Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 14th November 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour 8:45 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, I was going to intervene in my noble friend's speech because I had difficulty in ascertaining that the distinction which he suggested was entirely clear between serious criminal offences and matters relating to health, safety and the environment. I am not sure that I understood him. That distinction is not as clear to me as it obviously appeared to him. Some serious crimes do involve health and safety and, as is well known, the Government are seriously considering--they issued a consultation paper on the subject--extending the law and introducing something called "corporate manslaughter" to cover such serious crimes.

My noble friend Lord Brennan also indicated a distinction between subsections (1) and (2). To my mind, subsection (1), which is not at present subject to any prejudice test or to the limitation about information from confidential sources, nonetheless is limited because it is concerned with investigations conducted with a view to it being ascertained whether somebody should be charged with an offence or whether someone is guilty; whereas the exemption provided in subsection (2), which is concerned with those serious matters to which my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell referred such as an inquiry into a railway accident, applies only, as I now more clearly understand because of the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, if the information is recorded and so forth for the purposes of an investigation and the reference to Clause 30(2), and it relates to the obtaining of information from confidential sources. So the exemption is much more limited than seemed to be suggested.

I admit that I may have misunderstood the entire purport of my noble friend's argument. But because of the distinction between the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the exemption is not as broad and sweeping as has been suggested.