Data Sharing Between Public Bodies Consultation

September 15, 2013

The Law Commission has issued a consultation on data sharing between public bodies.  The consultation ends on 13 December 2013 and the Law Commission has created a special Twitter account for the consultation –

The consultation paper considers issues relating to data sharing between public bodies and to some extent private bodies carrying out activities for public bodies as well. Its territorial scope is England and Wales.  However, the Law Commission will be working with its sister organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland to obtain comment from those jurisdictions.

The Law Commission points out that a number of clear public benefits are claimed for data sharing, from controlling fraud and error in the state’s financial relations with the citizen to improving the quality of policy making and service delivery.  However, there are reported to be significant obstacles to effective data sharing. It is not, however, clear whether these obstacles are the result of inadequacies in the legal regime governing data sharing or the result of a number of practical or cultural barriers and the consultation seeks to identify the causes of reported obstacles.

The Law Commission states:
“In most other projects, we know that the law needs reforming. We are not certain that this is the case with this project. The problems with data sharing between public bodies may originate from a number of causes other than a deficit in substantive law, such as: a lack of guidance or education; insufficient technology; cultural blocks; inadequate organisation; or excessive sanctions. At this stage, we are carrying out a scoping exercise. The objective of this exercise is not to propose any reform to the current legal framework but to investigate the root causes of the reported obstacles to data sharing between public bodies.”

This consultation paper is divided into five chapters.
• Introduction;
• Claimed advantages of data sharing and, conversely, the principled objections based on privacy;
• Restrictions on data sharing;
• Powers of public bodies to share data; and
• The consultation questions

Next steps: In the light of the responses the Law Commission receives, it will decide whether a full reform law reform project is needed. It will make recommendations accordingly and present them to Government.  Its final report containing its recommendations on the scope of any future project will be published in the spring of 2014.