Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)
Clause 14: Exemptions etc
79: Clause 14, page 8, line 23, leave out “scientific or historical”
My Lords, this amendment arises from concerns about the narrowness of the derogations based on article 89 of the GDPR for research statistics and archiving, expressed by a number of organisations, notably techUK. The argument is that there should be a derogation similar to Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998. That Act makes provision for exemptions for research and development where suitable safeguards are in place. The GDPR limits this to scientific and historical research, but member states are able to legislate for additional exemptions where safeguards are in place.
My Lords, techUK and others believe that the Bill’s provision for scientific and historical research should be broadened, involving the same provisions as Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998, and that the definition of scientific and historical research needs clarification. For example, it is not clear whether it would include computer science engineering research. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to clarify that. I recognise that the amendment leads the line in this group but may not be followed in exactly the same way. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 86BA, in my name. It concerns the application of data protection principles in the context of the law of trusts. The law has long recognised that a trustee is not obliged to disclose to a beneficiary the trustee’s confidential reasons for exercising or not exercising a discretionary power. This is known as the Londonderry principle, named after a case decided by the Court of Appeal, reported in 1965, Chancery Division, page 9.1.8. The rationale of this principle was helpfully summarised by Mr Justice Briggs—recently elevated to the Supreme Court—in the case of Breakspear v Ackland, 2009, Chancery, page 32, at paragraph 54.
The principle is that the exercise by trustees of their discretionary powers is confidential. It is in the interests of the beneficiaries, because it enables the trustees to make discreet but thorough inquiries as to the competing claims for consideration for benefit. Mr Justice Briggs added that such confidentiality also advances the proper interests of the administration of trusts, because it reduces the scope for litigation about how trustees have exercised their discretion, and encourages suitable people to accept office as trustees, undeterred by a concern that their discretionary deliberations might be challenged by disappointed or hostile beneficiaries and that they will be subject to litigation in the courts.
There is, of course, a public interest here, which is protected by the inherent jurisdiction of the court to supervise and, where appropriate, intervene in the administration of trusts, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, stated for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Schmidt v Rosewood Trust Ltd, 2003, 2 AC 709.
The problem is that, as presently drafted, the Bill would confer a right on beneficiaries to see information about themselves unless a specific exemption is included. A recent Court of Appeal judgment in Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing, 2017, EWCA Civ 74, drew attention to the general applicability of data protection law in this context unless a specific exemption is enacted.
My understanding, which is indirect—I declare an interest as a barrister, but this is not an area in which I normally practise—is that in other jurisdictions such as Jersey, the data protection legislation contains a statutory restriction on the rights of a data subject to make a subject access request where that would intrude on the trustees’ confidentiality under the Londonderry principle. Indeed, I am told that those who practise in this area are very concerned that offshore trustees and offshore professionals who provide trust services are already actively encouraging the transfer of trust business away from this jurisdiction because of the data protection rights which apply here, and which will apply under the Bill.
The irony is that the data protection law is driving trust business towards less transparent offshore jurisdictions and away from the better regulated English trust management businesses. I have received persuasive representations on this subject from the Trust Law Committee, a group of leading academics and practitioners, and I acknowledge the considerable assistance I have received on this matter from Simon Taube QC and James MacDougald.
This is plainly a very technical matter, but it is one of real public interest. I hope that the Minister will be able to consider this issue favourably before Report.
My Lords, I want to add a word in support of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, particularly with reference to the concerns that some people have expressed about money being moved out of the very closely and properly regulated regime of English trust law to offshore organisations and jurisdictions which are less careful about how people’s money is handled.
I should declare an interest as Chief Justice of the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts. I am not suggesting that this has anything to do with Abu Dhabi, but it has introduced me to an aspect of trust law with which I was not previously familiar, and it bears closely on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. He referred to Jersey as one of the jurisdictions of concern. One aspect of its legislation which has come to my attention through my connection with Abu Dhabi is the Foundations (Jersey) Law 2009. This is a structure set up by statute under Jersey law which is matched with an equivalent statute in Guernsey. It creates a form of trust which is, as it were, a hybrid between a trust and a corporation with a number of aspects that are described very well in Sections 25 and 26 of the Jersey law.
One of the points about the foundation, which appears in Section 25, is that a,
“beneficiary under a foundation … has no interest in the foundation’s assets; and … is not owed by the foundation or by a person appointed under the regulations of the foundation a duty that is or is analogous to a fiduciary duty”.
So the beneficiary under that system is rather different from a beneficiary under our system, where undoubtedly they have an interest in the foundation’s assets. But also to the point is Section 26, which provides that foundations are,
“not obliged to provide information”.
That has its counterpart in the point made about the Data Protection Act in that jurisdiction. It says that except,
“as specifically required by or under this Law or by the charter or regulations of the foundation, a foundation is not required to provide any person … with any information about the foundation”.
It goes on to say in subsection (2) that the,
“information mentioned in paragraph (1) includes, in particular, information about … the administration of the foundation … the manner in which its assets are being administered … its assets; and … the way in which it is carrying out its objects”.
I do not wish in any way to criticise how the foundation laws are run in Guernsey or Jersey, but it is a pattern which, if repeated in less scrupulous jurisdictions, has obvious attractions. People move into a foundation and nobody knows what part of the foundation money they own, because they are not supposed to own any part of it, and the foundation is not obliged to disclose any information at all. There is a risk that those who are keen, for whatever reason—it could even be for matrimonial reasons—to conceal their assets could move them offshore from a trust such as we have in this country, closely regulated and subject to the ordinary rules, to one of these other bodies, which we would not wish to encourage. One has only to look at the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and some of the clauses in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill that is before the House to see that we are taking a completely opposite line to the foundations laws, because we are insisting that we should be provided with information about what organisations of this kind hold and, indeed, who holds what assets. We have not got as far as actually requiring trusts to do that but, certainly, anyone who puts his money into a company, in an attempt to conceal his assets within the company, will be forced eventually to have that information disclosed.
I add these points to suggest that the point that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, made has a great deal of substance, which one can trace through the foundations law. I stress again that I am not criticising how this is administered in Jersey or Guernsey—that is not really the point. The point is that those who would wish to copy their systems are subject to less close scrutiny. I also emphasise that I am not suggesting that we in this country would want to adopt a foundations law; that would really be quite contrary to how our current legislation is proceeding. So there is an important issue here about protecting ourselves—and those who set up trusts here and administer them properly according to our rules and conventions—against a loss of business, which would be detrimental not only to those who run the businesses but to the whole ethic by which we practise our trust law.
I hope that the Minister and those advising him will look carefully at the Jersey and Guernsey examples, with a view not to criticism but to sensing the risk to which the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, drew our attention.
My Lords, Amendments 80A and 83A are in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Arbuthnot, and come from the Bar Council. In their unavoidable absence, I have again been asked to speak to the amendments. The Government have amendments also to paragraph 5 of Part 1 of Schedule 2—and no doubt we will be asked to agree them shortly. These amendments deal with other aspects of that paragraph and relate to legal professional privilege. The paragraph, as amended, refers to the disclosure of data but disclosure is only one of the acts of processing. The Bar Council is concerned that we need to deal with processing more widely so as not to disrupt the activities of the court and to protect privilege, which is something we have debated on many occasions and which we all agree is not only important but a fundamental right for persons and organisations.
The Bar Council tells me:
“When courts are carrying on judicial business and lawyers are advising and representing clients they also need to collect, record, amend, consult and use personal data”,
and that lawyers,
“cannot inform all persons that they are doing so without infringing on the legal privilege of their clients”—
of course, the privilege is that of the client, not the lawyer. The Bar Council adds:
“It would also cause great disruption to court proceedings and increased burden on the Courts acting in their judicial capacity if these obligations were not removed. There is no effect on any potential adequacy decision because these derogations are given effect under the provisions of the GDPR which contemplate and permit derogations”.
