Pre-appointment hearing for Information Commissioner Contents

Background to today’s session


1.0n 26 August 2021, the Government announced that its preferred candidate for Information Commissioner was John Edwards.1 The appointment of the Information Commissioner is provided for within Section 114 and Schedule 12 of the Data Protection Act 2018. The Government stated in February 2011 that, unlike most pre-appointment hearings, for the appointment of the Information Commissioner in 2014, the Government would accept the Committee’s conclusion on the candidate.2 This was on the grounds that:

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.3

There has been no similar Ministerial undertaking for this appointment, though the need for transparency and protection against undue influence is possibly greater than ever.

The Information Commission

2.The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent data protection authority, set up to uphold information rights in the public interest by promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. The Information Commissioner themself has several key responsibilities:

3.The Commissioner has several statutory obligations. Part 5 of the Data Protection Act 2018 sets out several responsibilities, including:

The role

4.The Government advertised the post based on the following criteria:

5.The appointment of the Commissioner is for five years with a salary of £200,000 per annum for 5 days per week.

Recruitment process

6.The Information Commissioner competition was launched on 28 February 2021 and was advertised on the Cabinet Office Centre for Public Appointments website and on DCMS Social Media and the Secretary of State announced the launch in the media. GatenbySanderson were contracted to be headhunters for the role. The closing date was 5 March 2021.

7.The selection panel was chaired by Susannah Storey (DCMS Director General for Digital and Media Policy) and contained and three other members: Sir Philip Augar,4 Daniel Korski,5 and Nicola Wood.6

8.Forty candidates applied for the post, of whom eight were invited to interview and, of those, four were found to be appointable. Of the forty applications, where diversity forms were completed, there were eleven female applicants, six black, Asian and minority ethnic applicants and six of the applicants declared a disability. Of the eight invited to interview, four were women, one was black, Asian and minority ethnic and there were no interviewees with a declared disability.

2 In 2011, the appointment of the Information Commissioner sat within the Department for Justice rather than the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

3 HC Deb, 16 February 2011, col 87WS: Information Commissioner

4 Senior Independent Panel Member: a British author and an equities broker in the City of London, England for twenty years from the 1970s, first with NatWest and J. Henry Schroder

5 Independent sector representative

6 Non-Executive Director at the ICO

Published: 10 September 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement