Report (3rd Day)
Relevant documents: 6th and 9th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee
Schedule 6: The applied GDPR and the applied Chapter 2
Amendments 82 and 83 not moved.
Clause 24: National security and defence exemption
Amendment 84 not moved.
Amendment 85 not moved.
Clause 26: National security and defence: modifications to Articles 9 and 32 of the applied GDPR
Amendments 86 and 87 not moved.
Amendment 87A not moved.
Clause 28: Meaning of “competent authority”
Amendment 88 not moved.
Clause 33: The first data protection principle
Amendment 89 not moved.
90: Clause 33, page 20, line 24, leave out “by adding, varying or omitting conditions” and insert “—
(a) by adding conditions; (b) by omitting conditions added by regulations under paragraph (a).”
Amendment 90 agreed.
Clause 43: Right of access by the data subject
Amendment 91 not moved.
Clause 47: Right not to be subject to automated decision-making
Amendment 92 not moved.
Clause 48: Automated decision-making authorised by law: safeguards
Amendments 93 and 94 not moved.
Amendment 95 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 75: Transfers of personal data to persons other than relevant authorities
Amendment 96 not moved.
Clause 79: Reporting of infringements
97: Clause 79, page 47, line 12, at end insert—
“( ) Until the repeal of Part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 by paragraphs 45 and 54 of Schedule 10 to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is fully in force, subsection (5) has effect as if it included a reference to that Part.”
Amendment 97 agreed.
Clause 80: Processing to which this Part applies
Amendment 98 not moved.
Clause 84: The first data protection principle
99: Clause 84, page 49, line 17, leave out “by adding, varying or omitting conditions” and insert “—
(a) by adding conditions;(b) by omitting conditions added by regulations under paragraph (a).”
Amendment 99 agreed.
Clause 94: Right not to be subject to automated decision-making
Amendments 100 and 101 not moved.
Clause 95: Right to intervene in automated decision-making
Amendment 102 not moved.
Clause 111: Power to make further exemptions
103: Clause 111, page 61, line 21, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert—
“(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend Schedule 11 —(a) by adding exemptions from any provision of this Part;(b) by omitting exemptions added by regulations under paragraph (a).”
Amendment 103 agreed.
Schedule 12: The Information Commissioner
103A: Schedule 12, page 184, line 4, at end insert “and such remuneration and other conditions of service must be affordable, realistic and responsible”
My Lords, the last time I cleared a room like this, it was a very bad film indeed.
Amendment 103A is connected to Amendments 103B, 103C, 124A, 124B and 125A, and I move it with the support of my noble friend Lord Stevenson and the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Holmes. In a well-run world, this group of amendments should not really need to be moved or pressed. They are designed purely to ensure that we have the data commissioner—and the office of that commissioner—that we need. Frankly, they are the natural consequence of all the debates that have occurred during the passage of the data protection legislation.
There can be no more important role over the next few years than that of the Data Commissioner. The organisation she is being asked to regulate is the largest in the world. A quite extraordinary statistic is that the four largest companies—Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple—have between them a larger market capitalisation than the FTSE 100. That is the scale of the businesses we are asking the Data Commissioner to regulate. At the same time, under the Bill at present the resources available to her are wholly inadequate to that task. We went through a similar operation 15 years ago with Ofcom, and out of that, and through the collective wisdom of this House, we were able to ensure that Ofcom had the resources to become what is genuinely the gold standard of any media and telecoms industry regulator in the world. That is an achievement of this House of which we should be very proud. The purpose of these amendments is to achieve exactly the same for our ICO—something we can be proud of and that can do the job given to it.
During the passage of the Bill, we have loaded the ICO with significant new and additional responsibilities. The idea that we might have an underfunded and underresourced regulator that is not adequate to the task we are giving it is unthinkable. The purpose of these amendments is to prevent that. I could go on at some length, but I think the mood of the House is that it wishes to move on, so I shall listen to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.
My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I speak now as I have some information which may help the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and other noble Lords who have put their names to these amendments.
As I have repeatedly said during the debates on the Bill, the Government are committed to ensuring that the commissioner has adequate resources to fulfil her role as a world-class regulator and to take on the extra regulatory responsibilities set out in this Bill, so I agree with pretty well everything the noble Lord said. That is why we legislated for a new, GDPR-compliant charging regime in the Digital Economy Act, which we will turn to in the next group, but it is also why the commissioner needs to be able to recruit and retain expert staff.
I am therefore very pleased to announce that the Government have today granted the Information Commissioner’s Office pay flexibility up to 2020-21 so that it can review its pay and grading structure. The commissioner will have the independence to determine the levels of pay necessary for the ICO to maintain the expertise it needs to fulfil its new and revised functions as a supervisory authority, subject to the standard public spending principles. I am also pleased to say that the Information Commissioner has agreed these arrangements. She said:
“I welcome the positive response to my business case for pay flexibility at the ICO. I am confident that this will allow me to prepare the ICO for its critical role under the new data protection regime ensuring that the UK has a strong and expert regulator in an area recognised for its importance to the digital economy and society as a whole”.
This flexibility underscores the UK’s commitment to an independent and effective data protection regulator, and I think goes a long way in responding to the points raised by the noble Lord’s amendments. We all want an efficient, well-resourced ICO, so I am very pleased that this agreement has been reached. I should have said at the outset that I am very grateful to the noble Lord for coming to talk to me about it. I am glad to say he was pushing at an open door.
I thank the noble Lord, who has been extraordinarily generous with his time. He and his officials could not have been more helpful in reaching what I regard as a perfectly satisfactory conclusion. My only wish is that we have a regulator that can do the job required of it and tackle the abuses along the way confidently and competently. I am extraordinarily grateful for this outcome. I am very happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 103A withdrawn.
Amendments 103B and 103C not moved.
Clause 113: General functions under the GDPR and safeguards
104: Clause 113, page 62, line 3, at end insert—
“(and see also the Commissioner’s duty under section (Protection of personal data))”
Amendment 104 agreed.
Clause 114: Other general functions
105: Clause 114, page 63, line 2, at end insert “(and see also the Commissioner’s duty under section (Protection of personal data))”
Amendment 105 agreed.
106: After Clause 114, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to support small organisations
(1) The Commissioner is to provide additional support to—(a) small businesses,(b) small charities, and(c) parish councils,in meeting their obligations under the GDPR and this Act.(2) The additional support in subsection (1) may include, but is not limited to—(a) advice on how to comply with the provisions of the GDPR and this Act;(b) access to pro formas to demonstrate compliance with the GDPR and this Act; and(c) in relation to fees to be paid to the Commissioner, discounted charges or no charges.(3) In this Act, “small businesses” has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Enterprise Act 2016.”
My Lords, we have had something of a break, so perhaps I should remind the House what lies behind my Amendments 106, 125 and 127. It is the wish to reduce, as far as possible, the burden that the GDPR and the Bill will place especially on small entities—notably, small businesses, small charities and parish councils. I might add that it behoves us to stand back from time to time and recognise the burdens we all too often impose on people and businesses. This is very often for good reasons, but it can seem overwhelming for those at the receiving end, and it is important to minimise the burden where we can legitimately do so.
I also place on record my thanks to the Minister for a helpful meeting about my concerns. Against this background, Amendment 106 would place a duty on the Information Commissioner to support such small entities in meeting their obligations under the GDPR and the Bill. It gives examples of how this should be done, including compliance advice and zero or discounted fees. This is important both practically and as a manifestation of how the state expects the commissioner to approach her duties. We should always remember that data protection will sound forbidding to some small organisations.
Furthermore, parish councils are fearful that they could face new costs of up to £20 million in total on one reasonable interpretation of the present text. They have been advised that an existing officer of a council could not act as a DPO because they are not independent. My noble friend Lord Marlesford mentioned this issue at Questions in December but, happily, I believe the Government take a different view, and it would be helpful to hear that on the record from my noble friend.
On the same lines, Amendment 125 would require the Secretary of State to consider fixing charges levied on small entities by the commissioner at a discounted or zero level. We need to find a way to avoid the imposition of significant costs for small entities into the future as cost recovery escalates in the administration of data protection.
Amendment 127 goes a little further. It would require the commissioner to have regard to economic factors in conducting her business. This is a fundamental point. The commissioner’s remit contains elements which are similar to those of a judge and focuses predominantly on individual rights and protections. But the analogy is imperfect. Judges must go where justice takes them. The commissioner’s role is different in important respects, and economic factors ought to hold a high place in her consideration. This is important for UK competitiveness and for continued growth and innovation, which is also of benefit to business, citizens and data science—and, indeed, UK plc.
The amendment seeks to ensure that the commissioner concentrates on this economic angle by reference to the commissioner’s annual report. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, may remember that we introduced a special reporting requirement into intellectual property legislation which helped to ensure the right culture in that increasingly important area.
I should add that I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Arbuthnot and to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for their involvement, and I am hopeful that the Minister will be able to meet the concerns I have outlined in my three amendments in a sympathetic and practical way.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, in her amendment. She made a very good case. Current fee proposals really are very flawed. Clause 132, “Charges payable to the Commissioner by controllers”, states:
“The Secretary of State may by regulations require controllers to pay charges of an amount specified in the regulations to the Commissioner”.
That, compared to the existing regime of registration, seems far more arbitrary and far less certain in the way it will provide the resources that the Minister, in a very welcome fashion, pledged to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. It is far from clear on what basis those fees will be payable. Registration is a much sounder basis on which to levy fees by the Information Commissioner, as it was from the 1998 Act onwards.
I wish to be very brief; this has already been brought up. The Minister prayed in aid the fact that there are already some 400,000 data controllers and it was already getting out of hand. If the department—indeed, if the ICO—is going to be in contact with all those it believes to hold data as data controllers, it will have to have some kind of records. If that is not registration, I do not know what is. The department has not really thought through what the future will be, or how the Information Commissioner will secure the resources she needs. I hope that there is still time for the Minister to rethink the approach to the levying of future tariffs.
I just want to ask briefly whether small organisations will also include clubs and societies. I do not know whether that has been dealt with before. For instance, I am the chief of Clan Hay and we have a Clan Hay society. It does not make money, but it has membership lists and branches abroad. I discussed it with the ICO before this came up, and it thought we would definitely have to comply. I hope we will be covered as a small organisation.
My Lords, I have been involved from time to time in the creation of very small charities of a local nature, or have been involved in advising such organisations. I strongly support Amendment 106 moved by the noble Baroness. There is a real danger that, unless the ICO produces clear and simple pro formas that can be filled in quickly and easily by such organisations, they will be put off forming such charities, and local communities will thereby be deprived of great advantages that would be created by local citizens, which is something I understand the Government wish to encourage.
My Lords, I rise to support strongly my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe in these amendments, particularly Amendment 106. It was a glaring bureaucratic nonsense when it appeared in the Bill, and I referred to it at Second Reading. The Government must recognise that they have to be practical in the imposition of burdens on small bodies that are trying to serve the community. I declare my interest as the chairman of a parish council that would be very adversely affected if this were unchanged.
I do not necessarily expect bureaucrats in Whitehall to take on board the realities of grass-roots democracy in parish councils, but I would hope that Ministers, particularly those who are Members in another place—who have constituencies and whose job it is to be in touch with the real world—would never let this through. It is quite unacceptable as it stands, and I strongly support my noble friend. I hope the Minister will explain how he will deal with it.
My Lords, to add to what my noble friend Lord Marlesford said, in small villages, a small number of people do everything. That is increasingly true as many villages become, sadly, of one class and one age group. The person who is helping to run the parish council is also on the parochial church council and running the small local charity. These people are already worn down by the burdens that we lay on them. I speak from the countryside. We must ensure that we do not drive the few remaining people who will bear the burdens of the community away from those institutions because we ask them to do things that are, first, heavy and, secondly, inimical. If the Minister says, “It will not be like that”, then we have got it wrong because we have given the perception that it will, and we must destroy that perception rapidly if we are happy that the Bill does not need the amendment. My view is that it does. I hope my noble friend will reassure me on that, but it is not me who must be reassured, it is the hundreds of people around the country who do these jobs for nothing, and yet for the good of all.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said that a small number of people do everything in small communities. It sometimes feels like that here. I do not think that we need to say much more; all the issues have been raised and I am sure that when he responds, the Minister will answer some, if not all, of the questions. The underlying theme is that we do not want to spoil what is a very good Bill with desirable aims by failing to pick up all the areas that it needs to address, because there will be benefits from it, as we have heard. I think that the Government understand that, but they must not be in the position of willing the ends of policy without also willing the means.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I begin by thanking my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, my predecessor in this role, for once again bringing the topic of small businesses to the House’s attention. Other noble Lords have extended that from small businesses to small organisations—indeed, even clans. While I am on the important subject of the clan, the noble Earl asked whether they would be classed as small organisations. I am sure that they are not small, but the answer is yes, they will be subject to the provisions of the GDPR.
The serious, general reason is that the GDPR, which is EU legislation which comes into direct effect on 25 May, is there to protect personal data. We must remember that the importance of protecting people’s personal data, particularly as it has developed since the most recent Data Protection Act was passed in 1998, has extended dramatically and concerns very personal items that belong to people. That is why it does not entirely matter whether it is a small or large organisation. Public authorities, such as parish councils, and other small organisations, such as charities, must take personal data seriously. They have obligations under the existing Act, but under the GDPR, they have more, and that is why. However, I and the Government instinctively support small organisations where we have it in our power to do so. I shall return to some of the specific points later.
