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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I begin by apologising if I gave your Lordships the impression that I had made a judgment about deterioration of the situation in the Maze. I certainly did not intend to do that and would want to make a judgment only on the basis of much greater knowledge following reading the Narey report and the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. In terms of the questions which my noble friend asked, at this stage I would prefer not to be drawn into making a judgment about the way in which the prison has been managed in the past and now. I am very much aware that the Secretary of State and her ministerial team must make an extremely difficult judgment in consultation with the professionals about the degree to which outside factors should be taken into account. A degree of judgment must be exercised about the way in which the prison is managed.

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I note the views that have been expressed about the background to the murder of Billy Wright. All I can say is that I shall ensure that the views that have been expressed in your Lordships' House are brought to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and my honourable friend the Minister. Prison officers who are at risk are offered protection for their wives, families and homes. My noble friend referred to the fact that 38 prisoners escaped in 1983. I point out that 19 of those were recaptured immediately. In the light of the introduction of humane conditions balanced against control, one is not necessarily talking about concessions but about the very careful management of an extremely difficult situation. I hope that my noble friend accepts that a difficult judgment has had to be made in the past, must be made now and will have to be made in the future.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement made in the other place. I believe that the events in the Maze are likely to lead to incidents of revenge outside. The penalty will be the maiming or, even worse, the killing of the innocent. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that they must stop. Where do the Government believe that responsibility for preventing such incidents should lie? Do Her Majesty's Government agree that there are no political prisoners in Northern Ireland?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, where responsibility lies for making a judgment about how to prevent further violent incidents is a very difficult matter. Obviously, the ultimate responsibility for violence lies with those who directly perpetrate it. As to the need to protect those who are most at risk, the noble Baroness, with her distinguished experience as a Minister in Northern Ireland, is only too well aware that that is a task which the security forces seek to carry out at all times. The noble Baroness will also be aware of the Government's view that there are no political prisoners anywhere in the United Kingdom.

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, will my noble friend ensure that the point raised by my noble friend Lord Fitt and by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, about the position of prison officers is emphasised to the Chief Inspector of Prisons whom I respect? He knows a great deal about prisons in this part of the United Kingdom. There is not the slightest doubt that if a prison officer at the Maze is regarded as stepping out of line his wife and family are at risk outside. That is something which very few people this side of the water understand. In any inquiry what happens in Northern Ireland must be taken into account; otherwise, the investigation will be English, Welsh and Scottish-based and will not be good enough.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I give my noble friend the assurance that I shall do everything to ensure that the concerns that have been raised today in your Lordships' House are passed on to all those involved in inquiring into the circumstances and conditions.

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Data Protection Bill [H.L.]

5.15 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 9 [Right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 7, line 36, after second ("controller") insert ("at the end of such period as is reasonable in the circumstances").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 17. Amendments Nos. 17, 18, 22 and 23 are grouped with Amendments Nos. 24 to 28 and 72.

I refer first to Amendments Nos. 17, 18, 22 and 23. At the moment Clauses 9 and 10 provide for data subjects to be able to give data controllers written notice requiring them to cease within a reasonable time or not to begin certain processing activities. The idea of "within a reasonable time" is simple enough. There should be a reasonable margin of time for the controller to put his affairs in order as soon as necessary to comply with the notice. It would be unreasonable in every case to expect him to respond instantly. As drafted, however, these clauses give that measure of latitude only in respect of the requirement to cease processing. There is no such qualification in respect of requirements not to begin. Having thought about it, we believe that that is not right.

If a data controller's plans to begin processing are very far advanced it may be very onerous to expect him to bring those plans to an instant halt in every case where he receives a notice of objection. These amendments in effect introduce a requirement for reasonable notice in such circumstances. The amendments, however, do not say that it will never be right to expect a data controller to bring his plans to an instant halt. In some cases it may well be reasonable to expect a data controller not to begin at very short notice, but not always. Much will depend on individual circumstances. These amendments are designed to introduce the necessary flexibility.

Amendment No. 19 in this group is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Norton, and therefore I pass over it. I turn to Amendment No. 20. This amendment amends an amendment that we made in Committee. We have re-scrutinised it with some care. We did not get it quite right technically, for which I apologise. Subsection (1)(a) of Clause 9 starts at the wrong place so that subsection (1)(b) does not read intelligibly. This amendment is designed to sort that out. Amendments Nos. 21 and 24 are further government amendments and are designed to address points made by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, in Committee. He pointed out that in Clauses 9 and 10 there was no requirement for the data controller to respond to a written notice from an individual objecting to processing. Without such a response the individual would have no means of knowing whether his objection had been successful or, if unsuccessful, why it had been rejected. A requirement to respond in writing to a notice of objection would provide a link between the data controller and the data

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subject and hence the opportunity for dialogue before the data subject needed to consider involving the commissioner or referring the matter to the courts.

I explained in Committee that a written reply to a notice under Clause 9 or 10 is not essential to ensure compliance with the notice, in contrast to subject access requests made under Clause 7 where the only satisfactory way to comply is to reply in writing. I stressed nonetheless that I saw some force in the noble Lord's points and undertook to consider them further. We have indeed given further thought to the matter and have concluded that amendments in this regard would be helpful. I understand that they would also be welcomed by the registrar.

The amendments would oblige data controllers to respond in writing within 21 days to written notices from individuals seeking to prevent or stop processing likely to cause substantial damage or distress to themselves or others; or the processing of their data for direct marketing purposes. In the first of these instances, Clause 9 cases, controllers would either have to confirm that they had complied or intended to comply with the notice of objection or explain why they thought it unjustified and say to what extent, if any, they had complied or intended to comply with it. In the second instance, Clause 10 cases, where the issue is more straightforward, controllers would simply be required to explain how they had complied or intended to comply. A data subject receiving such a written response would thereby know in a straightforward way whether his request had been complied with and, if it had not, whether there was any basis for further dialogue before involving the commissioner or resorting to litigation.

Amendments Nos. 25 to 28 and 72 are also within this extensive list of amendments. At the moment, Clause 13 imposes a general prohibition on certain forms of automated decision taking which significantly affects data subjects. There are exceptions to the prohibition. But the practice is effectively otherwise banned. It has been put to us that this in fact goes further than the directive actually requires. We think on reflection that that is right. The directive is not expressed in terms of a ban but in terms of giving everyone the right not to be subject to these decisions, which is not the same. We do not wish to impose more restrictions on data controllers than are necessary to safeguard the rights required by the directive, so the amendments remove the ban and confer rights instead.

The difference in practice is that with a ban, no one can take these decisions--except in the exempted circumstances--without running the gauntlet of the entire regulatory mechanism which the Bill sets up. That is too heavy handed. We are therefore giving a right of objection. So, until someone objects, the matter is essentially one for the judgment of the data controller. This is therefore very much on the model of the right to object to direct marketing, set out in Clause 10. We have taken care to ensure that the new right to object properly safeguards the individual's position.

First, there is a general right by notice to require any data controller to refrain from taking these decisions, enforceable by the commissioner or through the courts.

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Secondly, data controllers are required to inform data subjects who have not given such notice that a decision has been taken solely by automatic processing. The data subject can then exercise his right to serve a notice within 21 days on the data controller to have the decision reconsidered or taken on a different basis. The data controller must then respond within 21 days to that notice by giving the data subject details of how he intends to comply with the notice.

This revised clause aligns the right not to be subject to automated decision taking more closely with the directive and with the two other key rights in Clauses 9 and 10. I commend these amendments to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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