Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:30 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Norton of Louth Lord Norton of Louth Conservative 10:30 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, I rise to support these amendments. Their juxtaposition is particularly important because it is the juxtaposition of the phrase,

"in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person", with paragraph (c) that serves to undermine the whole purpose of the Bill by a sweeping-up provision and giving the decision to a qualified person to determine. So I agree completely with the points made on the phrase,

"in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person".

As has been mentioned, paragraph (c) is really a sweeping-up provision and the Minister would probably admit that on the basis of discussions in Committee. The problems I have with his justification for it are two-fold. One is that, when he is challenged to justify it, he does so by reference to example. That in itself is insufficient to justify the breadth of this type of provision. But I have a second problem with the actual examples he tends to give. One goes away and thinks about those examples and, on looking at the rest of the Bill, finds that the examples are covered by other provisions.

The noble and learned Lord put to my noble friend Lord Lucas the question of exams. In part that was answered by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, in relation to confidentiality. It is also covered by Clause 21.