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Lord Avebury: I can confirm everything that the noble Baroness said, but it is not the European Union that we are anxious about. There, regimes are carefully monitored to ensure that they comply with the data protection principles that apply across the whole European Union. There are people there to ensure that the data held by Europol, for instance, are held in accordance with data protection principles. The clause goes much wider than that, which is why we expressed concern about the definition of "foreign law enforcement agencies", because that is by no means limited to those that we can trust, such as agencies within the European Commission.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Indeed, but because noble Lords had raised the question of the EU, it was pertinent to describe how even within the EU serious debates and dialogues are occurring to ensure that the sharing of information is done effectively. Of course the noble Lord is right, and I was going on to say that in the Bill we have sought to specify that the foreign law enforcement agencies need to have similar functions to a UK police force or the Serious Organised Crime Agency. With the engagement of both the Human Rights Act in the way that I have
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described and data protection we have the creation of a regime that should give the noble Lord a greater sense of security.

We are very mindful that the sharing of information needs to be done properly and that those with whom we share information need to be operating on the same basis as us, otherwise there are real dangers in the sharing of information, as the noble Lord will recognise. The examples have been given of Zimbabwe and Burma; I am not suggesting that we will be sharing much information with them in the foreseeable future. Even with regimes with which we have a great deal in common, it is important to make sure that the information will be used effectively and properly. The Human Rights Act and data protection are important in that. There is no question that we agree completely with the noble Lord in how we will seek to operate the system; we hope that he will recognise that. I will come back to him on data protection when I have had a chance to discuss it with officials in greater detail.

I will now go back to the beginning, as it were, and deal with fingerprinting of asylum seekers.

Lord Avebury: Before the Minister leaves the question of data protection, will she answer my question about Interpol? I am not saying that Interpol should not have information under this clause; I was asking for information on whether it would be treated as falling within the definition of a foreign law enforcement agency. In fact, we share some police information with Interpol, and I believe that it conforms to the data protection principles and that we have satisfied ourselves on that score.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Interpol would be covered precisely as the noble Lord has indicated and for the reasons that he has indicated.

As we broke for the Division, I was seeking to set out in answering Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 the four reasons, which I will recap quickly, why it is essential that asylum seekers are adequately documented as soon as possible. First, it allows us to check quickly whether they have previously claimed and, if there are issues of identity, under which identity. Secondly, it is to identify if asylum has been claimed elsewhere in the European Union and whether the claim may be the responsibility of another member state. Thirdly, a reduced notice period enables asylum seekers to be documented more quickly and their applications to be processed faster, which is as much a benefit to the asylum seeker as it is to the IND. Finally, it enables us to issue secure biometric documentation in the form of the application registration card as soon as is practicable, to help us to prevent fraud.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked me questions that I would like to deal with immediately. He asked whether the reduction in the notice period might make it more difficult for them to return for fingerprinting by the appointed time. The purpose is to use it only where we are confident that the asylum seeker will be able to attend within that period and where it is expedient to do so; we have no desire to set an unrealistic time limit for someone. In the vast
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majority of cases, notices will be sent by post to the address recorded on the case information database. Where we need to post a notice, we want to ensure that the period specified is sufficient for them to be able to return for fingerprinting. If they do not attend, we will obviously want to ensure that there was a legitimate reason not to do so and deal with that effectively. I was keen to make sure that where a prohibitive cost is involved, the person is given a travel warrant by post; or, where the notification is done orally, they may be given the money to get to the required place. In other words, we will ensure that they do not fail to attend because they cannot afford to do so, which would completely defeat the object of the exercise.

We hope to be able to deal with the questions more rapidly, but not to say that that is appropriate in every circumstance and not to put difficulties in the way of someone doing so. It is important to be able to have a minimum period of three days—with the recognition that if an individual's circumstances require a longer period of notice, that can be given. I have already said that we will be looking carefully at the travel arrangements that would be required for an individual or a family in that context. That is the rationale behind the provision. As I said, it is a minimum period, not a maximum, and it is in recognition of the need to deal with the issues as quickly as we possibly can.

On Amendments Nos. 55 and 57, we have given assurances to industry during our consultation that they will only have to provide the data once, as I hope that the noble Baroness would expect us to. We have proposed to do it through an electronic format to a central point. The difficulty with allowing oral requests for information is that we do not want to create any administrative difficulties. We have outlined precisely how we will do it, and we want to make sure that even accidentally we do not ask for the information more than once; one electronic system would do that. That has been accepted by the industry, which I think is comfortable with that proposition.

