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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I think that the international arms trade is filled with absurdities and contradictions. Let me reaffirm that we believe that

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arms sales to Israel that entirely meet the export licensing requirements and therefore, we are confident, will not be used for domestic repression are indeed legitimate, and we do not intend to cease them.

Lord Dykes: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we are now in the 24th minute.

Privacy: Government Databases


3.24 pm

Asked By Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, databases are necessary to protect the public and to deliver public services. The Government very carefully assess the potential privacy impact of any new database system or policy. It is not clear from the report what evidence the authors have used to reach their conclusions or the methodology that they have employed in reaching them. Frankly, there seems to be little real analysis. However, we are never complacent about such issues and, if we find that changes need to be made, we will make them.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, in thanking the Minister for his reply, I must ask whether the evidence points to the fact that the Government are alone in believing that they are right to propose and enact the databases. Does he not realise that doctors, teachers, youth workers and the public in general have been very worried about these databases? If the Government will not review the legality of their databases, will they at least follow the recommendation in the Rowntree report that those databases should be subjected to an independent review of both their privacy impact and their overall benefits to society?

Lord Bach: My Lords, of course we will read the report carefully and respond to it as soon as we can. However, information is fundamental to the delivery of modern public services and public protection because it helps citizens to receive the services to which they are entitled, front-line staff to have the information that they need to do their jobs effectively and public services to be accurate and efficient. In saying that, I also recognise that the increasing use of data needs to be matched by increasing safeguards to protect the information and privacy of the individual.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, while we are all properly concerned with the personal data held by government and commercial organisations that snoop around our shopping habits, what view does the Minister take of the objectivity and academic rigour of the Rowntree report?

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Lord Bach: My Lords, as a polemic and a campaign document it is quite useful, but as a piece of objective academic work it is rather less convincing. I commend David Aaronovitch’s article in the Times yesterday, in which he made the point that, although the body that was asked to prepare the report started with an anti-database bias,

Mr Aaronovitch ends by saying:

“Perhaps in future they should try discussing these things with people who don’t agree with them”.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, is it true, as was reported in the Telegraph on 14 March, that the Government are planning yet another database on which will be logged the details of all trips abroad made by anyone from this country? Is it true that before travelling one will have to apply for permission, giving a complete and detailed itinerary, an e-mail address and credit card details?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am sorry but I do not know the answer to the noble Lady’s question, but I shall write to her and place a copy in the Library.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, the Rowntree trust report estimates that £16 billion a year is spent on IT projects of this sort. In view of the conclusions of the authors of the report, does not the Minister consider that it is time for a severe public expenditure cut in this area?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I can hardly stand at the Dispatch Box and say that this Government, or perhaps even the one before, have not had problems with IT; I do not have the cheek to do that. However, IT can play an important role in making sure that the databases are proper, secure and used for the purposes intended. Governments of all colours will continue to spend money on IT.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, in the Government’s view, at what age is a child able to give consent to data sharing? What view have they taken on parents’ involvement in that decision? How extensively have they consulted parents on the age at which they have determined that children are capable of giving free consent?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I apologise for taking time to answer the noble Baroness. She may be referring to a particular database that has been the subject of some discussion in the last few days. If I am right and she is referring to the ContactPoint database, I should say that that database is supported by childcare experts, by major children’s organisations, including Barnardo’s and Action for Children, and by those working on the front line as the right tool to help professionals to keep children safe. We think that that database has been unfairly attacked.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the value of databases was proved a couple of weeks ago when a man was released after 27 years from prison following a serious miscarriage of justice?

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Lord Bach: My Lords, of course I agree with my noble friend. It is absolute common sense that the DNA database has ensured not only that people who are not guilty of offences are declared not guilty but also that a large number of people who would not otherwise have been brought to court are found guilty of extremely serious offences.

Coroners and Justice Bill

First Reading

3.31 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Tax Credits Up-rating Regulations 2009

Guardian’s Allowance Up-rating Order 2009

Guardian’s Allowance Up-rating (Northern Ireland) Order 2009

7th Report Joint Committee Statutory Instruments

Motions to Approve

Moved By Lord Davies of Oldham

Motions agreed.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2009

7th Report Joint Committee of Statutory Instruments
7th Report Merits Committee

Motion to Approve

Moved By Lord Tunnicliffe

Motion agreed.

Occupational Pension Schemes (Levy Ceiling) Order 2009

Pension Protection Fund (Pension Compensation Cap) Order 2009

Financial Assistance Scheme and Incapacity Benefit (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2009

25 Mar 2009 : Column 661

Occupational Pension Schemes (Contracting-out) (Amendment) Regulations 2009

7th Report Joint Committee Statutory Instruments

Motions to Approve

Moved By Lord McKenzie of Luton

Motions agreed.

European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2009

7th Report Joint Committee Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motion agreed.

European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2009

8th Report Joint Committee Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

Moved By Lord Bach

Motion agreed.

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL]

5th Report Constitution Committee
7th Report Constitution Committee

Report (1st Day)

3.33 pm

Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Hanham

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Establishment of UK Border Police Force

(1) There shall be a body corporate to be known as the UK Border Police Force.

(2) The UK Border Police Force shall have the functions of—

(a) detecting and removing illegal overstayers;

(b) protecting UK borders;

(c) investigating employers of illegal immigrants;

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(d) preventing and detecting human trafficking; and

(e) such other functions as the Secretary of State may by order determine.

