The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is to be moved under the sponsorship of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announce the plan in a machinery of government statement to Parliament, as part of a package of measures on the sponsorship of public bodies and regulators.
Sunak said in his announcement that sponsorship of the ICO by the secretary of state for the new department “will enable the secretary of state to deliver an innovative and effective approach to the use of personal data, which forms part of the UK’s approach to data protection including on Artificial Intelligence policy and regulation”.
This follows the recent creation of DSIT with a focus on turning scientific and technical innovations into practical solutions, and replaces an earlier plan for the ICO to operate under oversight of the then Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
This emerged from the Government’s consultation of the Data Reform Bill, and involved the ICO carrying out its data protection functions under a statement of strategic priorities set out by ministry.
The changes have previously raised questions about the future degree of independence enjoyed by the organisatsion, although Information Commissioner John Edwards had said he expects it to continue to operate as a trusted and impartial regulator.
Other measures in Sunak’s statement included the UK Atomic Energy Authority coming under the sponsorship of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Copyright Tribunal being appointed by the secretary of state at DSIT, and a merger of communications regulator Ofcom and the Phone-Paid Services Authority.