around the Chamber this evening and see that some of us are perhaps not quite yet 70 years old but heading that way—and that some may even have passed it. I am afraid that it is the nature of the human condition that when you get to 70 years old, you may not be as fit, spry and sharp as you were in years gone by. So it is not good enough to say that because it has worked well in the past—and it has worked only moderately well—it therefore follows, as night follows day, that you can extrapolate that it will work well indefinitely.

However, I was encouraged by the concluding remarks of my noble friend. He said that he was confident that Governments in the future would seriously consider the point that was being made. I think that is important. On any measure, we have just started a BBC charter and there is a bit of time until the next one comes into effect. While I think that it would have been desirable to have placed in the Bill the statutory provisions that are contained in the amendment, not to do so may not be fatal to the underlying project. Certainly this is something we ought to think carefully about in the hours and days to come—not least the noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Pannick, who have not had the advantage of listening to the remarks of my noble friend. Against that background, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 31 withdrawn.

Amendment 32 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.42 pm.