Data protection

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:45 pm ar 18 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

“(1) For the purpose of this section, a person (“P”) is defined as any person who, immediately before the commencement of Schedule 1, was—

(a) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016;

(b) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with a right conferred by or under any of the other instruments which is repealed by Schedule 1; or

(c) otherwise residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with any right derived from European Union law which continues, by virtue of section 4 of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, to be recognised and available in domestic law after exit day.

(2) Regulations under section 4(1) may not be made until the Government has made provision to ensure that P has safe and confidential access to essential public services by ensuring the

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the relevant public services are—

(a) primary and secondary healthcare services;

(b) primary and secondary education; and

(c) the reporting of a crime by P, where P is a witness to, or the victim of, the crime, any investigation or prosecution of it.

(4) The prohibitions contained in subsections (2) and (3) do not apply where the data subject has given his or her explicit and informed consent to the disclosure of the personal data, for the purposes of immigration enforcement.”—

This new clause seeks to limit use of data gathered by key public services for immigration enforcement control or enforcement.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I am pleased to speak to new clause 57, which brings us to another discrete example of the broader hostile environment and the ever-expanding powers of the Home Office to gather information and require information to be shared with it. The new clause requires that the Government take measures to prevent the sharing of data for immigration purposes where that data has been collected or provided in the course of a person accessing healthcare and education or reporting a crime.

The fear of information being shared with the Home Office can have a pernicious effect on people’s willingness to seek help or to access vital public services, and of course it can also lead to injustice, as we saw in the Windrush fiasco. This is about supporting the survivors of serious crimes—such as domestic abuse, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation—to report them to the police, seek healthcare and escape to safety.

Essentially, the new clause challenges us about our priorities. Is our priority to ensure that people can feel safe when reporting crimes, and that they do not have to be anxious when sending their children for education and do not have to be in two minds about seeking healthcare when that is required, or is our priority to provide the Home Office with endless additional powers to snoop and gather information on the off-chance that it might be able to detain and remove another few individuals, even if that comes at an incredibly hefty price, including injustices such as Windrush? I say absolutely clearly that my priority is protecting safe access to vital public services, and that is why I am moving new clause 57.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. I do understand his concern that those who come to this country should have safe and confidential access to essential public services. However, new clause 57 would restrict the ability of the immigration authorities to use data that has been collected in particular circumstances for immigration enforcement purposes, as far as those who now benefit from freedom of movement are concerned. In so doing, it would maintain the status quo for those cohorts as far as the use of such data collection is concerned. However, the crucial difference is that they would now be subject to the same measures of immigration control as people from the rest of the world subject to the same restrictions.

The new clause would severely restrict the ability of the immigration authorities to take enforcement action against that cohort. It would thereby result in differential treatment in respect of a migrant whose data would be collected in the same way, but which would continue to be used for immigration enforcement purposes when deemed appropriate, as it is now. It would also weaken the effect of the immigration system, as we are concerned to encourage compliance with immigration laws as approved by Parliament. We welcome the contribution made to the United Kingdom by those who are lawfully present, but it must be in accordance with the laws and rules that have been set out and agreed. No cohort should be exempt from measures that are put in place to ensure compliance with those laws and rules.

On the prohibition on sharing data collected by the police in respect of witnesses or victims of crime, we believe that could lead to unintended consequences. It could prevent those with unresolved immigration status, particularly those who are vulnerable, from being brought into the immigration system, regularising their status and receiving necessary support. In some cases, such as where someone has been the victim of domestic abuse, it could prevent the Home Office from providing information to the police on known vulnerabilities or safeguarding concerns, thereby reducing a perpetrator’s ability to control or coerce their victim. Engagement with immigration enforcement could, for example, reveal previously undisclosed evidence of domestic abuse, which the Home Office could then pass on to the police, leading to the provision of support from a specialist domestic abuse team and potential access to a refuge. Data sharing in those circumstances would be proportionate and necessary, and in the best interests of the victim. Data sharing also enables the Home Office to trace missing families and protect children who may be at risk, working collaboratively with social services, the police and local authorities to ensure safeguarding actions are taken. We will always have due regard for the safety and best interests of any children.

The Home Office has robust safeguards and controls in place to ensure data are handled securely, lawfully, ethically and in accordance with relevant data protection regulations. It must have a legal basis for processing data, and comply with the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 when doing so. Individuals’ rights are protected by the role of the Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s independent body which upholds information rights. I remind the Committee of the comments I made at one of the last Home Office oral questions that were held physically in the Chamber before the current arrangements. When asked, for example, about whether the details of those approaching the NHS for treatment for covid-19 would be passed on to immigration enforcement, we were clear that, purely for the purposes of immigration enforcement, that would not be something we would be doing. Our approach is proportionate.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General)

The purpose of the new clause, and what it says expressly, is that information cannot be shared with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration control or enforcement. To my mind, that does not mean, for example, stopping the police making inquiries with the Home Office about whether somebody has been the victim of domestic abuse. I therefore think that is a rather unfair interpretation of what we are proposing.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Part of how we respond to victims and others is sometimes to look to resolve their immigration status as well. I would say it is quite proportionate that two parts of the Home Office work together on the enforcement of the UK’s laws, subject to it being proportionate and appropriate to do so. I think people would find it strange if that did not occur.

For the reasons we have outlined, with the robust safeguards in place, and the proportionate and legitimate aim of ensuring our immigration laws are not completely undermined, the Government will not accept the new clause.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General)

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am not sure I agree with his reasoning on what the new clause would or would not allow, but I will take that away and give it further thought. In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.