I thank my noble friend for bringing this matter to the House’s attention and for coming to discuss it at length; I welcome this opportunity to provide some reassurance. As I have said at previous stages of the Bill, I wholeheartedly agree that the Government should recognise the concerns of the smallest organisations and continuously look at ways to support them through the transition to a new data protection framework. The amendments tabled by my noble friend have all been designed with small organisations, charities and parish councils in mind.
Before I address each amendment in turn, I remind noble Lords that the Information Commissioner’s Office already produces a variety of supportive materials intended to help organisations of all sizes to navigate their way to data protection compliance. I strongly encourage businesses to consult these, and to make use of the commissioner’s new dedicated helpline, provided specifically for small organisations. I am pleased to say, in answer to my noble friend Lord Marlesford and, in part, to my noble friend Lord Deben, that the Information Commissioner has agreed to issue advice to parish councils, which will be published shortly. That is one of the organisations to which my noble friend referred. I understand exactly what he is saying, as I live in a small village and my wife is a parish councillor. I assure noble Lords that the issues of the Data Protection Act in relation to parish councils have been aired vociferously, and not only in this Chamber.
In addition, it is worth noting that the process for paying annual charges to the commissioner will become simpler and less burdensome, which I am sure will come as welcome news to small organisations—but we will return to that point shortly.
Amendment 106 would add a new clause that would give the Information Commissioner a duty to provide additional support to small businesses, charities and parish councils to meet their requirements under the GDPR. This may include, among other things, additional advice and discounted fees paid to the commissioner. I think that my noble friend Lord Marlesford, raised a point earlier on, and I hope that it will be helpful if I put it on record that parish councils can share duties like a data protection officer, which is a public authority that they have to have, under the GDPR, with other parish councils as well as with district councils. Parish clerks can also fulfil that role.
While I agree with my noble friend that small organisations should be supported to meet new obligations under the GDPR and this Bill, I cannot agree with the obligations that that would place on the commissioner. As I mentioned earlier, the commissioner has already published a wide breadth of guidance online and is continuing to develop this guidance as we near the date of GDPR implementation. I mentioned an example just now. Only recently, she updated her small business portal to make it easier for organisations to access GDPR-related resources. Given that the commissioner is already so active in this field, which the Government and, I think, my noble friend fully support, I fear that additional prescriptive requirements would distract rather than contribute.
We were going to have a debate on that—I gather that the Liberal Democrats did not want to bring it forward—but the basic answer is that schools have responsibilities under the GDPR. They particularly have responsibility for personal data relating to children; they already have extensive responsibilities under the current Data Protection Act. So it is very much an issue for schools. In this case, to help them, the Department for Education is going to provide guidance—and I am assured that it will be out very soon. So they have particular responsibilities. The kind of personal data that they handle on a regular basis is very important; I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, mentioned an example of some of the personal data that they hold in relation to free school meals, which has to be protected and looked after carefully. One benefit for the school system, as far as other organisations are concerned, is that they will have central guidance from the Department for Education—and I repeat that that is due to come out very soon.
I turn to Amendment 125, also proposed by my noble friend. It seeks to introduce a requirement on the Secretary of State, when making regulations under Clause 132, to consider making provision for a discounted charge—or no charge at all—to be payable by small businesses, small charities and parish councils to the Information Commissioner. Clause 132(3) already allows the Secretary of State to make provision for cases in which a discounted charge or no charge is payable. The new charge structure will take account of the need not to impose additional burdens on small businesses. This may include a provision in relation to small organisations.
I am happy to confirm that the Government have given very serious consideration to the appropriate charges for smaller businesses as part of the broader process for setting the Information Commissioner’s 2018 charges. The new charge structure will take account of the need to not impose additional burdens on small businesses. It is important to note, however, that small and medium organisations form a significant proportion of the data controllers currently registered with the ICO—approximately 99%, in fact. The process of determining a new charge structure is nearly complete and we will bring forward the resulting statutory instrument shortly. I would, however, like to put one thing on the record: in putting together that charging regime, we have been mindful of the need to ensure that the Information Commissioner is adequately resourced during this crucial transitional period, but I want to be clear that the Government do not consider the 2018 charges to be the end of the story. There may well be more we can do further down the line to modernise a regime that has not been touched for the best part of a decade.
Amendment 127 would place an obligation on the commissioner, in her annual report to Parliament, to include an economic assessment of the actions that the commissioner has taken on small businesses, charities and parish councils. I agree with my noble friend about the importance of the commissioner being aware of the impact of her approach to regulation during this crucial period. As I said to the commissioner when we met, we must nevertheless also be mindful of maintaining her independence in selecting an approach. Even if we did not think that having an independent regulator was important—I want to be clear: we do —articles 51 to 59 of the GDPR impose a series of particular requirements in that regard. But, all of the above notwithstanding, I agree with a lot of what my noble friend has said this afternoon.
Turning to amendment 107A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, concerning the registration of data controllers, I remember the Committee debate where the noble Lord tabled a similar amendment. I hope that I can use this opportunity to provide further reassurance that it is unnecessary. The Government replaced the existing notification system with a new system of charges payable by data controllers in the Digital Economy Act. We did this for two reasons. First, the new GDPR has done away with the need for notification. Secondly, and consequentially, we needed a replacement system to fund the important work of the Information Commissioner. All this Bill does is re-enact what was done and agreed in the Digital Economy Act last year. We legislated on this a year earlier than the GDPR would come into force because changes to fees and charges need more of a lead time to take effect. As I have already said, these new charges must be in place by the time the GDPR takes effect in May and we will shortly be laying regulations before Parliament which set those fees.
Returning to the subject matter of the amendment, under the current data protection law, notification, accompanied by a charge, is the first step to compliance. Similarly, under the new law, a charge will also need to be paid and, as under the previous law, failure to pay the charge is enforceable. We have replaced the unwieldy criminal sanction with a new penalty scheme—found in Clause 151 of the Bill.
Exactly, so my point, which I was coming to but which the noble Lord has very carefully made for me, is that, in doing this, the Information Commissioner will obviously keep a list of the names and addresses of those people who have paid the charge. The noble Lord may even want to call that a register. The difference is, unlike the previous register, it will not have all the details included in the previous one. That was fine in 1998, and had some benefit, but the Information Commissioner finds it extremely time-consuming to maintain this. In addition, as regards the information required in the existing register, under the GDPR that now has to be notified to the data subjects anyway. Therefore, if the noble Lord wants to think of this list of people who have paid the charge as a register, he may feel happier.
I have talked about the penalty sanction. When the noble Lord interrupted me, I was just about to say—I will repeat it—that the commissioner will maintain a database of those who have paid the new charge, and will use the charge income to fund her operation. So what has changed? The main change is that the same benefits of the old scheme are achieved with less burden on business and less unnecessary administration for the commissioner. The current scheme is cumbersome, demanding lots of information from the data processors and controllers, and for the commissioner, and it demands regular updates. It had a place in 1998 and was introduced then to support the proper implementation of data protection law in the UK. However, in the past two decades, the use of data in our society has changed dramatically. In our digital age, in which an ever-increasing amount of data is being processed, data controllers find this process unwieldy. It takes longer and longer to complete the forms and updates are needed more and more often, and the commissioner herself tells us that she has limited use for this information.
My hope is that Amendment 107A is born out of a feeling shared by many, which is to a certain extent one of confusion. I hope that with this explanation the situation is now clearer. When we lay the charges regulations shortly, it will, I hope, become clearer still. The amendment would simply create unnecessary red tape and may even be incompatible with the GDPR as it would institute a register which is not required by the GDPR. I am sure that cannot be the noble Lord’s intention. For all those reasons, I hope he will withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister for going into the issues in such detail, and for the support that is now being offered by the ICO through the transition. We have heard about the helpline, the websites, and new guidance—not only for parish councils, which I regard as a major breakthrough, but for small business and schools. That is all very good news. There will be a charge but it will be modulated, as I understand it, in a way to be decided and brought before the House in an order. I think the Minister understands the wish of this House not to load lots of costs on smaller businesses as a result of this important legislation, which we all know is necessary for a post-Brexit world.
My only concern related to the Minister’s comments on what we might put into the report, because he rightly said that the Information Commissioner had to be independent, which I totally agree with. Equally, I thought that without undermining her independence, it was possible to ask her to report on economic matters and, for example, on how business learns about data protection and how that is going. I do not know whether he is able to confirm that today, but he made a point about independence and it was not clear whether it would be possible to put something into the reporting system.
We are keen that the Information Commissioner be independent and is seen to be independent, and I know that the commissioner herself is aware of that. I cannot commit to anything today, but I will certainly take back my noble friend’s question and see what can be done while maintaining the Information Commissioner’s independence.
Amendment 106 withdrawn.
Amendment 107 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendment 107A not moved.
Schedule 13: Other general functions of the Commissioner
107B: Schedule 13, page 186, line 23, at end insert—
“(j) maintain a register of publicly controlled personal data of national significance;(k) prepare a code of practice which contains practical guidance in relation to personal data of national significance.(2) For the purposes of sub-sub-paragraphs (j) and (k) of paragraph (1), personal data controlled by public bodies is data of national significance if, in the opinion of the Commissioner, —(a) the data furthers collective economic, social or environmental well-being,(b) the data has the potential to further collective economic, social or environmental well-being in future, and(c) financial benefit may be derived from processing the data or the development of associated software.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendment 108. The points I am addressing were glossed over in Committee, and I now wish to expand on this important issue.
Data is the new oil. This has been said many times in your Lordships’ House, but as each day passes it becomes more true. Without stretching the analogy too far, in our country big data is about to become the 21st-century equivalent of North Sea oil. Because big data has such value, it will come as no surprise to see big tech companies swarming all over it. They have to because it is their lifeline. Many of our public bodies, particularly the NHS, are custodians of massive amounts of data, which big tech is eager to get its hands on. But we as legislators who act for the public good also have a responsibility to ensure that the public are protected and that, simply put, our treasure is not taken from us without clear authority or appropriate recompense. The data the public bodies hold belongs to us all. It is ours—our communal property—and we must tread carefully.
I will make one point as strongly as I can. I am a product of the data revolution; I have been professionally involved in the digital industry for over 50 years. For 40 of those I was an IT serial entrepreneur. This industry has been good to me; I fully understand that the tech sector needs light regulation. I know that at its best the digital revolution is a force for good but, equally, I know the dangers it poses, so I am trying to be cautious in what I propose. We stand at a crossroads. Computing power has reached astronomical capabilities, software is increasingly complex and artificial intelligence is now making dramatic inroads. Plus, we see the exponential availability of digital data. All these have contributed to the creation and brilliance of algorithms. The one thing we know for certain is that these exciting developments will keep on growing at exponential rates. In medicine, for example, new tools are being developed that are already enhancing diagnostic and treatment capabilities that could benefit all manner of healthcare, in particular our ageing population.
I welcome these developments, as I am sure we all do, many of which have come from our own private sector, and we should rejoice at this example of British expertise. However, at the same time we need to strike a balance between the ambitions of 21st century businesses and the responsibility of government to steward assets and resources of national significance so that the proceeds of technological developments benefit us all. My two amendments seek to codify how valuable, publicly controlled personal data is shared with big tech companies, and to ensure that financial returns, combined with wider social, economic and environmental benefits, are optimised.
I can best demonstrate the scale of this issue if I refer to the NHS. Ever since its formation in 1948—maybe they were kept even before that—the NHS has kept records of tens of millions of patients, literally from cradle to grave. These records are either in written form, or increasingly in digital format, but the magnitude of the collected data is huge. Very few countries can match the length and depth of the health records that the NHS is trusted to retain on behalf of the general public. Such data is called longitudinal data and, when it is bundled together, has great commercial value.
At Second Reading I gave the example of a company called DeepMind, which is a British subsidiary of Google. I visited DeepMind, which is an impressive organisation based here in London. It has purchased access to millions of anonymised data records from institutions such as the Royal Free and Moorfields Eye Hospital. It does not buy this data outright—it does not have to. It simply buys access. Such access enables it and companies like it to use very powerful computers and very sophisticated software to process millions of records with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
This synthesising of data using AI capabilities is designed to produce algorithms, and it is these algorithms that become the product that companies such as DeepMind are able to monetise. They do this by selling the algorithms and their consulting services to the likes of pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers and even back to the NHS itself. It is a global business and very profitable. At the Royal Free, these algorithms are being used to detect the early onset of kidney disease. At Moorfields Eye Hospital, also here in London, spectacular advances have occurred in similarly detecting potential optical problems.
This is data processing used for the benefit and enhancement of all mankind and we should welcome it. However, I am concerned that this precious and unique data is being offered to big tech companies by our public bodies in the absence of clear and consistent guidelines and without asking how best to obtain value for money in the broadest sense of the term.
Having dealt with big tech companies for most of my life, I know that they are staffed with exceptionally clever people and are no slouches at driving hard bargains. Unlike our NHS, they are not consumed with the day-to-day preoccupation of trying to balance their current budgets; with hundreds of billions of dollars in the bank, they can afford to play the long game, and it is easy to see who holds the aces in any negotiation. Put simply, I wish to protect our public bodies and ensure that we do not give away our inheritance. That is why we need to codify how we will obtain value for money from the sharing of data of national significance with the private sector.
My proposal is not just for the NHS and it is not just for now. All public bodies need protection and guidelines today and well into the future. That is why I have introduced my amendments. In Amendment 107B I seek, first, to require the Information Commissioner to maintain a register of publicly controlled personal data of national significance and, secondly, to prepare a code of practice containing practical guidance in relation to personal data of national significance. These are defined in subsection (2). In Amendment 108 I have set out the requirements of the code on personal data of national significance.
