Data Protection and Digital Information Bill

– in the House of Commons am 1:09 pm ar 29 Tachwedd 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Pleidleisiau yn y ddadl hon

Bill to be considered

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Mr Speaker has selected the recommittal motion in the name of Sir Chris Bryant. I call him to move the motion.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital) 1:15, 29 Tachwedd 2023

I beg to move,

That the Bill be re-committed to a Public Bill Committee.

First, I wish to briefly refer to the death yesterday morning of my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Rhondda, Allan Rogers. I know that many Members found him a good colleague to work with, and I believe that he spent many hours on the Channel Tunnel Act 1987. I sometimes think that the people who do such Bills on behalf of all of us deserve a medal. I am sure the whole House sends its best regards and deepest condolences to his family.

Our core job as Members of Parliament is the scrutiny of legislation, teasing out whether a proposal will do what it says, whether it is necessary and proportionate, and whether it has public support. The Government have had total control of the Order Paper since 1902, so we can do that job properly only if the Government get their act together and play ball. That is what enables the line-by-line consideration of the laws that bind us. It is what makes us a functioning democracy. We need to send the Bill back to Committee because we simply cannot do that job properly today.

Let us recall how we got here. A first version of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill was introduced by the previous Member for Mid Bedfordshire on 18 July 2022. It was such a mess that it never even made it to Second Reading. Nadine Dorries was sacked in September last year, and six months later the Bill was sacked as well, to be replaced by a new and improved No. 2 Bill, which had its Second Reading on 17 April and completed its Committee stage on 24 May. That was 190 days ago.

I do not know what has prompted all the delay. Was it the general chaos in Government? Perhaps the Government do not fully understand the term “with immediate effect”. I like the Minister, and I have known and worked with him on many different issues for many years. I had a meeting with him and his officials on Thursday 16 November. He told me then that on Report the Government would table only a few minor and technical amendments to the Bill, which he hoped everyone would be able to agree fairly easily.

On the last available day, 182 days after Committee, the Government brought out 240 amendments. Some are indeed minor and technical, but many are very significant. They strike to the heart of the independence of the new Information Commission, they alter the rights of the public in making subject access requests, and they amend our system in a way that may or may not enhance our data adequacy with the US and the European Union and therefore British businesses’ ability to rely on UK legislation to trade overseas. In some instances, they give very extensive new powers to Ministers, and they introduce completely new topics that have never been previously mooted, debated or scrutinised by Parliament in relation to this Bill, which already has more baubles on it than the proverbial Christmas tree. The end result is that we have 156 pages of amendments to consider today in a single debate.

Yes, we could have tabled amendments to the Government amendments, but they would not have been selectable, and we would not have been able to vote on them. So the way the Government have acted, whether knowingly, recklessly or incompetently, means that the Commons cannot carry out line-by-line consideration of what will amount to more than 90 pages of new laws, 38 new clauses and two new schedules, one of which is 19 pages long. Some measures will barely get a minute’s consideration today. That is not scrutiny; it is a blank cheque.

Yesterday, I made a generous offer to the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove, who is sitting on the Front Bench and whom I also like. We recognise that some of the issues need to be addressed, so we said: “Recommit the Bill so we can help you get this right in the Commons, and we will commit to have it out of Committee in a fortnight. It could go to the Lords with all parties’ support by Christmas.”

Let me repeat: this is no way to scrutinise a Bill, particularly one that gives the Government sweeping powers and limits the rights of our fellow citizens, the public. Sadly, it is part of a growing trend, but “legislate at speed, repent at leisure” should not be our motto. Some will say something that is commonly said these days: “Let it go through to the Lords so they can amend it.” But I am sick of abdicating responsibility for getting legislation right. It is our responsibility. We should not send Bills through that are, at best, half-considered. We are the elected representatives. We cannot just pass the parcel to the Lords. We need to do our job properly. We cannot do that today without recommitting the Bill.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology) 1:20, 29 Tachwedd 2023

I begin by joining Sir Chris Bryant in expressing the condolences of the House to his predecessor, Allan Rogers. He served as a Member of Parliament during my first nine years in this place. I remember him as an assiduous constituency Member of Parliament, and I am sure we all share the sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman.

It is a pleasure to return to the Dispatch Box to lead the House through Report stage of the Bill. We spent considerable time discussing it in Committee, but the hon. Gentleman was not in his post at that time. I welcome him to his position. He may regret that he missed out on Committee stage, which makes him keen to return to it today.

The Bill is an essential piece of legislation that will update the UK’s data laws, making them among the most effective in the world. We scrutinised it in depth in Committee. The hon. Gentleman is right that the Government have tabled a number of amendments for the House to consider today, and he has done the same. The vast majority are technical, and the number sounds large because a lot are consequential on original amendments. One or two address new aspects, and I will be happy to speak to those as we go through them during this afternoon’s debate. Nevertheless, they represent important additions to the Bill.

The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, my hon. Friend Tom Pursglove, who is sitting next to me, has drawn the House’s attention to the fact that amending the Bill to allow the Department for Work and Pensions access to financial data will make a significant contribution to identifying fraud. I would have thought that the Opposition would welcome that. It is not a new measure; it was contained in the fraud plan that the Government published back in May 2022. The Government have been examining that measure, and we have always made it clear that we would bring it forward at an appropriate parliamentary time when a vehicle was available. This is a data Bill, and the measure is specific to it. We estimate that it will result in a saving to the taxpayer of around £500 million by the end of 2028-29. I am surprised that the Opposition should question that.

As I said, the Bill has been considered at length in Committee. It is important that we consider it on Report, in order that it achieve the next stage of its progress through Parliament. On that basis, I reject the motion.

Question put.

Rhif adran 13 Data Protection and Digital Information Bill: Re-committal motion

Ie: 208 MPs

Na: 269 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw


The House divided: Ayes 209, Noes 275.

Question accordingly negatived.