Data Sharing and Governance Bill 2018: From the Seanad

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.
Seanad amendment No. 1:
Section 7: In page 10, to delete lines 25 to 27.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I thank the House for making time available for the Data Sharing and Governance Bill 2018 and to consider the amendments made by the Seanad Éireann. As I have told the House already, the legislation is key to delivering on our public service reform commitments to expand the digital delivery of services and to make greater use of data to plan, deliver and evaluate public services. The Bill also provides for stronger governance and transparency by the public service in the way it shares and manages data. I look forward to the support of the House in passing the Bill.

I propose to take amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together. Amendment No. 1 proposes to delete section 7(6) of the Bill.

Amendment No. 2 seeks to amend the text of section 13(2)(a)(ii)(I) and amendment No. 3 will have the effect of removing section 37(5) of the Bill. The amendments all concern the use of the public services card and the public service identity.

These amendments reverse previous amendments made by this House during Committee and Report Stages. The House inserted provisions into the Bill that require that presentation of a public services card or access to a person's public service identity may not be the exclusive basis by which the public body may verify a person's identity and that public bodies shall provide alternative means for identity verification. I opposed these amendments at the time for the following reasons. The public service identity is essential to the provision of services to the public and comprises the following: PPS number; surname; forename; date of birth; place of birth; sex; all former surnames, if any; all former surnames, if any, of the person's mother; address; nationality; date of death, if applicable; certificate of death, where relevant; a photograph of the person, where required, unless deceased; the person's signature, unless deceased; any other information that may be required for identification purposes that is uniquely linked to or is capable of identifying the person; and any other information that may be prescribed, which in the opinion of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection is relevant to and necessary for the allocation of a PPS number.

The Attorney General has advised that if any of this information is collected by a public body, it is considered to be public service identity data. This applies whether the data is collected by a public body directly from the person or through data sharing. Accordingly, the consequence of retaining these provisions is that Government would have to provide services to citizens who choose not to provide basic information like their name, address or date of birth. The question before the House is how this could possibly be done. There is no way to provide services to people who refuse to provide this level of information. This would place an impossible obligation on public bodies to provide an alternative method of identity verification which does not involve the public services card or the public service identity. The problem is that there is no possible alternative way to identify people without using a public service identity because, by definition, this alternative identity data becomes public service identity data also.

People would be able to use the legal loophole created by these provisions, for instance if they were to refuse to co-operate with essential but unpopular public services like the recouping of overpayments or jury duty. The Seanad, on consideration, has accepted these arguments and has accordingly amended the Bill to remove these provisions. I ask the House to support these amendments from the Seanad.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, seek to overturn amendments which were submitted by Deputy Clare Daly and myself and successfully passed on Committee and Report Stage in the Dáil with the support of Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and others. The Bill went back to the Seanad the week before last and Fianna Fáil Senators very strangely voted to overturn our amendments, despite their party's full support for them on both Stages in the Dáil. Perhaps the Minister of State intimidated them or something. I am not too sure what happened over there.

I would not do that now, Mick, would I?

We really hope that Fianna Fáil Deputies will not do a U-turn on this and that they do not hide behind this wonderful contraption called confidence and supply. The public services card project is a ticking time bomb for the Government as far as we are concerned. If by chance Fianna Fáil Deputies were to do a U-turn on it, it might not look great on their record when the trouble hits the fan at a later stage.

The State is storing up problems for itself by pursuing a data sharing programme that fundamentally contravenes EU law. In the Seanad debate on 6 February, the Minister of State said our amendments would mean that the entire public service would grind to a halt. I think he was being a little bit over-dramatic. He said that the advice of the Attorney General in respect of our amendments is that any of these data that are collected are public service identity data. If the Attorney General actually said that, we will have to disagree with him.