My Lords, I want briefly to express sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell. I share many of his concerns but essentially I think that we should look on the most optimistic side. I hope that he is also really describing the opportunities that can be made available with this kind of data, provided that it is accessible in the way described. I know that the noble Lord takes considerable inspiration from Future Care Capital’s report on intelligence-sharing unleashing the potential of health and care data in the UK to transform outcomes. I thought that it was very good and well considered.
The noble Lord has put down a very important marker today but my one caveat is that I am not sure that there is yet a settled view about how to deal with this kind of data. In Committee we talked about data trusts. In her AI review, Dame Wendy Hall also talked about data trusts. I know that we need to head in a direction that gives us much more assurance about the use of the data in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, has described, but I am not sure we have quite reached a consensus around these things to come to the decision that this is the best possible model.
My Lords, in earlier amendments I have tried to interest the Government in the idea of establishing what I loosely call a copyright of one’s personal data. Another possibility put forward in a different amendment is that one could think of data provided by individuals as matters that would be controlled by them through the role of a data controller. I am not trying to be in any sense critical of the Government’s response to this but I think I was ahead of my time—a nice place to be if you can—and I do not think the idea is quite ready to be turned into legislative form. I suspect that the solution lies in a data ethics commission, an idea that we will come to later in the agenda. Such a commission may be established by statute, either today or through some future legislative process, so that we can begin to think through these important issues. I was interested in a lot of what the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, said in his introduction of the amendment because it has bearing on these issues.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that we are not quite there yet. However, worrying issues have been raised that need to be addressed, particularly in relation to data that is acquired, used and commercially exploited without necessarily being certain that we are getting value for money from it. The amendments are relatively mild in their exhortations to the Government, but they certainly point the way to further work that should be done and I support them.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, for taking the time to come and see me to explain these amendments. We had an interesting conversation and I learned a lot—although clearly I did not convince him that they should not be put forward. I am grateful also to the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Stevenson, who said, I think, that there may be more work to do on this—I agree—and that possibly this is not the right time to discuss these issues because they are broader than the amendment. Notwithstanding that, I completely understand the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, has raised, and they are certainly worth thinking about.
These amendments seek to ensure that public authorities—for example, the NHS—are, with the help of the Information Commissioner, fully cognisant of the value of the data that they hold when entering into appropriate data-sharing agreements with third parties. Amendment 107B would also require the Information Commissioner to keep a register of this data of “national significance”. I can see the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell. It would seem right that when public authorities are sharing data with third parties, those agreements are entered into with a full understanding of the value of that data. We all agree that we do not want the public sector disadvantaged, but I am not sure that the public sector is being disadvantaged. Before any amendment could be agreed, we would need to establish that there really was a problem.
Opening up public data improves transparency, builds trust and fosters innovation. Making data easily available means that it will be easier for people to make decisions and suggestions about government policies based on detailed information. There are many examples of public transport and mapping apps that make people’s lives easier that are powered by open data. The innovation that this fosters builds world-beating technologies and skills that form the cornerstone of the tech sector in the UK. While protecting the value in our data is important, it cannot be done with a blunt tool, as we need equally to continue our efforts to open up and make best use of government-held data.
In respect of health data, efforts are afoot to find this balance. For example, Sir John Bell proposed in the Life Sciences: Industrial Strategy, published in August last year, that a working group be established to explore a new health technology assessment and commercial framework that would capture the value in algorithms generated using NHS data. This type of body would be more suitable to explore these questions than a code of practice issued by the Information Commissioner, as the noble Lord proposes.
I agree that it is absolutely right that public sector bodies should be aware of the value of the data that they hold. However, value can be extracted in many ways, not solely through monetary means. For example, sharing health data with companies who analyse that data may lead to a deeper understanding of diseases and potentially even to new cures—that is true value. The Information Commissioner could not advise on this.
That sharing, of course, raises ethical issues as well as financial ones and we will debate later the future role and status of the new centre for data ethics and innovation, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned. This body is under development and I am sure that this House would want to contribute to its development, not least the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and his Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence.
For those reasons, I am not sure that a code is the right answer. Having heard some of the factors that need to be considered, I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
Perhaps I may offer some further reassurance. If in the future it emerged that a code was the right solution, the Bill allows, at Clause 124, for the Secretary of State to require the Information Commissioner to prepare appropriate codes. If it proves better that the Government should provide guidance, the Secretary of State could offer his own code.
There are technical questions about the wording of the noble Lord’s amendment. I will not go into them at the moment because the issues of principle are more important. However, for the reasons I have given that the code may not be the correct thing at the moment, I invite him to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate. I also thank the Minister for agreeing to see me prior to the Recess and for his comments today. However, this is an issue of precision—and we need precision on the statute book. All that has been suggested to me, which is that it can be found elsewhere or will be looked at in the future, does not give the definitive answer we require. That is why I would like to test the opinion of the House.
108: Before Clause 119, insert the following new Clause—
“Code on personal data of national significance
The Commissioner must prepare a code of practice which contains—(a) best practice guidance in relation to information sharing agreements between publicly funded data controllers and third parties;(b) guidance in relation to the calculation of value for money where publicly funded data controllers enter into information sharing agreements with third parties;(c) guidance about securing financial benefits from the sharing of such personal data with third parties for the purposes of processing or developing associated software, and(d) such other guidance as the Commissioner considers appropriate to promote best practice in the sharing and processing of personal data of national significance.”
Amendment 108 agreed.
109: After Clause 120, insert the following new Clause—
“Age-appropriate design code
(1) The Commissioner must prepare a code of practice which contains such guidance as the Commissioner considers appropriate on standards of age-appropriate design of relevant information society services which are likely to be accessed by children.(2) Where a code under this section is in force, the Commissioner may prepare amendments of the code or a replacement code.(3) Before preparing a code or amendments under this section, the Commissioner must consult the Secretary of State and such other persons as the Commissioner considers appropriate, including—(a) children,(b) parents,(c) persons who appear to the Commissioner to represent the interests of children,(d) child development experts, and(e) trade associations.(4) In preparing a code or amendments under this section, the Commissioner must have regard—(a) to the fact that children have different needs at different ages, and(b) to the United Kingdom’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.(5) A code under this section may include transitional provision or savings.(6) Any transitional provision included in the first code under this section must cease to have effect before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which the code comes into force.(7) In this section—“age-appropriate design” means the design of services so that they are appropriate for use by, and meet the development needs of, children; “information society services” has the same meaning as in the GDPR, but does not include preventive or counselling services;“relevant information society services” means information society services which involve the processing of personal data to which the GDPR applies;“standards of age-appropriate design of relevant information society services” means such standards of age-appropriate design of such services as appear to the Commissioner to be desirable having regard to the best interests of children;“trade association” includes a body representing controllers or processors;“the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” means the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989 (including any Protocols to that Convention which are in force in relation to the United Kingdom), subject to any reservations, objections or interpretative declarations by the United Kingdom for the time being in force.”
Amendment 109 agreed.
Clause 121: Approval of data-sharing and direct marketing codes
Amendments 110 to 115
110: Clause 121, page 66, line 13, leave out “or 120” and insert “, 120 or (Age-appropriate design code)”
111: Clause 121, page 66, line 16, at end insert—
“(1A) In relation to the first code under section (Age-appropriate design code)—(a) the Commissioner must prepare the code as soon as reasonably practicable and must submit it to the Secretary of State before the end of the period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, and(b) the Secretary of State must lay it before Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable.”
112: Clause 121, page 66, line 18, leave out first “the code” and insert “a code prepared under section 119, 120 or (Age-appropriate design code)”
113: Clause 121, page 66, line 23, leave out “or 120” and insert “, 120 or (Age-appropriate design code)”
114: Clause 121, page 66, line 35, leave out “subsection (4)” and insert “subsections (1A) and (4)”
115: Clause 121, page 66, line 36, leave out “and 120” and insert “, 120 and (Age-appropriate design code)”
Amendments 110 to 115 agreed.
Clause 122: Publication and review of data-sharing and direct marketing
116: Clause 122, page 67, line 5, leave out “or 120(2)” and insert “, 120(2) or (Age-appropriate design code)(2)”
Amendment 116 agreed.
Amendment 117 not moved.
118: After Clause 125, insert the following new Clause—
“Records of national security certificatesRecords of national security certificates
(1) A Minister of the Crown who issues a certificate under section 25, 77 or 109 must send a copy of the certificate to the Commissioner.(2) If the Commissioner receives a copy of a certificate under subsection (1), the Commissioner must publish a record of the certificate.(3) The record must contain—(a) the name of the Minister who issued the certificate,(b) the date on which the certificate was issued, and(c) subject to subsection (4), the text of the certificate.(4) The Commissioner must not publish the text, or a part of the text, of the certificate if—(a) the Minister determines that publishing the text or that part of the text—(i) would be against the interests of national security,(ii) would be contrary to the public interest, or(iii) might jeopardise the safety of any person, and(b) the Minister has notified the Commissioner of that determination.(5) The Commissioner must keep the record of the certificate available to the public while the certificate is in force.(6) If a Minister of the Crown revokes a certificate issued under section 25, 77 or 109, the Minister must notify the Commissioner.”
My Lords, government Amendment 118 responds to an amendment tabled in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I said then that I recognised the concern that had been expressed about the lack of transparency as regards national security certificates and that I would consider what more could be done to address this.
Having reflected carefully on that debate, and on representations from the Information Commissioner, I am pleased to move Amendment 118 to address this issue. It inserts a new clause into Part 5 of the Bill which requires a Minister of the Crown who issues a certificate under Clauses 25, 77 or 109 to send a copy of the certificate to the Information Commissioner, who must publish a record of the certificate. We would normally expect the published record to be a copy of the certificate itself. As I indicated in Committee, a number of the existing certificates are already available online.
As an important safeguard under the new clause, the commissioner must not publish the text or part of the text of the certificate if the Minister determines, and has so advised the commissioner, that to do so would be against the interests of national security or contrary to the public interest, or might jeopardise the safety of any person. Where it was necessary to redact information in a particular certificate, there would still be a public record of the certificate as set out in subsection (3) of the new clause. While in practice we expect that most certificates will continue to be published in full with no need for such restrictions, as is currently the case, this provides an important safeguard where it is necessary for a certificate to include operationally sensitive information. The commissioner must keep the record of the certificate available to the public while the certificate is in force, and if a Minister of the Crown revokes a certificate the Minister must notify the commissioner.
In the Information Commissioner’s briefing to this House on the Bill, she stated that there should be a presumption in favour of placing national security certificates in the public domain where to do so would not damage national security. She also noted that adopting a provision requiring her to be notified when a certificate was issued would provide a further safeguard to help inspire public confidence in regulatory oversight. I agree with her.
We have listened to concerns, and trust that this amendment will be widely welcomed. Indeed, it is worth recording that the ICO’s latest briefing on the Bill said that the amendment was,
“very welcome as it should improve regulatory scrutiny and foster greater public trust and confidence in the use of national security certificate process”.
I beg to move.
Amendment 118A (to Amendment 118)
118A: After Clause 125, in subsection (4), after “if” insert “and for so long as”
My Lords, we are very grateful to the Government for introducing Amendment 118. We still believe that they could and should have gone further. Taking the example of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016—the fact that Ministers are unable to authorise interception without oversight by an independent judicial commissioner of that decision—we wonder why that sort of oversight could not be applied to these certificates as well. Clearly, we are grateful to the Government for going as far as they have done. We are just disappointed that they did not go as far as we wanted.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Kennedy is not available at the moment. He is occupied with a personal matter and has asked me to say that he supports the words of the Minister. She has listened to concerns. It is very welcome that she has done so and we agree with the amendment.
Amendment 118A (to Amendment 118) not moved.
Amendment 118B (to Amendment 118) not moved.
Amendment 118 agreed.
Clause 126: Disclosure of information to the Commissioner
119: Clause 126, page 68, leave out lines 26 to 35 and insert—
“(2) But this section does not authorise the making of a disclosure which is prohibited by any of Parts 1 to 7 or Chapter 1 of Part 9 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. (3) Until the repeal of Part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 by paragraphs 45 and 54 of Schedule 10 to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is fully in force, subsection (2) has effect as if it included a reference to that Part.”
Amendment 119 agreed.
Clause 127: Confidentiality of information
Amendments 120 to 124
120: Clause 127, page 69, line 1, leave out from “Commissioner” to end of line 3 and insert “in the course of, or for the purposes of, the discharging of the Commissioner’s functions”
121: Clause 127, page 69, line 13, leave out “provided” and insert “obtained or provided as described in subsection (1)(a)”
122: Clause 127, page 69, line 14, leave out from “manner)” to end of line 16
123: Clause 127, page 69, line 18, leave out from “of” to end of line 19 and insert “one or more of the Commissioner’s functions”
124: Clause 127, page 69, line 28, leave out subsection (4)
Amendments 120 to 124 agreed.
Clause 129: Fees for services
Amendment 124A not moved.
Clause 132: Charges payable to the Commissioner by controllers
Amendments 124B to 125A not moved.
Clause 133: Regulations under section 132: supplementary
126: Clause 133, page 72, line 12, leave out from “appropriate” to end of line 13
Amendment 126 agreed.
Clause 134: Reporting to Parliament
Amendment 127 not moved.
127A: Before Clause 137, insert the following new Clause—
“Inquiry into issues arising from data protection breaches committed by or on behalf of news publishers
(1) The Secretary of State must, within the period of three months beginning on the day on which this Act is passed, establish an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into allegations of data protection breaches committed by, or on behalf of, news publishers.(2) The inquiry’s terms of reference must include, but are not limited to,— (a) to inquire, in respect of personal data processing, into the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within news publishers and, as appropriate, other organisations within the media, and by those responsible for holding personal data;(b) to inquire, in respect of personal data processing, into the extent of corporate governance and management failures at news publishers;(c) in the light of these inquiries, to consider the implications for personal data protection in relation to freedom of speech; and(d) to make recommendations on what action, if any, should be taken in the public interest.”
