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Robert S. Donovan on Flickr

The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) is launching a new Centre for Law and Information Policy (CLIP), to extend its research into data law and policy. In this post its director Judith Townend, introduces the Centre and outlines some of its aims.

Tied up in green ribbon, the colour of the House of Commons, a government bill is physically and ceremoniously carried to the House of Lords, for the next stage in its development. The Clerk of the House bows gravely to his opposite number in the Lords and hands the stack of paper over, with its Norman French inscription marking its authenticity (a 700-year-old tradition).

This was one of the anachronistic scenes in part one of the new BBC 2 documentary ‘Inside the Commons’, a co-production between the BBC and the Open University, which raises the question of ‘how the old should live with the new’. In the programme Sir Robert Rogers, the recently retired Clerk of the House of Commons, points out that at the same time he’s handing the printed sheets over to his counterpart, the text of the bill is ‘on the shared drive between the two public bill offices, using some of the most advanced tech handling software in the world’.

It’s a neat illustration of information flows, old and new: for Sir Robert, the handover tradition is ‘picturesque’, although he clearly values the benefit of ‘cutting-edge’ technology and has earlier described his mission to cut down the Commons paper-mountain.  Communication and information systems in Parliament and the Courts provide an extreme example of the juxtaposition between centuries-old systems for handling information and modern equivalents. However, the tension can also be found in other institutions and areas of public life; while most personal banking can be done online, there are still occasions where there is no way round getting out a black ink pen and sending off a signed document in the post.

‘Information flows’ are of particular interest to the new Centre for Law and Information Policy launching at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies later this month and the theme of an afternoon workshop on 24 February 2015. Expert scholars and practitioners will gather to discuss their research on the generation, dissemination, regulation and restriction of information and data in contemporary society. In the evening, we will host a public lecture by Timothy Pitt-Payne QC, barrister at 11KBW and specialist in information rights, in which he will ask ‘Does privacy matter?’.

The new Centre’s aim is to promote and facilitate multi- and inter-disciplinary law and policy research on information law and policy topics. This will be done in collaboration with a variety of national and international organisations and universities, as well as with other institutes at our parent institution, the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. So far we have appointed an Advisory Board, we have started to develop a plan for long and short-term research activities, and are in the process of building up a network of scholars and practitioners in the area.

For more information about the launch events, and the Centre’s work, please visit our website and blog and we can be found on Twitter here: @infolawcentre. And if you have ideas or suggestions for the Centre’s development, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


With the event now over we would like to share with you various digital outputs including a video of the lecture, social media, and a short report.

Video of Lecture

Short Report

Speaker Slides

Photographs (credit Lloyd Sturdy)


Judith Townend is director of the Centre for Law and Information Policy (@jtownend /