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Watch Darren on Sunday Politics West

Darren appeared on Sunday Politics West today. He was asked about the Customs Union, amongst other things:

To find out what else Darren was asked about, watch his full appearance at 38 minutes in here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09vjp76/sunday-politics-west-18032018.

Watch Darren’s second day on the Data Protection Bill Committee and read his account

Data Protection Bill: Committee Day Two Report (National Security Exemptions, post Brexit data sharing and Collective Redress).

The Data Protection Bill (the “Bill”) applies new EU data protection laws to the UK, adapting them and extending them for the UK legal system. 

The Bill arrived in the House of Commons from the House of Lords and, having passed second reading, it is now at committee stage. This is where a  committee of MPs – including Darren – go through the bill line by line.

Here’s Darren’s report of Day Two. You can read the report of Day One here.

National Security Exemptions

The most contentious issue of the day was the power for exemptions to be granted from data protection and privacy rights for law enforcement purposes, namely due to an issue of national security.

Clearly, no politician wants to put our law enforcers in a position where they can’t do their job. But we on the Opposition benches tried to achieve two outcomes today: first, that broad powers and exemptions have adequate safeguards to keep our laws fit for purpose in the context of quickly advancing technologies; and second, that equivalent oversight exists for the processing of personal data as it does for the collection of it.

The latter of these two points went unanswered by the Government. Under the Investigatory Powers Acts various safeguards and sign offs are required for the collection of personal data by intrusive means (such as the bulk collection of data or the interception of a communication). However, it is this Bill that then provides the rules for what can be done with that data once it’s collected. Oddly, the safeguards under the Investigatory Powers Act are far better than those on the face of this Bill. We tabled amendments to align these, but the Government disagreed.

These safeguards were put into clear context by my colleague Louise Haigh MP (who is our Shadow Home Office Minister), including the increasing use of facial recognition software and the bulk collection of location identifiers using mobile phone data (so called IMSI Catchers, which has been shown by the Bristol Cable to be used in Bristol). When the Government holds facial images for the bulk of the adult population (from passport and driving license photos), when the Government has admitted that the police hold more facial profiles than they have a legal basis to do so, and when we’ve waited years (and we’re still waiting) for the Government’s biometrics strategy, it is perfectly reasonable for the Opposition to raise these issues. Sadly, the Government didn’t agree to any of our amendments.

Lastly, on this topic, the issue of exemptions was also raised, in the context of increasingly sophisticated algorithms being used by law enforcement agencies (including the police). Under the Bill, exemptions can be used to prevent citizens, for example, from opting out of automated decision making (i.e, the use of an algorithm to decide law enforcement issues). The Government responded that it is rare for purely automated processes to be used: human officers will always intervene. In my view, that answer isn’t good enough. With stretched resources, it seems obvious that busy officers will rely on whatever output comes out of these algorithms. And as static algorithms start to transform into artificially intelligence machine learning algorithms it’s safe to say that very few people will have any idea what’s going on inside them. That’s why exemptions from important data protection and privacy rights should be restricted and not broad enough to be used widely. Unfortunately, the report that I am co-producing on the Science and Technology Select Committee into the regulation of algorithms isn’t yet published, but when it is it might give us an opportunity to revisit this issue in debate.

The Government’s position on safeguards and exemptions for law enforcement purposes was weak today, and I’m sure we’ll return to this in more detail (hopefully with some further Government amendments) at Report stage.

“Beyond Adequacy”

The day kicked off with my amendment which sought to tweak the Bill, making the Information Commissioner (the “ICO”) to apply EU derived decisions and guidance on GDPR into UK law (with the flexibility to not do so where she feels it isn’t required). The Government preferred the position that the ICO must have only “regard” for such decisions.

However, in trying to seek a decision of adequacy – that UK law matches EU law – and in seeking to keep that into the future, it’s important that the UK doesn’t diverge from EU data protection laws. The Government has said that it now wants a deal with the EU that is “beyond adequacy” and the Digital Minister Margot James MP told me in the House that this meant have a seat for our ICO at the European Data Protection Board (the “EDPB”) table. But more than that, that our role should be to influence decisions of the EDPB not just to be there to listen. In seeking to secure that, I put it to the Government that it might want to go further than merely having “regard” for EU law and to agree on the face of the Bill that we will meet our obligations and incorporate it. However, the Government disagreed and – whilst I called it to a vote – the Labour and SNP combined vote in favour of my amendment was defeated by the Government.

