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Data Protection Reform progress paused

Posted on 6 September 2022

Although Parliament was clearly going to be somewhat disrupted by the assumption of Liz Truss as new leader of the Conservative Party, and, therefore, new Prime Minister, the business of the House of Commons on 5 September included the rather surprising news that the second reading of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill would not take place as scheduled, in order to "allow Ministers to consider the legislation further".

The delay is almost certainly in part the result of the news that Culture Secretary (and, therefore, head of the sponsoring department for the Bill) Nadine Dorries has announced that she will be stepping down from the role. Whether this means that the incoming Culture Secretary will wish to make significant changes to the Bill (and indeed to the Online Safety Bill, the progress of which had already been paused) remains to be seen.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Commons' exchanges about the pause, though, was the response of the Opposition. Thangam Debonaire, the Shadow Leader of the Commons, in criticising the delay, described the Bill in any case as falling "well short on ambition" and as being "pretty uncontentious". This suggests a general consensus exists between the two main parties on ensuring the data reform agenda will (in Ms Debonaire's words) "unlock growth and business opportunities", but moreover that the Opposition will push for the Bill to be even more business-friendly. Some civil society and privacy campaigners have already expressed concerns about some of the potential reforms in the first draft of the Bill, so we can reasonably confidently expect that further reforms will lead to hot debate.

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