HC Deb 02 February 1989 vol 146 cc411-2
3. Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to protect the confidentiality of police records.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

It is for individual chief officers of police to decide the measures needed to protect the confidentiality of police records.

Mr. Sheerman

Is the Minister aware that private security firms cannot wait to get their hands on the police national computer? Does he agree that it would be dreadful if that happened? Is he aware that the police are worried, because not only criminal convictions but highly sensitive criminal intelligence are held on the computer? Will the Minister stand up and fight privatisation of the computer records and stand for what we want from police services—a mixture of accountability and security?

Mr. Hogg

We have no plans to privatise the police national computer.

Mr. Arbuthnot

Will my hon. Friend confirm that private agencies are not necessarily less secure than public ones?

Mr. Hogg

That is true, but the information held by the police is confidential.

Mr. Madden

Will the Minister confirm that it is possible for any detective above the rank of detective constable to obtain, within five seconds, from terminals located in every police station, information from the police national computer, including that about unspent convictions, which can be and is passed to security firms and the Economic League? Will he urgently investigate the possibility of introducing a scheme whereby any police officer requesting information from the police national computer is required to record the reason for the inquiry?

Mr. Hogg

The information held by the police is confidential to the police and is disclosed only in tightly drawn circumstances. An unauthorised disclosure of information by a police officer would certainly give rise to disciplinary procedures in appropriate cases and might constitute a breach of criminal law.

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