Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Thursday 11 July 1991


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. James Lamond

Aitken, Mr. Jonathan (Thanet, South)

Beggs, Mr. Roy (Antrim, East)

Boscawen, Mr. Robert (Somerton and Frome)

Browne, Mr. John (Winchester)

Butterfill, Mr. John (Bournemouth, West)

Canavan, Mr. Dennis (Falkirk, West)

Corbyn, Mr. Jeremy (Islington, North)

Devlin, Mr. Tim (Stockton, South)

Flannery, Mr. Martin (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Goodhart, Sir Philip (Beckenham)

Gordon, Ms. Mildred (Bow and Poplar)

Graham, Mr. Thomas (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

Grist, Mr. Ian (Cardiff, Central)

Hamilton, Mr. Neil (Tatton)

Hampson, Dr. Keith (Leeds, North-West)

Hargreaves, Mr. Andrew (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Livingstone, Mr. Ken (Brent, East)

Marshall, Mr. Jim (Leicester, South)

Mawhinney, Dr. Brian (Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office)

Mr. M. D. Hamlyn, Committee Clerk

3 Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Thursday 11 July 1991

[MR. JAMES LAMOND in the Chair

Draft Access to Personal Files and Medical Reports (Northern Ireland) Order 1991

10.30 am

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Dr. Brian Mawhinney): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Access to Personal Files and Medical Reports (Northern Ireland) order 1991. The order was laid before the House on 6 June 1991. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), to whom I pay tribute, piloted through the House the Access to Personal Files Act 1987 and the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988. On both occasions he was given undertakings that similar legislation would be introduced for Northern Ireland and the order fulfils those undertakings. Part II of the order corresponds to the Access to Personal Files Act 1987, while part III corresponds to the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988. Part II, that is articles 3 to 5 and the schedule, sets out the statutory framework for access to certain manually held housing and social services records held by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and health and social services boards. Hon. Members will be aware that computer-based records are generally governed by the statutory regime under the Data Protection Act 1984. Like the 1987 Act, much of the detail must be prescribed in regulations by either the Department of Health and Social Security or the Department of the Environment, and before the regulations are made there is an obligation on the Department concerned to consult appropriate authorities and bodies. I assure hon. Members that consultation will be extensive. 4 Part III, that is articles 6 to 14, deals with the rights of access of individuals to medical reports sought by employers or insurers on those individuals for employment or insurance purposes. The insurer or employer must have the individual's consent before applying for a report, and the individual has a right to stipulate that he wants access to the report before it is supplied by the doctor. The individual has a right to request the doctor to amend the report, and, if the doctor refuses, the individual has two options: he can refuse to consent to the supply of the medical report to the employer or insurer, or he can request the doctor to append a statement of his views on the part of the report that the doctor refuses to amend. There is also a right of access to a medical report in the six months after it has been supplied to the employer or insurer.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South): It may save time if I ask the Minister one question. He may be aware that the right of access to health information was extended by the Access to Health Records Act 1990, which was brought into law by one of my hon. Friends. Will the Minister say if and when that legislation will apply to the Province?

Dr. Mawhinney: I may be able to help the hon. Gentleman. As I paid tribute to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire for the success of his private Member's Bill, so I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson). As with the order before the Committee, the Government have promised legislation corresponding to that Act for Northern Ireland. There is no definite timetable for it yet, but preliminary work is about to begin and it could be in operation by late 1992. The order gives statutory effect to good practice and has been welcomed by those concerned. I commend it to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Access to Personal Files and Medical Reports (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

Committee rose at twenty-seven minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Lamond, Mr. James (Chairman)

Beggs, Mr.

Butterfill, Mr.

Devlin, Mr.

Grist, Mr.

Hamilton, Mr. Neil

Hampson, Dr.

Hargreaves, Mr. Andrew

Marshall, Mr. Jim

Mawhinney, Dr.