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Baroness Fookes: I thank the department for giving the information about the draft order, which was most useful. But although I was pleased to receive a copy of the information, I am still concerned that we should need it at all.

It is an important principle that, as far as possible, information in relation to a Bill should be on the face of the Bill unless there are extremely good reasons for it to be otherwise. I am not at all clear why this fairly simple information should not be on the face of the Bill.

I had not thought about the question of addresses, but am intrigued by the points raised by my noble friend Lady Anelay and shall be interested to hear the Minister's response.

Lord Avebury: In moving this amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, prompted me to ask a question, the answer to which I hope is fairly simple; that is, what happens to gypsies or those who are of an itinerant way of life? They may have an address on a local authority or private site which is licensed for that purpose. They may then move away from that site, particularly during the summer for work of an agricultural nature and then come back during the winter. But there are other people who, because of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, do not reside on a fixed site. They move around the country from one tolerated site to another or may simply live on the verge of a roadside where the local authority allows them to remain.

If a person aged 75 or over is in one of those groups, presumably they are just as entitled to a free television licence as someone who lives in a bricks-and-mortar house. However, they may not have an address which they can supply to the BBC or Department of Social Security which would qualify them for the purpose. What are we to do about that?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I start with the last point first and will come back to the other issues.

I assume that King Lear was over 75 years of age. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that he gave most of his castle to Goneril and Regan, and would have given it to Cordelia if she had answered the question in the way that was intended. He and his retinue--be it 20, 10 or one--live in a little part of his castle. They visit Goneril and they visit Regan, and if Cordelia was not living on the streets, they would go to her as well.

It is not our intention that King Lear should have more than one free licence. It is our intention that King Lear and everybody else over the age of 75 should have a free television licence at their principal address. There is nothing new in that. That is exactly what

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happens with people who are paying for their licence. They have a licence at their principal address. If they want a television set somewhere else, they have to pay for that as well.

Our assumption is that people will have a free licence at their principal address and that Goneril will not benefit when Regan is looking after her father, and that Regan will not benefit when Goneril is looking after her father. That is entirely reasonable.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to gypsies. I do not know what they do at the moment in relation to paying for a television licence. I assume that on the date they apply for a television licence, they have an address. That address is used for the licence and they carry it around with them. At least they do not have two different places, one for the weekend and one for during the week. They move themselves lock, stock and barrel from one place to another. I assume that that works perfectly well for television licences. We do not feel that there is a problem in relation to principal addresses. We mean the legislation to cover the principal address.

However, I am relieved to learn that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is content with the parliamentary scrutiny which is proposed in this Bill in the sense that the information is not being left to the Government to decide; it has to be prescribed by order. What she is not content about, and what the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, is not content about--I understand their concern--is why we should not place the information on the face of the Bill when I have already stated what it is going to be.

There is a need for the degree of flexibility provided by secondary legislation. Clause 2 states:


    "'Reduced-fee licences' means television licences ... for which a reduced fee is payable; and ... which fall within a prescribed category".

In other words, theoretically it is possible to extend this scheme for the transfer of information from the DSS to the BBC for any future scheme that there might be of a comparable nature. We have no intention of introducing such a scheme. But we would not want to have to introduce primary legislation if at some time this or any future government wanted to do so. We are confident that the information set out in the draft order is enough for the smooth administration of the current scheme. The way that we envisage the scheme working depends on the interface between the BBC's current licensing scheme and the DSS database as currently structured. We cannot rule out the possibility that one or both of those sets of information will be restructured at some time in the future in such a way that the interface no longer works exactly as proposed at present.

As I said, we do not want to rule out the possibility, at some time in the future, of introducing different reduced-fee schemes, either to replace this one or in addition to it. It would be short-sighted to arrange matters so that a technical Bill of this sort were required if any such changes to the scheme were made. We believe that secondary legislation is the most

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appropriate method in this case where details may change without upsetting the principles which will be fully debated in the course of the passage of this Bill.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I thank the Minister for his answer. We seem to have been dwelling on two forms of "principle". The first is the principle of what information should be on the face of the Bill and the second is the matter of the principal address.

With regard to what information should appear on the face of a Bill, Opposition parties will continue to disagree with governments as to how far that should go; and no doubt we shall return to that issue. I was particularly interested to hear the Minister say more clearly perhaps than was said in another place that there may be occasions on which different schemes need to be introduced, or may be planned by the Government to provide reduced-fee licences. That may be something we shall discuss further when the future of broadcasting and the licence fee itself are discussed.

