Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Crossbench 6:30 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, noble Lords should not be in the least surprised by the fact that the Government accept Amendment No. 28 as that was one of the four deals done by the Government with the Liberal Democrats. I am not entirely sure whether the Liberal Democrats think that that amendment is a great grain of comfort. I do not think it is very much. Frankly, I am not convinced. The idea that authorities might be more likely to withhold information if they are asked to provide it within 20 days would soon be ended when it became public knowledge that authorities were behaving like that. They would find themselves at the rough end of the courts, the commissioner or indeed Parliament.

I do not believe that four weeks represents hasty, although the time it takes to get letters out of some government departments suggests that four weeks is but a twinkling of an eye for them and that they do not think it matters. I think it is important that we have 20 working days. I am sorry that the Liberal Democrats are not with me. I am going to ask the opinion of the House.