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Consultation examines data sharing between public bodies

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The UK's Law Commission has opened a consultation on sharing data between public bodies and what the barriers are.

The consultation aims to discover whether the obstacles that public bodies continue to report in sharing data in ways that are effective and useful are to do with the law or whether they stem from other practical or cultural barriers.

The Commission notes that the law surrounding data sharing is complex and that powers to share data are express or implied in numerous statutes and in the common law. 

In the consultation, the Commission asks:

  • Is there a problem with the law? Does the law itself erect barriers that unduly restrict data sharing between public bodies?
  • Is the law too complex and hard to understand? Has a lack of clarity in the law led public bodies to develop cultures that prevent lawful data sharing? Is data sharing just too difficult?
  • Is there a simply a gap in education, guidance and advice?

Frances Patterson QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, explained: 'It could be that more data sharing would improve public services but, if that is so, we need to understand why data is not being shared. Is there a good reason to prevent data sharing? Or is the law an unnecessary obstacle? Are there other reasons stopping appropriate data sharing? These are the questions we want to answer in this consultation.'

The consultation closes on 16 December 2013. The Commission will present its findings to the Ministry of Justice in Spring 2014.