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Is time running out for the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill?

Posted on 9 February 2024

On 7 February the Secretary of State promoting the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, Michelle Donelan, brought a motion in the Commons extending the time before which the Bill will lapse by 280 days to 12 December 2024. In the absence of such a “carry over motion” the Bill would have lapsed (if not passed) 12 months after its first reading in the Commons – which would have been 8 March 2024.

The Bill has already been presented in two previous versions - one introduced in July 2022 and the other in March 2023.

Although this was, in principle, just a minor extension of the timetable, the government had previously indicated an intention to get the Bill to Royal Assent by spring 2024. And by 12 December, assuming Parliament has not already been dissolved, the country will be, at most, one month away from a general election.

Whether the difficulty in getting the Bill passed is simply down to lack of space in the parliamentary diary, or to more substantive issues, is a matter for debate. Although there has been little dissent from the Commons, several members of Lords were notably inquisitive about it in its second reading in that House on 19 December.

None of this should be taken to mean the Bill is incapable of being passed before a general election. Indeed, the making of the carry over motion itself indicates that there is still a desire on the government’s part to get it over the line, but the fact that – in its various iterations – the Bill has now been kicking around Parliament for close to two years, combined with the ticking of the election clock, may mean that time will simply run out on it. If that happens, it would be down to the next government (from whichever party that may be formed) to decide which way data protection law is to develop in the UK.

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