HC Deb 06 November 1978 vol 957 c44W
Mr. Russell Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the activities of a certain marketing company, details of which have been supplied to him by the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston, in setting up a computer list of children who are members of the Football Crazy Club for the purpose of their commercial exploitation; whether he thinks this is in the public interest; and whether or not he proposes to take any steps to ban such practices.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Following a number of complaints from hon. Members I had inquiries made of the firm on whose behalf this list was compiled. The firm recognises that a serious mistake has been made. I understand that it was never its intention that the list, or any part of it, should be disclosed to third parties: it had intended that any commercial use of the list should be carefully supervised by it and potential users strictly vetted. As soon as the firm realised what had happened the offers to sell the list were withdrawn and it took steps to prevent any similar occurrence. I also brought the matter to the attention of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis who is seeking to ascertain whether the list has in fact been passed on to anyone who might misuse it.

The use of mailing lists is a well-established commercial practice. Lists consisting of children's names are, however, subject to special risks of abuse. I shall be considering this aspect of the matter in the context of the report of the Data Protection Committee, which is awaiting publication.