My Lords, some in this Chamber have taken the view that the Leveson agreement, which united all parties across both Houses just four years ago, has been overtaken by events and that yet another inquiry into press regulation is now needed. That is precisely the pattern of events that has followed virtually every single inquiry into press misconduct over the last 70 years, when Governments of both left and right have first prevaricated and then surrendered to concerted press lobbying, with missed opportunity after missed opportunity. Let us be clear where we are: Parliament has already legislated, with the help of a cross-party consensus, for much of the Leveson frame- work. We have a royal charter and a Press Recognition Panel, both following the Leveson recommendations. We have the establishment of a recognised press self-regulator, which meets the Leveson criteria. So a failure to fulfil the whole cross-party agreement does not represent a failure of the Leveson inquiry, or of the recommendations that followed, but rather of political courage to complete the jigsaw.
This amendment, tabled by me and supported by the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson, Lord McNally and Lord Lipsey, would require the Government to proceed with a public inquiry into data protection breaches at national newspapers. I am grateful for their support and for the encouragement I continue to receive from so many Members across your Lordships’ House. But a brand new inquiry is unnecessary, as the spirit of this amendment would be fully satisfied by the completion of the second part of the Leveson inquiry. That is my amendment’s intention, which is why the terms of reference specified in the amendment so closely resemble those of part 2 of the Leveson inquiry, within the scope of the Bill with respect to data protection.
There are three reasons why part 2, or a very similar inquiry, should go ahead. First, there is the sheer scale of unlawful conduct and the lack of any accountability. Secondly, there are the traumatic consequences for the many ordinary people who are victims. Thirdly, there are the ongoing implications for the conduct of powerful press organisations today. I shall deal with each in turn briefly.
Part 2 of the Leveson inquiry was designed to delve into the extent of criminality, its cover up, and the collusion between press and police, how it was able to persist, and who was ultimately responsible. We know, for example, that private data belonging to thousands of individuals was illegally accessed on a more far-reaching scale, and in many ways more consequential, than in phone hacking. This type of data theft was rarely in the public interest and was therefore unlawful. We know that these activities were not restricted to the News of the World—far from it: they took place at the Mirror, the Sunday People and the Sun, while evidence has emerged that they took place at the Daily Mail, the Express and the Times as well.
A six-week civil trial of the Sun for four claimants, with 50 more following, is starting imminently, alleging widespread data theft from 1998 through to this decade and an illegal cover-up. There has still been no inquiry into this widespread illegal conduct, and the only senior newspaper executive held to account is Andy Coulson at the News of the World. If corporate misbehaviour on this scale had occurred in any other industry, our newspapers would quite rightly have been calling for heads to roll and for government to intervene.
It is perhaps unusual to mention this, but I have some special guests today who have been personally affected by the misuse of their personal data. I have not spoken personally before, and it is not easy to do so, but it seems that some people do not understand what goes on in our media. Members of your Lordships’ House may be familiar with some of the abuses and intrusions that my family suffered and know that I gave evidence to part 1 of the Leveson inquiry, but they may not be aware that our data rights were repeatedly breached by newspapers. One consequence of having your personal data stolen, and not knowing how, is what it does to your own behaviour. I actually withheld information about my daughter’s progress from close family and friends after her life-threatening spinal injury because I began to suspect people I knew of speaking to the media. I stopped trusting people, even people in my own family, my neighbours and my best friends. I did not trust them. I did not know about hacking and blagging. I actually used to joke about how I thought perhaps the journalists who sent flowers to the hospital every day had put a chip in them so that they could capture our conversations in the waiting room when my daughter was fighting for her life in intensive care. That is what I thought. My daughter’s story was primarily a good news story, the triumph of hope over adversity, a story of recovery, not tragedy, but we had to cope with frequent door-stepping and long-range lenses being used to steal pictures, and the intrusion went on for months and months.
At the time of my daughter’s injury, I was a university professor and the head of a prestigious academic professional college. I was amazed by the prevalence of plagiarism in the press. Plagiarism in academia is a dismissible matter. I had no idea, until my family was the subject of intense media scrutiny over many months, just how commonplace plagiarism is. Typically, one paper’s so-called news on Wednesday would simply be downloaded and reprinted, virtually word for word, in a second unrelated paper on Thursday and in another on Friday, and if the second and third papers added a couple of new words, they might even call it an exclusive. When I, as an academic, publish findings, they have to be accurate. One newspaper article had 28 supposedly objective facts, of which only two were correct. The noble Lord, Lord Black, will be pleased to know that the Daily Telegraph was the most restrained newspaper, but your Lordships’ House may be surprised to know that the only serious and accurate article about the implications of a high-level spinal injury for a pregnant woman was in Hello magazine. It was a good article.
Data theft—often disingenuously referred to as leaks—also affects public bodies. I asked to see the Secretary of State in the Department of Health after a story about my learning-disabled son appeared in the Daily Mail. The account was uncannily similar to some evidence he had given in confidence to a government taskforce. The Secretary of State apologised and said it was the fourth data leak that month, but could not or would not tell me how this intensely private information came to be published in a national newspaper. I spoke about that to the Leveson inquiry. The response was that the information was already in the public domain. It was not, and my son was a vulnerable adult, and printing his photograph put him at risk.
Some people experienced much worse than this, and their names are etched in all our memories. Remember the heartache of the Dowler and the McCann families? Alongside other media assaults, these families had personal data stolen and processed by the media. There are countless other private individuals whose lives have been irrevocably changed by hostile and misleading reporting, often following data breaches through the theft of medical records, bank account details, phone numbers or other private data.
Before today’s debate, I met with Edward Bowles, whose 12 year-old son Sebastian lost his life in a bus crash in Switzerland. At a time of such trauma, his and his family’s suffering was made worse by the conduct of national newspapers which, in addition to repeated other intrusions, stole images of the family and published them without consent. These included images of Mr Bowles and his nine year-old daughter grieving after Sebastian’s death, and family photographs taken from Edward’s private Facebook account. Sebastian’s last personal messages to his family from the school’s website were obtained and published without even asking the family.
These data breaches were committed by newspapers with no public interest whatever and occurred in the middle of part 1 of the inquiry, when the press were supposedly on their best behaviour. This is why we still need to understand how such gross and widespread abuse was allowed to happen in the first place and to ensure that ordinary people are protected from those who steal private data to further their own corporate interests. We do not know how much improper and unlawful use of our data was going on, or may still be going on, because of a widespread cover-up. Corporate governance structures remain unreformed and many of the same newspaper executives remain in place.
I chaired a meeting for journalist whistleblowers before the Recess and we heard evidence of the kinds of data theft that they were commissioned to carry out by their editors in pursuit of stories with no public interest whatever. They were confident that these practices persist today, despite assurances from editors and proprietors that those days are gone. Their stories deserve a wider audience. Part 2 of the Leveson inquiry would allow them to be told and allow us to understand from the past how we can better protect the public interests of both private individuals and journalists in the future. The Government have been consulting on whether to complete the Leveson inquiry since November 2016—over a year ago. It should never even have been a matter of consultation but simply a matter of good faith that an inquiry promised to victims of crime should be completed. The failure to go ahead brings public inquiries into disrepute.
It is time to stop prevaricating and act decisively. I hope the noble and learned Lord the Minister will be in a position to assure your Lordships’ House that he has a firm commitment to commence part 2 of the Leveson inquiry. Without such a promise, I intend to divide the House, and I hope the House will support both my amendments and the important amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, Amendments 147, 148 and 216, which are tabled as a package. I hope we will make serious and genuine progress towards independent press regulation today. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have Amendment 147 and the consequential Amendments 148 and 216 in this group. It may be convenient if I suggest to the House the choreography of how this group might work. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, has moved her amendment, which is what we are debating now and will decide on. I will speak to my amendments only once now, and other noble Lords can contribute to all the amendments being debated. I expect that the Minister will reply, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, will respond, and we will then deal with her amendment. After the formalities with other amendments, I will formally move my Amendment 147 and deal with any points arising from this debate in respect of it. I believe it is in order for noble Lords to make a substantive contribution after I move my amendment, at that time, but it may be more convenient for the House for noble Lords to do so now, during this current debate.
It goes without saying that I fully support the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, in her Amendment 127A. We must get to the bottom of what has been going on. My amendments would incentivise media operators to sign up to an independent press regulator in respect of data protection claims. This is achieved in the same way as the yet-to-be-commenced Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. My consequential Amendment 216 ensures that Amendments 147 and 148 come into effect on Royal Assent, and deny Ministers the discretion not to implement what Parliament might agree to, as has been done with Section 40.
I remind the House that I have never been abused by the media; I do not know any celebrities who are not, or have not been, parliamentarians. Post the Leveson report, the Crime and Courts Act has been passed. A royal charter is in place that is exceptionally difficult to change, but I expect my noble friend Lord Black might have some comments on that. The Press Recognition Panel is in operation. Its principal function is to determine whether an applicant press regulator meets, and continues to meet, all 29 criteria for recognition laid out in the royal charter. The PRP has recognised the press regulator, Impress, which covers a readership of 4.5 million people, but other regulators could be approved.
In Committee, my noble friend Lord Black suggested that IPSO could be made compliant. To meet one of the criteria of recognition, future self-regulators of the press must offer a compulsory and low-cost arbitration service. Newspapers that joined a regulator that had obtained recognition would therefore be bound to be offering low-cost compulsory arbitration for media claims, provided they were not vexatious or frivolous. Arbitration is cheaper and quicker than court for both sides—defendant publishers and claimant members of the public.
The costs-shifting measures in Section 40 of the CCA and my amendments provide that if a claimant brought a data protection claim against a newspaper that was signed up to a recognised regulator but the complainant refused to use the arbitration service on offer, the claimant would have to meet all his own legal costs in the case, win or lose. This is because the only motive for a claimant insisting on going to court is to “chill” the publishers’ reporting—think Robert Maxwell.
By requiring the claimant to meet their own costs, publications are protected. They are protected from the risk of paying ruinous costs, should they lose. It seems a bit odd that investigative journalists do not welcome this with open arms, although I know of some very high-profile and experienced journalists who do so.
As media advertising has pointed out, these costs-shifting provisions can work in the other way if an operator does not sign up to a recognised regulator and thus deprive claimants of access to the compulsory arbitration system that Leveson recommended. They would, indeed, have to meet the costs of any claim against them, win or lose. This was in response to a practice exposed at Leveson of some newspapers avoiding legal claims by using their expensive lawyers to frighten off claimants, of which more in a moment.
There is a further protection for the media as the judge may make a different costs award if appropriate—for example, if the claimant does not behave reasonably. Data protection claims were not covered by Section 40 in 2013. They were left out as a concession to the press. This amendment would fix that anomaly by adding data protection claims for which Section 40 is applicable.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, referred to the experience of Edward Bowles and the tragic loss of his son. I have been in communication with Juliet Shaw who has emailed many of your Lordships with her experience of not being able to secure justice. By doing so, she has saved much of the House’s precious time. The “Sex and the Country” article was a clear libel, and had hugely damaging effects on Juliet’s life and the perceptions her friends and family had of her. In preparing her claim, she was threatened by a lawyer acting for the Daily Mail in a phone call that, given the severe costs involved, she should drop her claim lest the Mail—I quote what was put to the Leveson inquiry, “be in the unfortunate position of having to make you homeless”.
Associated Newspapers applied to have Juliet’s claim thrown out on the basis that it had no prospect of success but, following the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, the claim was given leave to proceed. Associated Newspapers subsequently offered a clarification or a modest settlement to prevent a full trial. Therefore, she was forced to accept a modest settlement, given the risks involved in taking the matter further.
Your Lordships will be aware of some counter- arguments, and it would be foolish of me not to address them. The first claim is that this is state regulation of the media. The House is fortunate to have the services of my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood, who has great experience in the print media. Without his help, we could so easily make some ghastly mistakes with the Bill, and the Minister has already taken on board some of his suggestions.
However, in Committee, no matter how hard I pushed my noble friend, he could not successfully explain how Ministers or the state could interfere in the new system of independent press regulation. Furthermore, neither could any other Member of the Committee, not even the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, nor the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. Insinuations were made that the £3 million of public money to pump-prime the Press Recognition Panel represents some form of state influence, but the model provided that in future, fees from recognised regulators would provide the necessary income stream. I remind the House that the courts are funded by and rely on the state, but no one suggests that they are not independent.
The second claim is that Impress is a creation of, and controlled by, Max Mosley. He indeed supplied the finance, which was necessary because Section 40 does not apply if there is not at least one recognised regulator in operation, for obvious reasons. However, the money went through a family trust and then, I think, another trust, so that he could not interfere with the independence of Impress. The News Media Association took this and other matters relating to the recognition system to the courts by judicial review and lost on all counts. We can be confident that the courts properly considered this matter, as counsel for the NMA was none other than the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.
My noble friend makes an excellent point, which I shall come to in a moment.
The third claim is that the Leveson system is unnecessary, as the new IPSO is much better than the previous Press Complaints Commission. I dealt with this in Committee by identifying some, but not all, of IPSO’s deficiencies. These are, first, that IPSO is not obliged to consider discrimination complaints from a group—for instance, a religious or ethnic group. It has also not yet dealt with a matter so serious as to merit levying even a £10 fine. Finally, in three years of operation, IPSO has not arbitrated a single case. In Committee, I was not challenged on any of those assertions, and I am not surprised, because they were checked very carefully.
