Government delays Data Reform Bill, creating ‘uncertainty’ for businesses

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The government has announced a delay to the Data Reform Bill, the proposed legislation to replace data rules established under the EU.

Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan, speaking at the Tory party conference this week, said the Data Reform Bill legislation that was introduced back in July had been paused to allow the new government led by Liz Truss to rethink the reforms.

“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 said.

Donelan said the UK’s approach would be “business and consumer-friendly” and remove the EU “red tape” that is claimed by the minister to be hampering economic growth.

However, it is unclear what the timeline for the revamped Data Reform Bill will be, sparking concerns that it will make it harder for businesses to plan ahead.

Natalie Cramp, CEO of data science firm Profusion, told UKTN that the announced delays added “more unwelcome uncertainty for UK businesses” at an already difficult time.

“On a practical level, it’s difficult to see how a new bill could be written and passed with adequate consultation ahead of the next general election. As Labour has a very different take on GDPR, it’s very hard to say what the final outcome will be,” Cramp said.

“Without any clarity, it makes it very difficult for companies, especially in the tech industry, to make concrete plans on how they expand.”

Cramp noted that many UK businesses in tech and beyond eventually try to expand their customer base into Europe. Therefore, a lack of clearly defined policy on how UK companies need to interact with European data law “could prove a costly risk”.

A number of ongoing government projects that impact UK tech and business were put on hold following the transition of leadership from Boris Johnson to Truss, as well as the period of mourning after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The hotly debated Online Safety Bill, closely associated with former Digital Secretary  Nadine Dorries, has also been held up.