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Home Office questioned on Data Protection exemptions and whistleblowing provisions

04 April 2018

The Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Norman Lamb MP, writes to Baroness Williams of Trafford (PDF PDF 205 KB), Minister for Countering Extremism at the Home Office. In the letter, the Chair questions why the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) is not exempted under the Data Protection Bill, and why it is not a prescribed body under the whistleblowing provisions.

The letter was written in response to a letter from the regulator on 16 March 2018 (PDF PDF 116 KB).

Data protection exemptions

The Forensics Science Regulator, Dr Gillian Tully, has made the Committee aware that her position under the Data Protection Bill is unclear. She is concerned that when the General Data Protection Regulation is transposed into UK law, rights might be provided “for ‘data subjects’ which could hamper her investigations of complaints and referrals.”

Whistleblowing provisions

Dr Gillian Tully, the Regulator, has also raised concerns with the Committee that, “although there is already provision for anyone to report concerns to the Regulator, there may be no statutory protection under the Employment Rights Act 1996…” As the body responsible for investigating malpractice in forensics, it is essential that individuals reporting such activity to the Regulator are protected by whistleblowing provisions. To ensure this, the Forensics Science Regulator is requesting that she becomes a ‘prescribed person’ under the whistleblowing provisions.

The Chair has written to the Home Office to demand clarity on both data protection exemptions and whistleblowing provisions.

Home Office must provide clarity urgently

Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee said:

"We have seen a number of high profile forensics failures in recent months. It is essential that the Forensic Science Regulator is properly equipped to investigate malpractice in the forensics sector.

At present, there is uncertainty about the implications of the Data Protection Bill for her ongoing investigations, and the Regulator is concerned about the protections afforded to whistle-blowers in forensics labs. The Home Office must urgently provide clarity on both of these inter-linked issues, to allow the Regulator to undertake investigations unfettered."

Further information

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