Science and Technology committee highlights, 17th April 2018

This session was on early years intervention, which covers various educational and support systems for young children who have been victims of child abuse and/or neglect.

The Science and Technology Committee is examining the strength of the evidence linking adverse childhood experiences with long-term negative outcomes, the evidence base for related interventions, whether evidence is being used effectively in policy-making, and the support and oversight for research into this area.

Darren put questions to witnesses Dr Shirley Woods-Gallagher, Special Advisor on School Readiness, and Alan Harding, Chief Economic Adviser, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Dr Caroline White, Head, Children and Parents Service Early Intervention, and Martin Pratt, Chair, Association of London Directors of Children’s Services. You can watch this below (press play to skip to where Darren asks questions):

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Darren backs calls for Military Cross

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has signed a cross-party letter to call for Walter Tull to posthumously receive the Military Cross.

“ I am delighted to have supported David Lammy’s call for Walter Tull to be posthumously awarded the Military Cross – an honour he was recommended to receive during his service. Walter was the first black officer in the British Army and served his country with distinction during the First World War. Prejudice was likely to be an overriding factor as to why he didn’t get the accolade he deserved. Yesterday (25th March) marked the centenary of Walter’s death – this trailblazer and pioneer must be remembered”.

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Darren calls for cross-party NHS commission

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has co-signed a letter calling for a cross-party Health and Social Care commission to be set-up. This commission should report to Parliament before Easter 2019 and use expertise from across the house.

Darren commented:

“It is vital the NHS has the resources it needs and there is a whole-system approach to ensuring a high standard of care across both health and social care services. The NHS, public health and social care systems are overstretched and no longer able to keep pace with rising demand and the cost pressures of new drugs and technologies – the government must ensure our-beloved NHS is funded to deliver its services properly”.

Darren speaks on Cambridge Analytica

In Parliament there was an emergency debate in the Commons about the alleged illegal campaigning of the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. Here’s what Darren had to say:

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Darren speaks on GKN

Melrose is continuing with its hostile take over bid for GKN, and Airbus (GKNs largest customer) has said it can’t work with a business like Melrose. In response to the Government, Melrose has said it will keep GKN in North Bristol for the next five years.

Watch what Darren had to say about the matter below:

 

Data Protection Bill committee, 4th day highlights

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. Here are some highlights of Darren’s 4th day on the committee (press play and the videos will skip to Darren’s appearances):

 

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Darren nominates local NHS Heroes for national awards

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has submitted a number of nominations to the NHS 70 Parliamentary Awards. In July 2018 the NHS will celebrate its 70th birthday. As a key part of the celebrations to mark this milestone, NHS England and NHS Improvement have established the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards.

The purpose of the awards is to celebrate 70 years of the NHS, identify and highlight innovative and high-quality care across every constituency in England, and thank staff for their dedication, hard work and commitment by recognising and honouring their achievements

Darren said:

“ I am incredibly proud of the work all of our NHS staff do in Bristol North West and across the city, it was difficult to narrow down some of the submissions I received but I’m delighted to have been able to make nominations in a wide range of categories. Whilst the national competition is bound to be a tight race, I’ve got my fingers crossed that at least some of our fantastic NHS services in Bristol make the final stage”.

 

Darren submitted the following nominations (click the links for more info about each nomination):

 

The Excellence in Urgent and Emergency Care Award Southmead Hospital’s Emergency Dept
The Excellence in Cancer Care Award North Bristol NHS Trust Colorectal Cancer Team
The Care and Compassion Award Southmead Hospital’s End of Life Care Team
The Person-Centred Care Champion Award North Bristol Trust Hospital@Night Team
The Excellence in Mental Health Care Award InterAct Stroke Support @ Southmead Hospital

 

Read Darren’s account of his third day on the Data Protection Bill Committee

Data Protection Bill: Committee Day Three Report (ICO Powers, Leveson Two, Intelligence Service Data Transfers, Data Value and other issues).

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 last week.

Here’s my report of Day Three. You can read by report of Day One here and of Day Two here.

Another day, another bill committee. Accept this time, day three of the Bill committee kicked off the morning after the night before. Last night, Channel 4 News followed the excellent reporting of the Observer and the New York Times in exposing the dark arts of Cambridge Analytica, including their alleged sucking up of tens of millions of Facebook profiles.

New Information Commissioner Powers

It’s no surprise, then, that the issue of regulatory powers for the Information Commission (the “ICO”) came up today – albeit without sufficient answers from the Government.

I and others had been led to believe from the Secretary of State, Matt Hancock MP, that the Government intended to bring in new powers to help the ICO, following the Cambridge Analytica revelations.

However, to the surprise of many MPs on the bill committee, Digital Minister Margot James MP confirmed that no new powers were being tabled and, to make it worse, additional criminal sanctions for failing to comply with requests from the ICO weren’t being tabled either! This in the face of comments from the ICO herself that pure monetary fines for breaching ICO notices was clearly less of a deterrent than criminal prosecutions (especially to those with deep pockets). It’s right that some new criminal sanctions are being legislated for, but this approach ought to apply in a uniform fashion.

