New Information Commissioner gets green light from MPs

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee has criticised the Government for delays in the recruitment process.

MPs have approved New Zealander John Edwards as next Information Commissioner for the UK.

Mr Edwards faced questions from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Thursday, after being selected by the Government as its preferred candidate for the job.

Committee chair Julian Knight MP said Mr Edwards “clearly understands the challenges facing the UK”.

However, the Government was criticised for delays in the recruitment process that meant the current Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, had to extend her tenure until the end of October.

“His experience as New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner and openness to working with other countries will be valuable in taking a robust approach on areas such as data protection,” Mr Knight said.

“This appointment process has been subject to a number of delays and we consider it a failure of Government that this hearing did not take place in July.

“We will be raising our broader concerns about the pre-appointment process with ministers in due course.

“The Government did not offer a veto to the committee on the appointment of the candidate for Information Commissioner.

“But to the credit of John Edwards, he told us that if we didn’t consider him a fit appointment, he would not accept the role.”

 Elizabeth Denham
Current Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham (ICO/PA)

During Mr Edwards’s hearing he defended Ms Denham’s decision to raid two homes in relation to leaked CCTV footage that led to Matt Hancock quitting as health secretary.

He was also asked about his thoughts on Facebook, after calling the tech giant “morally bankrupt pathological liars” in the wake of 2019’s Christchurch attacks.

“That tweet came from a very profound context of national shock and grief at a very egregious terrorist act that was facilitated, amplified and propagated through that particular platform,” he told MPs.

“Facebook and every other organisation which is subject to the ICO’s jurisdiction can expect a fair and impartial inquiry when I occupy that role, without predetermination.”

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