Watch Darren speak on this topic: 

Collective Redress

Lastly, we on the Opposition benches sought to apply the requirement in the GDPR that groups (such as Which?) could bring “class actions” on behalf of consumers where a breach of data protection law has taken place. The Government tried to ignore this requirement but has since put down an amendment which says these “class actions” can be taken, but only where everyone in the class has “opted in”.

This will make the process pointless, not least because charitable groups or campaign groups which act on behalf of consumers don’t have the resources to find the often tens of millions of people subject to, for example, a data breach. And anyway, this principal already exists in EU law and has been successfully adopted in UK law (in the Consumer Rights Act) without any problems whatsoever.

We failed to understand why the Government decided to not just get on with it, but instead to create a mechanism which isn’t going to work and which will prevent access to justice for millions of UK citizens in this increasing important area.

Conclusions

Other than these main issues, we managed to get through quite a few clauses and amendments which were agreed on a cross party basis. As my colleague Liam Byrne MP, our Shadow Digital Minister, said: the Government is likely to regret not pushing ahead with powers of collective redress given how many large data breaches we’ve already had. Time will tell!

So that’s Day Two down. Three more to go.

Darren Jones is the Labour MP for Bristol North West, a member of the EU Scrutiny Select Committee and Science and Technology Select Committee and is currently serving on the Public Bill Committee for the Data Protection Bill. He tweets at @darrenpjones.

Watch Darren’s first day on the Data Protection Bill Committee and read his account

Data Protection Bill: Committee Day One  (Immigration Control, Fundamental Rights, Children and Democratic Engagement).

The Data Protection Bill (the “Bill”) applies new EU data protection laws to the UK, adapting them and extending them for the UK legal system. 

The Bill arrived in the House of Commons from the House of Lords and, having passed second reading, it is now at committee stage. This is where a  committee of MPs – including Darren – go through the bill line by line.

Darren’s Report:

The Data Protection Bill (the “Bill”) applies new EU data protection laws (the General Data Protection Regulation, or “GDPR”) to processes in the UK which EU law has no jurisdiction over, introduces the Law Enforcement Directive for policing and law enforcement powers, and sets out the data protection and privacy rules for the processing of personal data by the secret services (MI5, MI6 and GCHQ). It also provides a legislative “parking space” so that, if the UK leaves the EU, GDPR is copied and pasted into UK law (via the EU Withdrawal Bill) to maintain the same level of laws between the UK and the EU post-Brexit. This is important, because the EU needs to agree that UK laws are adequate in order to allow the continued flow of data between the UK and EU after Brexit.

The Bill arrived in the House of Commons from the House of Lords and, having passed second reading, it is now at committee stage. This line-by-line review of the Bill kicked off today. Here’s my report of day one.

“Immigration Control”

The most contentious issue of the day was the Government’s power to excuse itself of having to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) for the purposes of effective “immigration control”.

The small problem for the Government is that such an exemption doesn’t exist in the GDPR, and – according to the Joint Committee on Human Rights – is a new power for the Home Office compared to the law today (found primarily in the Data Protection Act 1998).

The Home Office Minister – Victoria Atkin MP – did a grand job of trying to sell what is an unnecessary and poorly drafted clause. But there was no hiding from the fact that this exemption has no clear basis in law (or at least not a clear basis which the Minister could point to). In trying to deal with our concerns on the Opposition side, Ms Atkin reassured us that the exemption would only be used for a short period of time (i.e., a citizen’s data protection and privacy rights would only be “paused”). But in failing to answer my question, the Minister was unable to point to any clause in the Bill which restricted its use for a time limited period. If that is the case, it should be set out on the face of the Bill.

