Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Crossbench 7:15 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, I did not intervene in the interesting debate on the amendments of my noble friend Lord Norton, and I had not intended to do so now. However, having listened to both my noble friends, one thought has occurred to me. I was led to this thinking by my noble friend's intervention during the discussion on the previous amendment. Many authorities will have the information in an electronic form, which they then transfer into paper form. If they can say to an applicant, "No, you can't have it in electronic form. But you can have it in paper form", even though it could be available in electronic form, I wonder whether it is really sensible to allow that to happen.

Noble Lords know that it is becoming increasingly easy to gain information in an electronic form. In fact, if authorities have the information in electronic form, it would surely be more economic for them to supply it to the applicant in that form. When he responds to my noble friend's amendment, perhaps the Minister could say what incentive, or power, there might be in the Bill to ensure that if such information is already in electronic form the local authority cannot refuse to provide it in that way.