I hope that noble Lords will support me in the Division Lobby in order that the House of Commons is given the opportunity to provide the vital costs-shifting protection that the public need and deserve in respect of data protection claims. Of course, this would also send a clear message to the Government that they should bring into force the rest of Section 40 immediately, as Parliament agreed to and voted for in 2013.
Is the noble Earl aware that there are some, including myself, who believe that Section 40 is unlawful and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, since it imposes a burden on a newspaper to pay the costs of proceedings even if it is successful, and is discriminatory and arbitrary?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for mentioning one of the many cases over the years in press law that I have lost. I mention to noble Lords another of those cases, in the Court of Appeal in 2015, when I represented entirely unsuccessfully Mirror Group Newspapers, which sought to overturn the very substantial damages that had been awarded to individuals, some of them famous and some of them not, whose mobile phones had been hacked by journalists and whose data had been used to write articles breaching their privacy. A woman who had had a relationship with an England footballer was awarded damages of £72,500. An actress who appeared in “EastEnders” was awarded £157,000 in damages—and so on.
The reason why the courts awarded damages of that extraordinary magnitude, far more than you would get if someone deliberately ran you down and severely damaged your health, was precisely because of the factors that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, mentioned in opening this debate. It is about the personal nature of the intrusion and the suspicions that are engendered as to how the press obtained this information. Was it from friends or relatives who had betrayed you? It is about the very real impact that this has on your personal behaviour; it inhibits, inevitably, the communication that you have with friends and relatives. The claimants in these cases were represented by expert solicitors and by a counsel acting on a conditional fee basis, which meant that, when they won the case, MGN had to pay substantially increased costs, as well as insurance premiums. The costs—because the case related to dozens of claimants—were in the millions of pounds. Similar claims have been brought against other newspaper groups, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, mentioned in her opening remarks that further proceedings are imminent.
I mention all this to emphasise that, when newspapers breach data protection laws, as they have, they have paid for it, and rightly so. Nobody who knows anything about what used to be called Fleet Street could seriously doubt that journalists and editors now take data protection seriously. They would be mad not to do so. In the past few years, editors and journalists have gone to prison for criminal offences related to breaches of data protection. Editors and journalists have lost their jobs in relation to such matters. A prominent newspaper, the News of the World, was closed down. Newspaper groups have paid tens of millions of pounds—perhaps more—in damages and costs. This Bill will create a powerful new administrative machinery to enforce data protection law. All that is rightly so, and I complain about none of it; it is absolutely right that the rule of law applies.
The question is whether we really need a public inquiry on this subject, which will take years to report and cost a fortune to the public purse, occupying the time of busy people who can productively be engaged on other matters. I say to the House that we do not need an inquiry to establish what happened in the past—any number of trials, criminal and civil, have examined the facts, sordid as they are—and we do not need a public inquiry to ensure higher standards of conduct in the future. An inquiry in the terms set out in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, would be so broad in nature that it would impede the ability of editors and journalists to get on with the vital work of holding government and powerful private individuals and companies to account.
I understand why some noble Lords focus on failures in press standards, but they should bear in mind the valuable, indeed essential, work done by the press in exposing those who abuse public office or private power—from the Daily Mail campaign for the prosecution of the killers of Stephen Lawrence to the Times’ exposure of the sex abuse scandal in Rotherham.
In any event, even if noble Lords agree with none of that, this amendment is plainly premature. This Government have not yet announced whether they are to proceed with Leveson part 2, because, as the Minister told this House just before Christmas, they are receiving comments from Sir Brian Leveson himself on the responses to the consultation. When the Government arrive at a conclusion, with the benefit of Sir Brian’s comments, this House will, I am sure, have a full opportunity to make its views known—and this House will indeed express its views. I cannot, for my part, understand how the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, can think it appropriate for the House to insist today on a further inquiry when the consultation process is not yet complete and when the Government have told us that they are to set out their reasoning, informed by Sir Brian’s comments. Given the time that has already elapsed, there is no conceivable urgency. I say with great respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, that her amendment is simply misconceived.
Amendment 147 by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, would introduce a penal provision on costs that cannot be justified. To say to the press that unless they join an approved regulator they must pay the costs of a data protection claim, even if it is an unjustified claim, is simply perverse. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester, who has already indicated that this would be a manifest breach of this country’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, because of the chilling effect that it would inevitably have on valuable investigative journalism.
I therefore say to this House that outrage at press conduct in the past—and I share much of the concern—and sympathy, which I also share, for victims such as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, should not lead this House to approve these unjustified amendments.
My Lords, it is such a relief to hear the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, admit to the House, as he did at the beginning of his speech, that he sometimes loses a case. In fact, even as a meagre lawyer, I enjoyed success over him on an occasion in the European Court of Justice. However, it is disingenuous of the noble Lord to say that we should wait to hear whether the Government intend to do anything about Leveson part 2. We know that that is not the intention of government. The dragging of feet on all this has made it very clear that the Government do not want to fall out with their friends in the press or to lose the editorial support they get from sections of the press. We should be very clear that it is not likely to happen with the current Government.
I have great sympathy for the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and what she is saying, because I share the concern that not all these lessons have been learned. There are ways in which we already see reluctance by those who are now seen as having authority to hold the press to account to take action. Therefore, I do not share the concern that this amendment is unlawful. I do not believe that premise is true and I think that it will be tested in the courts. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, who often represents the press, may end up representing newspapers as opposed to individuals who have suffered transgressions. I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, as I have seen too much of this bad behaviour going on.
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, I am a criminal lawyer and I have seen the ways in which the police have leaked information. I am afraid that I have also seen bad behaviour on the part of police officers in divulging information to the press. Concerns have often been raised that there may be what used to be called “a drink in it” for subverting the proper processes by which high standards are maintained. Therefore, I do not share the confidence of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that everything will be fine as the measure runs through. I still feel that the press has lessons to learn. I hope that we listened to what the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, had to say.
My Lords, I declare an interest. When I was a commander in the Metropolitan Police service, my personal details—this was in breach of data protection—were secured by Mulcaire, the private detective employed by a newspaper. This was discovered by the Metropolitan Police in 2002, but I was not told about it until 2010, when the Guardian alerted my lawyers to the fact that this had taken place. However, in the course of what subsequently transpired, I was shown an internal memorandum of the Metropolitan Police service, which showed that in 2002 it was aware that my phone and that of the then Deputy Prime Minister had been hacked into, and it never informed me of that. Therefore, noble Lords will understand that I should declare that personal interest.
However, I want to tell the following story to the House. I went with the family of Milly Dowler to see the then Prime Minister, the then Deputy Prime Minister and the then Leader of the Opposition to talk about the family’s experience. Noble Lords will recall that Milly Dowler went missing, was kidnapped and murdered, and that her family kept trying to call her mobile telephone. However, the phone relayed the message that the voicemail box for that number was full. Therefore, the family was losing hope that she might still be alive. Then they tried to phone again and found that some of the messages had been listened to. That gave them hope that she might still be alive. However, it transpired that there was room in that mailbox because journalists had hacked into her voicemail and had listened to some of the messages.
On the evening before the first of those meetings with the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, Milly Dowler’s father was telephoned by Surrey Police to tell him and the family that Surrey Police knew in 2002 that journalists had hacked into Milly Dowler’s voicemail, thereby allowing further messages to be left, as the journalists involved had called the police incident room to tell them that they had illegally hacked into the voicemail. However, it was not until nine years later and the imminent meeting with the then Prime Minister, the then Deputy Prime Minister and the then Leader of the Opposition, that the police felt obliged to tell the Dowler family that they knew from the outset that her phone had been hacked into. They did not offer any explanation for not having taken any action in relation to that illegal hacking into that phone.
These are the sorts of issues involved. This is not just about the conduct of the media. The aim of part 2 of Leveson is to examine the relationship between the police and the media and between politicians and the media, not simply the conduct of the media themselves. That is why we need part 2 of Leveson, and that is why I support Amendment 127A.
My Lords, I will speak briefly, both to the proposed new clause in the amendment moved by the noble Baroness and the proposed new clause moved by my noble friend.
I am against the suggestion that we should have an inquiry. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that we know enough already. The facts have been canvassed time and time again, in inquiry, in criminal cases and in civil cases, and the time has now come for policy. We do not need new facts—we need a policy decision, and that is essentially a matter for government and Parliament. If we call for a further inquiry, the policy decisions will be postponed. A further point is that, if the proposed new clause is carried, the pressure will be on a judge-led inquiry. In the generality, I am against judge-led inquiries when they address matters of major general policy. Judges are good at identifying facts and deficiencies in existing legislation, but they are not well placed to address general policy issues.
The noble Viscount said a few moments ago that we do not need an inquiry because we have all the evidence and all the facts we need. What are the Government hesitating for, then? If we have all the facts and the evidence we need, the Government must have them too. However, they are not proceeding. That is the dilemma that the House faces, and that is why I strongly support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins.
But the irony is that if we have a new inquiry, we will postpone the moment when the Government come forward with a policy. The only way you will get a policy decision is to press the Government to make their policy decision, not by holding a further inquiry.
The second point I want to deal with is my noble friend’s Amendment 147. I am not in support of it. First, I am against making a distinction in law between an approved and an unapproved regulator. I am bound to say that when I look at IPSO, I do not find it lacking; it seems to be a perfectly constituted and responsible regulator. I certainly do not want to make a distinction in law between Impress and IPSO. I very much hope that IPSO, which is backed by the industry, will get much greater support than it has hitherto received.
Secondly, on the issue of costs under my noble friend’s amendment, I believe that an award for costs should be within the discretion of the trial judge. The consequence of this proposed new clause is to make an award against a successful defendant when the institution and carriage of the litigation was conducted by the unsuccessful plaintiff or complainant. That seems to me to fly in the face of every notion of justice I have ever encountered. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, would agree with that proposition. Therefore, I very much hope that your Lordships will not agree to this proposed new clause. I accept that my noble friend has referred to the provisos, which enables the unapproved regulator to gain the costs. However, if my noble friend will forgive me, the second of the provisos is drawn in such general and loose terms as to be unintelligible, even to the cleverest of judges.
That may be so, but Parliament makes errors, and this House is in the business of looking again at what we have done in the past. We have to ask ourselves: what is just and equitable in the context of this case? I therefore very much hope that we will not approve a new inquiry and that the proposed new clause so eloquently moved by my mentor will fail.
My Lords, I am one of those who backed the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and I want to intervene briefly to make a point about the beast with which we are dealing. I refer noble Lords to the piece in today’s Times—a newspaper at which, incidentally, 25 years ago I was deputy to the editor. The headline reads:
“Peers hijack data bill to attack free press through back door”.
In today’s Times, evidently, the facts are free but comment is sacred.
There is a ruthlessness about the present press campaign which has its effect on people of the highest integrity and intelligence. I heard the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, about what a wonderful organisation IPSO is. I wonder whether he has studied the Media Standards Trust critique which shows how few of the Leveson criteria that body matches up to.
I stand only to say that, when noble Lords go through the Lobbies tonight, they will have to decide which side they are on—the kind of deep and rational debate that takes place in this House or the kind of debate that thinks that,
“Peers hijack data bill to attack free press through back door”,
is a contribution to public discussion and argument.
My Lords, I hope that for the last time on this Bill I declare my interest as executive director of the Telegraph Media Group, and I draw attention to my other media interests in the register.
Amendment 127A, which I shall speak to first, is, as we have heard, an attempt to bring in by statute part 2 of the Leveson inquiry, but of course it is not quite Leveson 2 because this time there is no inconvenient mention of the role in the events of the past of some politicians and the police, who are noticeably absent from the scope of this amendment. So the target is four-square the press, and I believe that those who back the amendment are happy cynically to sweep everything else under the carpet.
I have four points to make. First, another inquiry is completely unnecessary because there genuinely is nothing left to unearth which has not been gone into in microscopic and comprehensive detail and been covered during the years of inquiries and investigations, as my noble friend Lord Hailsham said. Yes, bad things went on in a small number of places, but the full force of the criminal and civil law leading to prosecutions and often eye-watering amounts of compensation, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, along with rigorous judicial and parliamentary inquiry, has been brought to bear on them.
We had Leveson part 1, which cost taxpayers £5.4 million at the height of austerity and cost the core participants many tens of millions of pounds in legal costs. We should remember that Leveson had judicial powers of inquiry greater than those given even to Chilcot, who was investigating an illegal war in which hundreds of thousands of people died. We have had three exhaustive police investigations, with more people working on them than investigated the bombing at Lockerbie, in which over 200 souls died, costing the same taxpayer another £43 million. We have had three parliamentary inquiries by Select Committees in another place, one into press regulation by our own Communications Committee and one by a Joint Committee. There was a forensic investigation by the United States Department of Justice into voicemail interceptions and payments by public officials, after which it declined to prosecute. There has also been an investigation here into corporate liability in relation to data offences. After detailed consideration of that, the DPP said that no action was to be taken.
I cannot think of a comparable situation where so much has been done to get to the truth. So it is little wonder that Sir Brian Leveson himself, in concluding a ruling in the course of part 1 on 1 May 2012, questioned its value, saying that it would,
“involve yet more enormous cost (both to the public purse and the participants); it will trawl over material then more years out of date and is likely to take longer”,
to complete. I agree with that.
