Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State, Cabinet Office 9:30 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, as I understand the amendment tabled by the noble Viscount, it proposes that, in considering the exercise of the public interest balancing act under Clause 2, the public authority should have regard to the period which has elapsed, in effect, between the exercise of the functions covered in paragraphs (g) to (i) and the application of a request for information. To take an extreme case, if one is looking for information concerning something which took place, say, 15 years ago, that is a factor which would militate in favour of disclosure--to put it no higher than that.

I can readily put the noble Viscount's mind at rest here. As he has rightly pointed out, provision is already made to take account of all the circumstances in the case. That would specifically include the matter referred to in the noble Viscount's amendment. The reference to timing in relation to Clause 10 is not a reference to the activities or exercise of the function in respect of which an application is made; rather it is the period between the time that the application for information is made and the public authority then dealing with it, which is a completely separate matter. It does not, therefore, as a matter of construction, exclude the public authority--in exercising its discretion under Clause 2--from taking into account the matters referred to in the amendment. I hope that that will put the noble Viscount's mind at rest.