The public service identity is a very particular dataset. It has a specific definition under section 262 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, which states: ""public service identity", in relation to a person, means the information specified in subsection (3) and the person’s personal public service number". It is not the case that one's name, date of birth, address, nationality or other data parts that make up the public service identity dataset exist only as part of that public service identity dataset, which is the logical extension of the Attorney General's argument. He is saying, at least according to the Minister of State, that data elements that make up the public service identity dataset do not, indeed cannot, exist independently of that dataset. That is a bit scary. The State does not have a monopoly on these pieces of data. The Attorney General's definition of the public service identity here is bordering on authoritarian.

Our amendment provides that a specified body, such as the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection or the Passport Office, must provide an alternative to the public services card as a way for a person to verify their identity. These amendments also go further, precisely because the public services card itself is not the problem. It is merely the manifestation in plastic card form of the large-scale data sharing to which, at present, one simply has no choice but to agree in order to access basic public services. We added the clause in respect of providing an alternative to accessing one's public service identity dataset to strengthen the protection for those who do not want to agree to ad hoc sharing of their data and do not want to be coerced into doing so. Our amendments provide that a person has an alternative means to verify his or her identity with a particular specified body, other than that body accessing his or her public service identity dataset via the single customer view.

If the only ways to verify a person's identity to access services are via the presentation of a public services card, or by accessing that person's public service identity via the single customer view, then public services and welfare payments will be denied to those who do not agree to the sharing of their data. Our fundamental point is that withholding such services in order to coerce consent to such data sharing is not permitted under the GDPR or under pre-existing EU law. I appreciate that this is administratively difficult for the Government and relevant specified bodies. I appreciate the obvious need to verify people's identities. I appreciate the need for cost-saving measures and the need to increase efficiency. Of course all that is a good thing, but that does not solve the legal conundrum I have outlined repeatedly during debates on the Bill. The public services card may well turn out to be the most expensive administrative error in the history of the State when GDPR fines and compensation are factored in on top of the €60 million we have already spent on the card. It is a ticking time bomb.

Even if only one person in the entire country wants to avail of an alternative to this sharing of his or her data, legally we have to provide that one person with an alternative. I fail to see how something like a combination of a birth certificate, utility bills or a passport could not be used to verify identity for those who do not want to consent to the kind of data sharing we are talking about. One can get a driver's licence without a public services card. After wasting more than €2 million on the project to make the card mandatory, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport realised it had no legal basis to coerce consent to data sharing and abandoned the project. The Government and the Minister of State's Department in particular are engineering a situation where access to a person's public service identity dataset is the exclusive way to verify one's identity but there are clearly other options that do not require consent to ad hoc data sharing. Various public bodies are already using those alternatives and have been using them for decades.

February seems a little bit early for flip-flops but we have another one tonight from our good friends in Fianna Fáil. I am absolutely sickened but not surprised. This follows what bordered on abuse that was meted out to Deputy Jack Chambers the last time around. Having fully engaged in all of the discussions around this issue, he listened to the arguments and convinced his party to vote with us.

In the aftermath he was effectively surrounded by a mob. The position held for the night, but in the intervening period the powers that be have been at work and Fianna Fáil has done yet another flip flop. This is not the first time it has pulled this type of stunt and it is not the first time it will be embarrassed by it either. In June 2017 we received its support at the Select Committee on Justice and Equality for a scheme of mandatory open disclosure in our health services that would have provided that, where serious mistakes were made in hospitals, the person injured as a result would get an explanation as to what had happened and why. The Fianna Fáil Deputies on the committee listened to the arguments and the evidence and accepted that it would make the health service happier and better for all concerned. That was on Committee Stage.

Over the summer, the Government and the Department of Health got to them, and the party machine swung into action so that by Report Stage those Deputies had yet another Damascus-like conversion and decided to vote against us. Of course, six months later the scandal over the failures of open disclosure around the cervical cancer issue broke and mandatory open disclosure then suddenly became the flavour of the month. Everyone wanted it then. The Minister of State was speaking about it earlier; he still wants to bring it in. The point is that we had it then, with Fianna Fáil's support, on Committee Stage, before it rolled over again and voted against us on Report Stage. The Deputies looked pretty ridiculous, yet the same thing is going to happen again.

