IMMIGRATION CONTROL and The DATA PROTECTION BILL
We are grateful for the watchful eye of Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords in protecting our liberties, and working on the fine detail of legislation such as this.
Baroness Sally Hamwee writes:
The Data Protection Bill is making its way through Parliament. It provides rights for data subjects (you and me) to protect us from the misuse of our personal data. However, there is an exemption for the Home Office when it processes data for “the maintenance of effective immigration control, or the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of immigration control” (the latter seems to me to allow for great big fishing expeditions). Personal data – information – is at the heart of pretty much all refugee and asylum applications, and the Information Commissioner says that the majority of complaints she receives are from lawyers working on these cases. Now, suddenly, it has become very relevant to the 3 million EU citizens in the UK, whose position in the future depends on correct data. It’s difficult to ensure the Home Office has correct data if you can’t find out what data they have.
The Liberal Democrats, led by Lord Tim Clement-Jones with Lord Brian Paddick and me, opposed the exemption. We argued, among other things, that immigration offences attract exemptions as they are criminal offences, but the Government would not agree our amendment to the Bill, and though Labour made some sympathetic noises when I called a vote they abstained – so another honourable defeat for the Lib Dems, but not an issue we will forget about.