Let the tinkering begin: Data reform bill hit by delay

parliament newThe shake-up of the UK’s data protection laws has been one of the first victims of Liz Truss’ reign as Prime Minister after the second reading of the Bill – scheduled for the first debate on MPs’ return from the summer recess yesterday – was put on hold.

The Data Protection & Digital Information Bill 2022-23 was introduced in the House of Commons in July and is intended to update and simplify the UK’s data protection framework.

At the weekend, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport released a statement, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries claiming the bill is “one of Brexit’s biggest rewards”.

According to the announcement, the bill will “free businesses and researchers from GDPR’s one-size-fits-all approach”, and could unlock economic and scientific growth. It will also “modernise” the structure and objectives of the Information Commissioner’s Office, which includes appointing a chair, chief executive and board to ensure it remains a “leading regulator” for data.

DCMS also released Dorries’ expected opening remarks, in which she was going to say: “Data is now fundamental to our economy and to our society, and we need to ensure we’re making the most of every opportunity it presents.

“With this bill, we will build a new, independent data regime, one that with a number of common sense changes, frees up our businesses and unlocks scientific and economic growth, while maintaining our high data protection standards.”

However, with Dorries stepping down following Truss’ appointment and a new Cabinet reshuffle on the cards, the bill has now been delayed. No date has been set for a second reading.

Leader of the House Mark Spencer said: “Following the election of the new leader of the Conservative Party, the business managers have agreed that the government will not move the second reading and other motions relating to the Data Protection & Digital Information Bill today.”

But Spencer raised the prospect of fresh amendments when he added that not moving the second reading would allow “ministers to further consider this legislation”.

Camilla Winlo, head of data privacy at Gemserv, told Tech Monitor that the legislation’s focus on flexibility to enable “data-driven innovation” is unlikely to change now Truss is Prime Minister, but it is possible other areas of the bill could be amended.

She added: “With a long road ahead through Parliament, under what looks likely to be a drastically changed cabinet, it is possible that the bill may be amended before it is passed.”

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