The Law Commission is an important body with a proud history. Set up in 1965 to provide independent advice to government on law reform, it describes itself as non-political and has often made meticulous recommendations on overlooked but vital areas of the statute book, from criminal and family law to that governing property, trusts and other areas of commerce. Its status, value and prestige have been greatly enhanced by a succession of judicial chairs, usually of the high court and then promoted to the court of appeal.
Yet in an age of high-octane media and politics, legislative policy has been driven more by kneejerks and soundbites than reason and research. The commission has felt neglected, with too many reports unimplemented by parliament, and it may be concerned for its long-term future. Some years ago I was visited in my Liberty office by commission officials concerned about their declining brand and influence, and with a healthy curiosity as to how better to communicate with the world beyond Whitehall. So the government’s invitation to the commission in 2015 to look at what is bureaucratically called the “protection of official data” must have caused considerable excitement.
Coming two years after Edward Snowden’s revelations on the blanket surveillance of entire populations without parliamentary or judicial sanction and with an…