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There are many other grounds for following on the remarks of other noble Lords this afternoon, but on these grounds alone Her Majesty’s Government should sit down and think again about their whole approach to these matters.

1.03 pm

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken, I thank my noble friend Lord Northesk for opening this debate with such a thoughtful, informed and balanced speech. It has generated a fascinating debate. Many people have got a lot off their chests and I hope that both Ministers have been listening carefully. In common with other speakers, my noble friend acknowledged that there was a difficult line to be found between the need of the state to protect its citizens and an overenthusiastic embracement of

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technological developments to keep vast amounts of data on them. Each speaker has acknowledged that there is a role for some data collection but that it probably needs to be selective rather than generalised.

It is becoming an increasingly perplexed issue, and one which exercises anyone who has any role to play in ensuring that the state’s powers are not allowed, even with good intentions, to stray over the line of legitimate, but controlled, intervention in unbridled enthusiasm for keeping detailed information about all of us. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford and my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones both raised the question of the need for the public to have confidence in the requirements for the collection of any data. I think we would all agree with that. If the public do not have confidence then the Government have no control at all of what is happening and there is a complete disbelief in the need for what is being done. That is an important issue.

We have had some startling examples recently about the use of information. I find it quite remarkable that the Government have so far been unable to give a solid reply to the European Court of Human Rights judgment that the retention of an innocent person’s DNA or fingerprints is an infringement of their privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This has more than called into question the current situation where DNA and fingerprints taken from people during criminal investigations is then held in perpetuity on the DNA base irrespective of whether they were found to be a continuing part of police inquiries.

The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights accords with the strictures of the Government’s own DNA ethics committee, the Home Affairs Committee of the other place and the Economic Affairs Committee of this House. We have had debates on all those reports. It is quite remarkable to me that the Government so far have refused to budge. Although the noble Lord, Lord West, told the House very recently in responding to a question from me that consideration was being given to the matter, there is apparently no timescale. It is hard to know what is delaying the Home Office’s response. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us where the Government stand on this issue and what they are going to do about implementing the recommendation of all these bodies. All the committees have said that DNA and fingerprint samples of people found to be guilty may be retained, but for a short period; the others should all be destroyed—a short period, not a lifetime.

Unfortunately, there are now far too many examples of the Government finding good reasons for legislating for, or refusing to temper, the increasing propensity for retaining or collecting of data and information on this country’s citizens. We have had endless examples of those today. The shadow Minister for Security, my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones, repeated in her excellent speech her concerns about the latest EU directive, which this Government appear to have enthusiastically supported, that all e-mail and internet traffic should be kept indefinitely so such information can be interrogated at any time to check on the position and the activities of anyone suspected of crime or terrorism. She rightly

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exposed the enormity of this proposal when the statutory instrument was introduced last week and she has done so cogently again today. She has also raised the extremely important question as to why this very radical measure has been left to a statutory instrument and has not apparently been brought to Parliament in primary legislation. That may not be correct and primary legislation is to follow, but there is yet no evidence of it. The Minister may be able to reassure us today that this matter is not going to be left just on the basis of a statutory instrument on the EU directive.

We have also heard some discussion on the Government’s intention to introduce identity cards. They have already done so for those obtaining visas to come to this country and have introduced a database on all children born in this country. My noble friend Lady Byford has given very strong reasons for concern about this. The children’s database had its genesis in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, on the tragic Victoria Climbié case. We understand the enormous concerns that there were about the lack of co-ordination and co-operation among the statutory agencies. Such concerns have, of course, raised their head again. There are, nevertheless, anxieties about the details of every child, whether vulnerable or not, being recorded in a way where state employees have access to them. My noble friend Lady Byford gave a far better exposition on that than I could.

There is an ability within that legislation for some anonymisation of information to be permitted, but it is extremely limited, so that information is available to a great many people and organisations. We all have to question whether it is desirable or necessary that every child in this country should be known or have its name on a database which can be accessed by a lot of people, who may or may not have good intentions.

