This EU document is politically important because:
2.1The ‘‘ is one of the key actions outlined in the and sets out a series of policy and legislative proposals and funding commitments with the overall aim of creating a ‘single European data space’ (or ‘single market for data’). The measures outlined in the Strategy are intended to form part of a comprehensive approach to the EU’s ‘data economy’ to increase the use of, and demand for, data and data-enabled products and services throughout the Single Market.
2.2The Communication argues that concerted action in the data sphere is required based on the growth of data volumes and the rapidity of technological change, the increasing importance of data for the economy and society, and a desire to position the EU as a leader in the use of data, its regulation and governance, and the development of data products and services. The Commission also highlights the problems that it perceives are holding the EU back from realising its full potential in the data economy. These include: the availability of data between the public, businesses and governments; imbalances in market power between small start-ups and multi-nationals; issues surrounding poor data interoperability and quality; weaknesses in data governance; EU technological dependence in areas of strategic importance (e.g. cloud computing); a lack of awareness on the part of individuals regarding their data rights; gaps in skills and data literacy; and a need to improve cybersecurity.
2.3The Commission’s Data Strategy is built around four pillars with individual policy and legislative proposals and funding commitments set-out under each:
i)Pillar 1—A cross-sector governance framework for data access and use.
ii)Pillar 2—Enablers: Investments in data and strengthening Europe’s capabilities and infrastructures for hosting, processing and using data.
iii)Pillar 3—Competences: Empowering individuals, investing in skills and SMEs.
iv)Pillar 4—Common European data spaces in strategic sectors and domains of public interest.
2.5In our Thirty-First Report of Session 2019–21, we considered the Commission Communication, and its content therein, deeming the document to be politically important. We wrote to the Minister responsible for the document, Minister of State for Media and Data, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Rt Hon. John Whittingdale OBE MP) requesting further information on certain aspects of the Communication and on the steps that the Government had taken/was going to take in light of the measures suggested by the Commission following the end of the post-Brexit transition period. Our letter principally focussed on the potential implications of the Commission’s Strategy for UK law and policy, in particular, concerning UK-based stakeholders. The Minister has since written in reply—dated 17 December 2020—and his response is considered below.
2.6In our letter of , we noted that the Commission’s ‘European Strategy for Data’ covers a considerable number of linked areas and that the legislative proposals, policy actions, and funding initiatives outlined therein are directly relevant to the UK as a non-EU Member State. We noted that these would be assessed individually by the Committee as and when they are published.
2.7With regard to the Commission’s headline initiatives, we drew attention to plans for the creation of European ‘data spaces’ in key economic sectors and requested further information on the work that the Government was undertaking in this area.
2.8In response, the Minister states that the EU published the on 25 November 2020. The Minister explains that the proposal is, in part, concerned with strengthening EU-wide data sharing mechanisms and supporting European data spaces with the goal of increasing data availability. The Minister notes that the proposed draft Act is the first of a set of measures previously announced in the 2020 He further states that it is too early to assess the policy implications of the proposal for the UK.
2.9The Minister explains that the Government understands that, throughout 2021, the EU intends to publish a raft of related proposals and that the Act will support the creation of sectoral Common European Data Spaces, the first of which will be in the area of health. The Minister notes that the Government will continue to monitor these developments and their implications for the UK as a non-EU Member State.
2.10Furthermore, the Minister states that data spaces are a Government priority and draws our attention to the fact that the argues that better use of data—and enhanced data sharing mechanisms—can help organisations of every kind succeed across the public, private and third sectors. The Minister adds that the Government will consider options for how the UK should approach the regulation of data spaces as part of its National Data Strategy commitment to develop a clear policy framework to determine the interventions that are needed to improve data availability in the wider economy.
2.11In our letter, we also highlighted the Commission’s plans to review the operation of Article 20 of the and requested an update on any work that the Government was undertaking in relation to the regulation of greater data portability for individuals.
2.12In response, the Minister states that, following the end of the post-Brexit transition period, the UK will continue to operate a high-quality data protection regime that promotes growth and innovation, underpinned by the trustworthy use of data. The Minister emphasises that the Government wants the UK’s data protection regime to remain fit for purpose, as outlined in of the National Data Strategy, as the UK economy becomes increasingly digitised and data-enabled. The Minister notes that this includes rules relating to data subject rights, such as the right to data portability, and that the results of the Government’s National Data Strategy consultation are still being analysed to help inform its approach moving forward.
2.13We draw this Report chapter to the attention of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.
3 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: A European strategy for data; Council and COM number: 6250/20 and COM(20) 66; Legal base:—Dept: Culture, Media and Sport; Devolved Administrations: Consulted; ESC number: 41088.
4 Thirty-First Report HC 229–xxvii (2019–21), Chapter 1 (9 December 2020)
5 , 17 December 2020
6 Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) (Text with EEA relevance).