The Information Commissioner could be given more powers to enforce data protection in the public and private sectors, under new government proposals.

Michael Wills MP, justice minister, said he was starting a consultation into how Information Commissioner Richard Thomas could be granted greater powers to inspect organisations for compliance with the Data Protection Act. The consultation will also look at how to better fund the Information Commissioner’s office.

Wills said: “We believe sharpening the Information Commissioner's teeth will enable him to be a stronger, more effective regulator.”

The news comes days after a report co-authored by Thomas said that the ICO needs greater powers to do its duties. The report also said there was much confusion in the public and private sectors over data protection legislation.

In recent days, the ICO served tough enforcement notices on HM Revenue & Customs, after the loss of 25 million records, and on the Ministry of Defence, after a laptop containing the details of 600,000 recruits was stolen. The ICO notices demand regular reports on action taken by those departments to improve their compliance with the Data Protection Act.

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