We can also extend the question of information exchange to the PrĂ1/4m framework which allows law enforcement information to be shared between some EU member states without similar or proper data protection. This country is not a signatory to the treaty, but the exchange of information has now been extended by the EU to cover all its states. Again, there are probably very good reasons why some information, particularly in the judicial and criminal fields, should be exchangeable, but to have swathes of data on people who have no possible likelihood of being implicated being transferred to other countries and their agencies is very dubious.

Other noble Lords have referred to the Joseph Rowntree report, which I hope all Home Office Ministers have read closely. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones also drew attention to it. It has been published recently and is another example of a respected organisation raising great anxieties about how data are collected, managed and held by government bodies. The Minister shakes his head in disbelief; I hope that he has read the report, because that is precisely what it does. It has put the known databases into a traffic light system. Red is for those which it believes are likely to be illegal under human rights or data protection law and should be scrapped; amber is for those which it believes may be

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completely unlawful; and there are very few green, which it believes may broadly be in line with the law. That is quite a devastating critique of the database situation.

The report is refreshingly frank about the current situation, but one statement stood out. Recommendation 5 says:

“Citizens should have the right to access most public services anonymously”.

That is a maxim with which many of us would agree. I suggest, again, that the report is required reading for everyone in government who is dreaming or thinking of producing yet another database. Is it not a shocking state of affairs that so many authoritative voices should be raised in alarm at the current situation, and still we are left with the Government’s main justification that every matter which has been raised is needed either in the name of security or in the rather amorphous interests of the people of this country?

It is not only the collection of data which is becoming increasingly offensive; it is also the increasing ability for organisations and IT systems to share that information across a wide front. Of course we are told that it is all sensitively held and subject to password access. However, no one has yet, I believe, done a systematic analysis of whether the holding of such comprehensive details is safe, which it clearly is not; whether it is secure, which it clearly is not; and whether it is justified, which it may not be, in terms of the amount of the useful effect it generates.

The Minister responsible for security has said on many occasions in this House that the DNA database and now the garnering of millions of details of passenger information under the e-borders system can be justified on the grounds of security and criminal investigation alone. That contention is well and truly open to question, particularly where that information is held in perpetuity.

The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, spoke about the enormity of the requirements for anyone having to provide advance details of travel. The questions raised by the letter in the press were not totally addressed when I asked the Minister about what that information will be and why it will be needed. The question raised by the noble Lady about people providing information if they are going off for a booze cruise, for example, has not been laid to rest.

The questions that need to be asked have largely been asked this afternoon. They relate to the balance of rights between the state and the individual, the length of time for which any data should be held, the proper justification for it being held, the impossibility of an individual being able to have any information about themselves taken off—the expunging of the information about which my noble friends Lady Byford and Lord Campbell of Alloway asked—and any idea whether that individual’s knowledge of what is held on him is sufficient for him to decide to demand its removal. We recently discussed finding a way of getting information on your DNA off the DNA base. It is virtually impossible.

We have learnt recently that immensely powerful cyber systems can be used to hack into any computer program, however well protected, and access any data

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on it. As my noble friend Lord Northesk said, we all know that the Government have a dismal record on holding data securely. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, identified a considerable number of examples which have occurred in the very recent past. It is important that everything that is held is held securely, and that clearly is not being done.

There is a balance to be struck between making sufficient use of the technology involved for good and legitimate purposes and the impact on the preservation of privacy. The evidence gathered so far, and the appalled reaction of those who have reported on this country’s current position, should lead us to keep asking more and more questions about what is going on and to get sensible and responsive answers.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford rightly asked for proper guidance for the use and sharing of data. While he was largely in favour of the collection of some data, he quite rightly stressed the need for transparency and manageability and a recognition of the need for confidence in the system.

This country is now one of the most surveyed in the world. That in itself says something about our proud boast to be the most free. There is a very good maxim that the state should be ignorant of its citizens’ lives unless they are corrupt or criminal. That is certainly not happening at present.

A great many serious questions have been asked today. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway has asked for written answers if the Minister is not able to answer the questions he raised today. I have some sympathy with the Minister if he cannot answer them now, but I hope that he will agree that some of them, at least, justify written responses and will see that that is done.

