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Mr. Heald: The Minister will agree that throughout the proceedings on the Bill, there has been considerable discussion of the position of business and the way in which it is influenced--I have gone on about that a lot. Does the Minister have any evidence in connection with Mr. Virgo's point about companies leaving the UK?
Mr. Clarke: None at all. I have heard that assertion only from Mr. Virgo. It would be of concern if it were true, but we do not have evidence of that. Obviously, we consider issues of the overall commercial environment with colleagues from the Department of Trade and Industry. The reverse of the assertion is true: the regime that we are establishing will increasingly be seen as one that strengthens e-commerce, rather than weakens it, because it strengthens public confidence in the whole of e-commerce.
Amendment No. 14 is an attempt to restrict the purposes for which communications data may be required from eight to five. That matter was fully debated in Committee, but I am happy to restate the main reasons why we need to retain the three purposes in question. Clause 21(2)(f) includes the purpose
An example of a situation in which such a provision is used is when flyers promising cheap cigarettes or tobacco, and giving a phone number to call, are pushed through letter boxes. An investigation at that early stage may very well not be a criminal investigation, but merely to ascertain whether the supplier had a tax liability. Another example is that of a tradesman who advertises in a newspaper, but is not VAT registered. If he earns enough to advertise, the chances are he is close to the VAT threshold and might have a tax liability, but an investigation would not necessarily be a criminal investigation.
If I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen) or any other member of the Committee the impression that I do not consider communications data important, I did so inadvertently: I believe that such data are important. However, during our discussion in Committee of the hierarchy of intrusion of different forms of data collection--including someone standing in one's front room, someone listening to one's phone conversations and so on--I suggested that the collection of communications data is not as individually intrusive as some of the other forms of surveillance. I firmly believe that communications data are important, and if I gave the contrary impression in Committee, I correct it now.
The amendment would restrict the purposes for which communications data may be used or disclosed to purposes for which it may be required under the Bill. Although the Bill does not address that particular issue, we believe that to a large extent, the purpose of the amendment is met by the Data Protection Act. My hon. Friend made that point in Committee. Several of the data protection principles are relevant, especially the second principle, which is that
I do not believe, therefore, that there is any need to add further restrictions on the use or disclosure of communications data, although I perceive the merit in explaining the relevant data protection principles in the code of practice to ensure the proper handling of communications data. The Government accept the principle that data should be used only for the specific purpose for which they are collected.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) asked about the question of time--an interesting and characteristically existential point. I have no detailed answer to offer, but I believe that we discussed that point in Committee when, if memory serves, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) raised it. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman if he wants me to, but I believe that data are collected for a specific purpose, not for a specific period of time; the key question is what period of time is appropriate for that purpose. As I said, we debated the matter at length in Committee, and I shall not repeat what I said there on the hon. Gentleman's final point. I shall write to him further if my remarks have been misleading.
With regard to the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen), did the Minister say that the Data Protection Act 1998, rather than any code or subsidiary legislation, was clear about all such
Mr. Clarke: I believe that the Data Protection Act 1998 is clear. That is why I quoted the data protection principle established in it. I believe that it is compatible with other legislation, including the Bill. It is incumbent on us to explain the relevant data protection principles in the code of practice, to make them clear to everyone.
Mr. Heald: We are not entirely satisfied, but I do not intend to press the amendment to a Division. The matter may be raised again in another place. Accordingly, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
ss. 27 and 28
'(4) In subsection (1) "relevant public authority" means any of the organisations listed in Schedule (Relevant public authorities).
(4A) The Secretary of State may by order add any other public authority to Schedule (Relevant public authorities).
|Public Authority||Directed Surveillance||Use of Covert Sources|
|Police forces, including:||Y||Y|
|British Transport Police||Y||Y|
|Ministry of Defence Police||Y||Y|
|National Crime Squad||Y||Y|
|HM Customs & Excise||Y||Y|
|Intelligence Services (Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ)||Y||Y|
|Ministry of Defence/Armed Forces||Y||Y|
|Home Office: Prison Service Immigration Service||Y||Y|
|Department of Social Security: Benefits Agency||Y||Y|
|Department of Health: Medical Devices Agency||Y|
|Food Standards Agency||Y|
|Medicine Control Agency||Y|
|High Security Hospitals||Y|
|Royal Pharmaceutical Society Department of Trade and Industry:||Y|
|Radio Communications Agency|
|Export Services Directorate||Y|
|Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions: Transport Security (Transec)||Y|
|Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: Sea Fisheries Inspectorate|
|Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)|
|Veterinary Medicines Directorate,||Y|
|Farming & Rural Conservation Agency||Y|
|Central Science Laboratory||Y||Y|
|Pesticides Safety Directorate||Y||Y|
|Meat Hygiene Service||Y||Y|
|Health and Safety Executive||Y|
|Serious Fraud Office||Y||Y|
|Financial Services Authority||Y||Y|
|Local authorities (as defined in Local Government Act 1999)|