In short, “disclosure” would be replaced by “processing”.
Amendment 83A would take out the limiting words at the end of the relevant paragraph:
“to the extent that the application of those provisions would prevent the controller from making the disclosure”.
The Bar Council states:
“The protection of legal professional privilege is absolute. The only basis for removing its protection is where the claim is falsely made and privilege does not apply. Similarly, the benefit of simplicity in the application of the law to the Courts acting in their judicial capacity would be lost if the derogation was limited to conflicting situations”.
I am not entirely sure that I read paragraph 5 in the way that the Bar Council does as I think those words make the matter clear and do not have the limiting effect that clearly others are reading into them, but even if I am right if there is a confusion it needs to be cleared up.
My Lords, we have amendments in this group. Amendment 79A concerns exemptions from GDPR and adaptations and restrictions based on various articles. As we begin to tighten up our understanding and clarify the range of application of these exemptions as the Bill goes through this House, we have talked to Liberty about the rights of individuals under this part of the Bill. Amendment 79A seeks to remove the exemption from data subjects’ right to restrict the processing of their data—for example, in cases where data accuracy is contested, the processing is unlawful or the data is required for the exercise of a legal claim in relation to a variety of broad purposes including the prevention and detection of crime, tax purposes, risk assessment systems, including in the administering of housing benefit, and the maintenance of effective immigration control.
Amendment 79B is a similar and parallel amendment to remove the exemption from data subjects’ right to object to data processing where there is an absence of compelling legitimate grounds, again in relation to the same range of activities and purposes. Amendment 83B is a probing amendment by which we seek to delete a paragraph which outlines where the GDPR does not apply to personal data processed for the purposes of functions designed to protect the public. Instanced against this are, for example,
“financial loss due to dishonesty … financial loss due to the conduct of discharged or undischarged bankrupts”,
and so on.
A set of amendments then come under Part 3 of this schedule on the protection of the rights of others. Amendment 86A deletes conditions under which a controller can determine whether it is reasonable to disclose information without consent. Amendment 86B probes provisions which state that information can be disclosed without consent where,
“the health data test is met … the social work data test is met, or … the education data test”.
When we get into some of these it seems, frankly, that they are rather loosely drafted and not immediately clear. Perhaps we could work harder to bring these things to a pitch where they are common sense and clear to normally intelligent people—although after the presentation from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, I do not reach that bar; I am doing my best. Amendment 86C deletes the paragraph which outlines conditions by which the GDPR does not apply,
“to personal data processed for the purposes of or in connection with a corporate finance service provided by a relevant person”.
Even reading the wording of an amendment which we have put some thought into is complicated, and these amendments refer to clauses in the Bill that are even more complicated. Since these affect the rights of individuals, the law should be written with some clarity and lucidity to make it more accessible.
Amendment 86D deletes a paragraph which states that the GDPR provisions do not apply where data is processed for,
“management forecasting or management planning in relation to a business or other activity”.
I have to spit the word “data” out of my mouth when it is used with a singular verb. All my education taught me that it should not be.
My Lords, if the noble Lord scours the GDPR, he may find that the term “data” is used with a plural verb. I wondered whether to put down amendments to that, but I thought that that was pushing it a bit far.
My Lords, I support Amendment 79. I offer as an example the National Pupil Database, which the Department for Education makes available. It is very widely used, principally to help improve education. In my case, I use it to provide information to parents via the Good Schools Guide; in many other cases it is used as part of understanding what is going on in schools, suggesting where the roots of problems might lie, and how to make education in this country better. That does not fall under “scientific or historical” and is a good example of why that phrase needs widening.
My Lords, as a non-lawyer, I am delighted to find myself in the same company as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, as this has also introduced me to an area of trust law which I am not familiar with. I thank noble Lords for their amendments, which concern the exemptions from data rights in the GDPR that the Bill creates. Two weeks ago we debated amendments that sought to create an absolute right to data protection. Today we will further debate why, in some circumstances, it is essential to place limitations on those rights.
The exemptions from data rights in the GDPR are found in Schedules 2 to 4 to the Bill. Part 6 of Schedule 2 deals with exemptions for scientific or historical research and archiving. Without these exemptions, scientific research which involves working on large datasets would be crippled by the administration of dealing with requests from individuals for their data and the need to give notice and service other data rights. This data provides the fuel for scientific breakthroughs, which the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and others have told us so much about in recent debates.
Amendment 79 seeks to remove “scientific or historical” processing from the signposting provision in Clause 14. Article 89 of the GDPR is clear that we may derogate only in relation to specifically historical or scientific research. We believe that Clause 14 needs to correctly describe the available exemption, although I reassure noble Lords that, as we have discussed previously, these terms are to be interpreted broadly, as outlined in the recitals.
Part 1 of Schedule 2 deals with exemptions relating to crime, tax and immigration. For example, where the tax authorities assess whether tax has been correctly paid or criminally evaded, that assessment must not be undermined by individuals accessing the data being processed by the authority. Amendments 79A and 79B, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, would limit the available exemptions by removing from the list of GDPR rights that can be disapplied the right to restrict processing and the right to object to processing. In my example, persons subject to a tax investigation would be able to restrict and object to the processing by a tax authority. Clearly that is not desirable.
Amendments 80A and 83A seek to widen the exemption in paragraph 5(3) of Schedule 2 which exempts data controllers from complying with certain data rights where that data is to be disclosed for the purposes of legal proceedings. Without this provision, which mirrors the 1998 Act, individuals may be able to unfairly disrupt legal proceedings by blocking the processing of data. We are aware that the Bar Council has suggested that the exemption be widened as the amendments propose. This would enable data controllers to be wholly exempt from the relevant data rights. We believe that this is too wide and that the exemption should apply only where the data is, or will be, subject to a disclosure exercise, which is a process managed through court procedure rules. At paragraph 17 of Schedule 2, the Bill makes separate provision for exemptions to protect legal professional privilege. We think that the Bill continues to strike the right balance between the rights of data subjects and controllers processing personal data for the purposes of exercising their legal rights.
Amendment 83B seeks to remove paragraph 7 of Schedule 2 from the Bill. This paragraph sets out the conditions for restricting data subjects’ rights in respect of personal data processed for the purposes of protecting the public. Those carrying out functions to protect the public would include bodies and watchdogs concerned with protecting the public from incompetence, malpractice, dishonesty or seriously improper conduct, securing the health and safety of persons at work, and protecting charities and fair competition in business. Paragraph 7, which is based on the current Section 31 of the 1998 Act, ensures that important investigations can continue without interference. Without this paragraph, persons would have to be given notice that they were being investigated and, on receipt of notice, they could require their data to be deleted, frustrating the investigation.
Paragraph 14 of Schedule 2 allows a data controller to refuse to disclose information to the data subject where doing so would involve disclosing information relating to a third party. Amendment 86A would remove the circumstances set out in sub-paragraph (3) to which a data controller must have regard when determining whether it is reasonable to disclose information relating to a third party without their consent. These considerations mirror those in the 1998 Act and we think that they remain important matters to be considered when determining reasonableness. They also allow for any duty of confidentiality to be respected.
Paragraph 15 of Schedule 2 ensures that an individual’s health, education or social work records cannot be withheld simply because they make reference to the health, education and social work professionals who contributed to them. Amendment 86B would allow a controller to refuse to disclose an individual’s health records to that individual on the grounds that they would identify the relevant health professionals who authored them. We believe that individuals should be able to access their health records in these circumstances.
