A top lawyer from City law firm Clifford Chance has been named to take over as information commissioner when Elizabeth France steps down later this year.
Richard Thomas, director of public policy at Clifford Chance, will take up the post in November. Thomas has held a number of positions on other public bodies. He is currently a board member of the National Consumer Council, and has previously served as a director of consumer affairs at the Office of Fair Trading and was involved in setting up the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau and the Banking and Building Societies Ombudsman schemes.
Thomas will be responsible for enforcing and overseeing the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a role that has seen his predecessor clash with government on several occasions.
Last December France publicly criticised the home secretary David Blunkett over his controversial anti-terror legislation, which is due to come into force this autumn. France had been opposed to a voluntary code of practice contained within the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill that makes sweeping provisions for the retention of communications data by public communications providers for later access by law enforcement agencies. Her objections centred on concerns that the Bill could be incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, by interfering with a person's right to respect for private and family life.
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