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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 23, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 27 to 29, 31, 33, and 36 to 39. This group of
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government amendments relates to the information databases to be established under Clauses 9 and 24 and fulfils the commitment I signalled at Report stage to examine whether further reassurance could be given to noble Lords on a number of points.
Before turning to the amendments, I thank noble Lords for their contributions during our debates on information databases and for being willing to meet outside the Chamber to discuss a range of issues. The arguments that have been put forward have been serious and considered. I have listened to them carefully and recognised their force through government amendments and the announcement of public consultation on the key issues of recording concerns and the involvement of sensitive services.
Amendments Nos. 23 and 33 make a drafting correction to subsection (1) of Clauses 9 and 24. I made it clear that we wanted flexibility on whether databases would be established on a national, regional or local basis. As noble Lords have pointed out, it is important that we take such decisions carefully. Noble Lords know that we have commissioned independent advice. We have been advised that the wording of subsection (1) might preclude a combination of local, regional or national elements to the solution. Deleting the word "or" apparently retains the flexibility.
Amendments Nos. 27 and 36 put beyond doubt that the databases are not to contain case records. I have already given reassurances to that effect, but noble Lords expressed concern on Report that the wording of subsection (4)(h) would give the power for such details to be included in the future. We are clear that there must be flexibility to set out new data requirements in regulations, subject to approval of both Houses of Parliament, rather than in primary legislation. I hope that noble Lords will now be reassured that such flexibility may not be used to change the nature of the database from what we have set out, by turning it into a case record for the child.
Amendments Nos. 28 and 37 add to the list of matters that may in particular be covered by regulations the issue of how long information must or may be held on the database. I have agreed with noble Lords in earlier debates that we shall need to be clear about the standards governing the length of time that individual pieces of information and a child's record as a whole should be kept on the database. On Report, I indicated in response to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that I would bring forward an amendment reflecting his proposal that this matter should be set out on the face of the Bill as one to be covered in regulations. I am grateful to the noble Earl for his suggestion. I hope that I have succeeded.
Amendments Nos. 29 and 38 add to the list of matters that may in particular be covered by regulations the issue of procedures to ensure accuracy. I have agreed with noble Lords in earlier debates the importance of this matter too. For the databases to be effective tools, the information must be up-to-date and accurate. In Committee, I indicated in response to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that I would consider whether there was more that we could do to reassure noble
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Lords that we share their concern that information should be accurate. The amendment reflects the proposal of the noble Earl in Committee that this matter should be set out on the face of the Bill as one to be covered in regulations. Again, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his suggestion.
Amendments Nos. 31 and 39 provide that guidance or directions under subsection (13) may cover the provision of advice about existing rights under the Data Protection Act. As I have stressed to noble Lords in Committee and on Report, the databases will operate in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act. In response to points made on Report about appeal procedures by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, I reiterated that we do not intend to create new arrangements of this kind, especially for these databases. But I undertook to consider what we might do to reassure noble Lords. I believe that it is very important that people are made aware of their rights under the Data Protection Act. The amendment, therefore, adds the provision of such advice to the list of matters that may in particular be covered by guidance and directions under Clauses 9 and 24. I hope that noble Lords are reassured by this. I beg to move.
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