HL Deb 22 May 1986 vol 475 cc385-6
Lord Gridley

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what safeguards are now available to any individual concerned about the storage on computers of personal data.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the safeguards my noble friend has in mind are contained in the Data Protection Act 1984. In particular, when the Act comes fully into force in November 1987 individuals will have a right of access to data about themselves which are covered by the Act.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. I wish to refer in particular to the provisions of Part Section 5(1), of the Data Protection Act 1984, which prohibits unregistered computer users from holding personal data. Has my noble friend seen the report of 22nd April in the Financial Times which claimed that, of the 300,000 computer users in this country, only one-tenth had registered by about the middle of April? If the closing date for registration is 11th May, will not those unregistered computer users, if any of them are in operation, be committing an offence under the Act?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I do not think that they will be committing an offence under the Act. I understand that to date about 130,000 applications for registration have been received. That compares, as my noble friend has said, with the registrar's first estimate of about 300,000 being involved. Applications are still arriving in substantial numbers.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, even supplemented by those that the noble Lord the Minister was kind enough to give to the House this morning, still leave an unsatisfactory position. Will the noble Lord inform the House what steps the Government intend to take to monitor progress on this matter carefully, and will he also give a brief outline to the House of the means by which they intend to enforce the provisions of the Act?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, that legislation was complex and dealt with an extremely complex matter, as I remember from first-hand experience having had to deal with it. It is early days. To enable the Registrar of Data Users to be fully prepared and to give data users time to prepare and adapt their records so that they can deal with requests from data subjects, the introduction of the right of access to data has been delayed until November 1987. I hope that that will help.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, has the staffing if the registrar's office been completed?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, it has not been finalised. There will be about 50 staff. I understand that there are some additional people there at the moment taking part in the necessary transitional work.