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Baroness Byford: My Lords, following a little confusion earlier, I hope that I am now in order in supporting this very important amendment. I supported it in Grand Committee and I wish to do so publicly. It may have been better if we had uncoupled some of the groupings. Perhaps then I should not have confused the House so much.

My noble friend Lord Radnor has spoken specifically of his interest and reason for tabling this amendment. I should like to mention two other reasons. I shall give an example which I know well. There are definite rules and regimes laid down for any visitor entering or leaving a poultry unit. My noble friend is quite right to say that it would affect the whole outlook if those rules were broken. I wish to add my voice and the voice of these Benches in support of this amendment. I had hoped that the Government would have accepted my reasonable amendment. However, as they have not done so, I add my weight and support to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Radnor.

Viscount Thurso: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving me, for the second time this evening, a second bite of the cherry. I urge him not to test the opinion of the House this evening but, rather, to hear what the Minister says and to see whether there is anything we can extract from the Minister on the matter between now and Third Reading that may satisfy him.

Because I am in the business myself, I understand fully the frustration which the noble Earl feels and the importance he attaches to this issue. However, I believe that this is perhaps not quite the moment to test the opinion of the House. It is possible that we can extract something from the Government which goes further towards reassuring the noble Earl. If he pushes the amendment to a vote, on the basis of what I have heard I am afraid I shall feel obliged to support the Government and urge my noble friends to do likewise. For that reason, I hope the noble Earl will wait for another occasion to see what can be extracted from the Government.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, like the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, I would not be able to support this amendment. I gather from the Minister that code 9 under Section 40 covers this. From my own point of view, the environmental health officer and anybody else who comes anywhere near my dairy puts on a

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white coat, a head covering and proper boots and gloves if they are going to touch anything. I have no fear of being prosecuted for obstructing.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, perhaps it would be helpful if I said a couple of words to noble Lords. I referred to code of practice 9 made under Section 40 of the Food Safety Act 1990 on food hygiene inspections. Codes to which food authorities must have regard are issued under that section of the Food Safety Act 1990. That code also requires officers to observe any reasonable food safety precautions which are required by the company or organisation under inspection. That ought to provide the reassurance that the noble Earl seeks. However, between now and Third Reading I am happy to reflect further and to discuss these matters with the noble Earl to see whether I can reassure him further.

Viscount Eccles: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I thank him for his reply. The concern is about "any person accompanying" and not about the agency official. We have been given good assurances on the powers that are in existence for the good practice of the agency officials. But when an agency official chooses another person, will the provisions stretch to cover that other person? I believe that is where we are seeking comfort from the Minister.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount. The position is that accompanying persons are not legally bound as the authorised officer would be. However, the agency could make conditions for the accompanying person. As I said to the noble Earl, I would be happy to reflect with him on whether there is something that we can do to satisfy noble Lords on that point.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, before the Minister finally sits down, he used the words "the agency could". If he were to change that to "the agency would", with all the force at his command and with the Government and the ministry behind him, I am sure that my noble friend would be satisfied.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, perhaps noble Lords will allow me two or three days to look into the matter. That is the very issue that I want to discuss with the noble Earl.

The Earl of Radnor: My Lords, I was quite determined to divide the House because this seemed to me to be a perfectly clear and simple amendment that I thought would enhance the Bill rather than spoil it. However, having listened to the exchange, I hope that I read a solid assurance from the Minister. Am I correct in thinking that what I was trying to accomplish will be accomplished and will be open to discussion? If so, I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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7.15 p.m.

Clause 19 [Publication etc. by the Agency of advice and information]:

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 9, line 41, at end insert--
("( ) The exercise of that power is subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I move Amendment No. 19 and I shall speak also to Amendment No. 20. The amendments deal with the Data Protection Act. At Committee stage my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish put forward Amendment No. 59 which made it clear that any information which is gained and published should exclude personal data. He expressed his pessimism about the ability to keep one's personal data to oneself the moment they appear on any computer.

Since our discussions I have looked at the Data Protection Act 1984 which states in principle 2:

    "Personal data shall be held only for one or more specified and lawful purposes",

for example,

    "unless that purpose is described in particulars registered under this Act in relation to the data".

Principle 3 states:

    "Personal data held for any purpose or purposes shall not be used or disclosed in any manner incompatible with that purpose",

for example, if it is,

    "(a) used otherwise than for a purpose of a description registered under this Act in relation to the data; or

    (b) disclosed otherwise than to a person of a description so registered".

It also includes some exemptions which cover national security, prevention or detection of crime, apprehension or prosecution of offenders, assessment or collection of tax or duty, salaries or pension payments and company accounts.

In Committee the Minister said that Clause 19(2) states that the agency may not publish anything that is prohibited by an enactment, and added that, therefore, my amendment was not necessary. I understand that the Minister has had time to reflect on this decision and that she may now be willing to consider this amendment again. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, perhaps I can raise the question of the Data Protection Act's twin, although it is not yet born, the Freedom of Information Bill. I congratulate the Government on subsection (3). Would that the Freedom of Information Bill contained anything like that. The requirement that the agency has to consider whether one thing is outweighed by another was one of the great lacunae in that Bill. I am glad to see that that has been filled in this Bill.

However, will the Minister confirm that when the Freedom of Information Bill is in place it will cover this agency, and that it is not intended that the agency will be exempt from the Act? Will he also confirm that the decisions made by the agency under subsection (3)

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will be subject to review by the ombudsman and, where the agency has chosen not to disclose, that may be overruled by the ombudsman?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, perhaps I can respond to that point first. Once the Freedom of Information Bill is enacted, the freedom of information regime will indeed apply to the agency. Although, as the noble Lord points out, we have already set the agency on a pro-active course of being open, that application would mean that the agency would, like other public bodies, be required to produce a publication scheme, describing what it intends to publish. There will also be an avenue of complaint to the information commissioner in the eventuality, which we believe will be unlikely, that individuals are unable to obtain the information that they require. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured on that point.

As to Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 in the name of the noble Baroness, I am happy to accept that they are helpful. The noble Baroness raised a similar point about the protection of personal data in the Grand Committee. At that time we made it clear that it was our intention that the Data Protection Act 1998, which updates the 1994 Act, should apply. On reflection we agree that these amendments concerning the agency's ability to publish information are a useful clarification to Clause 19. By including a specific reference to the Data Protection Act, it becomes absolutely clear that the agency is subject to the data protection principles that that Act contains and that the agency must, therefore, maintain the personal privacy of individuals about whom it has obtained information in the course of its work. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for putting forward these amendments, which we support.

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