I come now to Amendment 86BA tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, which concerns the confidentiality of trust information. I confess that, in this, I am relying on advice even more than usual, and so I will put forward our initial analysis, which we might then have to discuss later. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for letting us have his counsel and opinion and for giving that to the Bill team before the debate.
The noble Lord’s amendment seeks to ensure that beneficiaries of a trust are not entitled to obtain through a subject access request information about decisions taken by the trustee that they would not be entitled to have under trust law. In the recent case of Dawson-Damer, which the noble Lord referred to, an offshore trustee was found not to be entitled to the full benefit of exemptions in the 1998 Act, which would have applied if the trust had been based in the UK. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has been informed to the contrary, but in our initial analysis we believe that trusts have adequate protections.
The Bill replicates the position under the existing 1998 Act. Where the data comes within legal professional privilege, it is already exempted, including for enforcement of civil proceedings. Article 15(4) of the GDPR directly protects against disclosure where it would adversely affect the rights and freedoms of others, including any rights or freedoms of trustees. The court also has power to withhold disclosure of information where there is an overriding need to do so, for instance where subject access is being used for an improper purpose. We believe that any gap between what can be withheld under trust law and data protection law is narrow, and no more than is appropriate to protect the rights that the beneficiaries of a trust have in their data. In this regard, we are simply continuing the existing position.
We have considered whether any further protection is possible and do not believe that the Bill needs to be used to protect offshore trusts further. We do not believe that it will drive trusts into less transparent jurisdictions or impact on the international competition of UK-based legal advice in respect of trusts. The possible application of data protection law is just one possible risk to consider when deciding where to do business. Indeed, the tailored exemptions we have provided in this Bill may make the UK an attractive destination.
I am of course happy to discuss this technical legal matter further with the noble Lord and the noble and learned Lord if they so desire—and with my officials, which is the important bit. I take on board what the noble and learned Lord said about the Jersey and Guernsey rules and the risks that that might pose. I will take that back and read carefully in Hansard what the noble and learned Lord has said.
Amendment 86C seeks to remove paragraph 19, which protects personal data processed for corporate finance services. The exemption is only available to the extent to which the subject information provisions could, or in the reasonable belief of the data controller could, affect the price or value of particular instruments of a price-sensitive nature—for example, company shares. This restriction replicates the exemption for this purpose under paragraph 6 of Schedule 7 to the 1998 Act and the Data Protection (Corporate Finance Exemption) Order 2000. We think it remains an important exemption to underpin the integrity of the markets.
Amendment 86D would remove the exemption available to businesses to protect the confidentiality of personal data processed for the purposes of management forecasting or management planning to the extent that the application of those provisions would be prejudicial to that business or other activity. An example of this might be plans relating to potential future redundancies which have yet to be made public. We think that these exemptions are useful for UK business.
I hope I have given sufficient explanations in response to the amendments in this group and persuaded noble Lords that there are good reasons why the exemptions are required. In the light of the comments I have made, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that tour de force. This group is an extraordinary collection of different aspects such as research trusts and professional privilege. He even shed light on some opaque amendments to opaque parts of the Bill in dealing with Amendments 86A, 86B and 86C. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, was manful in his description of what his amendments were designed to do. I lost the plot fairly early on.
I thank the Minister particularly for his approach to the research aspect. However, we are back again to the recitals. I would be grateful if he could give us chapter and verse on which recitals he is relying on. He said that without the provisions of the Bill that we find unsatisfactory, research would be crippled. There is a view that he is relying on some fair stretching of the correct interpretation of the words “scientific” and “historical”, especially if it is to cover the kinds of things that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has been talking about. Many others are concerned about other forms of research, such as cyber research. There are so many other aspects. TechUK does not take up cudgels unless it is convinced that there is an underlying problem. This brings us back, again, to the question of recitals not being part of the Bill—
I support the noble Lord on this. Coming back to his earlier example, if you were told a sandwich was solely made of vegetable, the Minister is saying that that means it has not got much meat in it. This is Brussels language. I do not think it is the way in which our courts will interpret these words when we have sole control of them. If, as I am delighted to learn, we are going to implement our 2017 manifesto in its better bits, including Brexit, this is something we will have to face up to. This appears to be another occasion where “scientific” does not bear the weight the Bill is trying to put on it. It is not scientific research which is happening with the NPD. It is research, but it is not scientific.
I agree with that. Again we are relying on the interpretation in whichever recital the Minister has in his briefing. It would be useful to have a letter from him on that score and a description of how it is going to be binding. How is that interpretation which he is praying in aid in the recitals going to be binding in future on our courts? The recitals are not part of the Bill. We probably talked about this on the first day.
This was included in the letter I was sent today. I am afraid the noble Lord has not got it. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, helpfully withdrew his amendment before I was able to say anything the other night but the EU withdrawal Bill will convert the full text of direct EU instruments into UK law. This includes recitals, which will retain their status as an interpretive aid.
My Lords, we will see if the EU withdrawal Bill gets passed, but that is a matter for another day.
I thank the Minister for his remarks. There are many aspects of his reply which Members around the House will wish to unpick.
Perhaps I may pursue this for a second. It is late in the evening and I am not moving fast enough in my brain, but the recitals have been discussed time and again and it is great that we are now getting a narrow understanding of where they go. I thought we were transposing the GDPR, after 20 May and after Brexit, through Schedule 6. However, Schedule 6 does not mention the recitals, so if the Minister can explain how this magic translation will happen I will be very grateful.
We are not transposing the GDPR. It takes direct effect on 25 May.
I knew I was slow. We are moving to applied GDPR; that is correct. The applied GDPR, as I read it in the book—that great wonderful dossier that I have forgotten to table; I am sure the box can supply it when we need it—does not contain the recitals.
My Lords, just to heap Pelion on Ossa, I assume that until 29 March the recitals are not part of UK law.
They will be part of UK law, because the withdrawal Bill will convert the full text into UK law. There will of course be a difference between the recitals and the articles; it will be like a statutory instrument, where the Explanatory Memorandum is part of the text of the instrument.
Will that take place after 29 March 2019?
May I add to this fascinating debate? Does this not illustrate one of the problems of the withdrawal Bill—that in many areas, of which this is one, there will be two potentially conflicting sources of English law? There will be this Act, on data protection, and the direct implementation through the EU withdrawal Bill on the same subject. The two may conflict because this Act will not contain the recitals.
My Lords, all I can say is that I do not know how the legal profession will cope in the circumstances.
One thing we can all be certain of is that the legal profession will cope.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 79 withdrawn.
Clause 14 agreed.
Schedule 2: Exemptions etc from the GDPR
Amendments 79A and 79B not moved.
80: Schedule 2, page 125, line 41, leave out paragraph 4
The Minister will be delighted to hear that I will speak only briefly to this amendment, because I do not want to steal my noble friend Lady Hamwee’s thunder. This amendment would remove exemption to data subjects’ rights where personal data is being processed for the maintenance of effective immigration control or for the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine it. The amendment would remove paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 in its entirety. There is no attempt to define this new objective; nowhere in the Bill or its Explanatory Notes are notions of effective immigration control, or the activities requiring its maintenance, defined.
The immigration exemption is new in the Bill; there was no direct equivalent under the Data Protection Act 1998. This is the broad and wide-ranging exemption that is open to abuse. The exemption should be removed altogether, as there are other exemptions in the Bill that the immigration authorities can, and should, seek to rely on for the processing of personal data in accordance with their statutory duties and functions. The current provision, under the heading “Immigration”, removes all rights from a data subject that the Home Office wishes it did not have. Such removals are not restricted to those who have been found guilty of immigration offences, but apply to every data subject, including Home Office clerical errors. It is exactly those errors that data protection regulates.