It was said in Committee, and has been hinted at here, that one of the issues that needed to be looked at again was Operation Motorman, despite the fact that Leveson took evidence on it and made recommendations. However—this goes to the heart of the matter—that concerned journalistic activity prior to 2003, 15 years ago. Does anyone believe that going over all that material again will be in any way fruitful, especially when many of the people involved will have left the industry? Some of them have died, and at least some will have forgotten the circumstances around actions that took place at the turn of the century.
My second point is that since the events that were at the centre of Leveson 1 took place, there genuinely has been a sea change in the regulatory framework surrounding journalism and publishing, which makes an inquiry unnecessary. In the past five years, the Press Complaints Commission, of which I was once director, has been closed and IPSO put in its place. I do not think that this is the time for a debate about IPSO, but it is an organisation with real powers based in civil law, which means that it is a regulator able to extract real penalties, far removed from the conciliation service that the PCC offered. Perhaps not visible to the naked eye, IPSO has also brought about, as I know from personal experience, a huge transformation of the internal complaints handling and governance procedures of newspapers.
My noble friend Lord Attlee mentioned the arbitration scheme. He should know from checking his facts that IPSO does now offer a low-cost arbitration scheme. The claimant fee for an initial ruling is just £50—I do not think you can get much more low-cost than that—and a maximum of £100 if the full process is used.
The scheme has only just come in following a pilot, so we need to give it a bit of time to see whether it will take effect.
Building on the issue of public interest, my third point is that I do not believe the industry can afford the distraction of such a huge inquiry at a time when many parts of it are struggling for survival. On one level, there is the sheer cost. Leveson 1 cost the industry many tens of millions of pounds in legal fees and management time. Any follow-up inquiry of this sort would, as Sir Brian himself intimated, be even longer, even more complex in view of the time that has elapsed and even more expensive. Under the terms of the amendment, it would impact on every part of the media, including the local press and the magazine sector, which were completely cleared in Leveson 1. The amendment puts those proved innocent back in the dock. Indeed, its terms are so wide that it would even draw in the international media, such as Buzzfeed, Reuters and the Huffington Post, as well as broadcasters including the BBC. Quite apart from the cost, there is the profound distraction that it would entail for those who are seeking with great speed to change their business so that they can survive in the digital age.
The spectre of yet another inquiry is a toxic threat to a free and independent press. I have lost count of the number of times during the passage of this Bill I have heard from those who said it was appalling to suggest—which I never have—that they do not believe in press freedom; that they were champions of press freedom through and through. Maybe, but I say to them: if you will the ends, you have to will the means. Setting up this inquiry is absolutely not willing the means for the survival of the free media in this country.
The issue of tumultuous change leads me to my fourth point. This amendment points very much to the past, one long hauled over. I know that bad things went on but we should be desperately trying to point to the future. One problem with the first part of the Leveson inquiry was that it ignored the reality of the new media environment and global competition in news. The world that this amendment seeks to investigate has gone. We should be looking now at how we can support free media by working out how best to regulate the currently completely unregulated online platforms of Google and Facebook, rather than heaping yet more burdens on a part of the media that is more heavily regulated than anywhere in the western world, constantly scrutinised and buckling under serious commercial pressure. It is time to draw a halt to this and look to the challenges of the future.
I turn briefly to Amendments 147 and 148 in the name of my noble friend Lord Attlee, which attempt to bring in a version of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. These are deeply pernicious amendments and would, I say to my noble friend, have a destructive impact on our free press, not just national newspapers but the local press, the magazine and periodical business, and the international media. The so-called process of cost shifting, which lies at the heart of this, means that all newspapers and magazines not signed up to a state-approved regulator would be liable to pay for the other side’s costs in an action for a breach of data protection, whether they win or lose the case. Because data touches on virtually every aspect of the news operation—from the genesis of a report to its ultimate archiving—a legal action relating to almost any journalistic activity could be dressed-up in a way that would take advantage of this malignant law. It would open the floodgates to hundreds of baseless claims that would put the very existence of many newspapers, particularly the local press, in grave jeopardy.
The aim of this is to use the law to blackmail—I use the term advisedly—publishers into a system of state-approved regulation. Punishing newspapers for telling the truth as a ruse to impose such controls is wholly inimical to press freedom and alien to democracy. In the current situation, the problem is even worse because the faux regulator “approved” by the Press Recognition Panel is bankrolled by the anti-press campaigner Max Mosley. My noble friend Lord Attlee asked about state control. As he knows—he and I have talked about it—the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 gives this House the power to change the charter by a two-thirds majority. However, in many ways even that is a red herring, because Parliament can vote at any time to overturn that and change the terms of the royal charter in a way that would extend state control of the press.
Given that the publishing sector has made it clear that it will never join an approved regulator, this amendment would have the most profound impact across all journalism, but particularly on investigative reporting. It would give anyone who wanted to suppress a journalist’s inquiries a blank cheque to bring a legal action, knowing that they would not have to pick up the cost. Very few publications would ever let a case get to court because of the crippling costs involved, and would either have to stop investigating the moment that a legal action was threatened or be forced to apologise for printing something that was true. This would be particularly pertinent in investigations where there could be multiple legal actions. For instance, had this provision been in place, it would have been impossible for the Telegraph to conduct its investigation into MPs’ expenses—perhaps some Members of this House would be entirely happy about that.
For all publishers, there would be serious commercial consequences at a time when the vast majority of the industry is struggling. It is inevitable that some newspapers would go out of business as a result of just a handful of cases brought under my noble friend Lord Attlee’s amendment, with disastrous consequences for the plurality of the media. I wonder whether he really wants “Attlee’s Law”—as I have no doubt it would become known—to be responsible for closing newspapers, journalists losing their jobs and investigations being stopped in their tracks?
I hear noble Lords disagreeing, but I have to tell them that it is true. If you are a struggling local newspaper making barely any profit, one or two actions brought under this provision would bankrupt you.
Many other serious legal issues arise from this amendment relating to the European Convention on Human Rights, which the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has already dealt with. It is for this reason, and all the reasons I have outlined, that Section 40 has been roundly condemned as an assault on free speech by virtually every international press freedom organisation, including Index on Censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the World Association of Newspapers and the International Press Institute. It is why, rightly, the Government undertook a comprehensive consultation on whether to introduce it last year.
In closing, whatever that consultation says—and I agree that it would be quite wrong to support this amendment in the absence of the Government’s response—Section 40 remains pernicious in principle and would be disastrous in practice for the free and independent media that I believe we all want to see flourish in this country. I hope my noble friend will not press his amendment.
My Lords, I too oppose the amendments in this group. I want to focus particularly on Amendment 147, which would, in effect, introduce a Section 40-type penal costs provision into the present legislation. But I seek first to dispel a basic misapprehension on this issue.
Section 40 is said simply to be implementing Leveson. I suggest that it goes very substantially further than that. The relevant Leveson recommendation is recommendation 26, under the heading “Encouraging membership”. The amendment deals, as does Section 40, with both the carrot and the stick, in both instances in more extreme terms than the recommendation. I shall forgo any question of the carrot—it is not necessary to discuss that; it is wrong, but it is not necessary to discuss it—but turn to the second part, the penal cost provision of recommendation 26. It reads as follows:
“On the issue of costs, it should equally be open to a claimant to rely on failure by a newspaper to subscribe to the regulator thereby depriving him or her of access to a fair, fast and inexpensive arbitration service. Where that is the case, in the exercise of its discretion, the court could take the view that, even where the defendant is successful, absent unreasonable or vexatious conduct on the part of the claimant, it would be inappropriate for the claimant to be expected to pay the costs incurred in defending the action”.
Given that recommendation, the suggestion is that the court could take the view that even where the newspaper wins, it would be inappropriate for the claimant to be ordered to pay the newspaper’s costs. Critically, there is nothing there about the newspaper, even when it wins, being made to pay the unsuccessful claimant’s costs.
In the provision as it is sought to be introduced, whether you look at it as Section 40 or as Amendment 147 —which is perhaps more convenient because it is in identical terms to Section 40 except in two wholly immaterial respects—subsection (3) goes way beyond that recommendation. In that instance, the court must—note the word “must” towards the end of the paragraph—award costs against the newspaper to the unsuccessful claimant unless, under this highly abstract concept in paragraph (b),
“it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award or make no award of costs”.
The plain intent of that provision is to drive newspapers which will not sign up to a recognised regulator to do so by threatening that they will pay the costs, come what may, except only in a vexatious case.
Anyone who is besotted with that mismatch should look also at two other passages in the report. I shall not weary your Lordships with them now but just note that they are at paragraph 5.6 of the report, at page 1770, and paragraph 6.8, at page 1514.
I shall make one final observation on this issue. Not only did Leveson’s recommendations plainly not go as far as Section 40—now the proposed Amendment 147 —but they did not win the total support of all his six assessors. Notably, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, now the shadow Attorney-General, who was the director of Liberty at the time and one of the assessors, made plain her deep reservations about Leveson’s recommended regulatory scheme and, in particular, once it came to be established under the rubric of the royal charter.
My second and briefer point is that IPSO—the noble Lord, Lord Black, made this plain a moment ago—now has in place an arbitration scheme that is fully Leveson-compliant. As we have seen, the essential justification suggested for not awarding successful newspapers their costs in these cases but rather requiring them to pay the losing claimants is that, unlike a newspaper signing up to Impress, the claimant has not got the opportunity of a low-cost arbitration. That is now categorically no longer the case. IPSO offers just such an arbitration scheme—including, incidentally, explicitly for data protection claims. This scheme was finally introduced in November after being trialled for a year. However, it was trialled on less beneficial terms than it is now introduced on. There used to be a scheme which cost £300. Now, as the noble Lord, Lord Black, made plain, you pay £50 down and the most you can be required to pay beyond that is another £50—£100 in all. This scheme is overseen by specialist barristers and managed by CEDR, which is Europe’s largest independent provider of alternative dispute resolution. There is less cause now for even the recommended possible sanction by Leveson than there used to be.
My next point is perhaps of reduced significance because of the availability of the arbitration scheme now introduced, but the Bill makes specific provision to assist a claimant in a data protection proceeding against newspapers to apply to the Information Commissioner to fund the claim. Clause 165(6)(a) makes plain that the commissioner’s assistance may include,
“paying costs in connection with the proceedings”.
Not only is this manifestly not the right Bill to introduce by a side-wind legislation that was originally designed for other cases under Section 40; it is the least possibly appropriate Bill in which to do so.
I am tempted to raise a number of other points but I shall not succumb to the temptation because many have been made by other noble Lords. However, with the best will in the world, this is an ill-judged group of amendments and it will do this House no credit to pass them.
I wonder whether I will win the sympathy of the House by saying that I am not going to make a speech. All I want to say is that I have given notice to my Chief Whip, as a cuckoo in the nest, that I cannot support these amendments and that if there is a Division I shall vote against them.
The only other point I wish to make was made by the noble Lord, Lord Black, in passing, at the conclusion of his speech, when he referred to the wider world. The rest of the free world that believes in free speech looks with amazement at these debates and thinks how on earth can we be wasting time debating this kind of thing when the press has done what it has done. With Alan Moses, a really independent Court of Appeal judge as the chair and Anne Lapping, a very independent non-lawyer, as the deputy chair of IPSO, having set up a scheme, why on earth are we wasting time in going over past history instead of letting them get on with it.
My Lords, I came intending to support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, asking in effect for Leveson 2, and the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in effect introducing Section 40 for data protection. The more I have listened to the debate, the more I am absolutely convinced that both those amendments are correct.
I have found it appalling to listen to the smug reassurances of the apologists for the media that everything is now fine as far as data protection is concerned. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, drew our attention to the experience of the Bowles family when their son was killed in an accident. While Leveson 1 was going on—the latest moment at which it was alleged that the media had reformed—they were breaking the Bowles family’s data protection rights, to publish whatever they liked.
I do not know the extent to which the media were tricking or are continuing to trick people into giving out medical records, banking information and private photographs, or taking photographs from sources they should not, or going to the police and getting information from them. I am pretty sure that it is still going on, but I do not know the extent of it. The thing that will reveal the extent of it and the extent to which media owners are involved would be Leveson 2. That is what we as politicians promised at the time. The assertion, made in particular by the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Black, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that we should just stop now because everything in the garden is rosy flies absolutely in the face of the evidence. We would look like politicians who are continuing to collude with the media.
The point is not that everything is right. We accept that it is not, but the facts are already known. What now needs to happen is that the policy needs to be formulated and brought to Parliament. An inquiry would postpone the day when that could happen.
I disagree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, says—namely, that the facts are already known—because the apologists are saying that everything is okay now; I do not include him as an apologist because he has a slightly different position. I point to the case of the Bowles family, which indicates that things were not okay when the first Leveson inquiry was going on. The basis on which it has been asserted by the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Black, along with others, that we should not go ahead is because everything is okay. Well, it is not.
This is the crux of the position. Now that it seems to be accepted that things are not okay, if that is the case, what is required is an inquiry. As I understand what is being asserted, a change is proposed in the form of Section 40 and there are those who say that we should not make a change. I think that it is important not to be taken in by the siren song that everything is okay.
It is important that there should be a second inquiry. We promised it and we should not break that promise. I also think it would be wrong to suggest that Sir Brian Leveson is against a second inquiry. I do not know what his position is, but we should not assume that he is either in favour or against it; his views need to be canvassed. I strongly support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins.
I am not suggesting that breaches do not occur; I am not an apologist. My position is that if and when errors are made and wrongful acts occur, the law has ample means of dealing with them. We do not set up a massive public inquiry in areas of the law or practice whenever there is a risk that wrongful acts are going to take place. My position is that we have inquired sufficiently into these matters, and to the extent that there are still wrongful things going on, the law provides perfectly adequate remedies, and indeed under this Act there will be perfectly adequate administrative procedures.
