MoJ passes on responsibility in move reflecting consolidation of digital issues in Department of Culture, Media and Sport
Responsibility for data protection issues has been transferred from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – along with sponsorship of the Information Commissioner’s Office and The National Archives.
The move was announced by the prime minister to Parliament in the latest round of machinery of government changes, saying it became effective on 17 September. It is part of a transfer of the lord chancellor’s responsibilities under the Public Records Act (1958) and associated legislation to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
It marks a consolidation of responsibility for digital issues within the DCMS, where junior minister Ed Vaizey (pictured) has taken a high profile approach in dealing with the IT industry. In June the Digital Economy Unit was moved from Business, Innovation and Skills, where Vaizey also holds a brief, to come under his DCMS remit.
A government spokesperson said: "DCMS already sponsors Ofcom, the independent communications regulator.
“Responsibility for data protection policy and sponsorship of the Information Commissioner’s Office, which upholds information rights, fit with the department's broader commitment to support the digital economy, and to protect the interests of citizens and consumers."
Although the move may raise questions around transferring responsibility for the legal aspects of data protection away from the MoJ, it received a welcome from Information Commissioner Christopher Graham. He said it increased his confidence that the DCMS could cope with the demands of the relevant issues.
He also waved the banner for the organisation’s independence, warning that it has to remain “free to advise and warn as necessary” on the privacy and transparency elements of government policy, and to speak up for the public.
“It makes sense for the ICO to be well connected to debates around the impact and potential of the digital economy - but at the same time we need independence to do our job,” he said. “DCMS has responsibility for digital issues, but also deals with very many arm's-length bodies whose independence is key to their contribution.”
Image from GOV.UK under Open Government Licence v3.0