Insights House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee launches new inquiry into digital regulation


In March 2019, the Committee published a report, “Regulating in a digital world”, calling for a new, overarching regulatory framework to hold services in the digital world accountable to an enforceable set of shared principles.

The report found that, as there is no body with complete oversight, regulation of the digital environment is “fragmented, with gaps and overlaps”.

The Committee therefore recommended a new Digital Authority, guided by ten principles to inform regulation of the digital world. Its board would consist of chief executives of relevant regulators and 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 Government launched the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum, which the Committee notes 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.

The Government has also recently 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. At a time when regulators are being expected to take on new powers, the Committee wants to investigate the effectiveness of digital regulation.

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 is inviting written contributions to its inquiry by 22 October 2021. To access the inquiry pages and for details on how to submit a written contribution, click here.