I want to put this on the record of the House, because I know the way this vote is going to go. Whether it is Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner or a European court, the State coercion that our amendments tried to do away with will not be allowed to stand. We do not want to be like Cassandra, coming into the House to point out obvious problems, but sometimes that is the role that is handed to us. We have to point to the road we are going down.

In the Seanad the Minister of State made a very strange argument. He suggested that our amendments would mean that organisations could not ask for a person's name or address in order to verify one's identity. That is absolute nonsense. The argument is based on the idea that once one's name goes into the public service identity dataset it is no longer one's own. It is supposed that it belongs to the dataset only. This is clearly utter nonsense. The end point of that argument is that the only way for an organisation to get access to one's address is through the public service identity dataset. If that was the case every organisation on earth would have to be signed up to it. They are not signed up to it at the minute, meaning that many organisations are able to verify people's identity without exclusively using the person's public service identity to do so. The Minister of State's argument would make sense if our amendment to section 7 said that a specified body may not make presentation of a public services card or access to any given element of a person's public services identity the exclusive basis by which a person may verify his or her identity in order to conduct a transaction or access a service. It does not say that. It says: "A specified body may not make presentation of a public services card or access to a person's public services identity the exclusive basis by which a person may verify their identity in order to conduct a transaction or access a service." By our amendment I mean the amendment that was accepted in the Dáil and which is now being taken out by the Seanad. We want it to be upheld and re-inserted into the Bill to undo that situation.

A person's public services identity is actually a collection of specific pieces of information held together in a specific database that has particular characteristics. It is something that, when created, may be shared between one public body and another, whether the person involved likes it or not. It is quite a distinct thing, with its own characteristics and functions. It is not just a name and address. Notwithstanding that point, if the Minister of State really had genuine concerns about our amendment, which was adapted by the Dáil, it was entirely open to him to use the huge resources at his disposal in the form of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Office of the Attorney General to come up with a different wording. If he was worried about the avoidance of any doubt as to what our amendment applied to, there was nothing stopping the Minister of State using those offices, but he did not do that. To me, that shows that the whole argument made in the Seanad was totally disingenuous and redundant.

The issue here is not that the Minister of State is worried that our amendment could have unintended consequences. We should be honest and say that the Minister of State or, no disrespect, the civil servants want to maintain the powerfully coercive elements in the public services card. They want to maintain a situation where people have no choice whatsoever but to get a card and have no choice but to consent to their data being shared around between organisations even if they do not want to or strenuously object. They want to coerce people in this way. It is illegal and the Government will find that out in due course. Fianna Fáil knows that. Vast sums of money have been wasted and more will be wasted clearing up this mess. Despite this, it is really clear that the Government's approach to this issue is exactly the same approach it took to our illegal data retention regime. It will keep operating illegally until a court somewhere stops it. We have done that before in issues such as this, and we are being frog marched into doing exactly the same thing all over again. It is an absolute disgrace, and even at this late hour I would appeal to Fianna Fáil to save itself from further embarrassment.

I can put the previous speakers out of their misery by confirming that we did initially have concerns about the public services card being the sole means to identify oneself.

Fianna Fáil does not have those concerns any more.

That is not the case. A separate process on this specific issue is now under way involving the Data Protection Commissioner. The Attorney General's advice has to be taken on board as well. It might be easy for some not to do that, or to disregard it, but precedent demands that we do.

Has the Deputy seen them?

We cannot ignore the precedents and their potential impacts. For those reasons we will be supporting the amendments as they are laid before the House today. I make no apologies for that. I respect and appreciate the input of others on this issue, and accept their bona fides and commitment. I am merely outlining our response to the amendments before us and the assurances that have been sought and given. We will vote accordingly, as is our right.

I want to take the opportunity to ask the Minister of State about a serious data breach I read about at the weekend and which deeply shocked me. A story was carried on the front page of The Sunday Times, Ireland edition, in which all of the details of an asylum seeker's stay in Ireland, various applications made and travel between Ireland and other countries were disclosed in detail. This information may have emanated from a public body. I have honestly never seen such a disclosure of information before. It should be borne in mind that staff in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, for example, and perhaps staff in other Departments, have actually been brought before the courts, charged and found guilty of breaching the privacy of individuals. That this has happened in the wake of the GDPR legislation is really shocking.