In particular, there is a concern that the application of the effective immigration control exemption will become an administrative device to disadvantage data subjects using the immigration appeals process. Since the exemption has nothing to do with crime, national security, public safety or the protection of sources, such a prospect appears a distinct possibility without a rational explanation. The immigration authorities should be able to justify the inclusion of this exemption on the basis of hard evidence. The Home Office should be able to provide examples of subject access requests where personal data were released to the detriment of the public interest.
This is not the first time the Government have attempted to limit data protection rights on immigration control grounds. Clause 28 of the Data Protection Bill 1983 had an identical aim, setting out broad exemptions to data subject rights on grounds of crime, national security and immigration control. The Data Protection Committee, then chaired by Sir Norman Lindop, said that the clause would be,
“a palpable fraud upon the public if … allowed to become law”,
because it allowed data acquired for one purpose to be processed for another. In the House of Lords, my late and much-missed noble friend Lord Avebury mounted a robust and ultimately successful opposition to Clause 28 in 1983. He raised concerns almost synonymous with those we raise today. His objections and those of several Members of the House have the same resonance now as they did then. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Committee may realise that there are sometimes occasions when none of us quite prepare for amendments and others where more than one of us does, but, as my noble friend knows, I rarely pass over an opportunity to say how offensive the phrase “hostile environment” is. Data protection should be a force for good in dealing with the way our society is going.
My noble friend has reminded the Committee of the provisions of paragraph 4. Over the last few years the state has extended the mechanisms for immigration control very significantly to letting of property, employment, bank accounts, driving and so on. We may be told that the various departments have memoranda of understanding between themselves with the Home Office to deal with all this, but that is an inadequate way of dealing with them. I do not think I will be the only one in the Chamber to think that. Home Office errors are reported embarrassingly frequently. The exemption covers so many rights: rights held by data subjects to access rectification and erasure, and the right to know who is processing data and why, including when data is obtained from a third party.
Liberty, with its usual energy, has provided us with 13 pages of briefing on this amendment. I do not propose to read them all to the Committee. No doubt the Government have read them and are prepared to respond, but I reserve the right to do so on Report if necessary. It reminds us of the work, if we needed reminding, of Lord Avebury, who said that the equivalent, very similar provision with which he was dealing was,
“in danger of being oppressive, deeply worrying to the immigrant community living among us, and one which is in grave danger of infringing the provisions”—[Official Report, 21/7/1983; cols. 1274-75]—
of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Minister will be relieved that I have not yet succeeded in emulating my late, much-missed noble friend to the extent I would like—I never will, but I will continue to try. His words are even more pertinent now, extending beyond the immigrant community to families and employers, to give two examples.
Like my noble friend, I would be interested to know examples and justifications for how the exemption might be applied. Presumably it would facilitate sharing between public services used by an individual, government departments and the Home Office to check the individual’s entitlement. The Government have said that they want to make the immigration system as “digital, flexible and frictionless” as possible. Initially that seems admirable, until one delves into issues such as this. Liberty asks whether the provision extends to activities such as running a night shelter or a food bank, which might well benefit undocumented migrants. Providing shelter and providing food could be construed as activities which undermine “effective immigration control”—to quote the Bill. Would a school have to provide a person’s address without their knowledge and without their even having committed an immigration offence? Underlying all this, what effect could such a provision have on migrants’ willingness to engage with public services?
Other noble Lords will probably have received a briefing from the Migrants’ Rights Network. It is about a legal challenge which it is starting against the NHS’s data sharing, but it is relevant here. The director of Migrants’ Rights Network said:
“We are gravely concerned that immigration enforcement is creeping into our public services, especially the NHS. And therefore, it is important to challenge this data-sharing agreement which violates patient confidentiality, and discriminates against those who are non-British”.
The lawyer acting for Migrants’ Rights Network says in the press release what I have heard from many workers in the field: that the data-sharing arrangement,
“is leaving migrants too scared to access healthcare services they are entitled to, for fear their address and other public information may be passed onto the Home Office. This could have a particularly negative effect on children, pregnant women, people with disabilities and victims of trafficking and abuse”.
It could have a severe effect on public health as well—we will debate all this when we deal with NHS charges in the regret Motion on Thursday.
The data subject will not know that data are transferred to the Home Office for immigration control purposes. The exemption seems to apply to immigrants and those connected with them, and those suspected of having an immigration offence in contemplation, thus turning them into an inferior class of citizen. It allows, or perhaps requires, data controllers, including the Home Office and its various arms, processing information for immigration purposes to ignore the principles on which the use of data is founded under the GDPR and the Bill and protection is applied.
I think that your Lordships might gather that we are very unhappy with this provision. It needs more justification than I think is capable of being provided, although we will of course wait and see.
My Lords, the Minister, who is not in his place at the moment, said earlier that he could not understand what I meant by repressive measures, but paragraph 4 of the schedule is exactly what I meant and it is why this amendment would remove it.
The inclusion of an immigration control exemption in the Bill is a brazen violation of the data protection and privacy rights of migrants—both documented and undocumented—and of their families and communities in the name of immigration control. In effect, it removes all the Home Office’s data protection obligations as they relate to its activities to control immigration, as well as those of any other agency processing personal data for the same purpose or sharing data with another agency processing it for that purpose.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned, it is not the first time that the Government have tried to limit data protection rights on immigration control grounds. In 1983, Clause 28 of the then Data Protection Bill had an identical aim, setting out broad exemptions to data subjects’ rights on grounds of crime, national security and immigration control. The Data Protection Committee, then chaired by Sir Norman Lindop, said that the clause would be,
“a palpable fraud upon the public if … allowed to become law”,
because it allowed data acquired for one purpose to be processed for another; and here is another power grab by this Government.
Clause 28 was rightly removed from the 1983 Bill, but today we see it resurrected with even more breadth and even less definition of its objectives. No attempt whatever has been made to define the new objective: nowhere in the Bill or its Explanatory Notes are the notions of effective immigration control or the activities requiring its maintenance defined. I simply do not understand the colossal cheek this Government have to put something such as this into a Bill and then present it in this House—I can understand it going through the other place but certainly not here. It is virtually impossible to come up with an exhaustive list of all the activities that might be included under this, or of individuals who might be affected. The potential list, as, again, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out, could go far beyond the immigrants themselves and could apply to almost anybody, including some in your Lordships’ House—at least, I hope that some in your Lordships’ House might be involved in shelters and food banks.
I urge the Government to think again. This is probably one of the really nasty bits that the Government have an option to take out, so I hope that they will listen to us.
My Lords, I thoroughly support this amendment. I really hope that the Home Office has noticed that the Bill is starting in this House and that therefore this is a clause we can kill—and should, as we did in 1983. If the Home Office needs something more, it should make a case for it and we should listen, but to have a blanket provision such as this is very destructive of data collection as a whole. To take again the example of the NPD, the fact that data is passed from the NPD to the Home Office has made the bits of data that are being passed totally corrupt: one can no longer rely on that data because so many schools, not unnaturally, are unwilling to shop their parents and drop their parents into what can be extremely difficult circumstances. You destroy the purpose of the data that you pollute in this way; you make it unreliable. I suspect that you also undermine the research exemption: if data is actually being collected to give to the Home Office, how can you claim that it is for research? You start to undermine the Bill in all sorts of insidious ways by having such a broad and unjustified clause— unjustified in the sense that no one has made a justification for it. I really hope that the Home Office will think again.