I have two comments to make in response. First, the Leveson 2 inquiry was promised. As I understand the position of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, now, he is saying that maybe wrongdoing is going on and it is the same as was expected before, but promising Leveson 2 was a mistake. Secondly and separately, Sir Brian Leveson found in his report that the remedies of the law, the remedies to which he referred, were open only to the wealthy. That is what he found as a provision. Therefore, the suggestion that the law provides an adequate remedy before the recommendations made by Sir Brian Leveson is, in my view, wrong. I pray in aid of that the conclusions that Sir Brian Leveson made after a full inquiry.
I turn now to the amendments tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I strongly support them and I think that they are entirely appropriate for this Data Protection Bill because they deal with those who abuse data protection. Why should people not have protection in relation to this? I strongly disagree with the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, that this goes further than Leveson. It does not, because what Leveson said was that if a newspaper can join a body which could provide a cheap way of dealing with it and it does not, it should be liable to pay the costs unless there is good reason not to. That is precisely what the amendment does, and I say that with some added experience in relation to this. I was involved at the time when Section 40 was being drafted. It was in effect an agreed draft between the Government and their lawyers, with Mr Oliver Letwin representing the Government along with the full majesty of the Treasury Solicitor advising him. We were trying to agree an amendment that gave effect to Section 40. It was passed almost unanimously by the House of Commons and it was passed in this House as well. The suggestion that it goes further than what Leveson proposed is wrong, so I strongly support it.
Having had the benefit of all of those lawyers from the Government at the time, I also strongly disagree with the assertion by the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Lester, that this would be in breach of the Human Rights Act. It most certainly would not, and I am encouraged in that by what was said by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. Please do not listen to the siren song of the media. Give people the protection that everyone thought they were entitled to. It does not infringe on a free press; it simply makes sure that people like the parents of the victims of the Soham murderer do not have their data mined when there could not be any possible justification for it.
My Lords, I was not going to speak, but I feel impelled to do so. I have no time for the media. I have been libelled and I disliked the experience a great deal. But what we are being asked to provide is a remedy. They are saying that the current remedies will not do and that the remedy is an inquiry. As a judge, I have chaired a number of inquiries, and there are other former judges in this House who have done so. They are inevitably long-winded. This one would go on for a very long time, so I would ask this question: what sort of remedy would there be at the end if the inquiry is mired in a huge number of lawyers making a great deal of money out of defending all sorts of groups of people? At the end of the day we would get—what?—a report.
My Lords, I first declare my interest as a Times columnist. Perhaps I may also start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, for the opportunity to listen to what she had to say, which it was impossible to do without regarding it as moving and passionate and a cause for reflection. It would be an insult to free debate if I did not say to the noble Baroness that listening to her has made a deep impression on me. I thank her for what she had to say.
I am afraid that I do not agree with the remedy being proposed by the noble Baroness. Perhaps I could propose a minor procedural innovation, which is that before people go through the Division Lobbies and vote for a further inquiry, they might be required to provide evidence that they have read all of the previous one. It ran to 2,000 pages, with 115 pages on data protection, which people may not have come across because they started on page 997. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, suggested that a second inquiry which delved into the relationship between politicians among others and the press was a good idea. That inquiry was also conducted by Leveson. I know that because I was in it. It was set out in the third volume, and not many people who were not working in the legal departments of newspapers mentioned it to me.
I understand the comment from the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, about the Times’ comments this morning. It is the normal habit of columnists to say, “I didn’t write the headline”, but in this case I am happy to stand behind it. Of course I understand that nothing would occur less to noble friends and noble Lords than to attack free speech—nobody thinks that that is what they are doing, and de jure they can claim that it is not what they are doing—but please do not have the impression that, de facto, it makes no difference to the free publication of criticism and newspapers if we have yet another inquiry. I know that it is not what the motivation is, but it is effectively harassment to continue to ask the same questions and have inquiries into the same issues. We have heard many moving examples that are covered by two things. They were either raised by the Leveson inquiry or they are capable of being dealt with by criminal, political or arbitration solutions. The idea of having another inquiry therefore justifies how the Times put it this morning.
My Lords, I am not a lawyer or journalist. If I was to describe myself as anything it is a jobbing politician. But each and every one of us in this House has to make their decision as a jobbing politician. Quite frankly, and with the utmost possible respect—I know that is what you always say when you are about to be rude—having listened to the lawyers, my head spins. That is why, in the end, we have to make a political judgment.
The truth is, we are where we are because the press that the noble Lord, Lord Black, speaks for—I make no criticism of that—decided that they would not co-operate. We could have had a working system backed by a royal charter from the beginning. Those of good will on all sides could have made that effective. It was the decision of the noble Lord and his friends not to make it work. Everything we have had since then flows from that determination that they would not make the legislation, which passed through both Houses with massive majorities, work. That is why we are in the position we are in now.
We then have to add to that the fact that, sadly, the Conservatives decided to go back on the pledge that the Prime Minister of the day made to the victims that they would have the full second inquiry. They put it into their manifesto, which, noble Lords may have noticed, did not get the approval that they would then claim as a strength in this House.
The position we have now is that the consultation is in the works. Lord Leveson, who must be a glutton for punishment, has said that he wants to look at not only the conclusions, but the submissions and will make positions of his own. What worries me is that, unless we do something tonight to send this matter forward to the other place, it will be taken out of the hands of Parliament. It is a rough old way of doing it, but by passing this amendment it will go to the Commons at a time when the Commons will be cognisant of the amendment as an opinion of the House of Lords, the outcome of the consultation and the opinions of Lord Leveson. That strengthens the position of Matt Hancock, the new Secretary of State—an appointment I very much welcome—but we all know how it works: Ministers in the department may be very willing to give assurances that we will have an inquiry somewhere down the line, but then they will get a call from No. 10 saying, “You can’t: you won’t do this”. We have to strengthen the hand of Ministers who want to carry this through to a proper and honourable conclusion.
We have again heard all the usual arguments. There is no threat of state control of the press. I say to the noble Lord, Finkelstein, to look again at that headline and see whether he is still proud of it. Another Lord Attlee once said he only read one newspaper, the Times, and that was for the cricket scores. I am not sure he would trust the cricket scores these days.
One pertinent item of briefing noble Lords will have had, and to which a number of Members have alluded, was in the rather shrill briefing paper from the News Media Association, which says that,
“the industry faces acute challenge from global digital platforms which reap commercial rewards from the news industry’s investments, yet invest nothing in news content themselves and are treated as mere conduits, with freedom from the responsibilities and liabilities of publishers”.
As the noble and learned Lord said, that is the real challenge to the press. The noble Lord is diverting and losing friends by this obstinate refusal to build the strength that would come from royal charter-approved press regulation. I know that he worked with the PCC, but this is not a 10-year problem. For the last 30 years, we have had this problem that press regulation by itself has never carried credibility. It did not carry it in his day, which is why they got rid of it. If I can remember rightly, they got rid of the one before that in the midst of a scandal. They will probably get rid of IPSO when the next scandal comes along, because it will not work.
I suggest that we strengthen the hands of Ministers by passing these amendments to make sure that, when it goes to the Commons, there is an opportunity in the light of all the facts to make a fully informed decision. I was one of the Ministers who signed the royal charter. I can assure the House that for both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers—we were in full consultation with the Opposition at that time—the one thing we wanted to avoid was any sniff or smell of state regulation. The real intention was to protect the press, not just the press owners. My belief is that, if they had followed through on the royal charter and had a proper regulator, it would protect individual journalists. I always remember during another scandal a very senior member of the Times had just rewritten their regulations yet again. I said, “What if the Daily Mail scooped you on something that you decided was prevented by your new charter?” He said, “Rupert would fire me”. It is that that we want to protect individual journalists and their integrity from.
This would be a step forward. It would keep the political debate going in the place where it needs to be made—the House of Commons. We should make sure that we vote as politicians, thinking about the reality of it. All my life in politics I have made judgments on things by looking around and seeing who was smiling. If noble Lords defeat these amendments, those who will be smiling are those who have done most damage to the press by what they did while in charge of the press. Those who will be in despair are those individual citizens who have not seen their privacy or civil liberties protected. The House would feel ashamed of itself.
My Lords, I sense that the House wishes to move on, to hear from the Minister and move to the inevitable vote, which I think would be a good thing for all of us. Therefore I will not speak at length. We have had a really important debate today, ranging from the deeply personal to the high realms of public policy, and it is very hard to find a balancing point at which we might, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has just said, actually find a reason for dividing on the various issues. It is complicated and multilayered. It is also time-sensitive and there are very inconvenient issues in the way. However, one can dig down a little and start with the fact that the Bill, as I have always said and will continue to say, is not the right Bill to solve all the problems in relation to press regulation in the future. It is a Bill about data protection and although it has elements that obviously bear on everything we have been saying today and in the previous debates around the need to balance the rights to privacy against those of freedom of expression, it is not a complete picture and we should not think it is.
It is important that we learn our lessons and move forward. We have an existing framework, set out in the Data Processing Act 1998. It has worked well; it has been said that it will work well in future, and the Bill establishes that again as the basic understanding on which we operate. I welcome that, but we are uncertain about how the issues that were raised between 2010 and 2013, the period that led to Leveson 1, are going to be resolved in the Bill—maybe they cannot be. They include the need to ensure that, for all time, there is an effective redress mechanism for those affected by illegality and bad culture in the press, and that we should understand and learn the lessons of what has happened in the past. We certainly have a lot of information but I do not think we have a full understanding of it all.
As has been said by a number of noble Lords, we must anticipate changes that are in train for the new media, the media sources of information and news and the changes in consumption. We have to explore—this is really important—how we sustain our huge tradition of quality journalism without which this democracy would be a shadow of its current self. My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, in a very powerful speech, said we need to go back and rethink what we were thinking at the time Leveson was set up, the promises that were made and the impact it will have on the country if we do not deliver on those promises. We promised the completion of the Leveson inquiry. Whether it is Leveson 2 or another inquiry is a lesser point than the need to honour that promise. Too many people are relying on it, too many people will be upset if it does not happen and we will all be the losers.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said that this is really a policy issue, not an issue around data processing: noble Lords will have understood from what I said earlier that I agree with him. The problem is that we do not control policy—we are unable to put any pressure on that. The victims do not control policy. The Cross-Benchers and Liberal Democrats do not. The Government control policy but successive Governments have seemed unable to move forward. I happen to think, from private conversations, that a lot more unites us on this issue than divides us across this Dispatch Box.
I would welcome some words from the Minister explaining precisely what will be the way forward. However, I do not think he will be able to do that, for all the reasons that have been given about the inconvenience of timing, the difficulty about cutting across other measures that are in place and the need to think through some implications. I am sympathetic, but the problem is that we need action; we need to move this forward, and the only power we have is to put an inconvenient roadblock in the current thinking. That is why I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and I will support—although I think that they are probably not the whole story—the amendments in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. It is important that the Government own up to the fact that this is a problem of their own making, show that they understand the issues and take action.
My Lords, the Government recognise that there is great deal of passion and genuine concern on all sides of the debate and on all sides of the House on these matters. I am obliged to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, for the passionate way in which she advanced her argument on these amendments, and also to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. Casting my mind back to my limited experience in government—and limited it is—I am slightly perplexed. Usually, Government are accused of seeking to avoid issues or hard decisions and of kicking matters into the long grass by proposing an inquiry. For me, it is a novelty that the matter should be reversed in this fashion. Indeed, I note that a number of noble Lords have made the same observation in various ways in the course of this debate. For us, it is a matter of concern that we should move forward and look at how we can maintain a suitable, appropriate and respectable media for this country, but also the freedom of that media, which underpins our democracy.
It is appropriate to notice that the media landscape has changed significantly since the Leveson inquiry was set up. We have witnessed the completion of three detailed police investigations, extensive reforms to policing practice and significant changes to press self-regulation, which have moved on even further in the recent past, with the changes to IPSO. Of course, we have seen that civil remedies, civil proceedings, provide an effective route for parties, particularly in the context of litigation where conditional fee agreements are available. The Government published a consultation in November 2016 to look at whether part 2 of the Leveson inquiry was still appropriate and, indeed, proportionate and in the public interest.
I note that date, November 2016, because one noble Lord referred to the delay. I just make the point, which I have made before, that progress on that consultation was delayed because the Secretary of State was subject to an application for judicial review with respect to the consultation process. It was not a case of the Government trying to delay that process; we were really quite anxious to bring it forward. Once we were able to proceed with that consultation process, we received more than 174,000 responses. That in itself demonstrates the depth and strength of public feeling on this issue.
We are currently consulting with Sir Brian Leveson as the chair of the inquiry. Sir Brian has asked to see the results of the consultation, along with individual responses to the consultation that were submitted by core participants in the Leveson inquiry. I notice that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, observed that Sir Brian’s views need to be canvassed. I entirely agree: that is what we are in the process of doing at the present time. It is not only right that his views should be canvassed in this context, it is actually necessary. The Leveson inquiry has not been terminated; it proceeds under the Inquiries Act 2005 and it cannot be brought to an end until the Government have formally consulted Sir Brian and considered his comments with an open mind on how to proceed further. That consultation is in train. When Sir Brian has shared his formal views with us, we will look to publish the Government’s response to the consultation. It would be our intention, subject to Sir Brian’s views, to publish his response at that time as well, in order that that can be in the public domain.
