Freedom of Information

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 4 February 1998.

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Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon Labour, Halifax 1:40, 4 February 1998

What representations he has received from other Governments on his proposals for a freedom of information Act. [25358]

Photo of Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I have received letters from the Australian Solicitor-General, as well as from the Information Commissioners for Canada and British Columbia, and the Chief Ombudsman of New Zealand. These variously describe our proposals as "exhilarating", "cutting edge" and including the "best of best practice".

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon Labour, Halifax

I am glad that my right hon. Friend's proposals for a radical freedom of information Act have been so well received abroad. More information will change the culture of government in this country. Can he assure the House that, as he builds on the White Paper, the Act itself, as it goes through the House, will be progressive and open?

Photo of Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The consultation period is still progressing and closes at the end of this month. I am very pleased with the response so far. It is important to make it clear that "Your Right to Know" is a statement of the Government's intention, agreed by the Cabinet Committee and endorsed by the full Cabinet. Although there are several areas that we indicated had green edges, I do not envisage any major changes to the spirit or the substance of the White Paper. I am confident that the Bill will be a radical, progressive and landmark piece of legislation, and that it will, as my hon. Friend says, change the political culture of Britain.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

At a time when other countries are opening up their cold war files to public inspection and to inspection by historians, what does the right hon. Gentleman think of the fact that in this country, the Security Service is apparently about to engage in the mass destruction of cold war files, in part at the behest of the Minister without Portfolio, who is worried about his own?

Photo of Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we have progressively been releasing documents from our security services over recent years. We have already done so in relation to world war one, and later this year, we will do so in relation to world war two. We have already released some information about the current situation. It is the Government's intention to release as many documents as possible, although we will not do anything that threatens the security of this country.