My Lords, first, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, back to the Committee. Every time I get to the Bill I speak either to her or to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, so I am glad we are back again in Committee.
Amendment 80, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, would delete paragraph 4 from Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Bill, as we have heard. I have added my name to the amendment, as have the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. The amendment deletes the whole paragraph which exempts personal data from the GDPR provisions as they relate, first, to the maintenance of effective immigration control and, secondly, to the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control. I want to be very clear that the intention of this amendment is to enable the Government to explain to us why they think the clause is necessary. As we have heard, it is very wide ranging and has been rejected in the past, so I hope the Minister can explain why it is so important that this clause gets through in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, raised important points about the broad potential risks to data subjects’ rights, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb.
I certainly want an effective immigration service and policy, along with proper immigration controls. Having said that, I am not happy with many aspects of the policies being pursued by the Government with respect to immigration. They are ones that I do not support and they have damaged our reputation as a generous country that has been respected around the world. Unfortunately, that is not the only area where the Government have damaged our reputation. I should like the noble Baroness to explain very carefully why she believes that there is a need for this provision and where it differs from what is already in force. As we have heard, under other provisions the Government have what they need in terms of ensuring that these matters are dealt with properly. The exemptions certainly appear to be wide ranging and I want to be convinced that they are absolutely necessary. As I said, there are provisions in other Acts that the Government can rely on. At this stage, I await the response of the noble Baroness.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. There is clearly a lot of interest, as is evident from what has been said. I am also glad to be back opposite the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, as we have been on so many occasions, and I am sure we will be in the future. It is probably worth addressing some of the evident misunderstandings that have arisen around the purpose and the scope of this provision, and I hope to be able to persuade the Committee that this is a necessary and proportionate measure to protect the integrity of our immigration system.
The Government welcome the enhanced rights and protections for data subjects afforded by the GDPR and in negotiating, it was accepted by all parties that at times these rights needed to be qualified in the general public interest, whether that is to prevent and detect crime, safeguard legal professional privilege or journalists’ sources, or in this case maintain an effective system of immigration control. A number of articles of the GDPR therefore make express provision for such derogations, including article 23, which enables restrictions to be placed on certain rights of data subjects. Given the extension of data subjects’ rights under the GDPR, it is necessary that we include in the Bill an express targeted exemption in the immigration context. The exemption would apply to the processing of personal data by immigration officers and the Secretary of State for the purposes of maintaining effective immigration control or the detection and investigation of activities which would undermine the system of immigration control. It would also apply to other public authorities required or authorised to share information with the Secretary of State for either of those purposes.
It is important that it is clear to the Committee what paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 does not do. It emphatically does not set aside the whole of the GDPR for all processing of personal data for all immigration purposes. The opening words of paragraph 4 make it clear that only “the listed GDPR provisions” may be set aside. The listed GDPR provisions are those set out in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2. The provisions in question relate to various rights of data subjects as provided for in chapter 3 of the GDPR, such as the rights to information and to access to personal data, and to two of the data protection principles: those relating to fair and transparent processing and the purpose limitation. Except to that extent, all the data protection principles, including those relating to the lawfulness of processing, data minimisation, accuracy, storage limitation, and integrity and confidentiality will continue to apply. So too will all the obligations on data controllers and processors, all the safeguards around cross-border transfers and all the oversight and enforcement powers of the Information Commissioner. The latter is particularly relevant here as it is open to any data subject affected by the provisions in paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner, which the commissioner is then obliged to investigate.
Moreover, paragraph 4 does not give the Home Office carte blanche to invoke the permitted exceptions as a matter of routine. The Bill is clear: the exceptions may be applied only to the extent that the application of the rights of data subjects or the two relevant data protection principles,
“would be likely to prejudice … the maintenance of effective immigration control, or … the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control”.
This is a significant and important qualification. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked why we have not listed exactly what we mean by,
“the maintenance of effective immigration control”.
The maintenance of that control does not merely encompass physical immigration controls at points of entry but, more generally, the arrangements made in connection with a person’s entry into and stay within the United Kingdom. A system of effective immigration control depends on our ability to control the entry and stay of those who wish to come to our country; to identify those who should not be admitted; and to pursue enforcement action against those who are liable to removal for failure to comply with restrictions and conditions on their stay, or otherwise in the public interest.
To use the example of the right conferred by article 15 of the GDPR, each subject access request would need to be considered on its own merits. We could not, for example, and would not want to limit the information given to visa applicants as to how their personal data will be processed as part of that application. Rather, the restrictions would bite only where there is a real likelihood of prejudice to immigration controls in disclosing the information concerned. It is equally important to dispel one other myth. Some of the briefing I have seen on this provision suggests that it creates new information-sharing gateways. This is simply not the case. As I have indicated, Schedule 2 sets out certain exceptions from the GDPR; it does not in and of itself create new powers to share data between data controllers. However, where personal data is shared between controllers for the limited immigration purposes specified in paragraph 4, it does mean that the data subject does not need to be notified if to do so would be prejudicial to the maintenance of effective immigration control.
It may assist the Committee if I explain the kind of information that it might be necessary to withhold from data subjects, and offer a couple of examples of the circumstances requested by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, where to do so would be necessary to maintain the effectiveness of our immigration controls. The classes of information which the Home Office may need to withhold include a description of the data held, our data sources, the purposes for which the data was held, and details of the recipients to whom the data has been disclosed. There will be circumstances where the disclosure to data subjects of such information could afford them the opportunity to circumvent our immigration controls. Two examples will, I hope, help to illustrate where the disclosure of such information may have precisely the adverse effect.
First, in the case of a suspected overstayer, if we had to disclose in response to a subject access request what we are doing to track their whereabouts with a view to effecting administrative removal, it is clearly possible that they might then be able to evade enforcement action. A second example relates to circumstances where we seek to establish the legitimacy of a particular claim, such as an extension of leave to remain in the UK, and suspect that the claimant has provided false information to support that claim. In such a case, we may contact third parties to evidence the claim. If we are then obliged to inform the claimant that we are accessing records held by third parties, they may abscond and evade detection. Such procedures may then become common knowledge and further undermine our ability to maintain effective controls.
Immigration is, naturally, a very sensitive subject area and a topic of huge importance to the public, to the economic well-being of this country and to the social cohesion of our society. Being able to effectively control immigration is, therefore, in the words of the GDPR,
“an important objective of general public interest”.
As I have indicated, having a new data protection regime which seeks to give broader rights to data subjects is to be welcomed. But in an area as sensitive as the immigration system, we need to make appropriate use of the limited exemptions available to us so that we can continue to maintain effective control of that system in the wider public interest.
I hope that I have been able to satisfy noble Lords that this provision is necessary and proportionate. It is not the wholesale carve-out of subject access rights that some have suggested but a targeted provision wholly in line with the discretion afforded to member states by the GDPR, and it is vital to maintaining the integrity of the immigration system.
Having given this provision a good airing, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, there is a lot that demands careful reading and careful thought. I have three questions which I can raise now. First, in the examples which the Minister gave it struck us on these Benches that she was talking about things which are, in fact, criminal offences being dealt with under Part 3, which is the law enforcement part of the Bill.
Secondly, how is all this applied in practice? How does the controller know about the purposes? I am finding it quite difficult to envisage how this might work in real life. Thirdly, the Minister referred to the lawfulness of processing. I wonder whether this is not circular because paragraph 4, in disapplying listed provisions—by the way, I think those listed provisions include many which are very important indeed—makes it lawful, so I have a bit of a problem around that. Of course, I and others will carefully read what the Minister said, but I am sure we will want to return to this at the next stage.
