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 Goodhart Lord Goodhart Liberal Democrat 9:30 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Lester, I am happy to respond to the invitation of the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, referred to a speech of mine made in Committee, during which I pointed out the importance of including a harm test in relation to the non-disclosure of background information relating to policy decisions.

I do not wish to repeat what I said in response to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, on Amendment No. 36; nor do I wish to return to what I said earlier in the debate. However, as a result of amendments that have been accepted to Clause 2, and on the assumption that our Amendment No. 43 will be accepted, we now have a harm or prejudice test. It is true that, for better or worse, the Government refuse in so many words to spell out that fact. Following the Government's acceptance that the public do have a particular interest in the disclosure of factual information, together with their acceptance of the principle that disclosure has priority unless there is good reason for non-disclosure, it seems to me that what we now have is no more and no less than a harm test.