Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:01 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office 6:01 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his question. The power to amend the entries in Schedule 1 so as to limit them to specific types of information is necessary in order to ensure that the bodies listed at Schedule 1 are covered by the Freedom of Information Act only in respect of those activities which should properly be the subject of the obligations in the Bill. It is not the Government's to apply the Bill to information held for purposes in respect of which it would be inappropriate and damaging to apply freedom of information principles. Journalistic information held by public sector broadcasters or private banking information held by the Bank of England are two current examples of such information.

Where we have identified information which needs to be protected in this way, we have amended the entry in Schedule 1 accordingly. However, we cannot be certain that any of the bodies listed may not change their functions in the future. For that reason, we need to make provision for a power to amend the entry if this should be deemed necessary. To that extent, Clause 7(3) is a just-in-case provision.

The noble Lord asked for an example, hypothetical or otherwise, and I am happy to try to provide one. The entry in Schedule 1 relating to the Bank of England is already limited to certain information. Should the Bank decide to add, say, an insurance provision to the services it provides to its private customers, that private activity which would relate to private customers would be brought within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, unless an order was made to limit the entry in Schedule 1 specifically to exclude it.

That is why the power in Clause 7(3) is necessary. I hope that the noble Lord will accept the example I have given and feel able to withdraw his amendment.