Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:55 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 10:55 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, this amendment picks up a point that we discussed earlier concerning time limits. One of the Liberal Democrat amendments has dealt with the question of time limits in one small part of the Bill; namely, the time taken to deal with questions of public interest. There are plenty of other undefined time limits in the Bill, especially in regard to appeals, dealing with approaches to tribunals and responding to the information commissioner. There ought to be a general encouragement to public authorities to deal promptly with all the matters for which they are responsible under this Bill. They should respond as promptly as they can and as is appropriate under the circumstances.

If such a duty is included in the Bill, it will give the commissioner a real lever to ensure that good practice occurs. If there is no duty to act promptly and no feeling of urgency as regards the value of time where information is concerned, I fear that we may find ourselves faced with practices that are relaxed from the point of view of the public authorities and extremely tedious from the point of view of anyone trying to obtain information. I beg to move.