Data reform law ‘on track’ to be passed by the autumn

parliament newMPs will get the first chance to have their say on the UK Government’s data reform plans next month, with the Data Protection & Digital Information (No.2) Bill set to get its Second Reading in Parliament on April 17, amid predictions it could even be passed by the autumn.

The Government first outlined its plans in August 2021 but the Bill was only introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading last summer.  It was then put on hold again, until earlier this month, following what ministers called “a co-design process with business leaders and data experts”, including Which?, the DMA, TechUK and the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The DMA insists it has secured major concessions for the data-driven marketing industry, especially around legitimate interest and charity activity, although privacy groups claim the Bill will weaken consumers’ data rights and water down accountability; others have rubbished Government claims that the reforms will save the UK economy £4.7bn over ten years.

While the full text has yet to be published, most of the original measures in the Bill affecting the marketing industry remain, including bigger fines for rogue telemarketers, a soft-opt in for charity emails, relaxing the online cookies law and a shake-up of the ICO.

According to an analysis by law firm Mishcon de Reya, there is little difference between the first Bill and No. 2, with no more than approximately a 1% difference.

Data protection partner Adam Rose said: “[The Bill] retains both the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR, amending both, which means that those wishing to comply with or use its provisions now need to look at three documents.

“The realities of international trade mean that the UK can’t push things too far for fear of threatening the adequacy decision of the EU, and which has the knock-on effect that third countries would also be reluctant to do data deals with the UK.”

At the Second Reading, MPs debate the general principles of the Bill, and amendments at committee stage and report stage. The Commons decides whether to agree the Bill at the Third Reading and it then passes to the Lords. Once both Houses of Parliament are agreed, the Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law.

This Bill could benefit from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to give himself longer to pass laws that began their passage through Parliament under Boris Johnson.

In December, Downing Street confirmed the current Parliamentary session, which had been expected to end this spring, will now be extended until autumn. At the time, a spokesman said it would enable the Government to get through a “packed” agenda.

Rose concluded: “Given that there has been little suggestion of any objection from the Opposition, there should be ample time for it be passed.”

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