uk parliament

Peers call for major revamp to digital regulation in fast-changing sector

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The government’s approach to digital regulation should be revamped so it can more rapidly respond to the ever-changing digital world, peers in the House of Lords have said.

A report from the Communications and Digital Committee has claimed that current systems are not rigorous or accountable enough to address regulatory gaps and overlaps.

The report advises the government to take a more “joined-up” approach alongside regulators and Parliament so that emerging challenges such as artificial intelligence advances can be dealt with in a timelier manner.

Furthermore, a new Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum (DRCF) is “a small step” but a lack of overarching coordination and oversight of regulatory objectives remains, the committee added.

It said it was concerned that the DRCF lacked robust systems to coordinate objectives and to sort out potential conflicts between different regulators as the workload expands.

“More measures are needed to boost the DRCF’s long-term effectiveness and accountability,” the committee claimed while recommending that an independent chair of be appointed to lead the body and resolve conflicts between regulators. 

Lord Gilbert, committee Chair, added: “Given the pace of technological change and its impact across society and the economy, there is a notable gap in Parliamentary oversight. Persistent challenges remain that the regulatory system is insufficiently equipped to confront.

“We are concerned that not all regulators with digital interests and expertise have a seat at the table. Sharing information between regulators, advisory bodies, government, industry and experts needs to be enhanced to avoid duplication and ensure that the greatest range of perspectives feed into regulation.”

The committee also wants to see a new committee of MPs and peers set up to oversee digital regulation.

In March, then-digital secretary Oliver Dowden said that data protection laws could be reshaped in post-Brexit Britain to reduce “burdens” on businesses whilst still maintaining security.

The government later announced its intentions to revamp the UK’s data laws in a bid to reinvigorate digital trade which had been severely impacted by Brexit.

The EU has previously backed a series of reports which lay out plans for future regulation of digital platforms, including the possibility of a phase-out of targeted advertising.

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