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Clause 11

Right to prevent processing for purposes of direct marketing

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Howarth): I beg to move amendment No. 24, in page 8, line 27, leave out 'requirement' and insert 'notice'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 25, 26, 30 to 32, 39 to 45, 47, 49 to 54, 56 to 67 and 69.

Mr. Howarth: These are essentially minor, technical drafting amendments, and to save the time of the House I do not intend to make a speech about them. However, I should be happy to explain the purpose of any of them, should that be necessary.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 25, in page 8, line 28, leave out 'requirement' and insert 'notice'.--[Mr. McFall.]

Clause 12

Rights in relation to automated decision-taking

Amendment made: No. 26, in page 9, line 27, leave out from second 'decision' to end of line 28 and insert
'which is not based solely on such processing as is mentioned in subsection (1)'.--[Mr. McFall.]

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Clause 14

Rectification, blocking, erasure and destruction

Mr. George Howarth: I beg to move amendment No. 27, in page 10, line 30, leave out 'failure' and insert 'contravention'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 28 and 29.

Mr. Howarth: The first of the amendments simply corrects an inconsistency in the drafting of clause 14(4). Paragraph (a) refers to a contravention of the Act. Paragraph (b) refers to a further failure. It should refer to a "further contravention". The amendment makes the necessary change.

Clause 14(4) gives the court the power in certain circumstances to order the erasure, destruction or blocking of personal data. Elsewhere, for example in clause 14(1), the court has the power to order the rectification of personal data as well as their blocking, erasure or destruction. There is no good reason why clause 14(4) should not also allow the court to order the rectification of personal data. Indeed, the directive appears to suggest as much. On reflection, we think that confining the rectification remedy to cases of inaccuracy is unduly restrictive. The amendments add the power to rectify to clause 14(4) and make the consequential provision in clause 14(5); and generally align the wording with that used elsewhere.

7.30 pm

Mr. Greenway: We welcome the amendments. Clause 14 is extremely important in terms of data subject rights. We agree that the court should have the power to rectify information that is inaccurate in respect of data subjects. The three amendments strengthen the Bill in that area, and we are happy to see them incorporated.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 28, in page 10, line 32, leave out 'erasure, destruction or blocking' and insert

'rectification, blocking, erasure or destruction'.

No. 29, in page 10, line 35, leave out 'erasure, destruction or blocking' and insert

'rectification, blocking, erasure or destruction'--[Mr. McFall.]

Clause 17

Prohibition on processing without registration

Mr. George Howarth: I beg to move amendment No. 70, in page 12, line 6, leave out

'section 22 applies to the processing'

and insert

'the processing is assessable processing for the purposes of section 22'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 71 to 82.

Mr. Howarth: I hope to be able to deal quickly with this group of amendments, which makes what is essentially a series of technical improvements to the

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preliminary assessment provisions in clause 22 and associated provisions. The Bill provides for a limited category of processing, a category where particular worries about data subjects' interests arise, to be assessed by the Data Protection Commissioner for compliance with the principles before it may begin.

That implements the system described in article 20 of the directive as prior checking. It is essentially a system reliant on such processing being brought to the commissioner's attention some time before it actually begins, so that he or she can consider it and give a view. In itself, it is not a direct control on processing. It does not give the commissioner a power to intervene in advance and prevent the processing before any problem has in fact arisen. It remains the data controller's responsibility to address any concerns raised in his own way.

The simplest means of operating this system is through the process of notification. That is why all processing in this limited category, even where it is carried out manually or might otherwise have been exempted from the notification regime, has to be notified. Usually, when a data controller has made a notification, he may start processing immediately. In the limited category that we are now considering, after the processing has been notified, the data controller must wait for a fixed period, or until he has heard from the commissioner if that is sooner, before he may start processing. That is so that he or she can carry out an assessment.

As it stands, the Bill is not as clear as it might be that that is how the system works. The Government are aware that this is a very new feature in our data protection law, being introduced by the Bill as a result of an obligation in the directive. We are also aware that there is an understandable desire among those who might be directly affected for reassurance that the new system will work as clearly and straightforwardly as possible. That is why we have tabled the amendments.

The amendments essentially do three things. First, they make technical changes so that the key provisions in clause 22 are easier to follow and the sequence of events is set out more plainly. The drafting is simplified and made more narrative.

Secondly, the amendments make clearer the relationship between the preliminary assessment itself and the notification that precedes it. The entire operation of clause 22 is now explicitly predicated on the receipt of a notification by the commissioner, and a more distinct link is made between the processing as it is described in the notification and as it falls to be assessed.

Thirdly, both those improvements are carried through to the transitional provisions, where the arrangements are substantially simplified. The provisions on manual and automated data are brought together, and the preliminary assessment system is straightforwardly disapplied in both cases in respect of processing already under way immediately before 24 October 1998.

As I have said, preliminary assessment of this nature is a novelty in UK data protection law. Its purpose is to address understandable anxieties relating to particular categories of data processing. The Government are concerned that, in this sensitive area, the Bill's provisions should be as easy to follow and to operate as possible.

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These technical amendments make substantial improvements in that direction. I commend them to the House.

Mr. Greenway: In Committee, I made the point that, as the effect of the clause is to prevent the data controller from commencing processing until the Data Protection Commissioner has given consent for that processing, it is crucial that the commercial organisations involved know where they stand. Although I still have reservations about the period specified, I agree with the Minister that the amendments improve the meaning of the legislation. However, I draw attention to the fact that, even at this late stage, we are being asked to approve a large number of technical amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20

Duty to notify changes

Amendment made: No. 30, in page 13, line 45, after 'notification' insert 'under notification regulations made'.--[Mr. McFall.]

Clause 22

Preliminary assessment by Commissioner

Amendments made: No. 71, in page 14, line 8, leave out from beginning to "processing" and insert
'In this section "assessable processing" means'.
No. 72, in page 14, line 17, leave out from 'whether' to 'and' in line 18 and insert
'any of the processing to which the notification relates is assessable processing'.
No. 73, in page 14, line 19, leave out 'proposed' and insert 'assessable'.
No. 74, in page 14, line 23, leave out
'processing to which this section applies or would apply'
and insert 'assessable processing'.
No. 75, in page 14, line 25, leave out 'proposed'.
No. 76, in page 14, line 31, leave out from 'No' to 'shall' and insert
'assessable processing in respect of which a notification has been given to the Commissioner as mentioned in subsection (2)'.
No. 77, in page 14, line 32, leave out from beginning to 'either' in line 34.
No. 78, in page 14, line 42, leave out from 'controller' to end of line 44 and insert
'is guilty of an offence'.--[Mr. McFall.]

Clause 28

National security

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 17, line 43, at end insert--

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