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Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 43, line 2, at end insert ("to that end,").

The noble Viscount said: This is a simple drafting amendment. I wonder whether my words might improve the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I believe that the noble Viscount and I are at one in what we wish: in other

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words, to which end we are intent upon deliberately moving. We believe that when one has the word "deliberately" in this context in this part of the Bill, that is a necessary implication of what the noble Viscount wants. He says that his amendment may improve, may give clarity, may give desirable certainty. If it does have that effect, our minds are certainly not closed to it.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful that the noble Lord sees that there could possibly be some merit in the amendment, and I am sure that those drafting the Bill will consider this important issue very carefully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 43, line 14, at end insert--
(" . The processing is--
(a) for any of the purposes mentioned in subsection (1) of section 28; and
(b) absolutely necessary for the purposes of a particular enquiry.").

The noble Earl said: As I understand it, under the 1984 Act sensitive personal data held for specified purposes of law enforcement and tax collection remained subject to the first data principle. However, Clause 28 has the effect of wholly exempting these purposes whenever their application to a particular case would be likely to prejudice any of the matters mentioned.

In this context, the first data protection principle, as now defined in Schedule 1, embraces the application of Schedule 3, which imposes new conditions on the holding of sensitive data. Those data, defined in Clause 2, include such matters as political opinions and sexual life. As drafted, the exemption under Clause 28 will in principle leave the police, and other bodies, free to hold such data concerning any individual. The intent of the amendment to Schedule 3 is to make it clear that, notwithstanding what may happen to amendments to Clause 28 later in Committee, the restrictions on processing sensitive data will nonetheless remain, thereby doing a certain amount to restore the position with respect to sensitive data to that which prevailed under the 1984 Act.

That deals with Amendment No. 32. I note that Amendment No. 36 is grouped with it and I wish to speak to that also. I suspect that I may be retreading some ground already covered by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, in Amendment No. 23. Amendment No. 36 draws on the authority in Article 8.2(b) and 8.5 of the directive, which permits processing, where necessary, for carrying out obligations and specific rights under employment law as well as the processing of data relating to offences, and so on, subject to, among other things, specific safeguards. The amendment, therefore, seeks to allow the collection of data in respect of criminal records being kept for the purpose of use in considering employment matters.

As a member of the All-Party Retail Group, I am acutely aware of the difficulties experienced by that industry in respect of staff theft. Only last week, the British Retail Consortium published its 5th annual retail

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crime survey. This indicated that, while theft by staff has fallen, it still remains a significant problem, with some 17,000 staff being apprehended for theft or fraud in 1996-97. The cost of staff theft is estimated at £374 million, but this is likely to be an underestimate because of undetected theft. It is, therefore, very important to be able to build comprehensive records of dishonest staff, as the industry is only too well aware that they frequently move from company to company, taking advantage of their position of trust, before being discovered and dismissed or prosecuted. Such records would, undoubtedly, act as a disincentive to employees whose main purpose is to feather their nest through dishonest means.

I am aware of the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in relation to its purpose in allowing rehabilitation of those who have taken the opportunity to lead an honest life. However, there is nonetheless a need to safeguard business--and, hence, consumers. Amendment No. 36 will provide this vital safeguard, as well as closing off a potential loophole that criminals could use to their advantage were the Bill to be enacted as drafted.

The whole matter is also an issue of concern to other interested groups like the CBI, the ABI and the British Bankers Association. Indeed, it may well be that the Government have in mind the issuance of an order under paragraph 9 of Schedule 3, to address the problem. For the avoidance of doubt, there is merit in putting the purpose on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: Perhaps I may speak on Amendments Nos. 33 and 34, which have been grouped with Amendment No. 32. Again, I should perhaps point out that the purpose of my amendments is to seek information and assurances.

Amendment No. 33 seeks to clarify the circumstances under which a not-for-profit organisation might process sensitive data relating to possible risks to children and young persons. The Bill, quite rightly, includes provisions in Schedule 3 to control the processing of sensitive personal data. It does not, however, appear to allow for the processing of that kind of data by those not-for-profit organisations which have close contact with children and young persons in circumstances where no crime has been committed.

Voluntary organisations with youth programmes receive many applications for positions as voluntary youth leaders, working closely with vulnerable young children in positions of trust. I am sure everyone is aware of the cunningness and persistence, now emerging as a pattern, practised by paedophiles in inserting themselves into organisations. This often happens over a long period of years. It is essential for voluntary organisations with youth programmes to maintain and process personal data on applications from those seeking to become voluntary youth leaders. Information about personal references, police checks and various other inquiries undertaken by voluntary organisations is vital to establish the suitability of these applicants to work with young persons.

