Greg Mulholland MP (Liberal Democrat) MP for Leeds North West. Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson.
- (Date unknown)
- Thank you for writing to me with your concerns regarding the Draft Communications Data Bill. While I agree that we are in need of fresh legislation as a response to the changing nature of our communications, I feel the Draft Communications Data Bill was not the answer, and needed to be rewritten in order to strike a balance between security and liberty.
- The Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Bill, a committee of both Houses appointed to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, released its report yesterday. Nick Clegg had already raised a number of serious concerns with the draft legislation, and indeed insisted the bill was published in draft form precisely to allow this level of scrutiny of the proposals.
- The Joint Committee's report echoed a lot of what the Deputy Prime Minister had said; the Draft Bill was repeatedly called "misleading" and the scope, proportionality and cost of the measures were criticised. In light of its damning report the Prime Minister has now confirmed that the bill will thankfully have to be redrafted. The Liberal Democrats believe that we need to reflect properly on the criticisms made by the Committee, whilst also consulting much more widely with business and other interested groups.
- Please rest assured that I, along with other Liberal Democrats, will continue to protect the privacy of British citizens, and will continue to press th Home Secretary to draft appropriate legislation.
- "I am very pleased that this Bill which would have exploited the freedom and rights of British citizens has been vetoed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Collecting personal data without lawful justification would be an unacceptable extension of state surveillance."
Has campaigned on the issue of fingerprinting kids in schools. He has a strong grasp of the issues involved as can be seen by his speech in a Adjournment Debate in parliment Biometric Data (Schools) 23 July 2007
After the debate in a press release Parents must be consulted before fingerprints are taken 24 July 2007
- "It was high time that the Government recognised the need for guidance, on this serious issue. Schools have effectively been operating blind without information or advice on how these systems could and should be used."
- "It is crucial that the Government finds out exactly how many schools are using biometric technology and how many children have had their fingerprints recorded, whether this data is secure, and whether parents have been fully informed."
- "However, it has still taken six months since ministers performed a volte-face on this issue for any guidance to materialise." "It is also highly disappointing that there remains no legal requirement for parental consent before a child's biometric data is collected. This is totally unacceptable."
- "A school would never dream of taking children on a school trip without consent, but collecting their fingerprints is not subject to the same safeguards."
In response to a letter from Greg Mulholland about fingerprinting pupils Education minister Jim Knight confirmed that the Government will be issuing draft new guidance about fingerprinting in schools. Commenting, Greg Mulholland said:
- "The Government delay in acting on this issue is utterly appalling.
- "It’s outrageous that Ministers have allowed schools to continue this potentially illegal behaviour for so long without stepping in.
- "I’m pleased they have finally caved to pressure from concerned parents and MPs to give clear guidance to schools on whether mums and dads need to be asked before their children are fingerprinted."
House of Commons debate Business of the House 25 January 2007
- The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the growing concern at the increasing number of schools that are collecting data on pupils that is derived from biometrics such as fingerprinting, for use in electronic registration and library systems. He will also be aware of the fact that legal opinion, including that of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, has stated that this practice contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998. Does he agree that it is time to debate this important subject in the House?
Wrote Early Day Motion 686 Biometric data collection in schools 19 January 2007
- That this House is alarmed at the growing practice of schools collecting and storing the biometric details of children as young as three; notes that up to 3,500 schools use biometric software to record the data of approximately three quarters of a million children; shares parents' concerns that children's data, often including photographs and fingerprints, is stored on unregulated data collection systems and potentially insecure school computer networks and could therefore potentially be misused; notes that collecting the data from children under 12 without parental consent directly contravenes the Data Protection Act; believes that no child should have biometric information taken without the express written permission of their parents; further believes that no child should be excluded from school activities where this permission is not forthcoming; welcomes the decision by the Department for Education and Skills to update guidance to local authorities and schools; and calls on the Government to conduct a full and open consultation with stakeholders, including parents and children, on this issue as part of their redrafting process.
Written Question Biometric Technologies 29 January 2007
- To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what (a) meetings and (b) correspondence he has had with (i) the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, (ii) the Office of the Information Commissioner, (iii) other government departments and (iv) other groups or individuals on the updating of guidance to schools on the use of biometric technologies in the last six months; and what meetings he plans to have with those groups on subject in the next three months.
Signed Early Day Motion 263 Identity Cards 06 June 2005
- That this House believes that a convincing case for the introduction of compulsory biometric identity cards and a national database has not been made, that the risks involved far outweigh any discernible benefit, that the introduction of identity cards will fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state, diminish personal privacy and threaten civil liberties, that the present proposals do not provide properly costed, proportionate or effective solutions to the problems they are claimed to solve; and calls upon the Government to shelve plans for their introduction.
Signed Early Day Motion 2699 Freedom of Information 10 December 2006
- That this House welcomes the finding of the Constitutional Affairs Committee (HC991) that the Freedom of Information Act has `already brought about the release of significant new information and....this information is being used in a constructive and positive way' and the committee's conclusion that it sees `no need to change' the Act's charging arrangements; views with concern reports that the Government is considering changing these arrangements to permit an application fee to be charged for all requests or to allow authorities to refuse, on cost grounds, a significant proportion of requests which they currently must answer; and considers that such changes could undermine the Act's benefits of increased openness, accountability and trust in the work of public authorities.
