Out-Law News 1 min. read

UK election call spells end for post-Brexit data protection reform

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a snap general election on 4 July left no time for key elements of the government’s legislative programme to reach the statute books, an expert has said.

A number of bills have failed to make it to the ‘wash up’ session. It means some of the bills that have been debated in parliament will not make it into law. This includes the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, the Criminal Justice Bill, and the Tobacco and Vaping Bill, despite this being highlighted as a priority in the prime minister’s own 2023 Conservative Party conference speech.

The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill was scheduled to begin its House of Lords report stage on 10 June. The Bill had emerged from its committee stage with relatively few areas left to be resolved.  A ‘carry over’ motion passed in February 2024 extended to 12 December 2024 the time within which the Bill had to complete its parliamentary stages.

However, that motion applied only between sessions of the same parliament. It does not save the Bill from having to begin the legislative process again entirely if the new government decides to revive it after the general election.

Among the provisions lost with the Criminal Justice Bill, or delayed until a replacement bill completes its stages in the new parliament, are proposed new offences concerning the use of ‘SIM farms’. These offences relate to large-scale scam calls and texts, together with further debate on a new public interest defence in the Computer Misuse Act 1990 to protect legitimate cybersecurity professionals.

The new parliament is expected to meet on 9 July to allow MPs to take their oaths and for the election of a speaker in the House of Commons. The state opening of a new parliament would take place on 17 July, a few days before the summer recess.

“Legislative business would then resume in the autumn, punctuated by party conferences, driven by the new government’s agenda and either constrained or facilitated by the electoral arithmetic of the new House of Commons,” said Malcolm Dowden, data protection law expert at Pinsent Masons.

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