My Lords, I felt entirely comfortable with my noble friend’s examples, but they do not fit with what the Home Office has been doing. What it has done with the national pupil database is not to ask targeted questions when it has a problem with an individual but to collect the whole lot so that it has the ability to trawl, look at, match and use the whole of the dataset. That is a much more dangerous thing because of the consequences it has for the integrity of the data and for the way in which the lawfulness of gathering it is questioned. It is that sort of practice that troubles me. I had not read this clause in the narrow way in which my noble friend described it. I will obviously go away and read it again carefully, but if she would add a letter to her noble friend’s letter enlarging on why this is a narrow provision and giving us comfort, that would be worth while for me.
I thank my noble friend for that. In the meantime, I think my words should be reread, particularly my point about it not being a wholesale carve-out but quite a narrow exemption. I will write to noble Lords. I thought I might home in on one question that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about relying on this in the investigation, detection and prevention of crime. Of course, that is not always the correct and proportionate response to persons who are in the UK without lawful authority and may not be the correct remedy. I will write to noble Lords, and I hope that the noble Lord will feel happy to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister. For a Home Office Minister she has a wonderful ability to create a sense of reassurance, which is quite dangerous. I am afraid that for all her well-chosen words, these Benches are not convinced. In particular, I noticed that she started off by saying, “This is only a very limited measure; it does not set aside everything”. But paragraph 1 sets aside nine particular aspects, all of which are pretty important. This provision is not a pussycat; it is very important.
I thank all those who spoke, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I thought the support from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for this amendment—I called him the right name this time—was rather more equivocal, and I hope he has not been persuaded by the noble Baroness’s siren song this evening. This is a classic example of the Home Office dusting off and taking off the shelf a provision which it has been dying to put on the statute book for years. The other rather telling point is that the noble Baroness said there is express provision for such derogation in the GDPR. But that is no reason to adopt it—just because it is possible, it is not necessarily desirable. But no, they say, let us adopt a nice derogation of this kind when it is actually not necessary.
As my noble friend pointed out, the Minister has not actually adduced any example which was not covered by existing exemptions, for instance, criminal offences. We will read with great care what the Minister has said, but I do not think that the “Why now?” question has really been answered this evening. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 80 withdrawn.
Amendment 80A not moved.
Amendments 81 to 83
81: Schedule 2, page 126, line 29, leave out “is necessary”
82: Schedule 2, page 126, line 30, at beginning insert “is necessary”
83: Schedule 2, page 126, line 31, leave out from “proceedings),” to “establishing” in line 32 and insert—
“( ) is necessary for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, or( ) is otherwise necessary for the purposes of”
Amendments 81 to 83 agreed.
Amendments 83A and 83B not moved.
Amendments 84 to 86
84: Schedule 2, page 127, line 33, leave out from “bankrupts” to end of line 38
85: Schedule 2, page 127, line 38, at end insert—
“1A. The function is designed to protect members of the public against—(a)dishonesty, malpractice or other seriously improper conduct by persons who carry on any activity that brings them into contact with members of the public, or (b)the unfitness or incompetence of persons who carry on any activity that brings them into contact with members of the public. The function is of a public nature, or is exercised in the public interest.”
“1A. The function is designed to protect members of the public against—(a)dishonesty, malpractice or other seriously improper conduct by persons who carry on any activity that brings them into contact with members of the public, or (b)the unfitness or incompetence of persons who carry on any activity that brings them into contact with members of the public.
The function is of a public nature, or is exercised in the public interest.”
86: Schedule 2, page 130, line 2, at end insert—
“A1. The Commissioner By or under— (a) the data protection legislation; (b) the Freedom of Information Act 2000; (c) the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/2426); (d) the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (S.I. 2004/3391); (e) the INSPIRE Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009/3157); (f) Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC; (g) the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/1415); (h) the Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulations 2016 (S.I. 2016/696). A2. The Pensions Ombudsman. By or under Part 10 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 or any corresponding legislation having equivalent effect in Northern Ireland. A3. The Board of the Pension Protection Fund. By or under sections 206 to 208 of the Pensions Act 2004 or any corresponding legislation having equivalent effect in Northern Ireland. A4. The Ombudsman for the Board of the Pension Protection Fund. By or under any of sections 209 to 218 or 286(1) of the Pensions Act 2004 or any corresponding legislation having equivalent effect in Northern Ireland. A5. The Pensions Regulator. By or under any enactment.”
“A1. The Commissioner
By or under—
(a) the data protection legislation;
(b) the Freedom of Information Act 2000;
(c) the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/2426);
(d) the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (S.I. 2004/3391);
(e) the INSPIRE Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009/3157);
(f) Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC;
(g) the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/1415);
(h) the Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulations 2016 (S.I. 2016/696).
A2. The Pensions Ombudsman.
By or under Part 10 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 or any corresponding legislation having equivalent effect in Northern Ireland.
A3. The Board of the Pension Protection Fund.
By or under sections 206 to 208 of the Pensions Act 2004 or any corresponding legislation having equivalent effect in Northern Ireland.
A4. The Ombudsman for the Board of the Pension Protection Fund.
By or under any of sections 209 to 218 or 286(1) of the Pensions Act 2004 or any corresponding legislation having equivalent effect in Northern Ireland.
A5. The Pensions Regulator.
By or under any enactment.”
Amendments 84 to 86 agreed.
Amendments 86A to 86D not moved.
87: Schedule 2, page 135, line 42, at end insert—
“( ) the placement (or prospective placement) of the data subject as a volunteer,”
Amendment 87 agreed.
87ZA: Schedule 2, page 136, line 40, leave out “only”
My Lords, I will be as brief as I possibly can in moving this amendment and speaking to the group, which relates to paragraph 24 of Schedule 2 to the Bill, in Part 5, and the exemptions for journalistic, academic, literary and artistic purposes. I declare my interest as director of the Telegraph Media Group and draw attention to my other media interests. However, I underline that these amendments are not simply of importance to what we used to call the print media, but have the support of a range of broadcast and online media organisations as well as the Media Lawyers Association, the News Media Association and the Society of Editors, as the Bill has a very wide impact on them all.
In Committee last week, the Government reiterated their strong commitment to the,
“operation of a free press”,
“fundamental principle of any liberal democracy”,
in relation to this Bill and journalistic exemptions.
My noble friend the Minister also sought to make it clear that the Bill seeks to preserve the important “balance” between privacy and free speech found in the 1998 Act, the operation of which has been so successful, as well as ensuring that the journalists remain, in his words,
“exempt from compliance with certain data protection requirements where to do so would undermine the operation of a free press”.—[Official Report, 6/11/17; col. 1675.]
These amendments seek to build on those commitments by proposing some ways in which journalistic safeguards can be made clearer and strengthened further. Some of them seek to ensure consistency in application of the journalistic exemption between the 1998 Act and the Bill; some would extend journalistic exemption, but always subject to the Bill’s conditions, to match new requirements of the GDPR which would otherwise threaten freedom of expression and journalism; and some are intended to avert potential exploitation of the new regime, especially where legal action—often on spurious grounds—can bypass the freedom of expression protections crafted so carefully by those in this House under the Defamation Act 2013, a point I highlighted at Second Reading.
The amendments are intended to safeguard investigative journalism, publication and archives, both domestic and international, for all news media, print and online. In particular, they would prevent the Information Commissioner becoming a statutory regulator of the media, with dangerous and unprecedented prepublication powers. Where the accuracy of what has been published is challenged, they would adopt the approach of defamation law, rather than undermining it. I hope that my noble friend will give serious consideration to the issues and suggested amendments.
