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Digital Reform in the Queen's Speech

Published On: 21 June 2016

This year's Queen's speech on 18 May contained a number of data protection related agenda items. We summarise some of the key elements of these Bills below: 

Digital Economy Bill

"Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband"

  • Aims to enable the building of a world-class digital infrastructure and support new digital industries.
  • Aims to reform the way the government uses data to deliver public services.
  • Provides protection for consumers from spam email and nuisance calls by ensuring consent is obtained for direct marking and giving the Information Commissioner powers to impose fines.

Modern Transport Bill

"Ministers will ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles"

  • Allows driverless cars on UK roads and an operational spaceport.
  • Will provide the legislative framework for commercial space flight in the UK for the first time, and could see the port built by 2018 (although the UK will be competing with other countries for the commercial spaceflight business).
  • Seeks to "clear up" regulatory concerns around use of drones for private and commercial use following concerns about misuse and near misses with aircraft. 

The legislation will make it compulsory for insurance companies to cover product liability for driverless vehicles. In respect of drones, the legislation will seek to end the position where a number of agencies have partial control of the area. 

Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill (England and Wales)

Legislation will be introduced to prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration

  • Broadening of the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service ("DBS") to the extent that the DBS can disclose to eligible employers information about extremism relating to employees.
  • New Ofcom powers to regulate internet streamed material originating from outside of the EU.


Investigatory Powers Bill 

"Legislation to modernise the law governing the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies"

  • The bill seeks to govern the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to intercept and gather data for the purposes of tackling crime.
  • Powers derived from the bill could obligate communications providers (such as internet and mobile phone operators) to retain user data. 

The bill is predominantly concerned with the powers of enforcement, security and intelligence agencies and the obligations of communications providers.

Bill of Rights

"Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights"

  • The proposed bill is planned to replace the current Human Rights Act 1998 and will be based on the European convention on human rights (on which the Human Rights Act is fanded);
  • According to the Conservative Party Manifesto 2015 the bill will "break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK"; however, a critical EU Justice Committee report published at the beginning of May included a finding that the bill could "damage the UK’s standing within the Council of Europe and the EU, and its moral authority internationally".

Consultation of the bill is expected shortly after the EU referendum. 

To view a transcript of the Queen's speech, please click here. To view background briefing notes on the Queen's speech, please click here.

Submitted by Ita Thomas, Solicitor and Nathan Bilton, Solicitor

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