The Minister of State is responsible for data matters and I am surprised that the Department of Justice and Equality, which is the line Department for people in the asylum process, has not mentioned this matter. I have been waiting all week for the Minister for Justice and Equality to announce an investigation into this story. It is actually a disgrace.

It concerns an asylum seeker who is standing for the local elections in the north inner city, something she is perfectly entitled to do having been resident in Ireland for a long period while her case is being addressed. From the story, she appears to be still in direct provision. All of the details of her movement between Africa, Ireland and the United Kingdom over many years are set out in great detail in a way I have never seen before. I am simply astonished. I want to ask the Minister of State in the House who is responsible for data protection about it. It cannot have escaped the attention of the civil servants and of members of the Government who read newspapers that this is an extraordinary story of a data breach relating to an individual. Will the Minister of State have an inquiry carried out into this story? Will the Minister of State ask his colleague in government, the Minster for Justice and Equality, to undertake the inquiry?

As a matter of confidence it is really important for people to know that their data is treated with seriousness, respect and confidentiality. That is vital and it should always be the case.

I am unsure where the story came from, but it is extraordinarily detailed in a way that indicates some of the details must have come from files held somewhere about this individual. I believe she is owed an apology in this regard. Otherwise, the matter needs to be clarified in light of all the rhetoric of the Government about data protection and the protection of the rights of individuals under the general data protection regulation. I find it astonishing and I would like the Minister of State to address the matter. He must be aware of this story about a woman called Ellie Kisyombe. Apparently, she is originally from Malawi but has been an asylum seeker in Ireland and in direct provision for a period with her family. She is running for one of the political parties in this House – the Social Democrats – in the north inner city in Dublin. Her personal data has been disclosed in the article. I simply cannot believe that this could happen. There is no point in all this talk about data protection and data respect and so on unless some kind of explanation is forthcoming.

As a matter of correction, I wish to point out that when the public services card was introduced it was brought in by the then Department of Social Protection. It is not an identity card. There was no requirement in law on anyone to provide it under a range of circumstances.

When the current Minister came to office in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection she decided it may be required. It was never required previously. Let us consider this. The people who use the public services card most are those over 66 years of age who use it for free travel. The public services card has allowed people who use free travel privately to get on a bus, train or any other form of public transport that qualifies. They can use their card without anyone else on the bus being aware of the person's private details. That is as it should be. It allows significant numbers of retired people, pensioners and people who have travel passes because they are ill or have long-term illness conditions to move around on public transport in Ireland with a great deal of personal dignity and privacy. That was not always the case previously when other arrangements were in place.

A particular idea seems to be creeping in to the effect that the public services card is some kind of identity card. I agree with the comments made by previous speakers to the effect that this is not its legal function. It seems some people are trying to pretend that since the Department of Expenditure and Reform has taken over the card, it can basically be a catch-all card for everything and anything in the State.

Obviously, passports or driving licences are used for identity purposes. All I can say is that common sense should prevail in how people are asked to use and register for the card. For example, there are many people who have various illnesses or conditions or who may be of advanced years. They may wish to deal with the difference offices in a particular way and there is nothing wrong with that. The card has to be used by public consent. There should be no coercion of people. Other identity mechanisms have been referred to.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform took over the card. It may be better left to Departments that deal with large amounts of public data, for example, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection or the health authorities. They probably have far more experience of the range of citizens and other people who present for different services and how their needs should be dealt with by public officials. They know this should not be done in a coercive way but in an inclusive way. The approach should provide them with the services that, as citizens of the State or people living here, they are entitled to access. Respect is the key point in that regard. There should be some consideration by the Minister of State of how respect for citizens is made clear and is at the core of how citizens are dealt with by public bodies, especially when it comes to use of their data. There is a long tradition of this approach among those in the Revenue Commissioners and in Departments like the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

This may be something that the staff taking over this function might like to consider. There are many people in Ireland who have no access to their data. I am referring to people who are adopted. They cannot access their data. They are not allowed to access their data by law. We are one of the few countries in the world that does not have an access policy for adopted people to access to their own information. The Government should be a little less preachy and a lot more practical in terms of demonstrating respect for citizens and their data, their rights to access data and how public bodies and authorities approach people and share data.

