HL Deb 22 July 1991 vol 531 cc572-5

87 After Clause 41, insert the following new clause:

Unauthorised disclosure of information

'.—(1) Any person who is, or has been, employed in employment to which this section applies is guilty of an offence if, without lawful authority, he discloses any information which—

  1. (a) was acquired by him in the course of that employment; and
  2. (b) relates to a particular person.

(2) It is not an offence under this section—

  1. (a) to disclose information in the form of a summary or collection of information so framed as not to enable information relating to any particular person to be ascertained from it; or
  2. (b) to disclose information which has previously been disclosed to the public with lawful authority.

(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that at the time of the alleged offence—

  1. (a) he believed that he was making the disclosure in question with lawful authority and had no reasonable cause to believe otherwise; or
  2. (b) he believed that the information in question had previously been disclosed to the public with lawful authority and had no reasonable cause to believe otherwise.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

  1. (a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both; or
  2. (b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.

(5) This section applies to employment as—

  1. (a) the Chief Child Support Officer;
  2. (b) any other child support officer;
  3. (c) any clerk to, or other officer of, a child support appeal tribunal;
  4. (d) any member of the staff of such a tribunal;
  5. (e) a civil servant in connection with the carrying out of any functions under this Act;
and to employment of any other kind which is prescribed for the purposes of this section.

(6) For the purposes of this section a disclosure is to be regarded as made with lawful authority if, and only if, it is made—

  1. (a) by a civil servant in accordance with his official duty; or
  2. (b) by any other person either—
    1. (i) for the purposes of the function in the exercise of which he holds the information and without contravening any restriction duly imposed by the responsible person; or
    2. (ii) to, or in accordance with an authorisation duly given by, the responsible person;
  3. (c) in accordance with any enactment or order of a court;
  4. (d) for the purpose of instituting, or otherwise for the purposes of, any proceedings before a court or before any tribunal or other body or person mentioned in this Act; or
  5. (e) with the consent of the appropriate person.

(7) "The responsible person" means—

  1. (a) the Lord Chancellor;
  2. (b) the Secretary of State;
  3. 574
  4. (c) any person authorised by the Lord Chancellor, or Secretary of State, for the purposes of this subsection; or
  5. (d) any other prescribed person, or person falling within a prescribed category.

(8) "The appropriate person" means the person to whom the information in question relates, except that if the affairs of that person are being dealt with—

  1. (a) under a power of attorney;
  2. (b) by a receiver appointed under section 99 of the Mental Health Act 1983;
  3. (c) by a Scottish mental health custodian, that is to say
    1. (i) a curator bonis, tutor or judicial factor; or
    2. (ii) the managers of a hospital acting on behalf of that person under section 94 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984; or
  4. (d) by a mental health appointee, that is to say—
    1. (i) a person directed or authorised as mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) of rule 41(1) of the Court of Protection Rules 1984; or
    2. (ii) a receiver ad interim appointed under sub-paragraph (b) of that rule;
the appropriate person is the attorney, receiver, custodian or appointee (as the case may be) or, in a case falling within paragraph (a), the person to whom the information relates.'.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 87.

During the passage of the Bill some concern has been expressed about the confidentiality of personal information collected for the purposes of the Bill. I fully understand the concerns expressed by a number of your Lordships in this area and hope that the new clause, which introduces a safeguard against unauthorised disclosure of such information, goes some way towards meeting those concerns.

If an officer discloses information when not authorised to do so, he will, by virtue of the amendment, be guilty of an offence. That will remind officers that information is to be disclosed only when there is a specific authority to do so. I commend the amendment to the House.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 87—(Lord Henley.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

9.45 p.m.