Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Goodhart Lord Goodhart Liberal Democrat 10:00 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, I agreed with everything that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell--he is indeed learned, unlike me--said about the reasonable opinion of a qualified person, not least perhaps because he referred to some similar remarks that I made in Committee. I still hold the view that I expressed then.

In the deal which we arranged with the Government on this matter, we agreed not to press for the removal of the reference to the reasonable opinion of a qualified person. We did so because we do not believe that it makes a significant difference. That is because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, pointed out, what matters here is not the initial decision that prejudice is shown--a decision taken by the qualified person--but the subsequent exercise by the information commissioner in carrying out her powers under Clause 2.

That being so, we regard the reference to the reasonable opinion of a qualified person as being effectively almost pointless rather than significantly damaging to the right to freedom of information. Although we would prefer those words to be deleted, we are willing not to press for their removal in view of the important amendments which the Government have already agreed to accept.