A Bill designed to give citizens more control over their data could end up stripping back the fundamental British right to confidential legal advice, the Bar has warned.

As MPs gather on Monday for the Second Reading of the Data Protection Bill, Chair of the Bar Andrew Walker QC said: 

"The Data Protection Bill will give the Information Commissioner's Office sweeping powers to access legally privileged material.

"The irony is that these powers are designed to give citizens more control and protection over how their data are used, but the effect will be to allow access to their legally privileged communications without their consent.

"These measures will undermine the right to confidential legal advice, a right that has been part of the common law for centuries and is protected under Article 6 and Article 8 of the ECHR.

"Giving the ICO powers to secure access to legally privileged material is neither necessary nor justified. The powers proposed in the Bill are out of all proportion to their purpose and they need to be reconsidered."

According to Andrew Walker QC, imposing a duty on lawyers to respond to demands from the ICO for privileged information would place them in the invidious position of being unable to reassure their clients that they will be able to protect the confidentiality of information imparted to them.


Notes to Editors 

  1. The Bar Councils briefing to MPs on the impact of the Data Protection Bill on Legal Professional Privilege is available here

  2. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

  3. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.