It was also made clear that this new exemption would apply to a wide range of citizens – non-EU citizens and EU citizens, but also British citizens connected to migrants. My wife, for example, is Australian and so I assume that I could lose my data protection and privacy rights should the Government wish to use my personal data to check on the effective immigration control of my wife! If that were to happen I would lose pretty much every single right made available to me by the GDPR.

The fact of the matter is that the clause isn’t needed (there are other clauses which allow for exemptions for the management of criminal offences), it’s too broad and – in my view – the Government has no legal basis to introduce it if it wishes to comply with EU law now, and into the future. We will no doubt return to this issue at Report stage.

Fundamental Rights

The other contentious issue of the day was that of fundamental rights: namely rights included within the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (“the Charter”), which the Government seeks to repeal by way of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

GDPR is built on the fundamental rights to privacy and the protection of personal data included in the Charter. And so the Opposition tabled amendments to include, specifically, Article 8 of the Charter on the face of the Bill. This would seek – in our view – to maintain the level of legal protections enjoyed by citizens today and would assist the Government in securing a decision of adequacy with the EU (which would allow us to continue to share data between the UK and the EU after Brexit day). Following debate in the House of Lords, our amendment was further refined to make it clear that the fundamental right was subject to any legal exemptions and derogations in the Bill and the GDPR, and that the Information Commissioner would have the power to enforce that fundamental right.

However, the Government disagreed with this assessment and even though the Department for Exiting the EU confirmed that no other directly comparable right exists in UK law today, it voted down our amendment anyway. What I fail to understand is – but for any example whatsoever of an issue with Article 8 of the Charter today – why the Government feels so strongly about excluding it for the future.

The Bill provides a legislative parking space in which to copy and paste GDPR (which is directly applicable to the UK for as long as we are members of the EU), so that after Brexit day we continue to apply it in the UK. But by seeking to build a replica GDPR without Charter fundamental rights, we are in essence seeking to build a replica house with no foundations. I hope this risk being taken by the Government doesn’t result in our attempts to seek an adequacy decision sinking as soon as we’ve done the building work.

Darren spoke on Fundamental Rights, and post Brexit data arrangements:

Lastly, two final points.

Children and the Age of Consent

Firstly, a short debate took place about the age of consent for the purposes of legal processing of personal data. The EU took the view that children aged under 16 require parental consent, but allowed Member States to make that age as young as 13. In the UK today, the age applied is 12, but the Government has used its right to shift it up one year to 13. That means that children from 13 years of age can consent to handing over their personal data without parental consent.

Whilst I appreciate that some companies are investing time and money into building more children friendly privacy policies and consent mechanisms, I do worry about the fact that our children’s data can be processed (for example, for the purposes of targeted advertising online) without parental consent. 13 seems to me to be too young as a matter of public policy, and so I was pleased that the Digital Minister Margot James MP agreed with me that the Government ought to keep an open mind about regulation in this space in the future. Namely, that when the technology exists to verify the age of children (which exists today for adults but is less easy for children), that we consider voluntary and – if required – legislative means to check the age of users online and to apply suitable protections for them.

Democratic Engagement

Secondly, an amendment was included today which made it clear that data controllers can process personal data without consent if it is for the purposes of “democratic engagement”. This is a clarification in the Bill that the UK Government considers “democratic engagement” to be an example of “public interest” and the exercise of “official duties” by office holders. This would mean that politicians are able to use information on the electoral register, for example, without first seeking the consent of their constituents. Without this right, it would be very hard for parties and politicians to send voters information at election time, for example.

However, I raised a concern with the Minister that people or organisations other than political parties or elected politicians could rely on “democratic engagement” as a “public interest” matter in processing citizens’ data without their consent. I, for example, would not want Leave.EU to start using my personal data without my consent merely because they think they are supporting democratic engagement.

The Minister failed to give me a suitable answer to this, and I will return to it at Report Stage.

Conclusions

These, in my view, were the main contentious issues of the day. The Government passed many sensible amendments to tidy up the Bill, and introduced useful amendments on issues such as the safe guarding of children and the processing of personal data to track ethnic diversity on company boards. We also started the debate on the regulation of algorithms, but we will return to this in more detail in later days.

