The Data Protection Bill, which has started in the House of Lords, will give you the right to access information held about your finances, medical history etc. It’s a positive step forward in lots of ways. For example, it will enable us to correct mistakes and challenge any false information which has become part of the official record.
However, my main focus has been to remove the Henry VIII powers, that allow Ministers to amend and revise protections without having any further Parliamentary scrutiny, or amendment process. The Lords successfully removed the Government’s powers to “omit” protections, and to change parts of the Bill using Henry VIII powers. However, Ministers will still be able to amend protections. While this still isn’t ideal, it feels good to know that I’ve played a small part in securing the concessions.
Of course, the government have included a few predictable downsides, such as excluding immigrants from many of the protections that the rest of us will soon enjoy. Sadly, the Labour front bench didn’t join with the rest of the Opposition to vote against these exclusions, but I will continue to work with Liberty and the Open Rights Group to kick up a fuss about it. In many ways people subject to our increasing draconian immigration process need these protections the most, with the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration reporting Home Office mistakes in 1 in 10 cases. This secrecy exemption will apply to GPs, schools and landlords.
It’s valuable work, improving the Bill, and it’s giving the Government a taste of how tough the Lords can be.