Public Bill Committee: Data Protection Bill [Lords]: Protection of personal data

Darren Jones Labour, Bristol North West

Thank you, Mr Hanson. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship on my first Bill Committee.

I rise to support the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill about the importance of adequacy and its link to article 8 of the charter of fundamental rights, and therefore in support of new clause 12. The Bill is pragmatic in seeking to bring GDPR principles into areas of non-EU competence and to provide a legislative parking space for GDPR if the UK leaves the European Union. However, we cannot get away from the fact that GDPR in itself has a legal basis that is anchored to the European charter of fundamental rights. In trying to copy and paste that level of protection into UK law, we must therefore also bring with it the fundamental rights to which it is attached.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights shares that view. Its report, following the passing of the Bill in the other place, was clear that article 8 of the charter is a fundamental legal right to the principles of data protection and privacy. It noted that with third countries such as Canada—the EU-Canada agreement, which this Government may seek to replicate with the European Union—the Grand Chamber of the European Union looked at article 8 of the European charter of fundamental rights when deciding on adequacy. Therefore, it would be sensible to assume that the same approach will be taken with the UK when it becomes a third country in the coming months.

There was a broad conversation about this issue in a general debate before Christmas on data protection, before the Bill was laid. Ministers on the Treasury Benches said that the Department for Exiting the European Union would set out why we did not need to include article 8 of the charter, given that it is present in other areas of UK law. On 5 December the same Department released its analysis, which acknowledged that article 8 of the charter had “no direct equivalent” in the European convention on human rights, and referred back instead to the Data Protection Bill.


Mike Wood: The hon. Gentleman is selectively quoting from that analysis. As he will see, it also says that the European Court of Human Rights —I think that the case concerned Finland—held that article 8 of the European convention on human rights encompassed data protection rights that were protected in article 8 of the charter.


Darren Jones Labour, Bristol North West

Of course the hon. Gentleman is right that the article includes principles of data protection, but we are trying to make the Government’s job in seeking the decision on adequacy with the European Union as easy as possible. This seems an easy way to facilitate that. Clearly, there is a dereliction of fundamental rights through not copying and pasting this across into UK law. Although there are data protection principles under the European convention on human rights, article 8 states:

“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

That does not sound very modern or digital to me. Although rights flow from that, the charter rights on communications—specifically electronic communications— seem much more fit for the future. I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments that the Bill seeks to make our country fit for the future. Let us rely not on a world of manual correspondence, but on one of electronic communications.

The new clause is not ideological; it does not seek to rebalance power between business controllers and individual citizens. It merely seeks to replicate what is in law today: a basic and fundamental human right that seems to me and to others to be perfectly sensible. Only yesterday, I was in Brussels with the European Scrutiny Committee, meeting Mr Barnier. He talked positively about wanting to get agreement on data adequacy, given its importance—not least because 11% of global data flows come to the UK, 70% of which are with the EU. It would be a disaster for this country if we did not have adequacy, so let us make our job easier to effect that shared aim across the Floor of the Committee and with our counterparts in Europe of seeking a decision on adequacy. Let us put this new clause into the Bill, so that we maintain the position that our data subjects have today: a fundamental right, which is in the European charter of fundamental rights, and in the future will be in this Bill.