So that’s Day One down. Four more to go. On Thursday, I will be the first to rise to beg that my amendment be moved, ensuring the UK Government recognises its obligations in adhering to EU law via the European Data Protection Board in the future. Until then!

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Darren meets First Bus and presses for changes to route 76

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones met the Managing Director of First bus, James Freeman, on 9th March 2018 and pressed for changes to the 76 bus route. The route no longer stops at Henbury School and has also affected residents travelling to Southmead Hospital and Henbury’s local vets.

Darren also shared his concerns about the impact of rising fares, the two-tiered fare system recently introduced and the poor service of route 2 through Henleaze.

Darren said:

“ James was aware of my concerns about the changes made to the 76 route. I wrote to him in advance of Friday’s meeting to push for at least some of the original route to be reinstated and drop-off and pick-ups at Henbury School. Along with local councillors, I also launched a petition which has been signed by over 545 local residents. I am delighted to hear First will be reassessing the changes they made.

I’m also aware from Henleaze constituents that route 2 is also a cause for concern with many services cancelled or erratic in arrival time. I made James aware of those issues and asked that he investigate.

I also shared my thoughts on the two-tiered payment policies First have recently introduced – these require customers to pay 50p extra for day passes if payment is not made via an app. Many people are not able to use app-based systems – these people are likely to be some of Bristol North West’s (and the cities) most vulnerable residents – the very people often least able to pay the extra charge.

I am clear that for people to be encouraged out of cars and onto public transport the service must be accessible, affordable and reliable”.

 

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Darren questions the government over Severn Bridge traffic

Both the Department of Transport and the Wales Office have failed to assess the increase in car travel in North Bristol following the removal of tolls on the Severn Bridge. Darren questioned the government over this failure.

Watch below:

 

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Darren calls for increased schools funding and continued free school meals

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has backed calls – ahead of today’s spring budget – for the government to rethink schools funding and changes to free school meals under Universal Credit.

New research by the school cuts coalition of unions (NEU, NAHT, ASCL, UNISON, GMB Union and Unite the union) shows that class sizes are rising in most schools in Bristol North West as a result of the Government’s cuts to education.

There is a particular problem in secondary schools because of a shortfall of £500m a year to funding for 11 – 16-year olds between 2015/16 and 2019/20, plus the deep cuts to sixth form funding (over 17% per pupil since 2010).

62% of secondary schools in England have increased the size of their classes in the last two years (2014/15 to 2016/17). In Bristol North West, secondary schools have an average of 1.2 more students in every class. The average income per pupil in Bristol North West’s secondary schools has also dropped from £5995 in 2015/16 to a forecast of £5247 in 2019/20.

Bristol North West’s primary schools are also not immune with average class sizes having risen by 0.6 pupils per class, this comes alongside 46% of primary schools seeing the pupil to teacher ratio decreasing, leaving pupils with less support.

Darren said:

“ These figures show that the Government is failing in its stated aim to even out the differences in education – 100% of secondary schools in Bristol North West have seen a decrease in the Teaching Assistant to pupil ratio, with 50% also seeing a drop-in pupil to Teacher ratio. 31% of secondary school students also currently access Free Schools Meals, which are at risk because of changes to Universal Credit – we can’t stand back and let these cuts happen – the impact they will have on our children and their families will last a lifetime. Children and young people only get one chance at school and college and we know that education cuts never heal.

As a country we should be investing in this, and future, generations of young people. I am continuing to call on the Government to urgently address the funding crisis, protect free school meals and not continue to ignore these very real problems. I will be writing to each Bristol North West school to ask how the lack of funding will continue to impact their staff and pupils – the government must understand once and for all that good quality education is a price worth paying”.

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Darren tours HMP Bristol and shares funding concerns

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones met the Governor of HMP Bristol, Steve Cross and toured the prison formerly known as HMP Horfield. HMP Bristol is in the constituency of Bristol West but prisoners from across the area are sent here to serve their sentences and many staff live in Bristol North West.

