Ministry of Justice
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Information Commissioner to be given tougher powers

Information Commissioner to be given tougher powers

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE News Release (150/08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 24 November 2008

The Information Commissioner is to be given tougher powers to regulate the Data Protection Act under proposals put forward by Justice Secretary Jack Straw today (Monday 24 November).

The proposals will enable the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to:

* impose monetary penalties on data controllers for deliberate or reckless loss of data;

* inspect central Government Departments and public authorities' compliance with the Data Protection Act without always requiring prior consent;

* require any person, where a warrant is being served, to provide information required to determine compliance with the Data Protection Act;

* impose a deadline and location for the provision of information necessary to assess compliance;

* publish guidance on when organisations should notify the ICO of breaches of the data protection principles; and

* publish a statutory data sharing Code of Practice to provide practical guidance on sharing personal data.

The details of the proposals are contained within the Government's response to the Data Sharing Review.

Jack Straw Justice Secretary said:

"As new technologies have developed, the secure storage and careful sharing of personal information held by both the public and private sectors has become paramount.

"Strong regulation and clear guidance is essential if we are to ensure the effective protection of personal data.

"The changes we propose today will strengthen the Information Commissioner's ability to enforce the Data Protection Act and improve the transparency and accountability of organisations dealing with personal information. This is very important if we are to regain public confidence in the handling and sharing of personal information.

The Prime Minister and I are very grateful to Professor Mark Walport and Richard Thomas for all their work on the Review, from which these decisions flow."

The Government also proposes revising the ICO's funding structure for its work on data protection to a tiered fee structure based on size of organisation. This will replace the flat rate notification fee which has not changed since its original introduction in 1984. It will better reflect the level of work and provide additional funds for the ICO.

Today's proposals follow a detailed consultation held by the Ministry of Justice on the Information Commissioner's inspection powers and funding following recommendations in the Data Sharing Review published in July 2008.

Legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.


Notes to editors

1. The Data Sharing Review by Richard Thomas and Mark Walport was published in July 2008 and can be found at:

2. The full Government response can be found at:

3. The Consultation response can be found at:

4. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is the UK's independent regulator of the Data Protection Act (DPA).

For public enquiries, contact the Ministry of Justice Public Enquiries line on 020 33 34 35 55

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