New data protection laws - vigorously opposed by the UK - are on track to be agreed across the EU, leading figures in the new instrument’s creation told a conference today.

The data protection regulation, which will create a statutory ‘right to be forgotten’ and bring US and other companies under the scope of EU law, is on ‘a good track’ for agreement next year, Thomas Zerdick, head of reform at the European Commission's data protection unit told the annual Privacy Laws & Business conference in Cambridge. 

However the UK's information commissioner, Christopher Graham (pictured), warned that an over-prescriptive regulation would be counter-productive.

Stressing that he was not speaking on behalf of the UK government, Graham said that by ‘over-speccing’ the new legislation ‘we are in danger of creating something that, because it cannot be done, will be less use than what we have got at the moment’.

The draft regulation, first floated in 2012 to update and strengthen the Data Protection Directive, was adopted almost unanimously by the European Parliament before the May election. Among changes introduced by the parliament was to increase maximum fines on businesses from 2% to 5% of a company's global annual turnover.

The next stage of the ‘trialogue’ process will be to reach a consensus with the European council of ministers. This is likely to involve a battle with the UK, which is arguing for the law to be updated by a directive, which would be implemented through national legislation, rather than a regulation, which has immediate force on member states. 

‘We have momentum and can only go forward,’ Zerdick said. ‘We hope to have a package ready in 2015.’

Peter Hustinx, European data protection supervisor, predicted that the new instrument would take the form of a regulation, despite the UK’s objection, as the decision would be taken by qualified majority voting. However he said that issues of governance remain to be thrashed out, including the ambition of creating a ‘one-stop shop’ for dealing with data protection complaints.

Graham agreed that modernisation was essential, but stressed the need to ‘engage with partners all around the world. We cannot pull up the drawbridge on the rest of the world, either the European or the UK. We’re dealing with a global phenomenon, there need to be global solutions’. 

Justice minister Simon Hughes told the conference that the UK remained committed to modernising the law. 'We have been fully involved all the time; we really are keen to get it done.'