Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Brennan Lord Brennan Labour 10:15 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, the command of his brief shown by the Minister has been formidable this evening but it is being tested to the maximum by the content of Clause 35.

He will note that another member of the Bar has told us that the inclusion of the trigger of having,

"the reasonable opinion of a qualified person", is pointless. I wonder whether he agrees with that and,if he does not, why is it necessary?

Secondly, there is the critique of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer towards paragraph (c) in relation to the prejudice that might be caused to the effective conduct of public affairs. Can I prevail upon my noble and learned friend to give us a little more explanation about that? It is the sort of phrase which, if used before a judge, would probably receive the sobriquet that it was vacuous at best, meaningless at worst.

Those instructing my noble and learned friend, so to speak, have come with the examples of examiners' papers and information about proposed disposition of property. I cannot believe that the law of confidentiality as it exists does not protect both those items as being needed to be protected in the public interest.

If those examples are the limit of what has been given to him by way of how the paragraph will work, does he not agree that it appears to be a mighty piece of vacuous verbiage to cover what I may call unimportant examples in relation to a Bill of such significance? In dealing with those two points I hope that he will return to the level of intellectual distinction that we usually expect of him.