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 Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 10:15 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, I was not objecting to the non-disclosure provision. I am objecting to the words,

"in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person".

That substitutes for the general public interest which is satisfactory in matters of enormous importance elsewhere in the Bill, but because this affects the intimacies of a public authority, it is to be protected by the reasonable opinion of a qualified official which is to be set up not only as establishing the existence, but the quantum, of damage that may be done to the Government.

It is quite extraordinary for the Government to argue that the commissioner can determine whether some large state secret is to be released on public interest grounds, but cannot determine whether or not it is right to disclose the details of some aspect of the public examination system. It is quite ridiculous that the public interest test, which is right, proper and reliable for all the major aspects of this Bill, should be so denatured when it comes to the little bits of public authorities because for most of us citizens it is those little bits that count. It is the denial of our proper access to that sort of information which will cause most of us most grief if this Bill is enacted the way it is.