Canada's Elizabeth Denham is UK government's top choice as next Information Commissioner

Canadian privacy commissioner who has been arguing for a “duty to record” named as preferred candidate to replace Christopher Graham

By Suzannah Brecknell

23 Mar 2016

The government has named Elizabeth Denham as preferred candidate to succeed Christopher Graham as Information Commissioner.

Denham, currently the Information and Privacy Commissioner in British Columbia, Canada, will attend a pre-scrutiny hearing with MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport select committee before the final approval is made.

If appointed, she will take over from Christopher Graham in summer 2016.

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Graham has been Information Commissioner since 2009, and robustly defended the Freedom of Information Act during last year’s Burns review of Freedom of Information. Graham particularly concern about the possible introduction of charges for FOI requests – a move the review ultimately sided against.

In Canada, Denham has repeatedly called for the introduction of a  legal “duty to document” which would counteract the tendency for senior officials to conduct meetings and take decisions verbally with no written record.

In a 2013 report, she wrote: “Without a duty to document, government can effectively avoid disclosure and public scrutiny as to the basis and reasons for its actions.”

In 2015, after investigating claims that officials had destroyed e-mails which should have been released, she said the Government of British Columbia should introduce “a legislated duty to document its key actions and decisions as well as oversight of information management and destruction of records, with sanctions for non-compliance".

Commenting on the announcement that she may become the UK’s Information Commissioner, Denham said: “I believe the rapid pace of technological change we face will continue to accelerate and present challenges to information rights – we must ensure access to information while maintaining high standards of data protection.

“The Information Commissioner’s Office has a global reputation for practical, innovative and responsive regulation. I look forward to contributing to this work.”

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