I am glad to see an oversight board is provided for in the Bill. That is a good development. In any event, I hope that ordinary citizens with a range of qualifications and ages are on that board so that they can give voice to how people should be treated properly when they approach public offices for services.

Thank you very much, Deputy Burton. You raised an individual case. I am unsure how much information the Minister of State and his officials have but I am sure the Minister of State will deal with it when he comes to speak. As there are no other speakers offering, I call on the Minister of State to reply to all the questions, including those from Deputy Burton.

I will deal with the last contributor first. First, I am not the Minister responsible for data protection. That is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality. My officials will refer the matter raised by Deputy Burton to the Department of Justice and Equality.

Sorry, the Minister of State is not responsible for what?

I am not the Minister responsible for data protection. This is about data sharing.

The Department of Justice and Equality is not the relevant Department.

The issue the Deputy has raised on-----

This is part of the legal confusion relating to this learned discussion.

The Minister of State is right.

Acting Chairman-----

I am the Acting Chairman and I believe I am very fair to everyone. We will allow the Minister of State to respond and I will then allow the Deputies to come back in. That is fair to everyone. I call the Minister of State.

I was speaking to the amendments in the first instance and on those specific issues. My officials advise that as this matter is not pertinent to the Bill, it referred to the Minister for Justice and Equality. Rather than me discussing an issue with which I am not familiar - this is the first I have heard of it - my officials will refer it to the Minister.

On the point made by the previous speaker, this Bill relates to data sharing and governance. It is about the sharing of information between public bodies. We have had a great deal of interaction on the legislation in this House, at the relevant committee and in the Seanad. My officials were available to discuss the Bill long before it was brought before the Dáil. It was discussed at length with Opposition spokespersons and other Members, including Deputies Cowen, Calleary, Jonathan O'Brien, Wallace and Clare Daly. I am unsure whether Deputy Burton availed of the opportunity to be briefed on the Bill. We have not had any interaction with her on the floor of the Dáil in respect of it.

To be clear, I am not taking responsibility for public services cards. That matter is not dealt with in the Bill. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is not assuming responsibility for public services cards. Responsibility for these cards remains with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, as was the case when Deputy Burton was Minister. We are making no changes in respect of public services cards. These cards are not referred to in the Bill, with the exception of a reference in section 7 to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. We are not changing the latter either.

As to some of the other contributions, the Bill does not dilute the GDPR in any way. As I have stated in both Houses previously, the GDPR is specifically acknowledged and referred to in a number of sections. In any event, everything that we do in the context of data sharing must have regard to the GDPR.

I am amused in some ways by Deputy Wallace's summation of my powers and what I, like Mystic Meg, might have been able to do in the context of bringing the Bill back to the House. My powers do not extend to what he was referring to a while ago when he stated that it is somehow miraculous that we are here again.

There has been a great deal of interaction and engagement since the previous occasion on which the Bill was debated in the Dáil. That is a good thing because it provided me with an opportunity to go through the implications of the amendment to section 7 to which Deputy Clare Daly, who obviously read the transcript of the debate in the Seanad, referred. Section 7(6) states, "A specified body may not make presentation of a public services card or access to a person’s public service identity the exclusive basis ...". We had to take the advice of the Attorney General on that matter. The Deputy acknowledged previously that some people may not choose to engage with the system. As I informed her at the time, if a person chooses not to engage with the system - for example, in the context of interaction with the Revenue Commissioners, matters relating to penalty points or accepting jury duty - I have to be confident that the system which will come into place upon enactment of this Bill will not have a negative consequence in respect of any other service for which there is a necessity to verify people's identities. If I would to allow the Bill to proceed in its current format, I could not do that. I have to take cognisance of the impact it could potentially have on the delivery of services, whether that is in the calling up of a jury - where a person may not choose to engage with the system - or in the delivery of basic social welfare payments. There was acknowledgement in the Seanad that the Attorney General's advice, which is predicated on section 262(5) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and which I have relayed to the Dáil and the Upper House, is based on that.