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It is important, too, for these data to be kept and processed over a substantial period of time in view of the persistence of paedophile rings in not only applying on one occasion but also on successive occasions over many years. It is also important that this data can be held on a national as well as a local basis since many of these rings are well organised.

The second amendment, Amendment No. 34, covers a similar subject to Amendment No. 86. I should like to thank the Minister for responding promptly to a letter I sent some time ago on appropriate safeguards under this amendment. It may well be that he will simply wish to restate his reassurance to me then about it being an issue which was possible, provided appropriate safeguards were undertaken, and that it might well be the subject of subsequent subordinate legislation.

The issue in question is whether voluntary organisations can be exempt from subject information and non-disclosure provisions where information is held to assist in the prevention and detection of crime. I wish to declare an interest and give two specific examples of some voluntary organisations. One is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds of which I am Chief Executive, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Those gather substantial information on possible or actual breaches of the law which are not held or collated otherwise by the police authorities.

I am merely probing whether there is in the Bill the possibility of such voluntary organisations maintaining and processing such information. That has substantial benefits in logging possible infringements in the law. Individually, they may not lead to court action but together they may build up a picture of law breaking which would be extremely useful to the statutory and police authorities and assist them in the detection and prevention of crime in the future.

The provision also has the benefit of being able to draw together national information rather than simply local information held currently by police authorities. Much of the crime in which an organisation such as my own would be concerned--in terms of infringement of wildlife law and in particular trade in protected species--is a national and international trade rather than just a local one. At the moment the police authorities do not collate this information nationally. It is important that it is drawn together nationally, because that can reveal patterns which can subsequently aid the statutory authorities in the protection and apprehension of crime. It would be a major step backwards in the upholding of the law if voluntary organisations were prevented by the Bill from holding that information under the sensitive personal data provisions.

I simply seek assurances that the Bill will not prevent either of the two circumstances outlined in Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 happening. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 32, 33, 34 and 36. The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, dealt with a particular point about Clause 28(1). As I understand it, that is to be the subject of a government amendment which will be Amendment No. 83, which we are likely to deal with on Wednesday.

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If it is to the convenience both of the noble Earl and of the Committee, perhaps I can deal with matters more fully then. I am grateful.

Amendments Nos 33 and 34 relate to particular problems of the processing of sensitive data. These two amendments together would add new conditions under which sensitive data could be processed. Nobody could sensibly object to the issues. Indeed, in part, if one looks at paragraph 4 of Schedule 3, one sees particular reference to those organisations. We believe, however, that these amendments are much too widely drafted. Amendment No. 34, for example, would allow processing of sensitive data in any situation where the data controller could argue that it was necessary to assist with the prevention and detection of crime. It makes no reference to suitable safeguards. That is a very dangerous step indeed. It is not consistent or consonant with the spirit or the underlying philosophy of the Bill.

Paragraph 9 of Schedule 3 to the Bill allows the Secretary of State by order, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, to specify additional circumstances in which sensitive data may be processed. Any processing of data authorised under an order would need to be carefully defined and, in particular, would need the application of suitable safeguards. We believe that that is the right context for considering in more detail the matters raised by the noble Baroness, which I recognise as being areas of legitimate concern, and, if I may say so, of genuine widespread public anxiety. However, we believe that is the place to deal with such a situation.

Amendment No. 36 is the last amendment in this group to which I speak. As we have already seen on a number of occasions, Schedule 3 sets out threshold conditions. We have taken the general approach in Clause 2 of the Bill in that we include data relating to offences in our general definition of "sensitive personal data". So data of that sort can be processed in any of the conditions specified in Schedule 3.

Paragraph 2 of that schedule specifically speaks about processing in the employment context, and it makes general provision to allow it. However, we must be mindful of the requirements of the directive and, therefore, it also allows such processing to be made, subject to conditions, by order, so that in any case where our existing laws do not appear to furnish safeguards to the necessary extent, those safeguards may be added. That is an extremely important proviso.

There is the general power of paragraph 9 of the schedule to provide further new conditions in which sensitive data may be processed. If it became necessary to deal with changing circumstances, which none of us can presently anticipate in detail, any exercise of that power would have to bear in mind the limitations set down in the directive. I know that these are important matters. That is why I have taken a moment or two longer than usual to deal with the concerns that have been expressed.

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5.30 p.m.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: Perhaps I may just ask the Minister for clarification. I entirely accept the assurances that he has given about further safeguards being available under the legislation to deal with some of these specific circumstances.

However, he mentioned paragraph 4 of the schedule and said that provisions were there for the sort of voluntary organisation that I described. I take the point that there are provisions within Schedule 4 of the Bill for voluntary organisations of certain sorts, but they would not cover the provisions that I described in either of my two amendments. I just wanted to make that point for clarification.

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