Open Source Software
Signed Early Day Motion 179 Software in Schools 21 November 2006
- That this House congratulates the Open University and other schools, colleges and universities for utilising free and open source software to deliver cost-effective educational benefit not just for their own institutions but also the wider community; and expresses concern that Becta and the Department for Education and Skills, through the use of outdated purchasing frameworks, are effectively denying schools the option of benefiting from both free and open source software and the value and experience small and medium ICT companies could bring to the schools market.
- 2007-07-24 - Kable - Schools biometric guidance 'lacks clarity'
- Summary: An MP has attacked the government's biometrics advice to schools for failing to enshrine in law a parent's right to be consulted. Lib Dems MP Greg Mulholland told the Commons on 23 July 2007 that the guidance failed to introduce a legal requirement for schools to acquire parental consent before collecting their child's biometric data.
- 2007-07-24 - Liberal Democrats - Parents must be consulted before fingerprints are taken
- Author: Greg Mulholland MP
- Summary: The Liberal Democrats today welcomed new guidance issued to schools advising them to involve parents over the practice of taking pupils' fingerprints. Commenting, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Greg Mulholland, who has campaigned on this issue, said: "It was high time that the Government recognised the need for guidance, on this serious issue. Schools have effectively been operating blind without information or advice on how these systems could and should be used." "It is crucial that the Government finds out exactly how many schools are using biometric technology and how many children have had their fingerprints recorded, whether this data is secure, and whether parents have been fully informed." "However, it has still taken six months since ministers performed a volte-face on this issue for any guidance to materialise." "It is also highly disappointing that there remains no legal requirement for parental consent before a child's biometric data is collected. This is totally unacceptable." "A school would never dream of taking children on a school trip without consent, but collecting their fingerprints is not subject to the same safeguards."
- 2007-02-07 - BBC - Schools warned on fingerprinting
- Summary: Schools will be urged to seek parents' permission before taking children's fingerprints, under new guidelines. ... Forty-seven MPs have signed a Commons motion tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mullholland calling for consent to be required for the collection of biometric data. Shadow schools minister Nick Gibbs has also asked schools minister Jim Knight about guidance.
- 2007-01-30 - The Guardian - Schools advised to seek consent before fingerprinting pupils
- Author: James Meikle
- Summary: The privacy watchdog is to tell schools to seek consent from parents and pupils before fingerprinting children for activities like registering attendance or borrowing library books. ... Greg Mulholland, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said government delays in responding to the concerns about "this potentially illegal behaviour" were "utterly appalling" and "outrageous". Mr Mulholland said: "There are parents not being asked about the use of biometric data in schools, and in some cases are not even informed [that] their children are having fingerprints or other forms of data taken. No one seems to know how long this kind of data is stored." "There clearly is potential for abuse. It is extraordinary that the government is not prepared to bring this to parliament and debate it." A request for a tabled debate from the Liberal Democrats was rejected by the leader of the Commons, Jack Straw, last week
- 2007-01-29 - The Register - Parliament won't debate school fingerprinting
- Author: Mark Ballard
- Summary: The question of whether it's necessary or desirable to take school children's fingerprints has not made it on the agenda for Parliament. Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West and the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, requested a Parliamentary debate on school fingerprinting last Thursday. "Legal opinion, including that of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, has stated that this practice contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998. Does he agree that it is time to debate this important subject in the House?" Mulholland asked Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons.
- 2007-01-12 - The Sun - Parents in fingerprint victory
- Author: David Wooding
- Summary: Parents won a major battle yesterday to stop children being fingerprinted at school. Almost a million kids — some as young as five — have had their dabs taken and stored without their families’ consent. ... Lib Dem schools spokesman Greg Mulholland, who has backed the campaign, said: "The Government’s failure to act sooner is appalling." "I’m pleased ministers have finally caved in to pressure from parents and MPs." "But it’s outrageous that ministers have allowed schools to continue this potentially illegal behaviour for so long without stepping in."
- 2007-01-12 - BBC - School fingerprinting guide due
- Summary: New guidelines for schools on fingerprinting pupils are to be issued by the government, following MPs and parents' concerns surrounding privacy. The move comes after it emerged some primaries had stored children's thumb prints for computerised class registers and libraries without parental consent. Mr Mulholland said: "It's outrageous that ministers have allowed schools to continue this potentially illegal behaviour for so long without stepping in." "I am pleased they have finally caved to pressure from concerned parents and MPs to give clear guidance to schools on whether mums and dads need to be asked before their children are fingerprinted."
- 2007-01-12 - The Register - UK to review school fingerprinting
- Author: Mark Ballard
- Summary: The Department for Education and Skills is to reconsider the fingerprinting of school children after a four year campaign by parents. Jim Knight, schools minister, told Greg Mulholland, campaigning LibDem MP for Leeds North West, in a letter sent on 12 December, that he would "update the guidance on the use of biometric technologies" by schools.
- 2007-01-12 - Liberal Democrats - Government u-turn on fingerprinting in school
- Author: Greg Mulholland MP
- Summary: The Government has performed a U-turn and will now issue guidance to schools on the legality of fingerprinting pupils, following pressure from the Liberal Democrats. Schools have been fingerprinting pupils as young as three, often without parental consent, storing their biometric data for use in electronic registration and library systems, despite concerns over whether it is legal. The Government previously refused to issue guidance on this contentious matter. But in a response to a letter from Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, Greg Mulholland MP, Education minister Jim Knight confirmed that the Government will be issuing draft new guidance about fingerprinting in schools.