I turn briefly to the operation of the amendments. Amendments 87ZA, 174A and 174B would mean that the Bill no longer stipulated processing “only” for the special purposes. This is because article 5 of the GDPR, which mandates exemptions for the purposes of journalism and for academic, literary and artistic purposes, does not require that processing take place “only” for those purposes to benefit from the exemptions. If there is ancillary processing, the exemption should not be vulnerable to any claim that it might be lost.
For example, the media should not be penalised under data protection law in this way if, say, the police sought the pre-broadcast disclosure of journalistic material in relation to an undercover investigation because they wanted to see whether the alleged wrongdoing uncovered by the broadcaster’s investigation merited further police investigation. Furthermore, if broadcast media fund their activities through regulator-approved activities such as Ofcom’s product placement, this should not prevent them benefiting from the exemption.
Amendments 87AA, 87AB and 87AC would amend Schedule 2, part 5 and paragraph 24(2)(a), as the current wording of the Bill arguably represents a narrowing of the application of the exemptions from those in the Data Protection Act 1998, which apply to,
“processing … undertaken with a view to publication by any person of any journalistic, literary or artistic material”.
The amendments would ensure that both the specific personal data and the related material which forms part of the background research are protected.
Amendment 87CA, adding a new subsection to paragraph 24(2), is another aimed at consistency in the transition to the new Act, in this case relating to how to judge where the application of the GDPR principles is incompatible with the special purposes, including journalism—hence the all-important circumstances where the media can rely on the exemption. This amendment would bring the Bill in line with non-binding guidance from the Information Commissioner, which already recognises that media organisations can form the reasonable belief that compliance would be incompatible with the special purposes where it would be, “impractical or inappropriate”.
Amendments 87DA and 87DB to paragraph 24(3) are intended to ensure proper safeguards for journalism and freedom of expression. The provision currently fails to reflect that the exemption applies where the data controller reasonably believes that publication would be in the public interest. In addition, the provision refers to what the controller “must take into account”—quite properly, the special importance of freedom of expression. However, it should also be made clear that the public interest in freedom of expression and information itself, in the widest sense—from the trivial to the most serious—must be taken into account by the Information Commissioner and the courts, again to maintain consistency of approach with the 1998 Act.
Amendments 89C to 89F and 91B address the need for further exemptions, as permitted by GDPR article 85. This is because the GDPR provisions could otherwise have serious, albeit unintended, consequences for all the media. These are additions to the list under Schedule 2, part 5 and paragraph 24(8).
Amendments 89C and 91B are perhaps more procedural and technical in nature. I will come to those but, first, Amendments 89D 89E and 89F raise serious issues concerning the maintenance of integrity of investigations, publications and archives.
Amendment 89D to Schedule 2, Part 5, paragraph 24 (8)(b), would provide a vital exemption from article 36—the requirement for prior consultation set out in chapter IV of the GDPR. Without such an exemption, there would be an obligation to consult the ICO up to 14 weeks or more in advance, where a “data protection impact assessment” indicates that the proposed processing would result in high risk to data subjects in the absence of measures to mitigate that risk. Put simply, this could be a huge risk to investigative journalism, particularly by broadcasters. It could impact their public interest undercover investigations and use of covert filming techniques, such as when investigating allegations of abuse against vulnerable residents at a care home or conditions at a detention centre.
The existing regulatory codes already require them to believe use of such methods to be necessary in the public interest. It is a dangerous departure of principle from the protections in the Data Protection Act 1998 against pre-publication interference, and is at odds with the fundamental traditions of UK journalism and legal safeguards for freedom of expression. It is wholly inappropriate to require the broadcasters or other media to consult the ICO and seek approval prior to investigations requiring use of secret filming techniques and similar emerging technology, such as drone use or wearable technology. Article 36 could stifle investigative journalism and add yet another unprecedented pre-publication power to the Information Commissioner’s potential armoury of statutory pre-publication tools. That is why the amendment states that there must be an exemption from the article 36 prior consultation requirements, provided that the media can satisfy the exemption conditions set out in the relevant provisions in this part of the Bill.
Amendments 89E and 89F have been tabled to put beyond doubt the public interest protections for journalistic activity and publication across borders and media archives through the freedom of expression exemptions mandated by Article 85. Amendment 89E to paragraph 24(8)(b) in Schedule 2 would add a journalistic exemption consistent with satisfaction of the conditions in paragraph 24 of Schedule 2 from the requirements of chapter V of the GDPR concerning transfer of personal data to third countries outside the European Economic Area or international organisations. Third country transfers, of course, include online publication itself. This exemption would enable international publication by UK online publishers, be they the BBC, the Guardian or any other UK news brand sought out by international audiences. The journalistic exemption is also needed to allow collaborative investigative journalism, swiftly sharing data across borders where appropriate, such as with the Panama papers or, as we have seen just recently with the Paradise papers. The journalistic exemption is also required for communications between the media and their foreign correspondents wherever they might be situated outside the EEA.
Amendment 89F would provide the explicit safeguard for news media archives which is currently lacking from the Bill. This would ensure that media archives, whose role and importance the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, described so well at Second Reading, constitute archiving in the public interest and receive the protection of the exemptions. This would be in line with recital 153 of the GDPR, which provides that the protection to be afforded to freedom of expression and information should apply,
“in particular to the processing of personal data in the audio visual field and in news archives and press libraries”.
There are two procedural but none the less important amendments completing this group. Amendment 89C to paragraph 24(8)(b) would add an exemption to article 19 of the GDPR, which requires data controllers to inform the data subject about the recipients of personal data subject to rectification or erasure, if requested by the data subject. While exemptions might apply, the media do broadcast and publish corrections and take other measures. It would be entirely inappropriate to say that article 19 might require the provision of information about individual “publishees” and could be in breach of such individuals’ freedom of expression and data protection rights, as well as in breach of privacy notices.
Finally, Amendment 91B is a measure to mirror the improvements made to defamation law and to protect against the undermining of their freedom of expression safeguards, by attempted exploitation of the data protection laws instead. This, as legal expects among you—I am not one—will instantly recognise is akin to the introduction of a rebuttable single publication rule and a limitation period of one year subject to further amendment to the Limitation Act 1980. Any complaint concerning accuracy of material processed for journalistic, academic, literary and artistic purposes can and should be brought promptly. Some complainants already attempt to abuse data protection law by bringing complaints many years after material is first published, when it will be more difficult for the media, as data controller or processor, to substantiate the accuracy of the publication and the veracity of the complaint. To maintain consistency with the defences under the Defamation Act 2013, this amendment proposes that a limitation period be introduced to prevent complaints about accuracy being brought outside a period of one year after the date of first publication. If adopted, the Limitation Act 1980 should be accordingly amended. This time limit would then apply to both ICO enforcement action and legal claims. Such measures are needed to protect against libel claims being dressed up as data protection actions, to the detriment of freedom of expression and information.
As I said at Second Reading, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend the Minister, and to the DDCMS, for the constructive way in which they have approached the media issues arising in this Bill and the helpful, dialogue that they have maintained throughout. These amendments are proposed in the spirit of that dialogue to ensure that the Government’s clear intention to maintain the correct balance between privacy and freedom of expression and information is as robust and effective as possible. I beg to move.
