A number of constituents have been in touch recently about the Government’s Data Protection Bill and the exemptions for immigration control. I agree that these measures are a mistake and that this part of the Bill should be deleted.
As you may be aware, the Data Protection Bill aims to update the UK’s data protection regime in accordance with new rules agreed by the European Union and encapsulated in the General Data Protection Regulation (which comes into force on Friday 25th May).
Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 of the Bill would exempt personal data that is processed for “the maintenance of effective immigration control” or “the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control” from the GDPR. Concerns have been raised about this in the House of Lords and by the Information Commissioner and the Joint Committee on Human Rights, as well as campaign organisations such as Liberty and the Open Rights Group.
I believe that this exemption risks denying justice to those who need access to information to fight their cases effectively. The Home Office and the immigration system sometimes take decisions that are wrong, and that need to be corrected. People should be able to draw on information through Subject Access Requests, so that justice can be done in those cases.
Moreover, legal opinion has suggested that this exemption is discriminatory, and I do not think we should cut off newcomers to this country from the rights and safeguards that would be enjoyed by everybody else under this Bill.
While the Data Protection Bill was being examined by a Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons, an Opposition amendment sought to delete Paragraph 4 from Schedule 2 of the Bill. This amendment would therefore remove immigration from the exemptions from the GDPR. Unfortunately, however, this was defeated by Government MPs.
I hope that this issue will be revisited when the Bill returns to the House of Commons for its remaining stages, and I hope that the Government will listen to those inside and outside of Parliament who are pressing for this section of the Bill to be removed.