HL Deb 10 July 1998 vol 591 cc1504-5

74 Clause 56, page 33, line 6, leave out 'for reasons of substantial' and insert 'in the'.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 74. The purpose of Clause 56 is to put a duty of confidentiality, subject to a criminal sanction, on the Data Protection Commissioner and her staff in respect of confidential information that they acquire in the course of their functions under the Bill. This provision flows from a requirement on member states in the directive. Article 28.7 requires us to ensure that the members and staff of our supervisory authority are subject to a duty of professional secrecy in respect of the confidential information to which they have access. There are a number of exemptions. One is where the disclosure is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest.

Amendment No. 74 was proposed by the Government in the light of representations by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, to the effect that the substantial public interest posed too stiff a test. We thought about this and we agreed, on reflection, that it would be more consistent with the approach to freedom of information, while remaining consistent with the directive, to lower this threshold to simple public interest. That is one more step in helping to ensure that, in practice, the commissioner and her staff are not impeded from doing their job effectively.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 74.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Milner of Leeds—and, again, I am grateful for the warning—wishes to raise a point on Amendment No. 79. Therefore, what I propose to do, with the agreement of your Lordships, is to take Amendments Nos. 75 to 78 inclusive first, and then call Amendments Nos. 79 to 105.