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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, if the Government thought that by putting these provisions right at the end of the Bill they would escape serious scrutiny, they had obviously reckoned without the assiduousness of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, who now
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inherits the crown for such assiduousness from her two illustrious colleagues who had the education brief and who are deceased.

As Liberals, we on these Benches are constitutionally opposed to keeping lots of information about people, particularly if they do not know what it is, who has it, whether it is correct, whether it is being passed on and to whom, and so on. I am rather worried about these provisions, and I would certainly like to have replies to the many questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, which I do not intend to repeat. The whole thing strikes me as a sort of baby national identity register and a precursor of a baby ID card—a BID card. Perhaps it should be made in China out of green plastic and play a little tune when you pick it up. Perhaps we should have an individual tune for each child.

Seriously though, this is information about children, and we have no assurances yet about who will get it, what it will be used for or whether it can be passed on to other countries. I hope that the Minister can answer all the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and perhaps more.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I cannot undertake to answer all the noble Baroness's questions now, not least because I was not even capable of writing them all down given the speed at which she read them all out. If I do not know what the questions are sufficiently to answer them, I hope that she will forgive me, but I have answers to a number of them and will send her a full letter that I hope will leave not one of them unanswered. I shall personally ensure that we seek to meet all her points. I appreciate the genuine passion that she brings to the issue. I want to see a surveillance state created through a way in which material is collected that will infringe individual civil liberties no more than her or the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Our sole purpose in drafting Clause 99 is to enhance the quality of the provision that we are capable of making for children; it is not in any way to infringe individual human rights.

I shall deal with some of the specific questions that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, asked. Will parental consent be required before information is held by a provider and collected under the new power? As the information is being disclosed under a statutory duty, formal parental consent is not required. However, providers will need to send out a fair processing notice to inform parents of which information about the child will be collected, why, and how it will be used.

Why is there a problem with double counting? We know from the central, pupil-led data-collection exercises that some children are recorded twice. That can happen when children move school and are not removed from their old school's records, for example. It can happen with early years providers too; in the absence of pupil-led data, we do not know how prevalent it is among them. But there is a further issue in respect of early years providers. For example, it is
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possible for a three year-old child to attend two settings, which does not happen in schools, and be properly recorded at each. In the absence of individual child-level data of the kind that we can collect under Clause 99, it would be possible for that child to be funded for more than five sessions.

How do we plan to include those handling Clause 99 information under the vetting procedures in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, which some of us have had long and detailed experience of debating in recent weeks? We intend to move yet another amendment to that Bill to capture those with access to the information collected under Clauses 99 to 101 of this Bill in the category of controlled activity in relation to children. Those who have been debating that know what "controlled activity" means; I will not detain the House to explain it to other noble Lords, but it meets the concern that the noble Baroness has raised. We also intend to issue guidance under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill to the effect that a person who falls within the category must be checked against the children's barred list. That will mean that all those with access to individual child-level information collected under these provisions, whether they be local authority staff, central government staff or staff in an information collator, will need to have a check against that list carried out.

Are we explicitly ruling out the collection of information on medical records? We have no intention of collecting medical records under the power. I state that clearly for the record. The regulations will not make provision for medical records to be provided. Providers would in any case be unlikely to hold medical records. This Bill will allow only the collection of information held by registered providers. It will not enable us to collect information from other bodies.

We will carry out a full consultation and impact assessment on how the information-collection provisions will work in practice and what information we will want to collect from providers. However, it is likely to include similar information to that already collected through PLASC, such as child's name, date of birth, address, gender and ethnicity, and hours of attendance, type of setting and foundation-stage profile data, which are currently collected at an aggregate level through other surveys. The provisions will simplify and improve current data-collection processes, reducing burdens on local authorities.

It is extremely important that individual-level information collected under the clauses is properly used and protected. A number of safeguards are already in place to ensure that that happens. Clause 99(7) expressly prohibits the publication of information in a form that names individual children. All persons involved in the collection and analysis of data, including the central departments, local authorities and any other prescribed persons, will be bound by the requirements set out in the Data Protection Acts. The handling of the information will
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therefore have to comply with the eight principles of good practice, as is required. That includes principle 5, that data will not be kept longer than necessary, and principle 8, that they will not be transferred to countries outside the European economic area unless the country has adequate protection for the individual.

7.30 pm

Amendment No. 36 would prevent any person holding information collected under this provision keeping that information for more than a year. We do not support this amendment because we believe it would severely restrict the potential benefits that information collected under this clause could bring, particularly in informing local and central government policies on improving outcomes and reducing inequalities. It would, for example, prevent local authorities from analysing the longer-term impact of different types of early years provision on particular groups of children, especially those with poor outcomes. We therefore do not wish to accept the amendment. However, I can reassure the noble Baroness that the implementation of these powers will comply fully with the Data Protection Act obligation to ensure that data are not kept any longer than necessary.

Amendment No. 37 deals with the transfer of information to other countries. I assure noble Lords that it is not the Government's intention to share this information with countries outside the UK. However, should there be a good reason to make information available to other countries—for example, to research international comparisons—the information would not be in a form that would include the names of individuals. Within the UK, however, given that Clause 99 relates to England only, there may be circumstances in which it would be sensible to share information—for example, when a family moves between an English and a Scottish or Welsh authority, or a family lives in England but takes up early years provision across the border in Wales or in Scotland. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are all covered by the Data Protection Act requirements in their use and release of such information.

The Data Protection Act also includes the following specific provision:

We would, of course, ensure compliance with that provision.

Finally, on Amendment No. 38, we are in complete agreement with the noble Baroness that there must be a proper relationship between the provisions of the Bill and the information-sharing index. I am glad that I can reassure the noble Baronesses that the information-sharing index trials are due to finish this summer, well in advance of the commencement of the relevant provisions in the Bill. There is therefore no
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need to put the restriction suggested by the noble Baroness on the face of the Bill, that one cannot start until the other is completed.

It may be helpful if I clarify the distinctions between the information-sharing index and the provisions in the Bill. A key aim of the new data collection provisions set out in Clauses 99 to 101 is to ensure the availability of accurate child-level information on children receiving the free entitlement to early years provision in private, voluntary and independent sector settings. The provisions will also allow data to be collected and used at a strategic level in local authorities and in central government, providing an overview of how services are being used across a local authority. By contrast, the information-sharing index is intended to be a tool to help practitioners work together better to meet children's needs and address problems at an early stage, sharing information at ground level. There are two fundamentally different purposes and we see no gain in bringing them together in any respect.

Some common information will be held for both purposes and we are taking that into account in planning how information will be collected from providers. However, while there is overlap in some of the basic data held under both powers, it will be used in quite different ways. The information-sharing index will be used by individual practitioners involved in providing services for individual children, whereas data collected under Clause 99, although collected from records about individual children, will be used as a total set of data by managers and policy planners at strategic levels in local authorities and central government to allocate funding, plan delivery, monitor performance and inform research and policy development for the future. The individual-level data will not be made available to practitioners or to anyone else. For these purposes, the identity of each child is irrelevant for the purposes of the information provided under Clause 99 beyond the need to be able to allocate an identifier which will allow data from different sources to be collated and analysed; for example to identify individual children using more than one early years provider.

In summary, I hope I have reassured the noble Baroness that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure that the information provided under Clause 99 is used properly. I know that I have answered only a fraction of her questions and I will answer the remainder in writing.

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