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 Bach Lord Bach Government Whip 10:55 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, this amendment would make it a requirement for the code of practice to include guidance concerning the desirability of dealing promptly with all matters. The Government share the desire of the noble Lord to ensure that authorities do deal promptly with requests. I remind the House that Amendment No. 28, which was accepted and approved earlier, will impose a requirement on authorities to give an estimate to the applicant of how long they believe it will take to make a public interest decision. We recognise that that can usefully be supplemented by a reference in the code of practice to the desirability of complying with such estimates, as well as to making all decisions within the 20 working days wherever possible.

The code of practice provides guidance to public authorities as to the practice that it would be desirable for them to follow in connection with the discharge of their functions under Part I of the Bill. Clause 44(2) relates to guidance on various matters. They all relate directly to the obligations under Part I, but also cover aspects not addressed on the face of the Bill. Most importantly, Clause 10 requires authorities to deal promptly with requests made under Part I and determines an upper limit for doing so. In order to comply with this requirement, authorities will necessarily have to deal promptly with all matters covered by the code of practice. For those reasons we do not think that the amendment is necessary. We believe that Clause 10 and Amendment No. 28 cover the matter. We hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.