Department of Culture Media and Sport is the ICO’s new sponsoring department

A written Ministerial Statement of 17 September announced that policy responsibility for data protection, and with it sponsorship of the ICO, is moving from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). Privacy Laws & Business understands that the announcement became operational as of that date. The name of the new responsible minister has not yet been made public.

Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner, said: “As the independent arbiter for information rights, we have business with different Whitehall departments on different topics. It is important that the ICO remains free to advise and to warn as necessary - and to bring both the privacy and transparency perspectives to policymaking in key areas. And we need always to be able to speak up for citizens and consumers.”

“It makes sense for the ICO to be well connected to debates around the impact and potential of the digital economy - but at the same time we need independence to do our job. DCMS has responsibility for digital issues, but also deals with very many arm's-length bodies whose independence is key to their contribution. The current sponsorship and DP policy teams working at the MoJ will be transferred to the DCMS. This gives me added confidence that the DCMS will be well prepared to cope with the demanding agenda ahead.”

The government is due to publish the ICO Triennial Review this autumn but a date for publication has not yet been announced. The Triennial Review looks into how the ICO functions but also how it should be funded. The ICO had, in its submission to the Review, said it wished to maintain its existing structure as a single regulatory body, but that it wanted to be directly accountable to Parliament, rather than the ministry. ‘For the ICO to do its job while working closely with government, the ICO should be allowed an appropriate degree of operational freedom rather than being subjected to controls more obviously necessary for a traditional non-departmental public body or arms-length body,’ the ICO said at the time.