The work of the Information Commissioner: appointment of a new Commissioner - Justice Committee Contents

1  Introduction

Pre-appointment hearings

1. Pre-appointment hearings were recommended in the Liaison's Committee's report Shifting the Balance Sheet: Select Committees and the Executive published in 2000.[1] Although the idea was initially rejected by the Government, the July 2007 Governance of Britain Green Paper contained a proposal for select committee scrutiny of prospective appointments in the following terms: "…the hearing would be non-binding, but in the light of the report from the [relevant select] committee the Minister would decide whether to proceed. The hearings would cover issues such as the candidate's suitability for the role, his or her key priorities, and the process used in selection…"

2. A list of posts proposed by the Government as suitable for pre-appointment scrutiny was published by the Liaison Committee in 2008.[2] A list of the appointments that come under the aegis of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General's Office is annexed to this report (Annex A) and includes the Information Commissioner.

3. On 13 January 2009 the Ministry of Justice announced Mr Christopher Graham, Director-General of the Advertising Standards Authority, was its preferred candidate for the post of Information Commissioner and invited this Committee to report on his suitability for the role.[3] The Information Commissioner is the second such appointment within the remit of the Ministry of Justice that we have scrutinized in line with the Liaison Committee's interest in extending parliamentary oversight and accountability of key public appointments; the first was the Chair of the Office of Legal Complaints.[4]

4. In preparation, we took oral evidence from the current Information Commissioner, Mr Richard Thomas, on 13 January 2009; and subsequently conducted a pre-appointment hearing with Mr Graham on 27 January. This evidence, together with relevant memoranda, is published with this report.

1   Liaison Committee, First Report of Session 2007-08, Pre-appointment hearings by select committees, HC 384 Back

2   Letter dated 23 January 2008 from Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP to Rt Hon Alan Williams MP, Chair of the Liaison Committee; and see Liaison Committee, First Special Report of Session 2007-08, Pre-appointment hearings by select committees: Government Response, HC 594, Annex A) Back

3   Press Notice, Ministry of Justice, 13 January 2009 Back

4   Justice Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2007-08, Appointment of the Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints, HC 1122 Back

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Prepared 9 February 2009