The reason we are bringing forward this Bill is because of the data regime and the potentially illegal way in which data is currently handled. We did not want a situation where there would be any question of illegality or any semblance of an issue where the Government or the State would not be able to stand over it. As I pointed out previously, data is currently being shared between organisations but there is not legal basis for this.

The Bill also provides for the data portal whereby people can access their data to see how it is being handled and who else has accessed it. This matter was discussed in detail on Committee Stage and on Report Stage.

The public services card is still the same today as it was yesterday; there is no change to it whatsoever. Responsibility for public services cards has not migrated to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I have covered most of the points raised. The final comment I wish to make relates to the basis upon which we have made our decision - this is extremely important decision, in respect of the specified bodies that are referred to. We must ensure that what we are seeking to do is not in conflict with the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 in any way. We have been very clear that this is not our intent. As stated previously, both here and in the Seanad, the Bill does not specify how Departments or agencies should do their business. It is a matter for them and their line Ministers, in the context of individual items of legislation, to decide how they will collect information in the future and to address how they collected it in the past. The Bill is purely about dealing with how that information, when it is collected, is relayed from public body A to public body B, the level of oversight that will be in place and how people can access their data in order to see what is being done with it. The Bill does nothing other than that. It does not change the position relating to public services cards. It does nothing with regard to altering responsibility for those cards, diluting the position in respect of them, specifying their use in the context of the free travel scheme or anything of that nature.

Having reflected on the matter with the Attorney General and taken soundings from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, it has been necessary for us to make these amendments. I have had a lot of engagement in respect of the Bill. The officials in the Department have opened their doors to everybody. Some have chosen to engage while others have not, which is their prerogative. I have nothing further to add.

The Minister of State is right because the only point on which I would agree with him is that this has been a long road. I am not going to repeat the points ad nauseam. The Minister of State's understanding of what our amendments meant is fundamentally flawed. The fact is that all he has relied upon is the Attorney General's advice, which we cannot see. The latter is a bit "old hat" now and is the perennial excuse for absolutely everything. It is the great opt-out to allow the Government to get whatever it wants. That is not really satisfactory at all. Nothing that the Minister of State said has changed my mind, no more than anything that I have said has probably changed his.

The other matter on which I will agree with him is that our amendments would not mean the end of the public services card. He is 100% right. It would not be the end of the public services identity. All of those things will continue to exist. Our amendments would just provide a simple opt-out. That is all that is involved. It is not something that is desirable, it is something that is necessary. Without it, the whole system is illegal. I find it incredible that the Government and Fianna Fáil are rejecting our chance to make this Bill legal. We are offering them a rope to climb out of the hole and I just cannot believe that they are not accepting it.

Sadly, history will probably tell the story on that. I remind the Minister of State that the excuse to the effect that everything is grand and that it has all been checked is the same one that was used in respect of the data retention regime, which turned out to be not legally robust at all. I am very sorry to say that this Bill will go the same way if we do not revert to the position the Dáil adopted originally.

I am sure the Minister of State will agree that this legislation is the vehicle for data sharing. A key element of the available databases is the database that is acquired via the public services card. Prior to there being such a card, data were acquired in different ways through the direct collection of information and multiple uses of the data were allowed. However, this Government has been different in its desire to utilise the card for a whole set of other transactions and interactions with bodies and data. The point that was made in the debates months ago and, indeed, when the public services card first came into operation was that there would inevitably be people who, for various reasons such as incapacity, might not be able to utilise the card. Therefore, some of the controversies have been downright silly.

