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Information Commissioner

Volume 523: debated on Wednesday 16 February 2011

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, has made the following written ministerial statement:

“On 7 January 2011, the Government announced their intention to enhance the independence of the Information Commissioner as part of a wider package of measures to extend the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, I wish to announce to the House today that the Government will strengthen the role of Parliament in the appointment of the next Commissioner in 2014. For this appointment, the Government will offer the Justice Select Committee a pre-appointment hearing with the preferred candidate and will accept the Committee’s conclusion on whether or not the candidate should be appointed. This will make the appointment process more open and transparent and enhance the independence of the office.

The Information Commissioner plays a vital role in promoting transparency and protecting the rights of individuals in relation to their personal data. The Government are fully committed to an independent Commissioner and the critical role he plays as a champion and protector of information rights.

The Commissioner is already entirely independent in the decisions he takes to enforce the legislation he regulates. However, the provisions to be included in the (Protection of Freedoms) Bill will further enhance his day-to-day corporate and administrative independence. The Commissioner will no longer need to seek the consent of the Justice Secretary on issues relating to staff appointments, charging for certain services, or before issuing certain statutory codes of practice under the Data Protection Act. Changes will also be made to the terms of the Commissioner’s appointment and tenure to increase transparency and protect against any potential undue influence.

Taken together, these steps—to be underpinned by a revised framework document outlining the day-to-day relationship between Government and the Information Commissioner—will result in a real and tangible enhancement to his independence”.