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Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill

Volume 729: debated on Wednesday 8 March 2023

Today, the Government are introducing the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill in the House of Commons. This Bill supercedes the original Data Protection and Digital Information Bill that was introduced in July 2022. This new Bill is being introduced following a detailed codesign process with industry, business, privacy and consumer groups to determine how we could improve the Bill further.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has a clear mission—to ensure we are the most innovative economy in the world and that we cement ourselves as a science and technology superpower.

Better data access and use is at the heart of our mission to grow the economy, to improve the lives of everyone in the UK, and to achieve the Prime Minister’s five key priorities. Data is fundamental to economic growth, scientific research, innovation, and increasing productivity.

The Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill seizes our post-Brexit opportunity to create a new UK data rights regime tailor-made for our needs. The Bill reduces burdens on businesses—especially SMEs—and researchers, and crucially, boosts the economy by a staggering £4.7 billion over the next decade.

Businesses have told us how important the responsible use of data is for their growth. They will have the opportunity to protect personal data in the most proportionate and appropriate way, making them more efficient; and organisations will be freed from unnecessary paperwork. No longer will British businesses be held back by a one-size-fits-all approach to data. For example, our work to amend record-keeping requirements will provide greater clarity for businesses and community groups.

We have also been repeatedly told that uncertainty within the current data protection framework is also limiting the work of scientific researchers as they are unclear on the rules around processing personal data. By providing clarity, we will continue to foster the UK’s reputation as the most attractive home for world-class research and development. We are also encouraging more research activity in the UK by incorporating research in a commercial setting into the definition of scientific research.

This Bill takes tangible steps to harness the benefits of secure data use for everyone through innovation and technology. Trusted and secure digital verification services will enable smoother and cheaper transactions. “Smart data” schemes across the economy will ensure everyone benefits from lower prices and trusted, innovative services such as open banking. Better use of personal data in delivery of health and adult social care, security, and other government services will increase efficiency and service quality.

This Bill will also improve trust and confidence in the use of personal data in the public interest. It improves the efficiency of data protection for law enforcement and national security partners encouraging better use of personal data where appropriate to help protect the public. It provides agencies with clarity on their obligations, boosting the confidence of the public on how their data is being used.

It builds on the high standards we already have for personal data use, strengthening and modernising the regulator—the Information Commissioner’s Office—by making sure it has the capabilities and powers to tackle organisations that breach data rules, giving it the freedom to better allocate its resources.

It also maintains our internationally recognised data protection principles so that businesses can trade freely with global partners—some 81% of services trade is enabled by data sharing between the UK and other countries. We will strike new agreements that allow for the free and safe exchange of data across borders and continue to engage with the EU and its institutions, with a view to ensuring our existing data adequacy decisions remain in place. The UK is firmly committed to maintaining high data protection standards—now and in the future. Protecting the privacy of individuals will continue to be a national priority.

It is only right that we ensure the Bill works for as many people and businesses as possible.

That is why the original Bill was paused in September 2022, so Ministers could further consider the legislation and undergo an intensive co-design process with business leaders and industry experts. As part of this process, we met with a wide range of stakeholders to hear their views on the Bill and incorporate new and innovative ideas into its provisions. We have made several changes through this engagement, which will:

reduce compliance costs in the sector and reduce the amount of paperwork that organisations need to complete to demonstrate compliance;

reduce burdens by enabling businesses to continue to use their existing cross-border transfer mechanisms if they are already compliant;

give organisations greater confidence about the circumstances in which they can progress personal data without consent;

increase public and business confidence in AI technologies.

Our new UK data rights regime will drive innovation, growth and productivity. It will maintain the high data protection standards our citizens expect while ensuring our businesses, researchers and public services are not held back by disproportionate burdens. It will be more agile and able to respond to the rapidly transforming digital landscape. It will transform the ICO to ensure it is ready to tackle new challenges and protect citizens from the most serious harms, while supporting innovative use of data. It will allow the UK to strike new data bridges with like-minded countries across the world.

And we will be in an even stronger position to do this, having brought these crucial and connected responsibilities together in one Department, with one, expert voice. We will continue to lead the debate globally and maximise the UK’s position as a global powerhouse of science and technology.