There is still time to make use of WriteToThem.com, or other means of lobbying your Member of Parliament to get them to firstly actually debate, and then, hopefully reject, the sneaky Information Orders powers in the Coroners and Justice Bill, which gets its second reading today n the Commons, and will, presumably also get debate limited via a programming / guillotine motion.
Clause152 Information sharing will, unlike the rest of the Bill, affect the daily lives of millions, and perhaps even all, UK citizens.
It effectively destroys the internationally accepted fundamental Principle of Data Protection, as written into the original Data Protection Act 1998, that data gathered for one purpose, cannot be used for another, without the data subject's prior, informed consent.
The existing Data Protection Act already has huge loopholes in it regarding "national security" or "for the prevention, detection or prosecution of crime" (no matter how petty or trivial)
However, Information Orders far exceed these supposedly, strictly limited purposes:
(1) An appropriate Minister is entitled to make an information-sharing
order only if the sharing of information enabled by the order is for the purposes of--
(a) in the case of the Secretary of State, any matter with which a
department of the Secretary of State is concerned;
(b) in the case of the Treasury, any matter with which the Treasury
(c) in the case of any other Minister in charge of a government
department, any matter with which that department is
i.e. any Minister can order the sharing of any personal data, including Sensitive Personal Data such as medical records, political or trades union affiliations, criminal records, sexuality, financial records and other vast databases such as national identity register data, passenger travel data, DVLA car and insurance data, voting registration and other electoral records etc.
This sharing could be with private companies and other Government departments, not just in the UK, but also internationally.
The Explanatory Notes for this clause 152 cite a wholly unconvincing example
692. New section 50A(3) sets out the definition of data-sharing for the purposes of this section. Sharing in this section includes both the disclosure of data between two or more persons (such as when one company provides its client list to another company for commercial purposes), as well as where a single person uses some data for a purpose other than that which it was obtained for (for example where a Government Department obtains information for the purposes of exercising one particular statutory function such as the collection of tax but then later wishes to use the same information for another statutory function such as the provision of benefits and credits).
There is already in place, since 2004, a statutory data sharing gateway, between the tax and benefits computer systems, called the DWP Longitudinal Study . brought in under data sharing powers under the Employment Act 2002.
The Information Commissioner's Office cannot even cope with their existing backlog of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Act work (which is measured in years, not in weeks) , and all of their advisory reports on Data Security or Privacy are simply ignored and never put into practice by Government Departments.
This Bill does not give the ICO any sort of veto or amendment powers over an Information Order.
The Bill provides no mechanism for a private citizen to challenge having their Sensitive Personal Data shared without their prior informed consent.
They will no longer be able to complain to the Information Commissioner, because the ICO will be bound by the newly amended Data Protection Act.
Judicial Review in the High Court in such a case is only available to the very rich, and will only apply after the data sharing collateral damage has already been done.
Note how these Information Orders sections 151 to 154 of this Coroners and Justice Bill are well down the numerical list of 162 clauses, so there is a huge danger that they will never be fully debated in the Commons, because of lack of time, after considering all the other controversial bits of the Bill, which will, no doubt, be subjected to a Programming / Guillotine motion.
Some of the other controversial bits of this Bill, which may allow the Information Orders clauses to be smuggled through without amendment.
- Another attempt to "nobble" Coroners Inquests in cases where the actions or inactions of the Police and UK and allied military forces and intelligence agencies are involved, such as the "friendly fire" inquests or the death of Jean Charles de Menezes:.
- No doubt the changes to the murder laws will also soak up a lot of the Opposition's time. e.g. clause 41 Partial defence to murder: loss of control
- Similarly the previous controversy about Witness Anonymity will also soak up parliamentary time. - clause 69 Witness anonymity orders
- The conditions for Investigation Anonymity Orders are bizarre:
(4) The condition in this subsection is that the person likely to have committed the qualifying offence ("the relevant person") is a person who was aged at least 11 but under 30 at the time the offence was committed.
The age of criminal responsibility is currently 10 years of age. What is the justification for an upper age limit of 30 ? Are there really no gang members or their parents, who are not older than 30 ?
- Another pointless clause which is already sitting up controversy amongst various religious groups as an attack on the freedom to preach that homosexuals are sinners etc., is:
In Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) (hatred against persons on grounds of sexual orientation etc), omit section 29JA (protection for discussion or criticism of sexual conduct etc)
This would repeal the amendment brought in by the recent Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 Schedule 16 Hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation
The Explanatory Notes claim, rather unconvincingly that
The removal of the section will not affect the threshold required for the offence to be made out.
If so, then why was section 29JA created in the first place ?
- Clause 151 Assessment notices gives the Information Commissioner some more powers to investigate (by appointment only, with lots of warning, so no dawn raids) potential Data Protection Act breaches.
However, for some bizarre reason, part of OFSTED, the school inspectors, is treated as being equivalent to "national security bodies" like the Security Service MI5 or GCHQ etc. by being exempted from such ICO Assessment Notices.
All in all a thoroughly over complicated Bill, seemingly designed to exploit the apparent unwillingness or incompetence of of MPs, to properly scrutinise and reject the Government's sneaky attempts to grab more power, and to further attack our fundamental data privacy rights.