HL Deb 07 July 2000 vol 614 cc1751-2

1.34 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the two draft orders make what might best be described as running adjustments to the data protection regime established when the Data Protection Act 1998 was brought into force on 1st March of this year. I shall briefly explain their effect.

I shall deal first with the Designated Codes of Practice (No. 2) Order. In February, noble Lords approved seven orders subject to affirmative resolution under the 1998 Act. Among them was the Data Protection (Designated Codes of Practice) Order 2000. That order designates five media codes of practice for the purposes of Section 32 of the 1998 Act.

It was a matter of considerable concern to the Government to discover that after the draft order had been approved by your Lordships' House, one of the codes which it designates—the Press Complaints Commission's code—was out of date. I wrote to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, to inform them of this mistake and undertook to bring forward a fresh order to regularise the position.

That is the purpose of the new order. The original order designates specific editions of the various codes. Designating specific editions means that each time a code is amended, a new order will be required. As we have seen, this can give rise to problems. To avoid such problems in the future, we have decided to follow a different approach in the new order. This designates each of the codes at large without specifying a particular edition. The relevant edition will be the one in force at the time at which the processing or publication in question takes place. The new order revokes and replaces the existing one.

I turn now to the Data Protection (Miscellaneous Subject Access Exemptions) (Amendment) Order. This order makes one small change to the Data Protection (Miscellaneous Subject Access Exemptions) Order 2000 which was also among the original package of draft subordinate legislation approved in February. The Data Protection Act 1998 creates a right, subject to exemptions, for individuals to see the information which is held about them. Among other things, the original order allows that right to be restricted where adoption records held by local authorities are concerned. The justification for this is that it can sometimes be harmful for the individuals concerned to learn about the background to the adoption. Following the approval of the original order, it was drawn to our attention that adoption records are not held only by local authorities. Approved adoption societies can also hold such records, and similar considerations apply to access to them. At the request of bodies representing such voluntary adoption societies, we are therefore bringing forward this order to apply the exemption to them as well.

I apologise to noble Lords that it has proved necessary to bring these two orders before your Lordships' House so soon after the implementation of the 1998 Act. However, I hope that noble Lords will understand the need for these changes to be made. I commend the orders to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Viscount Bridgeman

My Lords, I am happy to agree to the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.