Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:34 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Crossbench 7:34 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with my noble friend Lord Lucas. The amendment appears to be another catch-all by the Government. The tribunal will hear complaints regarding decryption notices and the like, which lead us back to the RIP Act. Some people were concerned about the way in which the Act impinged on the freedom of the individual. The Minister has not explained why this provision is necessary given that many of the organisations listed in paragraphs (a) to (f) are already covered by the Bill. It seems surprising that the RIP legislation should be brought into this Bill.

There is doubt, although not perhaps in Ministers' minds, about the legality of the RIP Act in relation to European Commission rules. I understand that that matter is still being discussed. If something happened there--the Government will tell me that it will not happen because they are sure that the legislation is all right--would that cause problems with this Bill?

This seems a terrific blanket exemption given to the tribunal which exists, as I recall the RIP Act, to protect the individual against the kind of encroachment that the state can make on us by the use of the Internet. Many of us are uncomfortable about the snooping ability of many people. To discover that we cannot find out anything about it when the matter goes to a tribunal is an issue that has properly to be argued by Government and not slipped in before we go to dinner.