(3) Before making an order under subsection (2)(e), the Secretary of State shall—

(a) publish proposals;

(b) consult members of the public and stakeholders; and

(c) lay a draft before each House of Parliament.

(4) Bodies to be consulted under subsection (3)(b) shall include—

(a) the Metropolitan Police Commissioner;

(b) representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers;

(c) the Director General of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate;

(d) representatives of the Serious Organised Crime Agency;

(e) representatives of the Association of Police Authorities; and

(f) such other people as the Secretary of State shall determine.”

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, we had an interesting debate on this amendment in Committee but I am still at a loss to understand—despite the Minister’s long reply, for which I thank him—why the Government are going to such lengths to create only half of what is necessary to establish the security of our borders. The reason for returning to this issue is not to be stubborn but because I am genuinely puzzled as to why the Government have proceeded with the provisions in all 37 clauses in Part 1 to bring together personnel from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs with those already employed on immigration, to increase the role of both in providing support to the UK Border Agency, which deals with customs and immigration but has no incorporated police element.

I understand the need for this legislation, which has clearly been brought about with some speed because the UK Border Agency, which includes personnel from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, is already operating in shadow form. The implementation process of Part 1 must proceed if the moves, which have already been made, are to have any legal force. The cart of opportunism seems to have been put before the horse of coherence.

My party gives no ground to anyone in its determination to see that our borders are policed and administered in such a way as to protect our island from terrorism, serious crime, trafficking, drugs and all the other aspects of crime, including unauthorised immigration, which the Minister laid out in his response to the debate in Committee. In this regard, we believe that the powers should be enlarged to extend the remit of the border force to investigate those who may be encouraging illegal immigration and to ensure that those who come here and have no right to remain are removed—something that is singularly lacking under present arrangements and which is surely germane to the control of who is in this country.

There is no disagreement between my party and the Government about the need for robust and foolproof measures. There is, however, a mismatch between us on who should be involved in carrying them out. I was grateful in Committee for the almost support of the Liberal Democrats, who tacitly agree that a unified

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border force should be the ultimate goal. Although their ideas may not run along identical tracks to ours, they seem to be somewhat closer to our view than the Government’s. I ask the Government again why this is so. It is abundantly clear from the Minister’s long reply in Committee that huge efforts are having to be made to ensure that the police are working not as an integral part of the border agency but at a tangent to it. The Minister referred to a senior chief constable being a member of the UK Border Agency’s board. He also told us that 280 police officers had been seconded to local immigration teams,

However, this is a tiny part of what needs to be done in a united and cohesive way.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, conducted a detailed inquiry for David Cameron into the safety and security of our borders. It is a published document of which I am sure the Home Office, if not the Minister, has had sight. Although a little time has passed since it was produced, the noble Lord’s observations remain relevant today. He said that,

I will not go into all the challenges that the noble Lord mentioned, but it is worth citing a few: the lack of a comprehensive overarching strategy; inefficiency in the sharing of information and the development of intelligence; a focus on narrow issues that have an impact on the work of individual agencies rather than a focus on the overall UK border security effort; and the inefficient use of resources, both human and financial. He concluded in this part of his report:

“The creation of a single border agency responsible for all immediate tasks required to secure the borders should provide a positive public perception of the services being provided and improve confidence in the efforts being made to protect national wellbeing, and in the Government’s ability to exercise proper control. Equally important, a more coherent, comprehensive and robust regime should also have a similar effect in terms of deterring criminal activity”.

I am sure that no one in this House would disagree with him.

Although we are not entirely reliant on his conclusions, my party strongly believes that, in the piecemeal reform that is before us again today, the Government have missed the opportunity to bring about a totally coherent system to protect our borders.

Finally, my other amendments would require consultation with other bodies before additional functions were included among those listed. They recognise that this is a developing field. Those who want to breach our border controls are constantly devising new ways of doing so. This will never be a static situation.

Whether or not we continue this debate in the House today, it will continue largely because of this missed opportunity in the Bill. We have today rushed through provisions against the background of a shadow organisation that has already been set up. The detailed consultation on this should continue. The Government are making a mistake in not ensuring that the border police are the force of our borders but at some stage it will come about. I beg to move.

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Amendment 2 (to Amendment 1)

Moved by Lord Avebury

2: Before Clause 1, line 4, leave out subsections (2) to (4) and insert—

“(2) The UK border police force shall have the functions of—

(a) protecting UK borders;

(b) strengthening frontier protection against threats to the security, social and economic integrity and environment of the United Kingdom;

(c) preventing and detecting human trafficking; and

(d) maintaining and improving a safe, ordered and secure environment in ports.”

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness’s concluding remark that there is a need for more consultation. I hope, as a result of the discussions we had in Committee and the ones we are going to have this afternoon, that that will be the next step in thinking about a unified border force. As the noble Baroness has already said, this was the first amendment that we discussed in Committee and it would be remarkable if anybody had anything radically new to say about it—we spent, I think, an hour and three-quarters debating it and the Minister dealt thoroughly with Clause 1 and gave a general review of how Part 1 will operate. We all agreed that the protection of our borders is of vital national interest; the noble Baroness reiterated this proposition in her speech.

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