On September 17, 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron issued a Written Ministerial Statement, announcing that policy responsibility for data protection issues and the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”) will both be transferred from the Ministry of Justice (the “MoJ”) to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, (the “DCMS”) with the changes taking effect on the same date. Existing data protection policy teams at the MoJ also will move to the DCMS.
The DCMS already has significant policy oversight of digital and Internet services in the UK, and is responsible for Ofcom, the UK’s telecommunications watchdog. The increasing relevance of data protection for these services appears to have been a key motivation for moving the ICO into the DCMS’ remit.
The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, emphasized the need for the ICO to remain free to advise policymakers on issues relating to data protection and freedom of information in his response to the changes. It likely will be some time before the full impact of the changes on the role or operation of the ICO becomes clear.
These developments follow the July 2015 announcement that policy responsibility for freedom of information matters will be transferred to the Cabinet Office. In addition, the government established the Commission on Freedom of Information, which will review the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and consider revisions to it, while reporting to the Cabinet Office.