UK: Data Reform Bill announced in 2022 Queen's Speech
The Prince of Wales delivered, on 10 May 2022, the Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech To Both Houses of Parliament ('the Queen's Speech'), which contained 38 bills intended to be passed in the coming year, including the Data Reform Bill. Specifically, the Prince of Wales stated that "we will […] create a first-rate data rights regime" and "the UK's data protection regime will be reformed". Complementing the Queen's Speech, an executive summary of the 'Queen's speech 2022: background briefing notes' ('the Briefing Notes') outlines that the purpose of the Bill is to:
- take advantage of the benefits of Brexit to create a world class data rights regime that will allow for the creation of a new pro-growth and trusted UK data protection framework that reduces burdens on businesses, boosts the economy, helps scientists to innovate, and improves the lives of people in the UK;
- modernise the Information Commissioner's Office ('ICO'), making sure it has the capabilities and powers to take stronger action against organisations who breach data rules while requiring it to be more accountable to Parliament and the public; and
- increase industry participation in Smart Data Schemes, which will give citizens and small businesses more control of their data, and help those who need healthcare treatments, by helping improve appropriate access to data in health and social care contexts.
Furthermore, the Briefing Notes outline the following benefits of the Bill:
- increasing the competitiveness and efficiencies of UK businesses by reducing the burdens they face, for example by creating a data protection framework that is focused on privacy outcomes rather than box-ticking;
- making sure that data can be used to empower citizens and improve their lives, via more effective delivery of public healthcare, security, and government services;
- creating a clearer regulatory environment for personal data use that will fuel responsible innovation and drive scientific progress;
- ensuring that the regulator takes appropriate action against organisations who breach data rights and that citizens have greater clarity on their rights; and
- simplifying the rules around research to cement the UK's position as a science and technology superpower.
Moreover, the Briefing Notes provide that the Bill will mainly have territorial extent and application with some measures extending and applying to England and Wales only, and presented some key facts which pushed for the data protection reform, including the analysis by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport indicating that these reforms will create over £1 billion in business savings over one year by reducing burdens on businesses of all sizes.
It is worth noting that other bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech, include:
- the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, whose purpose is to improve cyber resilience and digital connectivity for individuals and businesses across the UK and ensure that smart consumer products, including smart phones and televisions, are more secure against cyber attacks, and which will, in the main, extend and apply across the UK;
- the Energy Security Bill aiming to deliver the commitments in the British Energy Security Strategy and the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution to build a more secure, homegrown energy system that is cleaner and more affordable, so as to build on the success of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference ('COP26');
- the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, which aims to further strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance, reduce economic crime, including fraud and money laundering, and help businesses grow, by delivering greater protections for consumers and businesses, boosting the UK's defences, and allowing legitimate businesses to thrive;
- the Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, the main elements of which include giving the Digital Markets Unit powers to proactively address the root causes of competition issues in digital markets, including making interventions regarding tech firms' obligations to report new mergers and give consumers more choice and control over their data; and
- the Electronic Trade Documents Bill which will put electronic trade documents on the same legal footing as paper documents, removing the need for wasteful paperwork and needless bureaucracy, to enable businesses to move from paper-based to digital-based transactions when buying and selling internationally, and, as such, support economic growth.
Notably, the announcement follows the Government's public consultation on data protection reform proposals, published in September 2021.
You can read the Queen's Speech and Briefing Notes to the announcements here.