My noble friend Lord Campbell also drew attention to the fact that we have no privacy laws. Perhaps it is time we did to protect us from intrusive interference, however good the reasons.

We need a far more robust and honest debate between the Government and the citizens of this country about what is being done in their name. The subordination of the citizens of the state must not happen by default. Today’s debate is a mini-start in that direction. I hope that it will and can be extended before any further “good ideas” are invented to protect us from harm.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I want to make it plain that I was not suggesting that we should have a new privacy law by primary legislation at all. I was trying to explain that, as we do not have a privacy law, we can and have to implement the Human Rights Act. I do not want it put on record that I advocated a different approach by primary legislation; I have not done that.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, if I misunderstood my noble friend, I apologise and am perfectly happy for that to be withdrawn from my remarks.

1.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken in this important debate and

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particularly to the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, for this Motion for Papers. It has been clear, from the serious way in which the debate has been conducted, that this is a very important subject. One of the most important points that the noble Earl made was in not wanting the debate to become party-political grandstanding. By and large, noble Lords have achieved that end; toward the end of the debate, great efforts were made by those who are normally used to such grandstanding to resist the temptation. Those attempts were not always successful, but the conduct of this debate has, by and large, been a credit to the House and I pay credit to the noble Earl for his interest and expertise in the subject. I hope to be able to provide the House with some reassurances on the Government’s position on, and action in, this area.

The Government believe—as does the House, from my general impression—that the use of personal data is essential to delivering efficient and effective joined-up public services: first, to tackle crime; secondly, to protect the public, and, thirdly and importantly, to help people get access to the benefits to which they are entitled, to new opportunities in their lives, and to developments and support. We want to create services that improve people’s lives and are simple and easy for them to use. Huge advances in technology make that more possible but, as the noble Baroness said when starting her speech, it is essential to balance the provision of better services with the proper respect for individual privacy in a free society. That balance is, we believe, maintained by a strong legislative framework that is already in place; namely, by the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.

I shall set out the Government’s view in this area. We all have an interest in data being held securely and properly used. The shared interest is in delivering the improved public services that we want and the public are right to expect. The secure, co-ordinated and responsible use of personal data brings real advantages for individuals, public services and the UK economy as well as in crime prevention. Every crime prevented adds to the freedom of those who are not offended against. People want and expect efficient and joined-up services from Government; in order to deliver them effectively and efficiently, it is essential to share information between different parts of Government and with private organisations.

As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary commented in her recent speech on protecting rights and society:

“Do we, today, live in what critics call a surveillance society? I don’t believe so, not for one moment. But I welcome the debate ... We are—all of us, as citizens, consumers, businesses and Government—now presented with a host of new ways to capture, analyse and use data. And there are clear benefits”.

I offer a few examples of those benefits to the House. The NHS national programme of IT is delivering front-line systems and services—to provide major benefits for patients, staff and NHS organisations—and system reform. It is providing essential services to support patient care and the smooth running of the NHS, which could not now properly function without it. There are also services such as: the NHS care records

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service; a picture archiving and communications system, which makes X-ray accessible by computer; electronic transmission of prescriptions from GPs to pharmacies, and electronic booking of first outpatient appointments at the time of referral at GP surgeries, which incorporates patient choice.

I noticed that those programmes have not been mentioned or attacked today, but one that has, which surprised me, is ContactPoint. That is of considerable importance and interest. I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham: what is her party’s real policy on it? The Department for Children, Schools and Families is rolling out ContactPoint, whose first phase of implementation to local authorities started on 26 January. It is one of those databases that the Rowntree trust report considered to be almost certainly illegal—an astonishing judgment in a supposedly respectable academic report. I shall say more on Rowntree in a bit.

The ContactPoint system helps to improve services to children with a strong emphasis on early intervention and prevention. Practitioners can spend days trying to find out who else is working with the same child, or unknowingly duplicating work that another service is already carrying out. There are 11 million children and young people in England; at any one time, around 30 per cent of children require specialist service of some sort while up to 50 per cent will have additional needs at some point during their childhood. We cannot predict which, or when. ContactPoint, which I do not know whether the party opposite supports, will enable the delivery of co-ordinated support for those children and young people. The schemes I have mentioned are delivering a service to the public.

