HC Deb 05 February 1998 vol 305 cc746-7W
Mr. Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the practice of MI5 of withholding all information from persons on whom records are held in respect of non-security matters; and what data protection requirements apply to MI5 in this respect. [27543]

Mr. Straw

Section 27 (1) of the Data Protection Act 1984 provides that personal data are exempt from the Act's registration and subject access provisions if the exemption is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security. The previous Administration determined in 1986, under section 27 (2) of the Data Protection Act 1984, that all personal data held by the Security Service were required to be exempt from the registration and subject access provisions of that Act in order to safeguard national security. Similar determinations were made for all personal data held by Security Intelligence Service and Government Communication Headquarters.

My Department has been considering with the Security Service and the intelligence agencies whether such a blanket exemption will still be necessary under the Data Protection Bill now before Parliament. That consideration is not yet complete. Its outcome will be announced in due course.

As regards the wider question of access to information about whether the Service holds files on any individual, I am unable to add to the answer by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister given to my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) on 29 January 1998, Official Report, column 307.