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The Times Brief - Data protection commitment

Our Associate Chris Coughlan comments in The Times Brief newsletter on the government's data protection commitment. 

The government's proposed digital charter was also welcomed. Christopher Coughlan, a lawyer at the law firm Ashfords, said it would encourage "the growth of digital businesses with access to finance, talent and infrastructure". 

However, he warned that any attempt by ministers to increase monitoring or surveillance of individuals "that goes beyond the requirements of the GDPR or the [EU's] draft ePrivacy Regulation then it is likely to face difficulties in getting the bill through parliament".

To view the full article in The Times Brief, please see below.

Theresa May scraps fraud office merger proposal 

Theresa May's decision to drop contentious plans to merge the Serious Fraud Office with its younger rival has been welcomed by lawyers. 

White collar crime and fraud lawyers had almost universally condemned the prime minister's proposed merger of the office with the National Crime Agency. But the measure was not included in yesterday's Queen's Speech – presumably a victim of the more cautious approach forced on a far less confident Conservative cabinet. 

"It is good news that Theresa May's obsession with merging the SFO with the NCA has not been included," said Jonathan Pickworth, a partner at the City of London office of the US law firm White & Case. He argued that the move "would have been bad for both [the SFO's] hard-working staff and for the good administration of complex and serious fraud investigations". 

Pickworth said the SFO "is just getting going and has made real progress recently with its assault on privilege and in securing some significant resolutions. The SFO model of combining investigators and prosecutors together in one agency is a good one and necessary … Who is to say that the NCA is equipped to do it any better? The dropping of the proposal will be a cloud lifted from the SFO." 

Personal injury woes 

The minority Tory government may have been forced to jettison swathes of its election manifesto to produce a low-key Queen's Speech, but lawyers still produced acres of comment on the slimmed down two-year legislative agenda. 

And while fraud specialists were celebrating, their claimant personal injury counterparts remained disappointed at the government's decision to persist with controversial reforms in the Civil Liability Bill. 

The legislation will introduce a fixed tariff for whiplash compensation in motoring incidents. It will also ban offers to settle claims without supporting medical evidence – and the move has been welcomed by insurance companies. 

However, claimant lawyers remain angry. "The government tries to appease motorists but, in reality, their right to redress when they are injured will be diminished in exchange for a promise of lower premiums which will not be kept," Brett Dixon, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said. 

He urged MPs "not to be taken in by the hyperbole prevalent in the sector about motor injuries and think how we as a society we would want to deal with someone who has been genuinely injured as a consequence of somebody else's negligence". 

Not-so-great repeal bill

On the labyrinthine subject of Brexit, City lawyers renamed the centrepiece legislation. 

"The government's intended approach in the no-longer-Great Repeal Bill is [to provide] for continuity based on existing EU law by default as far as possible, and likely doing so en bloc rather than item by item," Charles Brasted, a partner at the transatlantic law firm Hogan Lovells, said. 

He anticipated "that the bill will provide the domestic legal framework for Brexit and do much of the heavy lifting". But Brasted pointed to promises in the Queen's Speech of specific legislation on Brexit-related issues, including immigration, nuclear energy, privacy, agriculture and fisheries. 

On the controversial subject of immigration, he noted that the government's plans for a bill were described as "allowing for" the repeal of EU law on immigration, including free movement, which would otherwise be incorporated into UK law by the repeal bill. "This perhaps deliberately raises the prospect that any such changes will come sometime after Brexit," he speculated. 

Data protection commitment 

The government was credited with committing to a data protection strategy by including a bill to repeal the Data Protection Act 1998 in anticipation of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Stewart Room of the accountancy practice PwC said that it was "a significant move that will provide businesses with certainty on the UK's intention to meet the obligations" of the forthcoming EU measure. 

The government's proposed digital charter was also welcomed. Christopher Coughlan, a lawyer at the law firm Ashfords, said it would encourage "the growth of digital businesses with access to finance, talent and infrastructure". 

However, he warned that any attempt by ministers to increase monitoring or surveillance of individuals "that goes beyond the requirements of the GDPR or the [EU's] draft ePrivacy Regulation then it is likely to face difficulties in getting the bill through parliament"