On ContactPoint, there were many questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, including: who will use it? Its use will be restricted, and strictly limited to those who need it as part of their work. Authorised users will include those working in health, education, youth justice, social care and voluntary organisations, to help ensure more co-ordinated service provision for children and young people. It will not be used by a hugely wide section of the population, but by those who need it in order to help children. Another question posed was: what happens to a record when a young person turns 18? The system’s supplier, known as Capgemini, has automated transfer of data beyond 18—the age when it ends—into the archive. We are told that is for six years, in line with the limitations act, and then destroyed. There is a facility for some young adults’ records to stay on ContactPoint until they are 25, but only for limited reasons and with explicit consent.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying, but who will give that explicit consent?

Lord Bach: My Lords, the children themselves or their parents. I am going on to say—because the noble Baroness asked a very good question—what power the children themselves have in relation to seeing their records. They have the power to do that under the general power that there is for people to see how their records are accessed. So that is something that she need not worry about.

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The criticism of ContactPoint, which will hold a very small amount of detail on individual children, is surprising. I can cite in aid of ContactPoint a whole number of organisations which this House respects hugely in the field of children, from Barnardo’s to the NSPCC and other organisations—including KIDS, which looks after disabled children particularly—which think that this is an excellent database and that it will help. Most particularly, our colleague the noble Lord, Lord Laming, in his recent report, said:

“There are definite advantages to electronic record keeping in place of the previous often inaccessible paper files. Technology offers the potential for professionals to share information more effectively, to make information more accessible, and to use systems to manage the workflow of children’s services. The new ContactPoint system will have particular advantages in reducing the possibility of children for whom there are concerns going unnoticed”.

If the noble Lord, Lord Laming, is speaking so highly of it, perhaps this House should speak more highly of it.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I do not think that anybody is objecting to children being on the database who need to be on the database. It is the universality that perhaps the Minister could address his remarks to, not the specific. That is where the whole of this debate seems to have gone—on the balance between the universality and the specific.

Lord Bach: My Lords, it is that, as I understand it, that the children’s organisations and the noble Lord, Lord Laming—although I cannot of course speak for him—are praising. It is the universality of it that is its virtue here. If it is not to be universal, how is it to be limited and restricted? Maybe we will hear in due course what proposals the Official Opposition have in regard to ContactPoint. Listening carefully to the noble Baroness, I got the impression that they were opposed to it; if they are not, perhaps she will be good enough to say so.

Having mentioned ContactPoint, I move on to DNA, which again was the subject—

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, before the Minister moves on, just to try to introduce that element of balance into his description, I should say that he has no doubt recorded that the Government’s own, commissioned security report on ContactPoint from Deloitte said:

“It should be noted that risk can only be managed, not eliminated, and therefore there will always be a risk of data security incidents occurring”.

Naturally, with that advice from such a quarter, one is interested in knowing how the Government intend to minimise such incidents.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the Government are convinced that the security side of this database is good. Of course, we will be watching it with extreme care to ensure that when it is set up it is as secure as it possibly can be.

DNA was also mentioned in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. I hope that the House would agree that the use of DNA in investigations is

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one of the breakthroughs for modern policing, and it is an area where Britain is leading the world. No one disputes that taking and using DNA to detect crime and help bring offenders to justice must remain a key tool available to the police. It is crucial to public protection. The application of DNA profiling to crime detection has shown enormous results. Between May 2001 and December 2005 there were approximately 200,000 DNA profiles on the National DNA Database which would previously have had to be removed before legislation was passed in 2001 because the person was acquitted or charges dropped. Of these 200,000 profiles, approximately 8,500 profiles from some 6,290 individuals have been linked with crime-scene profiles, involving nearly 14,000 offences. These include 114 murders, 55 attempted murders, 116 rapes, 68 sexual offences, 119 aggravated burglaries and 127 of the supply of controlled drugs.

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