The government has set out its preferred candidate to replace Elizabeth Denham as Information Commissioner.

Denham was appointed for a five-year term in July 2016 but extended it until October 31st of this year at the request of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport while a successor was found.

Following that global search, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards is set to head up the UK regulator responsible for enforcing data protection law.

The appointment is subject to approval by the DCMS Select Committee, followed by approval by HM the Queen. 

Should he be appointed, the government said he will be empowered to go beyond the regulator’s traditional role of focusing only on protecting data rights, with a clear mandate to take a balanced approach that promotes further innovation and economic growth.

The government has also announced its intention for new multi-billion pound global data partnerships with the US, Australia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre and Colombia.

It also confirmed that future partnerships with India, Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia are being prioritised.

“Now that we have left the EU, I’m determined to seize the opportunity by developing a world-leading data policy that will deliver a Brexit dividend for individuals and businesses across the UK,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“That means seeking exciting new international data partnerships with some of the world’s fastest growing economies, for the benefit of British firms and British customers alike.

“It means reforming our own data laws so that they’re based on common sense, not box-ticking. And it means having the leadership in place at the Information Commissioner’s Office to pursue a new era of data-driven growth and innovation. 

“John Edwards’s vast experience makes him the ideal candidate to ensure data is used responsibly to achieve those goals.”

Edwards said: “It is a great honour and responsibility to be considered for appointment to this key role as a watchdog for the information rights of the people of the United Kingdom.

“There is a great opportunity to build on the wonderful work already done and I look forward to the challenge of steering the organisation and the British economy into a position of international leadership in the safe and trusted use of data for the benefit of all.”

Denham said: “Data driven innovation stands to bring enormous benefits to the UK economy and to our society, but the digital opportunity before us today will only be realised where people continue to trust their data will be used fairly and transparently, both here in the UK and when shared overseas.  

“My office has supported valuable innovation while encouraging public trust in data use, particularly during the pandemic. We stand ready to provide our expert advice and insight as part of any future government consultation. 

“Implementing any changes Parliament decides on will fall to my successor, who will take on a role that has never been more important or more relevant to people’s lives. John Edwards would bring extraordinary breadth, international leadership and credibility to this role. He will receive the support of a modern, independent ICO that has the courage, resources and expertise to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”