And without want of asking (I think we raised it three times today), the Government failed to set out whether it would seek to make judges available on an emergency basis when the ICO is running against the clock. This would have helped, for example, last night when the ICO had to wait until today to get a warrant to enter the offices of Cambridge Analytica whilst Facebook was able to use its contractual rights to get access before the regulator could (thankfully, Facebook did as it was asked when the ICO told it to stand down).

Leveson Two

Another contentious topic today was the Government’s insistence in closing part two of the Leveson Inquiry (the part that sought to investigate potential breaches of data protection more widely in the newspaper industry and its alleged connections with the police). As our shadow Digital Minister, Liam Byrne MP, made clear: this investigation was promised by the (previous) Prime Minister on the floor of the House, and it seems wholly unsatisfactory for a new Secretary of State (Matt Hancock) to suddenly decide that there is “nothing to see here, guv!”. We opposed the Government in supporting the Lords amendments which sought to instigate Leveson Two, but Conservative MPs voted it down. Leveson Two will therefore not be going ahead – something that, for the many victims of press intrusion, is likely to be deeply sad news.

Further, amendments had been made in the House of Lords to legislate for a re-balance in power between citizens and newspapers, so that when claims are brought against newspapers the claimants do not have to face paying the often-enormous legal fees of the newspaper giants. Unsurprisingly, the Government voted down these amendments too.

Intelligence Services

The final few clauses for the security services aspects of the Bill were voted through today, but with attempts from the Opposition to ensure that proper rights of redress existed following automated decision making, and that international transfers of personal data went only to countries which had been given the data protection stamp of approval.

I re-made my case, in line with comments from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, that if the UK leaves the EU it will no longer be able to rely on the national security exemption under the EU Treaties (namely that national security is a reserved matter for Member States and nothing to do with the EU).

As such, when seeking to secure and maintain adequacy, the EU could post-Brexit look at the whole data protection environment in the UK as a third country. This would mean that any international transfers of the personal data of UK or EU citizens to countries deemed by the EU to be inadequate would risk cancelling our adequacy agreement.

The Home Office Minister, Victoria Atkins MP, made the point that Canada has an adequacy decision but failed to recognise that the European Commission has raised concerns with it about data transfers to the US (which puts Canada’s data adequacy at risk, too). This issue seemed, therefore, to not be of concern to the Government.

I also moved another amendment in my name, which made it clear that UK courts must have “regard” to EU courts in the developing area of data protection law. This would help the UK maintain its adequacy with EU law in the future. However, even though the Minister seemed to agree with all my arguments, the Conservative MPs on the committee voted down my amendment anyway.

Other Issues

We covered lots of other issues today, including new laws for age appropriate design to put extra pressure on companies to build consent and privacy tools that work for children.

We also started a conversation on the value of personal data: an area which I think needs much deeper and more urgent attention. The NHS, for example, is a global treasure trove of health data yet we don’t employ data scientists in the NHS nor do we have formal Government policy on how to ensure full value of that data for the NHS and NHS patients. This is a topic which I’ll return to later in the year through other related work.

And I raised the question with the Minister about the issues of consent, and the new offence of re-identification of de-identified personal data. However, I failed to get a useful response, so we will need to return to this at a later stage.

Finally, I wrote to Margot James MP today to re-assert my concerns with the democratic engagement rule which allows companies to process personal data without consent in the public interest. My concern is that this would have allowed Cambridge Analytica to do what it did. You can read my letter to the Minister here.

I’d better leave it there – but we’re back at it on Thursday for what will probably be the final day. I’ll be moving my new clause which seeks to bring technology ethics on a statutory footing. Given the big ethical questions associated with Cambridge Analytica, I hope the Government supports my new clause!

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.

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Darren supports Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s campaign for Orkambi

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has shared his views on access to Orkambi for constituents with Cystic Fibrosis.

Darren said:

“ I sympathise profoundly with anyone affected by Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and I appreciate the strength of support for making Orkambi available on the NHS, this is demonstrated by an online petition signed by  113,000 people.

In July 2016, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) concluded in its final guidance that Orkambi “could not be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources” and subsequently did not recommend the drug for use on the NHS. I share the disappointment that will have been felt by many at this decision.

I understand that access to the drug Orkambi can extend the lives of 50% of the 10,400 people in the UK who currently live with CF, with this drug already available in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Italy, the Republic of Ireland, Greece and the United States.

The Government has welcomed dialogue between the pharmaceutical company, Vertex, and NHS England to agree a deal that would make Orkambi available to NHS patients. I know that the Cystic Fibrosis Trust has been working hard in pushing Vertex to put forward a substantive proposal to NHS England.

Parliament will hold a debate on access to Orkambi for people with CF on 19 March 2018. I will follow the debate closely and keep in mind the points my constituents have raised. In the meantime, I believe it is the responsibility of Ministers to facilitate the end of the deadlock between Vertex and NHS England so that people can access this vital drug and see their lives transformed.

At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that pledged to tackle the growing problem of rationing of services and medicines across England. The manifesto also committed to ensuring that all NHS patients get fast access to the most effective new drugs and treatments, and to insist on value-for-money agreements with pharmaceutical companies”.

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.