Government introduces new data sharing legislation in parliament

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The Cabinet Office has today published a summary of responses to its consultation, Better Use of Data, including the formal government response (PDF). The consultation was launched earlier this year to look at how data sharing in government might help improve public services, help tackle fraud and debt, and better utilise data for official statistics and research.  The government also included its proposals as part of new legislation laid before parliament today. 

The National Statistics Advisory Group of the RSS contributed to the consultation and hosted an event with representatives from the Cabinet Office, the UK Statistics Authority and research organisations such as CLOSER and ESRC to discuss how the proposals might be developed.

Our response to the consultation (PDF) supported the Cabinet Office proposals to give the UK Statistics Authority greater powers to access data for statistical purposes. 

The proposed legislation states that the UK Statistics Authority (referred to in the legislation as the 'Statistics Board') has a 'right of access' to information held by government departments and bodies such as the Bank of England. Furthermore, access to data from the Office for National Statistics should be on a 'comply or explain' basis, ie departments would have to either comply with data requests from ONS, or make a case to explain why not. However, access to data for both statistical and research purposes will need to adhere to a code of practice, which the Statistics Authority has been tasked with developing.

The code of practice, the legislation states, should set out how to de-identify data so that it may be shared without identifying individuals. It should also contain guidance on processes for collecting, storing and supplying information to the Statistics Authority and will set out conditions which researchers will have to meet to gain access to data. The Statistics Authority will be able to accredit individuals who are allowed to process personal data. 

The research part of the legislation also makes clear that it does not cover health and social care data – this will be covered in a separate bill.

The proposals are being laid before parliament today as part of the Digital Economy Bill proposed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). It will be debated at the Second Reading stage, and is expected to move to the Lords in Autumn 2016 with Royal Assent expected in Spring 2017.

The RSS will continue to work on supporting the passage of the Bill through parliament.

UK Statistics Authority Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Data sharing Cohort & Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources (CLOSER) Cabinet Office

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