Ministry of Justice
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Increased powers for data protection

Increased powers for data protection

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE News Release (091/08) issued by The Government News Network on 16 July 2008

CONSULTATION BEGINS ON INFORMATION COMMISSIONER'S ROLE : INSPECTION POWERS

Proposals to increase the powers, funding and duties of the Information Commissioner will be examined in a consultation launched today.

The Government wants to ensure that the Information Commissioner has the powers and resources to continue to be able to carry out his duties under the Data Protection Act 1998 effectively in a rapidly changing environment.

Justice Minister Michael Wills said:

"We believe sharpening the Information Commissioner's teeth will enable him to be a stronger, more effective regulator.

"The way we use and protect information affects our ability to deliver better public services, opportunities for the most disadvantaged, improved protection from crime and terrorism and sustained economic well being. That's why we're launching this consultation."

The consultation proposes:
* To examine the Information Commissioner's inspection powers;
* To scrutinise funding the Information Commissioner's duties.

The consultation follows the Data Sharing Review Report, by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, and Dr Mark Walport, of the Wellcome Trust, published on 11 July. The Review looks at the use and protection of personal information in today's society.

Notes to Editors

1. The Data Sharing Review report can be accessed on line at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/reviews/datasharing-intro.htm.

2. The Data Sharing Review was commissioned on 25 October 2007 by the Prime Minister in his speech on Liberty: http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page13630.asp.

3. The review was undertaken by Dr Mark Walport and Richard Thomas. Dr Walport is the Director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the Council for Science and Technology, the Government's top-level independent advisory body on science and technology policy Issues. Richard Thomas in the Information Commissioner - the UK's independent authority charged with promoting access to official information and protecting personal information. Mr Thomas conducted this review in an independent capacity.

4. The review's terms of reference were, in summary, to consider whether changes are needed to the operation of the Data Protection Act 1998, to provide recommendations on the powers and sanctions available to the Information Commission and the courts in the legislation governing data sharing and data protection, and to provide recommendations on how data-sharing policy should be developed to ensure proper transparency, scrutiny and accountability. The terms of reference are set out in full at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/announcement_231107a.htm.

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