The same in a sense applies to reducing the period to one month. We want to have six months to make sure that the system does not continue indefinitely without an evaluation of whether it is relevant or whether there is a need for the data to keep coming in; but we wanted it to be a reasonable period in which the police could monitor activity on a particular route. Discussion seems to suggest that one picks up a route because of intelligence information or other information coming forward, and six months is about right in terms of the period for which one might want to continue to get information and data. One month is too short, because often serious crime issues are longer-term questions. Six months gives us a cut-off point where we can go back and review it properly.

Amendments Nos. 56, 57A and 58 would limit the request for information to one or more specified ships or aircraft, and they deal with the issues of convention rights, the Human Rights Act and the Secretary of State's orders. At present, the Committee will know that police have the powers to capture passenger data under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and those
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powers are restricted in that context to counter-terrorism. We recognised fully in our discussions with the police that in an intelligence-led approach to managing our borders, the ability to get bulk data in advance is very important because we can better target resources towards those who present the greatest threat to the UK. We also trust that a more targeted approach means that we are reducing the likelihood of innocent travellers being stopped.

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To limit the scope of the police request only to specified ships or aircraft will reduce the amount of bulk data that is available to them, which could have an effect on the effectiveness of the provisions as a whole. The example that I used in discussions with officials to confirm that point is that one might receive intelligence that something could happen on a route between Washington and the UK by plane. One might wish to look at all travel on all airlines coming in because the information may not be more specific. Equally, that may be the case for serious crime or drugs. Information in bulk could be very valuable, but it needs to be wider to achieve what we want. That is why the provision is drafted as it is.

Clause 32(7) provides a safeguard to ensure that the Secretary of State specifies information in an order only where he is satisfied that there are likely to be circumstances in which the information can be required without breaching convention rights. That is an important safeguard, but it is also important to note that the police making a request for specified information will also be under a duty, as are all public authorities, pursuant to Section 6 of the Human Rights Act, to ensure that they comply with convention rights. Those are important safeguards in the Bill. The problem with the amendment is that it imposes an unworkable burden. It requires the Secretary of State to be sure when specifying information in an order, which will necessarily be a process that has got general relevant factors, that the requiring of information will be compliant with convention rights. The Secretary of State will not be able to fulfil that requirement of foresight. As I said, it is unnecessary because there will be an obligation on police officers at the rank of superintendent or above to consider convention rights when making a request. How the Secretary of State will use the power in the generality, combined with the role of the police in the specific requirements and their need to have regard to convention rights, captures the essential point that was raised.

That also applies to the amendment that seeks to limit the Secretary of State's power at Clause 32(8), which allows the Secretary of State flexibility on whether a particular piece of information should be capable of being requested by the police under Clause 32 in all circumstances or whether it should be limited to particular cases or circumstances. Clause 32(8)(a) provides a safeguard. It allows the Secretary of State to specify information, subject to limitations set out in
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the order, which prevent Clause 32 from applying where the Secretary of State does not consider that it should.

Members of the Committee will also note that Clause 32(7) prevents the Secretary of State from specifying passenger or service information for the purposes of Clause 32, unless he is satisfied that there are likely to be circumstances in which the information can be required without breaching convention rights. That is a further safeguard, which I am sure will influence the Secretary of State's thinking in deciding whether information will be specified generally or only in specified cases or circumstances. We do not think that we need an amendment to Clause 32(7). The safeguards are in place and will achieve what the noble Lord overall seeks to achieve, which is recognition of the convention.

Amendment No. 59 is intended to bring Clause 31 in line with Clauses 32(2) and (3) and Clause 33(2), whereby an offence will be committed if a person fails to comply with any of the requirements imposed. However, the offence for failure to comply is already provided in Section 27 of the Immigration Act 1971, which addresses the specific point that the noble Baroness was keen for me to address.

Amendments Nos. 60 and 61 are the only amendments left for me to deal with. Of course, it is very important that the security and intelligence agencies are given all the information that they require. But the amendment would effectively remove the permissive element of the gateway by introducing an obligation where there is a possibility rather than a probability that it will be of use for the specific security and intelligence agencies' purposes. The effect would be to increase the net volume of data disclosed to the agencies, a great proportion of which will not be relevant.

It is clear that there is good, close co-operation on security matters between existing agencies and that they are very comfortable with how the clause is drafted because they think that it will do what they need it to. It will not only provide them with the information that we would wish them to have, but also the level of information that is relevant and necessary to their functions. That is their position, with which they are comfortable and satisfied that this will allow them to gain the information that they need to fulfil their obligations and to deal with the issues with which they are most concerned. I think that I have covered all of the amendments, although not in the right order. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.

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