|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. As he knows, this Government are modesty itself, and it sounds more effective when the noble Lord, from where he sits, says what he did. He is absolutely right; but the balance is perhaps not far enough in that direction. We need to increase and improve the rural development aspect, which will mean that farmers get paid by subsidy for public goodin other words, for agri-environment schemes and other schemes that are good for the environmentand that farmers, as they will be able to, find a market for what they produceand British farmers produce the best.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I declare my interest as a farmer. Is the Government's aim in the current EU Ministers' meeting on the sugar regime to
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1625
achieve a price of £20 per tonne? What reduction in European production do they hope to achieve at this price level?
Lord Bach: My Lords, our aim as president is to broker a compromise agreement that satisfies member states in the European Union. That is the role of the presidency. Of course we will protect British interests as well, but my honourable friend the Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, is at this moment negotiating what we hope will be a deal for the whole of Europe. That will mean various parties having to make some sacrifices.
Lord Carter: My Lords, my noble friend referred to the deal by the European Union heads of government in 2003 on agricultural support, which is supposed to last until 2012 or 2013 with a review in 2008. Are we sure that that deal and that timetable are secure? Are they on the table of the renegotiation?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
The noble Lord said: As your Lordships will be aware, I never lose an opportunity to ingratiate myself with the Government. Here I saw an easy opportunity to help them with the suggestion I make in Amendment No. 38A to leave out the words:
The meaning of those words was not immediately clear to me. I therefore looked at the Explanatory Notes on clauses and found the following, which I shall quote for the benefit of noble Lords who do not have this document in front of them:
"Subsection (6) ensures that information may not be required by regulations under this clause unless it is for statutory purposes of the scheme as set out in clause 1(3) and consistent with the recording of the registrable facts. This is to ensure that there is no expansion in the scope of information that must be provided by individuals without new primary legislation".
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton for tabling the amendment. As he points out, clarification would be helpful. This subsection was tabled by the Government at a late stage, on Report. They did that in the sense of being genuinely helpful to another place, in trying to introduce further protections into the Bill. We debated the particular subsection at the end of last Wednesday, but I did not then raise my noble friend's point. My amendments suggest a different issue, so I am grateful to him for giving the noble Baroness the opportunity to clarify the matter.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. His amendment will, at least, elicit clarity where there is, presently, something short of that. However, I am inclined to think that it doubles back on itself, and will reduce the protection of the citizen vis-à-vis personal data. We shall hear in a second who is right.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I assure the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that there is never a reason for him to seek to ingratiate himself with the Government. His stock, as all noble Lords know, is already incredibly high.
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1627
The noble Lord's amendment touches on the drafting of Clause 1(6), which I understand is to enable us to have an opportunity to clarify the situation. Clause 1 was really designed to prevent any number being added to the national identity registersuch as a police national computer reference numberwhich would tend to reveal sensitive personal data. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is right to say that we did that in an attempt to respond to concerns helpfully.
We touched on the issue of sensitive personal data in the last group of amendments on our second day in Committee on 16 November. That was the group led by Amendment No. 36, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. I have undertaken to write to the noble Baroness before Report to deal with some of the points that she raised, and I will do so. However, in replying to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, it may help if I set out some of that background now, so that your Lordships can better understand these issues.
The "registrable facts" set out in Clause 1(5) may look like a long list, but they are all relevant in helping to identify an individual, and will allow cross-referencing with other departments' databases during the application process. Holding the numbers on the register, as listed in paragraph (4) of Schedule 1, will also make it easier to derive joined-up government benefits from the identity card scheme. If I may give an example, it might be useful, in relation to a benefit or pension application, for the Department for Work and Pensions to be able to check someone's national insurance number against their identity card.
The Bill was amended on Report in another place by a government amendment to respond to a point made and taken up in Committee. There had been a number of questions raised about the need to ensure that information about criminal records would not be held on the national identity register. The Government have always made it clear that they do not intend to hold medical or criminal records on that register, and the Bill achieves this by linking the statutory purposes of the scheme at Clause 1(3) to the registrable facts as defined at Clause 1(5). These registrable facts do not cover criminal or medical records, other than any voluntary information recorded at the request of the cardholder as allowed for at Clause 1(5)(i) which might, for example, include organ donor status, or matters of that sort.
So "registrable facts" can be amended onlyand I emphasise "only"by further primary legislation. Therefore, the Bill provides a major safeguard against claims that the scope of the national identity register might be expanded in the future without proper parliamentary scrutiny. Thus it would not be possible to add criminal or medical records to the "registrable facts" at Clause 1(5) by secondary legislation. Nor would it be possible to add criminal or medical records to the list of items in Schedule 1 by secondary legislation, because Clause 3(6) requires that anything added to Schedule 1 is consistent with the statutory purposes and those, as I have just said, link back directly to the "registrable facts".
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1628
However, a potential concern was raised in the other place that the Bill did not provide adequate reassurance that information relating to numbers would not be held that could lead to conclusions being drawn about a person's criminal record. Clause 1(5)(g) covers,
and the concern was that this might conceivably be used in the future to add the police national computerthe PNCreference number to an individual's national identity register record. While that would not provide evidence of an individual's criminal record, it would clearly suggest that he or she had one. It was to avoid that scenario that the Government amended the Bill so that it would be impossible to add to the register a number that might tend to reveal information relating to a person's criminal record, or indeed any other "sensitive personal data" within the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.
"Sensitive personal data", as noble Lords know, is not limited to criminal records but is defined in the Data Protection Act and covers a number of other issues, including the racial or ethnic origin of the data subject, his political opinions, his religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature, as well as his physical or mental health or condition. There could not be a complete exclusion of "sensitive personal data", or anything tending to reveal such data, as some information that could be apparent from, say, a photograph, might easily reveal "sensitive personal data" such as racial or ethnic origin. An identity card with a photograph of a man or woman wearing a clerical collar would, for example, tend to indicate their religious belief, although perhaps not their denomination.
Criminal or medical records or political opinions do not come within the ambit of the "registrable facts" listed in Clause 1(5) and so could not be added to the list of items that may be held on the national identity register and are listed at Schedule 1 to the Bill. However, the Government wanted in addition to put beyond doubt that it would also not be possible to add to the register in the future any reference number which of itself was simply a number, but where its existence could tend to reveal an item of "sensitive personal data".
I know that is not the noble Lord's intent, but it has given me an opportunity to give what I hope is a comprehensive explanation about why we think the safeguard is necessary. It works and it seemed to us to be capable of reassuring people who had genuine concerns that inappropriate information would be listed.
If we are to achieve our objective of providing a clear reassurance that no numbers could be held that either would reveal or would tend to reveal any "sensitive
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1629
personal data", those words should stay in the Bill. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will be content. I have the pleasure of thanking him for allowing me the opportunity to explain all of that.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|