Amendment 127A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, assumes that the existing inquiry will be brought to an end, but, as I say, that decision has not—indeed cannot—be taken at this stage. If, for example, Sir Brian produces compelling reasons for proceeding with part 2 of the inquiry in some shape or form, the Government would have to give reasonable consideration to those representations and will do so. However, we clearly do not need two public inquiries going on at the same time into the same issues: that is where we would end up, on one view of this process. We have to take events in their proper order and this amendment is plainly not in its proper order; it is plainly premature and cuts across the present statutory process that is being carried on pursuant to the Inquiries Act 2005.
However, I emphasise that the Government are determined to address the challenges of the new media landscape in which we all live—not just the obvious printed media but the digital media and the issues that turn on that. We are in the process of developing a digital charter to ensure that new technologies work for the benefit of everyone, with rules and protections in place to help keep people safe online and ensure that personal information is used appropriately. We are also working to deliver on a commitment to ensure a sustainable business model for high-quality media online. Again, that underpins freedom of expression and our democratic way of life.
These are matters of active consideration for the Government. It is in these circumstances that I emphasise that the noble Baroness’s amendment is not appropriate at the present time and would simply lead to confusion in this already difficult landscape. Let us move on: let us complete the process in which we are currently engaged; let us receive Sir Brian’s representations with regard to the consultation process; let the Government make a decision by way of their response to that consultation; let us look at it—the idea that it would not be examined in this House is almost mythical, to be perfectly candid. Of course it will come under scrutiny in this House. I would be amazed if it were simply to pass unnoticed in the night. There can be no question at all of that happening.
Turning briefly to Amendments 147 and 148, again, I recognise that these are modelled on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and I recognise that Section 40, and press regulation more generally, is a matter that people have incredibly strong—and diverse and conflicting—opinions about. I understand and appreciate the work that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, has done in this area and I appreciate her own personal exposure to the difficulties that have emerged in the past with regard to the abuse and misuse of personal data. Again, I reassure noble Lords that the Government are firmly committed to ensuring that the sort of behaviour that led to the Leveson inquiry never happens again. We are determined to address that.
However, we cannot ignore the various concerns that have been raised regarding Section 40. I am not going to go into the issue of convention compliance or any technical issues about that; nor will I elaborate upon the point that Section 40 does, albeit by agreement between various parties, go further than the actual recommendations in Lord Justice Leveson’s original report. Again, that is why the Government have issued their consultation, which will look, among other things, at Section 40 of the 2013 Act. That matter will be addressed. As I say, the Government will publish their response to the consultation shortly. When I use a term such as “shortly” I see some rolling of eyes but let me be clear: the response to the consultation will await the opportunity for Sir Brian to make his own submissions. We will then give due consideration to those, as we will to the 174,000 responses to the consultation.
We understand the serious nature of the matter before us and it will be fully addressed but we do not believe that at this time it is appropriate to advance a provision similar to Section 40 but only in relation to data protection. There is a much wider issue at stake here and that is the issue that needs to be properly addressed and bottomed out. At the end of the day it would not be appropriate simply to carve out one provision on data protection for the purposes of this Bill in order to replicate the sorts of provisions that we see in Section 40 of the 2013 Act.
Of course we have to cast our minds to the abuses of the past but if we are going to make effective policy we have to look to the future and determine how the balance of interests is going to be achieved between the right to data protection, the right to privacy and the need to maintain a free and vibrant media and free expression. These amendments cut across the proper process that we are now following regarding part 2 of the Leveson inquiry and Section 40 of the 2013 Act. That work is ongoing. Of course we are determined to maintain that work and to bring it to a conclusion. This is not the time or the mechanism by which to try to address these issues. I fear that doing so would complicate an already complex picture. I urge noble Lords to withdraw or not move their amendments.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his thoughtful response and to noble Lords who have spoken. I was accused of bullying the press during the last debate on this Bill in December, and of harassment today—astonishing accusations under the circumstances. These amendments are designed precisely to provide access to justice and protection from the real bullies—the corporate publishers, the wealthy proprietors, their editors and their well-paid lawyers. Victims have to be psychologically very robust to take a case to court and to take on these bullies, and most choose not to. My family chose not to.
These amendments are about providing accountability and curbing the abuse of power through understanding the extent of the data breaches that have taken place, and I believe—and I am not alone in believing—that we have seen only the tip of the iceberg. Journalist whistleblowers speaking to Members of your Lordships’ House before Christmas gave us good evidence that data breaches continue.
To the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, I say that if newspapers took data breaches seriously they would be clamouring for the Leveson inquiry to be finished, to get to the bottom of it. I would ask: why have the Mirror Group and other newspaper groups been trying to cover up for so long if they are committed to reform? If Sir Brian Leveson were to advise that part 2 is not needed, it would be easy enough for this clause to be removed later.
I am sure that we are united in wanting high-quality news provision. There are many challenges to achieving this, whether in print or online. With no disrespect to the Minister, I suggest that my Amendment 127A provides just the incentive the Government need to focus their attention on unfinished business from the Leveson inquiry, as well as the serious longer-term issues mentioned in the debate. It would require—encourage—the Government to proceed with a public inquiry into data protection breaches by the media, whether this one or the existing part 2 of Leveson. It is mildly insulting to be told that my amendment is premature. Frankly, the Government have had long enough to think.
I spoke briefly earlier about some of the personal consequences of data theft for me and my family, and I want to bring your Lordships’ House back to a consideration of the victims. Nothing prepared my family for the media frenzy that followed my daughter’s life-changing injury, and it continued for months. The relentless intrusion, stalking and data stealing by the press was a life-changing experience for me. I once said that it was worse than adjusting to my daughter’s injury. Even 12 years later, new evidence is emerging about the probable theft of my daughter’s medical records. My eyes were opened to inaccurate, corrupt and illegal practice and yet the public still believe what they read. From the comments made by some noble Lords today, I sense continuing ignorance about the current low standards in some publications. It is very difficult to believe. I found it hard to believe what happened to me and what I see still happening to people today. It is hard to believe that it is really happening.
The Minister promises serious future attention. This is a Government whose intention was laid out in their election manifesto: to abandon part 2 of the Leveson inquiry, which could have been well under way, and thus to abandon the victims of press abuse. The terms of the Leveson inquiry were established by Parliament for good reasons and they are as relevant today as they were six years ago. Leveson part 2 is overdue and it should begin without delay. It is an inquiry begun by government and delayed by government, hence the purpose of Amendment 127A.
Perhaps I could end by reflecting on the last time a Government failed to stand up to the power of the press. The Prime Minister at the time, Sir John Major, admitted to Sir Brian Leveson that it was a missed opportunity. We must not allow it to be missed again. Parliament could provide a little extra encouragement and support to government by agreeing to my amendment today. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 138: Information notices: restrictions
Amendment 128 not moved.
Clause 141: Assessment notices: restrictions
Amendment 129 not moved.
Clause 142: Enforcement notices
Amendments 130 and 131
130: Clause 142, page 79, line 2, at end insert “to comply with the data protection legislation”
131: Clause 142, page 79, line 3, leave out subsection (9)
Amendments 130 and 131 agreed.
Clause 145: Enforcement notices: restrictions
Amendment 132 not moved.
Clause 148: Penalty notices
Amendments 133 to 136
133: Clause 148, page 82, line 40, after “failures” insert “to comply with the data protection legislation”
134: Clause 148, page 82, line 41, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—
“(b) provide for the maximum penalty that may be imposed in relation to such failures to be either the standard maximum amount or the higher maximum amount.”
135: Clause 148, page 82, line 42, leave out subsection (6)
136: Clause 148, page 82, line 48, at end insert—
“( ) In this section, “higher maximum amount” and “standard maximum amount” have the same meaning as in section 150 .”
Amendments 133 to 136 agreed.
Clause 149: Penalty notices: restrictions
Amendment 137 not moved.
Clause 152: Amount of penalties: supplementary
138: Clause 152, page 84, line 40, leave out subsection (3)
Amendment 138 agreed.
Clause 153: Guidance about regulatory action
Amendments 139 to 143
139: Clause 153, page 85, line 27, leave out “prepared” and insert “produced”
140: Clause 153, page 85, line 42, leave out “the guidance” and insert “guidance produced under this section”
141: Clause 153, page 85, line 44, leave out “publishing” and insert “producing”
142: Clause 153, page 86, line 1, at end insert—
“(7A) Section (Approval of first guidance about regulatory action) applies in relation to the first guidance under subsection (1).”
143: Clause 153, page 86, line 2, after “for” insert “other”
Amendments 139 to 143 agreed.
144: After Clause 153, insert the following new Clause—
“Approval of first guidance about regulatory action
(1) When the first guidance is produced under section 153(1)— (a) the Commissioner must submit the final version to the Secretary of State, and(b) the Secretary of State must lay the guidance before Parliament.(2) If, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve the guidance—(a) the Commissioner must not issue the guidance, and(b) the Commissioner must produce another version of the guidance (and this section applies to that version).(3) If, within the 40-day period, no such resolution is made—(a) the Commissioner must issue the guidance, and(b) the guidance comes into force at the end of the period of 21 days beginning with the day on which it is issued.(4) Nothing in subsection (2)(a) prevents another version of the guidance being laid before Parliament.(5) In this section, “the 40-day period” means—(a) if the guidance is laid before both Houses of Parliament on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with that day, or(b) if the guidance is laid before the Houses of Parliament on different days, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of those days.(6) In calculating the 40-day period, no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses of Parliament are adjourned for more than 4 days.”
Amendment 144 agreed.
Clause 159: Compensation for contravention of the GDPR
145: Clause 159, page 89, line 15, leave out from “compensation” to end of line 16 and insert “for material or non-material damage), “non-material damage” includes distress”
Amendment 145 agreed.
Clause 160: Compensation for contravention of other data protection legislation
146: Clause 160, page 90, line 3, leave out from “loss” to end of line 4 and insert “and damage not involving financial loss, such as distress”
Amendment 146 agreed.
147: After Clause 160, insert the following new Clause—
“Publishers of news-related material: damages and costs
(1) This section applies where— (a) a relevant claim for breach of the data protection legislation is made against a person (“the defendant”),(b) the defendant was a relevant publisher at the material time, and(c) the claim is related to the publication of news-related material.(2) If the defendant was a member of an approved regulator at the time when the claim was commenced (or was unable to be a member at that time for reasons beyond the defendant’s control or it would have been unreasonable in the circumstances for the defendant to have been a member at that time), the court must not award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that—(a) the issues raised by the claim could not have been resolved by using an arbitration scheme of the approved regulator, or(b) it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to award costs against the defendant.(3) If the defendant was not a member of an approved regulator at the time when the claim was commenced (but would have been able to be a member at that time and it would have been reasonable in the circumstances for the defendant to have been a member at that time), the court must award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that—(a) the issues raised by the claim could not have been resolved by using an arbitration scheme of the approved regulator (had the defendant been a member), or(b) it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award of costs or make no award of costs.(5) This section is not to be read as limiting any power to make rules of court.(6) This section does not apply until such time as a body is first recognised as an approved regulator.”
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to these exceptionally important and good-natured debates. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I say that I do not propose to move Amendment 215, which is later in the Marshalled List, but I shall move Amendment 216.
I know that I enjoy considerable support around the House, but we need to be sure that we are doing the right thing in sending this matter to the House of Commons. That is why contrary voices and cautious voices are welcome. I am not convinced that my noble friend Lord Black is correct in claiming that these amendments will result in state regulation of the media and the press. He is correct in stating that the royal charter can be changed, but it requires a two-thirds majority in the UK Parliament, including in your Lordships’ House. The most important point is that it requires the unanimous approval of the press recognition panel, not to mention the Scottish Parliament.
As my noble friend recognises, the reality is that it would be far easier to insert some new primary legislation to deal with a perceived problem in the future. That would be rather more difficult to get through Parliament if we already had a good system of independent press regulation in place. Sir Brian Leveson considered these arguments and many more from press representatives, and he was clear in his view that only the recognition system proposed in his report can provide a regulator that is genuinely independent of politicians and the press. Sir Brian said that the incentives I propose are necessary, and I am sure he would not describe them as blackmail. I am at one with my noble friend about the need for a genuinely free press, and I honestly believe that my amendments help.
My other point about so-called state regulation is this: there is already state regulation of the press by means of the courts. Judges are appointed by the state and their level of remuneration, which needs looking at, is ultimately approved by the Prime Minister. A multimillionaire can prevent publication by threatening a publisher with court action with unsustainable and uncertain legal costs. These amendments, which are similar to Section 40, can protect publishers while also providing the public with the protection from press abuse that they need and deserve. I hope that the House, when it considers this amendment, will think of victims who were left powerless after some newspapers, in the words of Sir Brian Leveson,
“wreaked havoc in the lives of ordinary people”.
I hope newspapers will be encouraged to join a recognised regulator to give their own journalism the protections this cost-shifting provision provides while also ensuring that their readerships are similarly protected. I beg to move.
My Lords, the answer to that question is simple, and applies to Section 40. If the Government determine that Section 40 is not a good idea, then they should repeal Section 40 by means of an Act of Parliament. They could do the same if my amendment is agreed to.
Amendment 148 agreed.
Clause 161: Unlawful obtaining etc of personal data
Amendments 149 and 150
149: Clause 161, page 90, line 18, after “court” insert “or tribunal”
150: Clause 161, page 90, line 28, at end insert “, or
( ) the person acted—(i) for the special purposes,(ii) with a view to the publication by a person of any journalistic, academic, artistic or literary material, and(iii) in the reasonable belief that in the particular circumstances the obtaining, disclosing, procuring or retaining was justified as being in the public interest.”
Amendments 149 and 150 agreed.
Amendment 151 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
House resumed. Report to begin again not before 8.23 pm.