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 Viscount Colville of Culross Viscount Colville of Culross Crossbench 9:30 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, one of the difficulties is following the references in Clause 10 as it now stands to the new Clause 2, which interprets the provisions of Clause 1. It is extremely difficult--particularly for those of us who tried to draft amendments last week before we knew that Clause 2 was going to be changed--to know what is the effect of this.

The noble and learned Lord may be right that Clause 10(3) is entirely restricted to the time limit during which a public authority, having been requested, may reply. That may be so; he may be right. But at the present time it is far from clear to me that this carries through into Clause 2 and that the information commissioner may consider--as the noble and learned Lord said she certainly may--the whole question of the timetable. If there is any doubt about this, it must be put right and it must be made clear.

This is one of the difficulties about legislating on this kind of basis. We did not know what amendments were going to be accepted today and therefore they were not taken into account when drafting the amendments. I shall look at this again. I heard what the noble and learned Lord said, but I am still afraid that there will be opportunities for delay in disclosing information which may be of the most enormous interest--the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, referred to them earlier--and that there will be opportunities and methods under the legislation whereby the disclosure of information may be blocked.

I shall look at the matter again. I do not promise not to come back to it at a later stage, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.