The Queen’s Speech 2022: UK to reform Data Protection Legislation

On Tuesday 10th May 2022 at the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen’s speech was delivered, announcing the latest 38 laws which ministers intend to pass over the next year. With the announcement of the Data Reform Bill, the speech confirmed that there are proposed changes to UK data protection laws on the horizon over the next 12 months.

The Data Reform Bill—what do we know?

Exact details of what the Data Reform Bill will include are yet to be released, with a po-tential publication of the draft bill likely to be released in the summer, however the Queen’s speech summarised the key points:

The purpose:

  • To use the “benefits of Brexit” to create a world-class data rights regime, reduc-ing burdens on businesses, boosting the economy, and assisting scientific re-search.

  • To modernise the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to ensure it has capa-bilities and powers to take action against those breaching data rules, along with a higher accountability to UK Parliament and the public.

  • To increase industry participation in “Smart Data Schemes” giving citizens and small businesses more control of their data, and allowing better access to appro-priate health and social care data for those needing healthcare treatments.

Predicted benefits:

  • Increased efficiency of UK businesses through reduction of current data protec-tion burdens—focusing on privacy outcomes rather than “box-ticking.”

  • Allowing UK citizens more accessibility to data that can empower them and im-prove their lives, in areas such as public healthcare, security and government services.

  • Clearer regulatory rules for personal data use, which will fuel responsible innova-tion and scientific progress.

  • Ability for regulators to take appropriate action against those breaching rules and to give citizens greater clarity on their rights.

  • Simplification of research rules to further progress the UK science and technology industry.

The future of EU-UK data transfers

Following the departure of the UK from the EU, a data adequacy decision was implement-ed, ruling that the UK’s data protection legislation was sufficient enough as it stood, to continue UK-EU data transfers as usual; however, the EU put measures in place which would allow the reversal of this decision, should UK legislation change significantly.

One of the aims of the Data Reform Bill according to the UK Government is to streamline and simplify UK data protection laws, cutting “red tape” and reducing the burden of com-plex data protection legislation on businesses.

Concerns have been expressed by industry representatives that the Bill could bring more harm to the UK economy than good; if the Data Reform Bill deviates too far from EU standards, it could cause the adequacy decision to be revoked. Should the UK lose it’s data adequacy agreement with the EU, businesses could face much higher compliance and administration costs, when transferring data to and from the EU.

The UK Government have in recent months stated a desire to implement new data flows with other countries such as the USA, Australia, Singapore and South Korea; if data from EU individuals is transferred to third countries such as these, it could jeopardise EU priva-cy standards and threaten the adequacy agreement.

Zach Meyers, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, stated:

“If the UK diverges further away from the GDPR, then the Commission may feel it has no choice but to withdraw adequacy.”

He added that minor reforms may not cause a big enough issue, but if the UK Govern-ment progresses with their more radical ideas for reform, the Commission may have to seriously consider whether to withdraw the adequacy ruling.

Until full details have been published, it is unclear exactly what impact the reform could have on UK businesses. Rafi Azim-Khan, head of privacy at Pilsbury law firm suggested that:

“I think there will still be quite a bit of nervousness from businesses in the weeks ahead...I’d imagine we’d see more of a pruning than root and branch reform, but hopefully we’re not left waiting too long to find out.”

The Advisory Bureau will continue to monitor the situation and will release updates as necessary. To read the full transcript of the Queen’s Speech including information on the Data Reform Bill, click here.

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