New inquiry into digital regulation launched
7 September 2021
How well co-ordinated is digital regulation and do regulators have the power, capability and expertise to keep pace with developments? These are some of the issues to be explored by the Communications and Digital Committee as it launches a new inquiry.
- Send a written submission: Call for Evidence
- Inquiry: Digital regulation
- Communications and Digital Committee
- Report: Regulating in a digital world
- Online Safety Bill (PDF)
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.
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.
Lord Gilbert of Panteg, chair of the committee, said:
“We want to investigate the effectiveness of digital regulation at a time when regulators are expected to take on new powers.”
Questions on which the Committee is seeking views include:
- How effective is digital regulators’ horizon scanning and how could it be improved?
- How effective is parliamentary oversight of digital regulation?
- How effectively do UK regulators co-operate with international partners?
- Are there strategic approaches to digital regulation in other countries from which the UK could learn?
The Committee invites written contributions to its inquiry by Friday 22 October 2021.