It took 15 years for UK to pass it's Data Protection Act

The history of data protection legislation section of this blog continues today with the story of how UK needed 15 years to transform the initiative data protection regulation into law. The process started in 1969 and ended in 1984. You will further find a detailed history of the struggle to pass this bill:

It was end sixties that the United Kingdom Parliament began to be worried by increasing computerization and its consequences for the privacy of the individual citizen. Several Members of Parliament introduced Bills, but without success. (See for example the Data Surveillance Bill 1969 by Kenneth Baker and the Personal Records (computers) bill 1969 by Lord Windlesham).

The debate in and outside Parliament only really got under way with the publication in 1970 of a report by Justice, the British section of the international Commission of Jurists, entitled Privacy and the law. The Right of Privacy Bill contained in an annex to the report was introduced into Parliament virtually unchanged as a Private Member’s Bill by Brian Walden, M.P..

The ensuing debate in the House of Commons let to the setting up of the Committee on Privacy, also known as the Younger Committee, which presented its final report in 1972.

Following on from the Younger Report, three years later the Government published a White Paper, entitled Computers and Privacy.

The need for a data protection law was recognized both by the Government and the Parliament.

To this end a Committee on Data Protection was set up under the chairmanship of Lindop. The Lindop Report was published in December 1978. It contained thorough recommendations both as to the aims to be achieved and on the substance of future data protection legislation.

Following the Lindop Report, the government published in April 1982 a new White Paper containing a proposed Bill.

The first reading of the DPA Bill took place in the House of Lords on December 21, 1982. Passage of the Bill was stopped when Parliament was dissolved on May 13, 1983. An amended version was discussed in the House of Lords on June 23, 1983. It passed to the House of Commons on November 3, of that year, returning to the House of Lords on June 29, 1984. The DPA received the Royal Assent on July 12, 1984.

The Bill did not pass through the house of Parliament without a struggle. Compared to other British statutes it had relatively long Parliamentary history. It appears from the debates that this was due in great part to the complexity of the subject-matter. Members of both Houses were regularly perplexed by the technical subject matter of the Bill and the complexity of its structure.

Source: A.C.M. Nugter, Transborder Flow of Personal Data within the EC, Springer, Netherlands, 1990 (p. 107 – 109)

You can find the book here: Transborder Flow of Personal Data Within the EC (Computer/law series)

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