I was intrigued by the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, to gypsies and to how those who were itinerant in general have access to benefits such as this. I confess it is not a question to which I had applied my mind; I should have done so. I shall certainly follow up that issue between now and Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 5:


    Page 1, line 16, at end insert--


("( ) The Secretary of State shall not supply information to the BBC under the provisions of this section unless he is satisfied that effective systems are in place at the BBC to prevent accidental or unlawful transmission of the information or unlawful obtaining of the information.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 5, with the leave of the Committee I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 6, 8, 9 and 11.

This group of amendments addresses the question of how secure the transfer and the storage of information will be as it flows from the DSS to the BBC's contractors. In relation to Amendment No. 5, the intention is to make it clear on the face of the Bill that it should be the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place before he agrees to release it to the BBC and the contractors.

The Minister referred briefly to the fact that the Secretary of State should have the duty to ensure that proper systems are in place before the information is transmitted. After all, the Secretary of State has been given information for one purpose and it is now being used for another by the contractors of the BBC. The concern is that their information technology systems may not come up to scratch. At Second Reading the Minister sought to reassure me on this point. He said:


    "The regime proposed for BBC subcontractors is exactly the same as that used by the DSS, which for many years has used subcontractors to process the data in question".--[Official Report, 15/6/00; col. 1846.]

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The point that I am trying to get across is that surely there is a difference between the past experience of the DSS and that proposed in the Bill. Previously the DSS has had direct contractual contact with its own sub-contractors; in other words, there has been a direct interface. But under the Bill the relationship of the DSS with the BBC's contractors is indirect--it is on a loop via the BBC. So the BBC faces towards the DSS in one direction and in the other towards its own sub-contractors. My concern is: how can we make sure that the link between the DSS and the sub-contractors is secure enough to ensure that the transfer of information is properly made?

The Minister said earlier that the way in which the Secretary of State would relate to the sub-contractors would be set out in a memorandum of understanding between the DSS and the BBC. My question in that respect is posed simply to obtain information because I do not know the answer. What is the legal status of the memorandum of understanding? If such a memorandum is produced, what recourse does either party have if it is not adhered to? I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I apologise if in my enthusiasm to answer Amendment No. 1 at some length--because I was trying to anticipate the range of the Opposition's concerns--I probably answered quite a number of the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has now raised.

Amendment No. 5 would prohibit the Department of Social Security from supplying information to the BBC under Clause 1 unless it was satisfied that effective systems were in place to protect that information from accidental or unlawful transmission or otherwise from being unlawfully obtained. But both the BBC and the DSS are bound by the Data Protection Act 1998, which must be adhered to when data are being processed. In particular, the eight data protection principles must be observed. We do not have to say so in the Bill because that is an overriding obligation.

Principle 7 states:


    "Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data".

As I said in response to Amendment No. 1, the Secretary will be concerned to ensure that effective systems are in place to that end. A memorandum of understanding between the DSS and the BBC is being prepared. It will require the BBC to handle DSS data in a secure environment to the same standard as applies in the DSS and in accordance with the principles, especially Principle 7, of the Data Protection Act. When that memorandum of understanding has been produced, I undertake to send it to all noble Lords taking part in this debate. I shall also place a copy in the Library of the House.

However, there is a further point that the noble Baroness raised regarding what legal sanctions apply. Clause 3 of the Bill makes it an offence to disclose the

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information supplied by the DSS "without lawful authority". This provision and the penalties that apply are designed to protect the information in the same terms as would apply if it were protected in the hands of the DSS. It has been modelled on Section 123 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992--of which we shall hear more--which prohibits unlawful disclosure of social security information by DSS employees and others.

Therefore, the effect of subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 1 is that information from the DSS can be supplied either to the BBC or to persons supplying services to the BBC; and we have already covered that ground. To protect this information, subsection (1) of Clause 3 provides that anyone to whom information is supplied under Clause 1, defined in subsection (1) of Clause 2 as "a recipient", is guilty of an offence if he or she discloses the information without lawful authority. Subsection (2) of Clause 3 provides that anyone who could, in practice, get the information--either the BBC, a contractor or the staff of either--is also capable of being charged with an offence.

Taken together, Amendments Nos. 6, 8, 9 and 11 would simply replace the expression "a recipient" with the words "the BBC". But in the Bill as drafted "a recipient" is simply a label for the person receiving information under Clause 1. Therefore, if we were to change that label as proposed in these amendments, it would have no practical effect. The offences would cover the same people as is the case at present.

Both the Government and the BBC are keenly aware of the need to secure proper security for personal information. The Bill limits the use to which this information can be put and provides stringent penalties for unlawful disclosure. I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendments.


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