My Lords, when the famous French long-serving Foreign Minister Talleyrand died and the news was taken to his long-term rival Prince Metternich of Austria, Metternich looked at the telegram and said, “What does he mean by this?”. Some of my friends have a similar reaction to any amendments that carry the name of the noble Lord, Lord Black, but I am not among them. I think that we share a common belief in a free and a vigorous and independent press. He knows that when at Second Reading he referred to the Defamation Act 2013, my ears pricked up, because it is one of the things that I am most proud of from my time as a Minister. With my noble friend Lord Lester as my mentor, we piloted that Bill into legislation. I am certainly very interested in any amendment that would prevent this Bill becoming a backdoor to getting around the protections that the Defamation Act gave to free comment and academic freedom to have peer comment, and so on. The Act has worked—we are no longer considered the libel capital of the world—and there is a great deal more freedom in the academic world for peer comments and criticisms, without the threat of libel actions, which had a chilling effect.
The problem is that this is an alphabet soup of amendments, which the noble Lord, Lord Black, has put forward with great clarity, so we will be able to study what exactly he wants to do and how he wants to do it. I am interested in a number of things; I am interested in the idea, which he quite rightly pointed out, of investigative journalists having to give prior notice of what they are doing, which seems rather counterintuitive to the idea of investigative journalism. I have certainly received that point of view from the BBC and other forms of journal about the effect of that proposal. The noble Lord, Lord Black, is quite right. We have seen only recently the Paradise papers as another example of investigative journalism exposing things that people would rather keep quiet, which is massively in the public interest. He also referred to the number of exposés of care homes, prisons and young offender institutions, all of which are massively in the public interest. It would be wrong to allow the Bill to bring into law provisions that would chill, prevent or curb the great traditions of a free and vigorous press. In the spirit of Committee stage, I would like to look carefully at what the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Black, seek to do. As he knows, after Second Reading I offered to collaborate with him on amendments but that would probably have been too great a shock to both our constitutions. However, I would certainly be interested to see where we can work together on the broad aim of ensuring that the Bill contains no accidental curbs on the activities of a vigorous and free press and media.
As I have said before, the noble Lord, Lord Black, and his friends would be in a stronger position if the background to this was not one of previous criminality and invasion of the privacy of people who had every right to see their privacy protected. Therefore, there is bound to be a certain scepticism about whether these proposals give overgenerous access to overbroad exemptions. But let us have a look at them and at some of the issues that have been raised in other quarters—as I say, by the BBC and journals that are not members of IPSO that have expressed the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Black. Following that and what the Minister is about to tell us, we can then make judgments about how we shall approach these issues on Report.
My Lords, we are all very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Black, for his very full introduction to these amendments. I shall read very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said and take his remarks on their merits. I have no problem with that.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Black, will not mind if I quote what he said in Committee only a week ago and pose a question to him. He said:
“This Bill is very carefully crafted to balance rights to free expression and rights to privacy, which of course are of huge importance. It recognises the vital importance of free speech in a free society at the same time as protecting individuals. It replicates a system which has worked well for 20 years and can work well for another 20”.—[Official Report, 6/11/17; cols. 1667-68.]
What a difference a week makes to one’s thinking. The noble Lord was pressed by a number of noble Lords, including his noble friend Lord Attlee, to come up with a much more detailed and engaged critique. We would love to hear from him again if he is prepared to tell us why there has been a change in his thinking. However, I do not think that gets in the way of what he is saying, which is that some issues need to be addressed. We will look at them carefully when we have the chance to see them in print. I shall also be interested to hear what the noble Baroness makes of this when she replies.
As my noble friend Lord Black and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, the Government are firmly committed to preserving the freedom of the press, maintaining the balance between privacy and the freedom of expression in our existing law that has served us well.
I shall try to reply to my noble friend as I go through the many amendments—a soup of amendments, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said. As we heard, Amendments 87ZA, 87AA, 87AB and 87AC would enable the special purposes exemptions to be used when processing for other purposes in addition to a special purpose. The use of the word “only” in the Bill is consistent with the existing law. Examples have been given of where further processing beyond the special purposes might be justified without prejudicing the overall journalistic intent in the public interest. None the less, the media industry has been able to operate effectively under the existing law, and while we are all in favour of further clarity, we must be careful not to create any unintended consequences.
Paragraph 24(3) of Schedule 2 concerns the test to determine whether something is in the public interest. Amendment 87CA seeks to define the compatibility requirement, and Amendments 87DA and 87DB seek to clarify the reasonable belief test. The Bill is clear that the exemption will apply where the journalist reasonably believes that publication would be in the public interest, taking account of the special importance of the public interest in the freedom of expression and information. To determine whether publication is in the public interest is a decision for the journalist. They must decide one way or another. It is not necessary to change the existing position.
Amendments 89C to 89F seek to widen the available exemptions by adding in additional data rights that can be disapplied. Amendment 89C seeks to add an exemption for article 19 concerning the obligation to give the data subjects notice regarding the processing carried out under articles 16, 17 and 18 of the GDPR. The Bill already provides exemptions for the special purposes for these articles, rendering article 19 irrelevant in this context.
Amendment 89D seeks to add an exemption for article 36. This requires the controller to give notice to the Information Commissioner before engaging in high-risk processing. My noble friend Lord Black and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, both argued that this might require the commissioner to be given notice of investigative journalistic activity. This is not the case. We do not believe that investigative journalism needs to put people’s rights at high risk. Investigative journalism, like other data-processing activities, should be able to manage risks to an acceptable level.
Amendment 89E concerns the need for journalists to transfer data to third countries. We are carefully considering whether the GDPR creates any obstacles of the type described. We certainly do not intend to prevent the transfers the noble Lord describes.
Amendment 89F seeks to add an exemption from the safeguards in article 89 that relate to research and archiving. Following the interventions of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, the Government have agreed to look again at these safeguards. Once we have completed that, we will assess whether any related derogations also need reconsidering.
Amendment 91B seeks to introduce a time limit by which complaints can be brought. The Government agree that complaints should be brought in a timely manner and are concerned to hear of any perceived abuses. We will consider this further and assess the evidence base.
The Government are firmly committed to preserving the freedom of the press and preventing restrictions to journalists’ ability to investigate issues in the public interest. We will continue to consider the technical points raised by my noble friend, and I hope—at this late hour, and with the view that we will further consider points that have been raised—that he feels able to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to my noble friend for those words and to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate at this late hour. Apart from anything else, it has given me an opportunity to say words which I never thought I would hear myself say: I agree with virtually everything that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said this evening.
Then I certainly must read Hansard carefully in the morning.
I am particularly pleased that the noble Lord mentioned Prince Metternich, who of course was no great fan of liberal democracy. I understand that he once said that the best way to protect the freedom of the press was for nothing whatever to be published over the course of the next five years. That may indeed be the case.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that in Committee last week we talked about a very different set of amendments from the one that I am proposing this evening. Those amendments were about press regulation. I argued then, and I argue now, that that should not have anything to do with this Bill. My amendments this evening do not undermine what I believe to be a very good balance, and I absolutely stick by my words; they merely provide clarification in some important areas.
I think I sense from the Committee that it would be useful to look in more detail at what I have proposed. I would be happy to talk about it further with noble Lords and to take up my noble friend’s offer to continue constructive dialogue. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 87ZA withdrawn.
Amendments 87A to 88 not moved.
Amendment 89 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendments 89A to 89F not moved.
90: Schedule 2, page 137, line 45, leave out sub-paragraph (9)
Amendment 90 agreed.
Amendments 91 to 91B not moved.
Amendments 92 and 93
92: Schedule 2, page 138, line 10, at beginning insert “For the purposes of this paragraph,”
93: Schedule 2, page 138, line 30, at beginning insert “For the purposes of this paragraph,”
Amendments 92 and 93 agreed.
Schedule 2, as amended, agreed.