Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 32



1.  Registration of the WI under the DPA 1998

1.1  Since it was set up in 1995, the Warnings Index has been regarded as exempt from the provisions of the 1984 Data Protection Act (DPA) on the grounds of national security. However, in view of changes in the structure of the data base and new legislation we are reviewing our position in relation to registration. Registration under the DPA would not radically change the way we operate. We already comply with the principles of the DPA other than in relation to data disclosure. After registration we would be exempt from the requirement to disclose personal data which is held for the prevention or detection of crime or for reasons of national security.

2.  Exchanges with Public Bodies within the UK

  2.1  Sections 20 and 21 of the new Immigration and Asylum Act created the class of "information gateway" with the main law enforcement agencies: the police, NCIS, NCS and Customs and Excise. The information may only be used in connection with the core functions of those organisations, in our case for immigration purposes.

  22.  The WI receives and shares information with UK Government Agencies other than those designated as gateways in the Immigration and Asylum Act. The exchange of personal data is permitted under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 of the DPA providing it is necessary for the exercise of any function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department. Likewise, the exchange of sensitive personal data is permitted under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 of the DPA providing that it is necessary for the exercise of any function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department. We are satisfied therefore that such data exchanges are lawful.

3.  National Security

  3.1  A proportion of the current WI entries relate to national security. Although this is not an appropriate forum in which to discuss the extent, source or content of those entries, we are satisfied that the agencies supplying such information for inclusion are permitted to do so by law.

4.  Exchanges with Public Bodies outside the UK

  4.1  The eighth principle of the DPA 1998 is that personal data should not be transferred to a country outside the European Economic Area unless that state provides an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects.

  4.2  The WI System is used in Immigration Offices in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are outside the EEA. These territories have data protection legislation that mirrors the 1984 UK Act and we believe that this provides the required level of protection.

  4.3  The WI is also used in UK visa offices in Taipei and at Hamilton. The former is not in diplomatic premises and the latter is managed by the Government of a Dependent Territory. Schedule 4, paragraph 4 (1) of the 1998 DPA exempts a data controller from the provisions of the Eighth Principle where the transfer is for reasons of substantial public interest or for the purpose of any legal proceedings. We believe that the use of the W1 in these offices is justified since its purpose is to maintain the integrity of the immigration control and national security.

  4.4  The Falkland Islands have no registered WI users.

5.  Human Rights Act

  5.1  The Human Rights Act will allow people to claim their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights in UK courts instead of having to go to the European Court in Strasbourg.

  5.2  Article 8 of the ECHR states:

    —  Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

    —  There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

  5.3  Our view is that any exchanges that involve the investigation of possible criminal offences would not be in breach of Article 8, as long as the exchange of information is necessary and proportionate for the purposes of the relevant investigation and are "in accordance with the law".

    —  Data changes are "in accordance with law" if they are carried out as a necessary part of the Immigration Service statutory functions.

    —  Any exchanges that take place to check whether a person is an immigration offender can be justified under the HRA.

    —  Outward transfers of information to other Government departments and public agencies are permissible as long as the exchanges are justified in terms of the receiving agency's core business.

  5.4  In view of the above we are satisfied that the operation of the WI is in accordance with the HRA.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 31 January 2001