Freedom of Information Act

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 29th January 2008.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 2:30 pm, 29th January 2008

What plans he has to bring forward amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 has now been in force for three years and appears to be working well, although we keep it under continuous review. We are not proceeding with amendments to the fees regulation. However, we are consulting on whether to extend FOI coverage to a range of organisations that are in the private sector, but carry out public functions. An independent review of the 30-year rule is under way and due to report this summer.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I welcome that response, and agree with the direction of travel that the Secretary of State is taking. Does he agree that it is a nonsense that the British Potato Council is covered by the 2000 Act but private water companies, which provide an essential and monopolistic service, are not? Furthermore, the British Railways Board, which simply exists in a cosy corner somewhere, is covered, but Network Rail is not. Will he sort that out?

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's point and thank him for his earlier remarks. As the boundary between the public and private sectors for the delivery of what are essentially public services has moved, so we believe that the arrangements should move as well. That is why we are consulting on the matter.

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Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Would the Secretary of State consider amendments to the 2000 Act that would protect the public's right to the information but guard against repeated, petty and often exorbitant requests that are made frequently and do nothing to add to freedom of information?

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

There is already a large array of safeguards in the Act and within the practice of the Information Commissioner. If the hon. Gentleman has specific examples of concern to him, I am ready to follow them up, including with the commissioner.

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