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Patrick Mercer: I am conscious that we have a lot to get through in a very short space of time. Certainly, Conservative Members feel that we did not have enough time to cover as many clauses as we would have liked in Committee, where we constantly ran out of time, although I hope that I spoke with great brevity. I will try to do so again today, so that Members who are interested in speaking to their amendments in the available 15 minutes or so will have the opportunity to take part in the debate.
I will speak briefly to new clause 3, as well as amendments Nos. 30 to 32. It is designed to address the issue of disclosure from the register in terms of unlawful activities. First and foremost, I am extremely concerned about the wide powers in clause 19(1), which, to remind the House, says:
"The Secretary of State may, without the individual's consent, provide a person with information recorded in an individual's entry in the Register if . . . the provision of the information is authorised by this section; and . . . there is compliance with any requirements imposed by or under section 23 in relation to the provision of the information."
I am concerned about such wide powers to disclose information held on the register without the consent of registered individuals. The range of eligible authorities under clause 19(2)the director general of the Security Service, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, the director of the Government Communications Headquarters and the director general of the Serious Organised Crime Agencymeans that far too wide a register of individuals can be concerned with this. Moreover, the test on what information can be disclosed to such bodiesin other words, "for purposes connected with"is insufficient. That is why new clause 3 would provide that the
"term 'connected with' shall not be construed as meaning that the connection with a particular event is remote or unlikely, but to the contrary, that the connection with an event is significant or that failure to obtain the information from the Register could prejudice an investigation into that event."
Similarly, the authorisation to disclose information that does not fall within paragraph 9 of schedule 1 to a chief officer of police for the prevention and detection of crime under clause 19(4) is far too wide. I shall not bore hon. Members by talking about that in great detail except to underline that subsection (4) specifies
"The phrase 'in the interests of national security' shall be construed as meaning that failure to obtain the information from the Register would cause prejudice to the objective of safeguarding national security."
I am concerned that the police could conceivably have information routinely disclosed through the powers of the clause. I also view the disclosure of information that does not fall within paragraph 9 of schedule 1 to a prescribed Department
I am worried about the powers of disclosure in clause 21(2), which would allow disclosure to a person who provides "inaccurate or incomplete information" of the discrepancies between it and the information recorded on the register. Regardless of whether the person who provides the information is an individual who represents himself or herself to an organisation for entitlement or an organisation that requests information to check against what an individual provides, disclosing the discrepancies would be most unwise.
The seventh data protection principle requires data controllers to take appropriate technical and organisational measures against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss, destruction or damage to personal data. Given the importance of the national register and its security and the number of linking organisations, that will be tremendously difficult and technical. Above all, the managerial task, which includes staff vetting, and dealing with the rules and different cultures across the many organisations, will be difficult. To ensure that the principle is met, there should be clear information for users about how their data will be used, processed and transferred. We need unambiguous consentthat is essentialand I believe that new clause 3 would cover that.
I am concerned about the extended powers of disclosure without consent in clause 22. Previous clauses provide an extensive list of personnel, some of whom we have covered, who may get access to an individual's information. However, clause 22 provides the Home Secretary with an opportunity to add people and purposes by order. Again, it is far too slackly defined and bestows far too much power.
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