Darren said:

“ I found the visit extremely useful and would like to thank Steve, his team and some of the prisoners for meeting me. Prison services are under an incredible amount of pressure and HMP Bristol have faced, and continues to face, many high profile challenges. The facility itself is ageing and suffering from a lack of investment. Staffing numbers have been low whilst remaining staff have faced record levels of violence and the rising use of former legal highs such as Spice as well as more traditional drugs. I was therefore really pleased to hear that staff numbers have risen, investment is being made to the oldest parts of the prison, there’s a focus on education and skills training and use of drugs is declining. Given my role on the Science and Tech Committee, I was particularly keen to hear about the use of experimental technology to block the use of drones (which drop drugs) over the prison.

Whilst there has been improvements in other areas,  I was concerned to hear about the lack of support available to prisoners with acute mental health needs.  As beds in secure mental health units are in such demand prisoners often find it very difficult to access the right level of care and therefore remain in prison for lengthy periods. This is especially worrying given the 5 self-inflicted deaths at HMP Bristol during 2016 – the highest number on records since 1978.

The situation in this, and other, prisons  needs more focus from government. HMP Bristol staff are doing what they can within the resources they have –  government funding is sorely needed to improve the whole facility, provide swift access to adequate mental health support and ensure those employed as Prison Officers are paid fairly for the increasingly challenging job that they do. The government must listen to HMP staff and governors as well, as the prisoners and their families, and act on their concerns”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Darren shares his views on UK aid budget

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has shared his thoughts on maintaining 0.7% of UK gross national income(GNI) for the overseas aid budget.

Darren said:

“ During the 2010-15 Parliament, the UK became the first G7 country to enshrine in law a target to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid and did so with cross-party support. The development and improvements in hundreds of millions of people’s lives that have resulted from this commitment have been a credit to humanity. For example, from 2010-15, British aid supported 11 million children through school and helped more than 60 million people to access clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. UK support during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, meanwhile, halted the spread of the disease. Such achievements should be a source of pride for everyone in the UK. I therefore remain profoundly committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid. 

I share people’s concerns at recent questioning of the UK’s foreign aid budget. It is worrying that, while the Government has committed to maintaining the 0.7% target, its plans also suggest a shift away from the current cross-party consensus on international development. For example, the Government has stated its intention to attempt to change international definitions of development assistance. It has further stated that if it fails to do this, it will change the law to allow it to use its own definition of development assistance. I am concerned that this is an attempt to use overseas aid intended for poverty reduction for things such as security and counter-terrorism, and to plug funding gaps in other departments. 

It is vital that we continue to abide by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development definition of aid and use our overseas assistance to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Abandoning this global standard would undermine the purpose of the 0.7% commitment and send the wrong message to the rest of the world. I will continue to defend the UK’s aid target and press for the correct use of the international aid budget”.

 

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Darren shares his views on Family Reunification for refugees

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has shared his thoughts on family reunification for refugees ahead of a debate on 16th March 2018.

Darren said:

“ A number of constituents have shared concerns about family reunion rules, the effectiveness of their implementation-  a number of organisations have also called for there to be an expansion of the criteria.  

I agree that more needs to be done to reunite families and I share concerns about the efficiency of the processes in place for those who are entitled to join family in the UK, particularly children. As we know, unaccompanied migrant children are highly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.  

At the last General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised to produce a cross-departmental strategy to meet our international obligations on the refugee crisis, and I hope this is something that the Government will consider. I believe we need effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis and continue to uphold the proud British tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees.  

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the debate on the 16th March 2018 due to prior diary commitments. However I did attend the opposition motion on refugees on the 24th January  2018. I also recently attended a fund-raising Ceilidh organised by Westbury Welcome to help refugee families arriving in Bristol North West. 

I will follow the Government’s response to the refugee crisis closely, and will continue to bear in mind the points my constituents raise when this issue is debated in the House of Commons in the future”.

 

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Darren holds debate on waiters and waitresses’ tips

Darren has recently been campaigning on the issue of what happens to tips left at restaurants, following Bristol activists and the Bristol Post raising the issue in relation to Aqua Italia. There, as well as at Turtle Bay, workers were made to pay a percentage of their table orders to restaurants, in case they received tips. This sometimes meant workers were forced to got to a cash-point to pay their employer, as they hadn’t made enough in tips.

You can watch Darren’s full speech in the debate below: