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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I know that this is a debate on Clause 1 stand part but I do not intend to tire the Committee by reviewing what we have discussed and established so far. I shall be extremely brief--the more so as my noble friend Lord Grabiner has addressed much better than I could the human rights issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins.
The Bill is a balance. It is about powers to obtain information that we need in order to safeguard taxpayers' money against fraud, but it limits those powers to inquiries that we believe are reasonable. Elsewhere, there are safeguards against the unauthorised obtaining and disclosure of information. I have also outlined what amounts in my view to a comprehensive system of administrative safeguard.
To come to the point which is at the core of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, we have no doubt that these measures are both necessary and proportionate to the problem. We are confident that they comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and data protection legislation. They are measures which uphold people's rights while providing us with the powers we need to check for cheats.
The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, asked about the status of legal advice. My advice comes from department lawyers and from Foreign and Commonwealth Office lawyers. My advice has been that the Government's position and these provisions are compatible with convention rights. We could, as my noble friend Lord Grabiner said, argue about whose lawyer knows better. But I do think that the core of the concerns which gave rise to issues about human rights were largely associated with new subsection (2C)(c).
I shall do my best to come back with wording that might satisfy your Lordships and look at the repercussions and read-across. In the light of that, I am confident that what I have signed remains correct. I took it on sound legal advice and I have every reason to believe that the Bill properly balances the pursuit of fraud while protecting the human rights and the rights of individuals appropriately to privacy where their privacy is not a shelter against serious fraud. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Lord will allow Clause 1 to stand part of the Bill.
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