EU competence in data protection generally advantageous to the UK

The Ministry of Justice’s Balance of Competences report on access to information and data protection says that stakeholders think EU data protection rules have had a positive impact on the UK. Respondents to this call for evidence which evaluates what the EU does and how it affects the UK include experts, non-governmental organisations, business people, Members of Parliament, and other interested parties. The government’s report, published on 18 December, reveals four emerging themes;

  • The need to be aware of interaction between principles of data protection and access to information;
  • The need to make sure any legislation is future proofed, given the potential for further unpredictable changes in data use;
  • The need to find a balance between an approach towards greater common standards, and sufficient flexibility for different sectors, and the different circumstances in Member States;
  • The need for greater understanding and engagement with stakeholders in this complex, diverse, and rapidly-changing field.

While EU competence in the area of data protection has been generally advantageous to the UK, the EU Data Protection Directive has largely failed to keep pace with technological developments and the increasingly international flow of data. Also, the majority of respondents thought that EU competence has had a positive impact on the UK’s national interest in terms of increased transparency of EU institutions. Respondents emphasised the need to have legislation that is future-proof, principle-based, and flexible enough to cover diverse and unpredictable uses of data in the future.

The report forms part of the government’s general review of the balance of competences between the EU and UK launched by the Foreign Secretary in July 2012. It does not predetermine or prejudge proposals that either Coalition party may make in the future for changes to the EU or about the appropriate balance of competences.

The Information Commissioner has emphasised that the UK would require comprehensive data protection legislation to trade in the globalised economy, whether it a member of the European Union or not.

The report on information rights

The list of information sources includes reference to Privacy Laws & Business’s 27th Annual International Conference 1 July 2014, Cambridge.