What does the general election mean for data protection law?

Published: June 28, 2024

With the prorogation of Parliament following announcement of the general election, the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill is not proceeding, despite having already completed the Committee Stage in the House of Lords. This second iteration of the government’s attempt to change and simplify the existing legislation on data protection and digital and electronic communications had been published in March 2023, and had been progressing through Parliament since. Proposals within the bill included changes to the legal bases for processing personal data in respect of the ‘legitimate interest’ basis, as well as reforms to the regulator, requests by data subjects in respect of their rights, and the removal of the requirement for controllers or processors who do not have an establishment in the UK to appoint a representative in the UK.

The Conservative manifesto makes no mention of the Bill, or to data protection more generally, so it is unclear whether they would intend to reintroduce it should they be re-elected, and what other changes they may choose to make.

Labour’s manifesto makes reference to data protection only in brief, referring to support for the development of the AI sector, and the creation of a ‘National Data Library’ bringing together existing research programmes while “maintaining strong safeguards”. What this would mean in practical terms remains to be seen.

The Liberal Democrats specifically reference a commitment to empowering consumers and requiring the provision of short, clear versions of terms and conditions, which should address data and privacy. There is also reference to a regulatory framework for AI which addresses the use of personal data therein, as well as to repealing the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act which allows certain data protection rights to be disregarded if they would prejudice the maintenance of effective immigration control.

No mention of data protection is made in the SNP’s, or Reform UK’s, manifestos.

What is clear, regardless of which party succeeds on 4 July, is that any changes to the existing legislative framework are now likely some way off.