Government rejects calls for greater debate on data sharing

By Tom Young | The government has rejected a call from the Joint Human Rights Committee that any legislation that permits greater data sharing between Whitehall departments should be open to debate in parliament.

The committee’s contention is that any such moves should be considered as primary legislation, which is subject to scrutiny by parliament and open to amendments. Secondary legislation simply amends existing acts and does not require the same level of public debate.

But justice minister Michael Wills, in a response to the committee, said such a measure was not practical and data sharing would always be moderated by the Data Protection Act.

“Primary legislation will not always be the best vehicle to be used. For example where comprehensive lists of types of information, organisations or specific cases which may require amendment are set out in the legislation,” he said.

The government defended its attitude towards protecting the public’s data, pointing out that the Wallport review of the use of citizens’ information was commissioned before a string of high-profile data losses.