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Viscount Astor: My Lords, on this side of the House we are extremely grateful for the way in which the noble and learned Lord and his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, dealt with the Bill. They certainly listened to our arguments, considered them carefully and accepted a number of amendments, for which I am extremely grateful.
It was a rather complicated subject. I was supported by my noble friends Lord Northesk, Lord Skelmersdale, Lord Teviot and Lord Chelmsford. I think that we have improved the Bill. As the noble and learned Lord said, there are issues that will be considered in another place which we were unable to deal with. We shall have the opportunity to deal again with Clause 28. I can assure the noble and learned Lord that we shall do so in as constructive a manner as I hope we have dealt with the Bill as it passed through your Lordships' House.
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General for this opportunity to wind up the Bill on its way to another place. I am particularly grateful to him and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for the way in which they have enabled me to discuss the matters I wished to raise with officials as well as with themselves.
I am grateful to the Home Office team led by Mr. Graham Sutton, to the Data Protection Registrar, Mrs. France, and her staff, particularly her deputy, Mr. Aldhouse, and to police Chief Constable Burrow and his colleague, John Black--all of whom the Ministers were comfortable that I should talk to in an attempt to improve the Bill.
I have been met, as indeed we all have, by an impressive range of official talent and expertise. That has been matched at least by the variety of expert opinion that noble Lords have brought to our debates on the Bill. They have been led, primus inter pares, by two Ministers who have addressed a Bill whose purpose was to harmonise the data protection principles and practices, often in opposition, of a number of different EU member states, and to reach a common position. I suggest that the Minister succeeded in reaching an uncommon position of shared political purpose, at least between his party and my own, and from time to time between all three main parties to improve the Bill and not to indulge in trench warfare. This is a Bill in which the devil is in the detail. Ministers are to be highly congratulated on enabling the passage of so complex a piece of legislation to go so smoothly and so well.
Lord Brightman: My Lords, perhaps I may take up a moment of your Lordships' time to thank the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General for providing us in this Bill with an index of defined expressions. I refer to Clause 65. This is a device of great value to the reader. It helps to make a long and complicated Bill so
Indexes of defined expressions were at one time uncommon, despite the assistance which they can render to the reader. Things have now changed. Indexes are becoming far more common in appropriate places. There are presently three Bills going through the other place, all of which contain an index of defined expressions: the Government of Wales Bill, which has 35 defined expressions; the Scotland Bill, with 44; and the school standards Bill, with 58.
There is a fourth Bill which has just left this House, the Competition Bill, which has 59 defined expressions but no index. However, at Third Reading the Minister stated that he intended to ask the draftsman to reconsider his previous advice that the Bill should not contain an index.
I venture to express the hope that every Bill will be considered on a case by case basis to decide whether an index of defined expressions will or will not make the Bill more user-friendly. I am grateful for the opportunity to ventilate once more this important aspect of helpful legislative drafting.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I wish to add a few words to what was said by my noble and learned friend Lord Brightman. Whether the inclusion of an index of defined expressions is a good or bad thing is a matter upon which not all draftsmen are agreed. Obviously, an index will not be needed in every case. I have certainly found that in long and complicated cases an index is an invaluable tool. I had a good deal of experience of long and complicated Bills when I sat as chairman of the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. Whatever else may be said about the matter, it seems to me that an index of defined expressions can do no harm.
The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I should like to add my expressions of gratitude for the most considerate and helpful way in which the Government Front Bench and their officials have dealt with the passage of the Bill through this House--even in the context of Clause 28. The matters with which we have attempted to get to grips in recent weeks are exceedingly technical and complex. Put simply, computers, let alone issues of data protection, are not everyone's cup of tea. I am conscious, too, that the urgency of enacting the Bill by the deadline of 24th October this year, taken with the multiplicity of other measures with which it is currently involved, has imposed the added constraint of an unenviable workload on the Home Office. Nonetheless, I am tempted to suggest that the co-operative approach that has been engendered in relation to this Bill is of considerable credit not only to all involved but to the House as a whole. I thank the noble and learned Lord, and in his absence the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and their officials for that.
Noble Lords will recall that, in the context of Clause 8 and the credit reference industry, I touched upon the apparent public policy shift away from the provisions of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act to a more rights-based regime, as espoused by this Bill and the Human Rights Bill. In this relatively narrow area, there remains a measure of concern that the Data Protection Tribunal enforcement notice, which has operated satisfactorily for a number of years and which--if I may borrow the words expressed to me recently by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie--exhibited the "wisdom of Solomon", may in some way be summarily superseded by the enactment of this Bill. While accepting absolutely that the noble and learned Lord cannot give any guarantees on the point, I nevertheless hope that he may be able to give some reassurance to the industry that there is no inevitability attached to that, and that there is some hope that the terms of the enforcement notice will persist for the time being.
Turning to Clause 10 and the concerns of the direct marketing industry with respect to opt-out tick boxes, perhaps I may, with the leave of the House, read out the text of a commitment that I have received from the Direct Marketing Association. I believe that the noble and learned Lord has also had sight of a copy. It states:
I very much hope that, in the light of that, the noble and learned Lord, while giving no guarantees as to the outcome, might be prepared to concede that this is an issue to which the Government will be prepared to give further consideration as the Bill makes its way through another place.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, suggested, following Report, that I met with his officials and should include anybody that I liked to bring along to a meeting. That meeting took place and was on the whole very satisfactory. If I did not get a green light on one point, I certainly had an amber one. My concern remains, but as a result of the meeting I hope it will be possible in
In addition, I hope that the Secretary of State will soon issue an order, as is provided under Schedule 3 to the Bill, endorsing the safeguards which record offices habitually impose on personal material. Such an order would help to reassure depositors of their right to go on depositing non-public records in record offices. It would authorise the latter to process new insertions of such material, all of which are tightly hedged by the Bill.
Finally, I should emphasise that no attempt is being made to seek new powers. Archivists and record users are simply trying to preserve long established practices which are incidentally affected by the Bill. I thank the Minister and also the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General for their earlier assurances that such was not their intention. I am optimistic that they and their officials will be able to overcome the remaining problems.
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