Julia Lopez – 2022 Statement on the Data Consultation

The statement made by Julia Lopez, the Minister for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure, in the House of Commons on 20 June 2022.

On 17 June 2022, we published the Government response to the “Data: A new direction” consultation document, and in the Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022 it was announced that a data reform Bill will be introduced in the third Session of this Parliament.

Data is the driving force of modern economies and, by removing barriers to responsible data sharing and use, we aim to become the world’s No. 1 data destination: an open, welcoming and secure environment where companies from all over the world can innovate and grow, and where responsible data usage improves people’s lives.

It is because we have left the EU that we have the opportunity to build an independent data protection regime that works in the UK’s interests. We have the regulatory freedom to simplify some of the cumbersome parts of the UK General Data Protection Regulation and reduce the barriers of responsible data use.

The new regime will also maintain the fundamental data protection principles established by the UK GDPR. The Government remain committed to ensuring continued, high data protection standards and public trust in data, both of which will continue to be at the heart of our new regime.

The consultation response sets out how we will create a new, flexible, independent regime under which the value of data can truly be maximised. By clarifying data protection rules regarding research, we can give scientists the confidence to use data responsibly and effectively, meaning greater data-driven innovations.

We will remove some of the most prescriptive but unnecessary rules in UK GDPR, which organisations currently must follow to demonstrate compliance. This will reduce the burdens on businesses by giving them the flexibility to protect personal data in ways that work most effectively for their organisations and their clients. By reducing burdens, we can make businesses more efficient and more productive.

We will also use our repatriated “adequacy” powers from the EU to remove inappropriate barriers to the flow of UK personal data overseas, so that we can support trade and scientific collaboration as well as national security and law enforcement cooperation.

We will also make sure that there is better enforcement of data protection and privacy breaches, and we will take firmer action against nuisance callers and make it easier to stop this predatory behaviour to begin with. We will also make sure that data can be used to empower people and improve their lives.

Our reforms will directly benefit the public—we will make it easier for public bodies to share data, making public healthcare, law enforcement and Government services more effective.

The consultation response also sets out reforms to the Information Commissioner’s Office—we will modernise its governance framework with an independent board and require it to take into account the impact of its activities on areas such as economic growth, innovation and competition. We will also make the ICO more accountable to the public and Parliament by setting out a range of key performance indicators and other reporting requirements.

The consultation response recognises that political parties and elected representatives frequently need to process personal data for the purposes of democratic engagement. We intend to create a clearer legal basis for such processing to occur. The intent is to allow MPs, councillors and political parties to undertake democratic engagement that they have done for decades—such as opinion surveys of local residents or targeted letters to constituents—but where GDPR has added unnecessary complexity and confusion. This builds on measures in the Data Protection Act 2018 which received broad cross-party support at the time.

The UK is firmly committed to maintaining high data protection standards, and we will continue to operate a high-quality regime that promotes growth and innovation and underpins the trustworthy use of data. EU adequacy decisions do not require an “adequate” country to have the same rules, and our view is that reform of UK legislation on personal data will be compatible with maintaining free flow of personal data from Europe.

The reforms we have set out will create a new and independent data protection regime that will confer many benefits on people, businesses and researchers, while maintaining high standards of personal data protection. The Government response to the consultation is available on www.gov.uk and I will also place a copy in the Libraries of both Houses.