Digital secretary Michelle Donelan has faced criticism over her decision to halt the data reform bill, with experts suggesting that changes will cause more harm than good when carving out the UK’s post-Brexit path.
Speaking at the Tory party conference yesterday, Donelan said draft legislation first introduced in July would be paused so ministers could focus on building a “business- and consumer-friendly British data protection system” and review the legislation.
“Our new data protection plan will focus on growth and common sense, helping to prevent losses from cyber attacks and data breaches, while protecting data privacy,” Donelan told the conference, adding that focus would be on removing “needless regulations and business stifling elements”.
However, partner at Lewis Silkin’s Data & Privacy Group Alexander Milner-Smith pushed back against this move.
“We had the Data Reform Bill, it had some sensible enough changes whilst also towing EU adequacy line. Whether we need further change really is questionable,” he told City A.M. “It already arguably struck that balance, so this latest news seems a little redundant”.
The original draft legislation looked to rework the UK’s data protection regime, reinventing rules for personal data processing and amending certain provisions of the EU’s GDPR to balance free flow of data. The government projected it could save UK businesses over £1bn over ten years.
Milner-Smith added that building a “truly bespoke” system that Donelan hopes is likely to cause more delays and uncertainty for businesses, which have had to work around GDPR and were then preparing for the bill.
Partner and Head of Data Privacy and Cybersecurity at City law firm Ashurst Rhiannon Webster told City A.M. that she was surprised by Donelan’s move: “I think we all expected some minor tweaking, but not a return to the drawing board.”
“The elephant in the room remains how they will achieve this in a way that will keep the EU happy that data is sufficiently protected when on UK shores,” she added, emphasising the significant impact uncertainty has on business.