On the principle of ensuring data protection for citizens to the maximum extent, particularly post GDPR, the Minister of State is receiving sensible advice from Deputy Clare Daly regarding the card and this data sharing Bill, which utilises the card and other potential sources of data, including from other Departments.

I brought to the Minister of State's attention a notorious case but, if I may say so, the Government is allowing itself to become arrogant concerning an horrific story that the Minister of State, whose remit covers data sharing, should make it his business to find out about and perhaps raise with his colleagues, for example, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Justice and Equality. However, the Minister of State has now been put on notice and, in the context of this Bill, cannot just say that he will ignore what seems to have been an extraordinary breach of data privacy in one of our national newspapers just a couple of days ago. There is no need to be arrogant about it.

I want to let Deputy Burton-----

That is completely unfair.

I am seeking the protection of the Chair. I never said that I would ignore anything, so I ask the Deputy to withdraw that remark.

I am sorry. If the Minister of State is now saying that he will pay attention to it, I welcome that clarification.

I ask that the Deputy withdraw her remark. I specifically said that I was not aware of the case and that I would ask my officials to relay it to the Department of Justice and Equality. Having twice asked the Deputy to withdraw her remark, I will do so again.

I welcome the Minister of State's clarification.

I have asked the Acting Chairman to ask the Deputy-----

Do I understand the Minister of State correctly, if I may speak-----

I have asked the Acting Chairman to ask the Deputy-----

One second, please. Let the Deputy answer.

This is important. I have asked that the Dáil record-----

I will deal with it. She is-----

We are going down another cul-de-sac now.

Will the Minister of State resume his seat, please? Deputy Burton has been asked to withdraw something she said. I am now giving her an opportunity to do that.

Do I now understand the Minister of State to be saying that he accepts this case has been brought to his attention and he will exercise his functions and contact his colleagues?

That is what I said the first time.

This is potentially an egregious breach of data protection.

The Deputy has clarified-----

I am taking this matter very seriously and I will ask the Ceann Comhairle to be called in if necessary. I said in my initial reply that I would bring the matter to the Minister for Justice and Equality through my officials. I did not say that I was ignoring the matter. I want the Dáil record corrected or else I will ask that the Ceann Comhairle be brought in.

Resume your seat for a minute, please. As far as I understand Deputy Burton, she is accepting what you have said-----

-----about this matter being taken up and addressed.

I want the record of the Dáil to be corrected before this continues. I did not say that I was ignoring this issue.

The Minister of State can go back over the record of the Dáil, but my understanding from the Chair is that Deputy Burton is clearly saying that she is satisfied that the Minister of State is taking up the issue. That satisfies me, and I am sure it satisfies-----

With the greatest of respect, it does not satisfy me. This is a serious issue. The Deputy has said that I ignored the matter. I did not say that and I want it withdrawn from the record.

Is Deputy Burton saying that she is satisfied with the Minister of State's reply?

I have said that I am satisfied with the Minister of State's response that he is potentially going to pursue the matter. I understand-----

I am not satisfied with that.

The Deputy is happy now.

Will Deputy Burton continue, please?

I welcome the Minister of State's taking an interest in this publication. Given that we are debating data protection, this matter requires investigation. The Minister of State has now acknowledged and agreed to that. In that sense, I am very happy with what he has said.

I am not happy. The Deputy said that I had ignored the matter. I want that withdrawn from the record.

May I say something? I am trying to be helpful. You are rather childish in your approach. My understanding-----

That is completely unfair.

My understanding is that Deputy Burton is now satisfied with your response.

I am not satisfied.

A personal charge was made against me by the Deputy, who said in respect of a serious matter-----

She has clarified the situation.

No, she has not. The Deputy said that I had ignored what she had brought to the House's attention.

I notified my officials immediately and asked them to bring it to the attention of the Minister.

Will she correct the record of the Dáil?

I am sorry, but hold on a minute. If you are not happy, you can refer your complaint to the Committee on Procedure. I am moving on.

I want it noted on the record that I am not happy with this. A personal charge has been made against another Deputy in the House. The Chair has an obligation to protect a Deputy against whom a personal charge is being made.

