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Call for Evidence

Call for evidence

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee, chaired by Lord Gilbert of Panteg, is to hold an inquiry into the work of digital regulators. The Committee invites written contributions by Friday 22 October 2021.

The Committee expects to hear from invited contributors in public sessions in November and December 2021.

Aim of the inquiry

The Communications and Digital Committee wishes to investigate the effectiveness of digital regulation, building on its report Regulating in a digital world (published March 2019).

Background

In Regulating in a digital world, the Committee found that regulators had failed to keep pace with advances in digital technologies. There are over a dozen regulators with a remit covering the digital world and this fragmentation has led to both gaps and overlaps in regulation. New regulation was too often driven by responding to newspaper headlines rather than strategic thinking.

Rather than simply more regulation, the Committee called for a different approach to regulation. A Digital Authority should be established to co-ordinate regulators operating in the digital world. Its board would consist of chief executives of relevant regulators with independent non-executives and it would be chaired by an independent non-executive. The Authority would have a horizon-scanning role to assess regulation and make recommendations on how to address gaps. Acting as a centre of expertise would allow some degree of pooling of resources between regulators.

The Committee argued that the Authority could provide an opportunity to improve parliamentary oversight of digital regulation. The Authority would be obliged to produce a report to Parliament – and give evidence to a new joint committee – every quarter. This would provide a focal point for scrutiny and ensure that the Authority remained accountable.

In July 2020, the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum was launched. It is an informal grouping with no statutory powers which does not make decisions or provide formal advice or direction to its members: Ofcom, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Regulators are expected to take on new powers. The Government has published in draft form its Online Safety Bill, which Ofcom would be required to implement, and is consulting on giving statutory powers to the Digital Markets Unit as part of a new, pro-competition regime.

Developments in digital regulation in other jurisdictions include the European Union’s proposed Digital Services Act package, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s mandatory bargaining code for platforms and news publishers, and various antitrust lawsuits in the United States.

Questions

The committee seeks responses to the following questions to form the written evidence for its report. Contributors need not address every question and experts are encouraged to focus on their specialism. Other issues may be discussed provided that their relevance is explained. Submissions which have been previously published will not be accepted as evidence. However, published material may be referenced where relevant.

The Committee encourages people from all backgrounds to contribute and believes that it is particularly important to hear from groups which are often under-represented. The Committee’s work is most effective when it is informed by as diverse a range of perspectives and experiences as possible.

1. How well co-ordinated is digital regulation? How effective is the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum?

2. Do regulators have the powers and capabilities, including expertise, to keep pace with developments? What is the appropriate balance between giving regulators flexibility and providing clarity in legislation?

3. How effective is digital regulators’ horizon scanning? How could this be improved?

4. How effective is parliamentary oversight of digital regulation?

5. What is your view of the Committee’s proposal in Regulating in a digital world for a ‘Digital Authority’, overseen by a joint committee of Parliament?

6. How effectively do UK regulators co-operate with international partners? How could such co-operation be improved?

7. Are there any examples of strategic approaches to digital regulation in other countries from which the UK could learn?

The committee encourages interested parties to follow the progress of the inquiry on Twitter @LordsCommsCom and at: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1409/digital-regulation/

ANNEX: GUIDANCE FOR SUBMISSIONS

Submissions should be made through the online form at: https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/543

Please bring this document to the attention of groups and individuals who may not have received a copy direct, including those who have not previously engaged with Parliament.

The deadline for making a written submission is 23.59 on Friday 22 October 2021.

Concise submissions are preferred. A submission longer than six pages should include a one-page summary. Paragraphs should be numbered. All submissions made through the written submission form will be acknowledged automatically by email.

Submissions which are accepted by the committee as written evidence may be published online at any stage. When it is published as written evidence a submission becomes subject to parliamentary copyright and is protected by parliamentary privilege. Submissions which have been previously published will not be accepted as evidence.

Once your submission has been accepted as evidence you will be notified by a further email, and at this point you may publicise or publish it yourself. In doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the committee, and you should be aware that your publication or re-publication of your evidence may not be protected by parliamentary privilege.

Personal contact details will be removed from evidence before publication, but will be retained by the Committee Office and may used for specific purposes relating to the committee’s work—for instance to seek additional information.

The committee may invite individuals and groups who have submitted written evidence, as well as others, to answer questions in a public session. These oral evidence sessions are usually held in Westminster but currently take place virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They are broadcast online and transcripts are also taken and published.

Substantive communications to the committee about the inquiry should be addressed to the clerk of the committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute a formal written submission.

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