News Policy

Controversial Data Protection Bill pushed through UK House of Commons

On Wednesday 29 November 2023, the UK Government brought back the “Data Protection and Digital Information Bill” to life by having a second reading in the House of Commons. The first version of the Bill, proposed by Nadine Dories in July 2022, was actually withdrawn on 8 March 2023 after having had only one reading in the House of Commons – a withdrawal explained by one MP as being a consequence of how inappropriate the Bill’s contents were.

But Wednesday, the Government pushed it through for a second reading in the House of Commons, along with hundreds of amendments, and judging from the exchanges it is well understood that the Bill is filled with controversial proposals giving the Government broad powers, together risking turning the UK into a surveillance state, from the ability for the Government to monitor State benefit recipient’s bank accounts, to having access to significant voter data for electoral purposes. As a result, the Bill received hundreds of amendments… and yet is still being pushed through a quasi-empty House of Commons – a tactic seen on several occasions in the recent past.

The discussion was very interesting indeed, with many speakers showing a real understanding of the issues and expressing concerns about “Henry VIII” clauses –

The original Bill is worth a read:

The updated Bill is here:

The Commons debate is worth watching – starting at 13:15:27

The Hansard (transcript) of the discussion was made available soon after the end of the session:

It is particularly disappointing to see the Government wiping amendments from the opposition and supporting only its own amendments, with very little time for MPs to follow a due review and scrutiny process. At the end of the session, the vote for passing the Bill to its third reading was: 269 ayes vs. 31 noes.

It is hoped that civil society organisations who focus on this topic will be able to analyse the Bill and offer support to MPs who are looking to make democratic amendments to this Bill… even though some MPs have already mentioned yesterday that the Government will *again* push this Bill through the Commons by force and resort to the House of Lords to work out and mitigate any excessive, unchecked powers with no safeguards that this Bill would confer to the Government in a democracy such as the United Kingdom. This is not due process. The House of Commons is the lower house and the House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. However, the House of Commons, by virtue of being constituted of elected representatives whilst the Lords is an unelected chamber, is now considered to be the supreme chamber of Parliament. Yet, a Bill is being passed in force and the only hope for mitigating this drive towards an Orwellian State rests on hope that the House of Lords will put a stop to its most controversial components.

It was alarming to see how few MPs were present in the House of Commons regarding a Bill that treats a Core Human Right – and most MPs present expressed their serious concerns – from both sides of the House. It is a major expansion of State Powers without Scrutiny nor a real debate in Parliament. As one MP, Mr. Marcus Fysh (Yeovil – Conservative – the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on digital identity) put it, when it concerns AI: “I finish by urging the Government to think hard about this stuff. It might seem troublesome, and they might want to forge ahead and do innovative things and all the rest of it, but this is such a serious moment in our history as a species. The way that data is handled is now fundamental to basic human rights and, I would increasingly argue, to the human condition…  …if we put the wrong frameworks in place, and allow the wrong data to be shareable in the wrong way, that could have huge consequences for us.”

It is worth noting that The Equality and Human Rights Commission have provided advice on the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

The Bill is now in the House of Lords.