I believe that the Chair is not acting appropriately.

No, you are absolutely incorrect. I have given you every opportunity. My understanding - I have a fair understanding of the English language - is that Deputy Burton is now saying that you have clarified the situation. To me, that is acceptance that what she said initially is not on the record as such and she is happy as long as you investigate the matter raised.

No. I am not allowing the Minister of State to interrupt further.

The Acting Chairman is suggesting that I clarified the situation. I did not make anything ambiguous.

No. I said that Deputy Burton-----

Other Deputies will agree that the charge levelled against me is grossly unfair.

I am sorry, Chair, but the Deputy said that I had ignored a matter that had been raised. I did not.

I have given the Minister of State ample opportunity.

I want the record of the Dáil to be corrected.

In that case, I will ask-----

I will finish on this.

I ask the Minister of State to resume his seat.

I will finish on this. I want the matter referred as the Acting Chairman outlined-----

-----and I want it investigated. I will be seeking an apology on the floor of the House.

The Minister of State can refer it to the Committee on Procedure. I think that Deputy Burton has clarified the situation. Let us move on from that. We can deal with it that way.

She said he ignored it.

Does Deputy Wallace wish to make a contribution?

We accept and are not querying the need to verify people's identities, but the process will enable the creation of a massive database of citizens' data. That database may well improve the administration and delivery of public services, but it is also important to state that increased data sharing does not necessarily lead to increased data quality. The streamlining of services and the reduction of costs, while important, are separate issues.

We submitted amendments to try to address the problem of coerced consent, which is prohibited under GDPR. The fundamental fact remains that, according to Article 4 of GDPR, consent when required for data processing must be freely given and cannot be coerced. There may well be a legal basis for the public services card and the data chain that goes with it in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, but there is no legal basis for withholding public services from a person who does not agree to this large-scale sharing of his or her data.

We know most people do not have a problem with their data being shared these days on various Internet sites and social media outlets but it does not change the fact that privacy is a human right and we cannot be selective in how we observe human rights. The Minister of State made the point that the Bill will give data sharing a legal basis but it will not if it is illegal under EU law, so we will see about that.

Regarding Deputy Wallace's point on the coercion of data, it does not state anywhere in the Bill or in any other legislation that information will be coerced from somebody, but to avail of services and to be able to interact with the State, I am sure the Deputy will accept that the State must be able to verify who a person is and it must be able to verify identity. That is key to this. As a State, we must be able to stand over how we verify a person's identity.

I am not arguing against that.

I know the Deputy is not. To suggest that we might have an opt-out or a soft opt-in, there is a risk that people will opt out of the unpopular services or the unpopular interactions with the State. That is the point I made earlier, the point I made on the last occasion we debated the legislation in the House and the point I made during the debate in the Seanad. That is also the point we reflected on with the Attorney General bearing in mind the Social Welfare Consolidation Act. I thank the Deputy for acknowledging this Bill does not do anything with respect to the public services card. I also acknowledge the fact that with respect to the legal basis issue, the Deputy is right in what he said. There are European instruments in place but we have an obligation to put our own instrument in place, having regard to the GDPR. That is what we are doing here. I do not have anything further to add on that.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 32; Staon, 0.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.
Amendment declared carried.
Seanad amendment No. 2:
Section 13: In page 14, to delete lines 15 to 19 and substitute the following:
“(I) to verify the identity of a person, where the first or second mentioned public body is providing or proposes to provide a service to that person;”.
Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 32; Staon, 0.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.
Amendment declared carried.
Seanad amendment No. 3:
Section 37: In page 33, to delete lines 25 to 27.
Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 32; Staon, 0.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.
Amendment declared carried.
Seanad amendment No. 4:
Section 75: In page 51, to delete lines 12 and 13 and substitute the following:
“by the substitution of “An Oifig Náisiúnta um Sheirbhísí Comhroinnte” for “Oifig Náisiúnta Seirbhísí Comhroinnte”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendments reported.