Freedom of Information Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:15 pm on 14th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Norton of Louth Lord Norton of Louth Conservative 11:15 pm, 14th November 2000

My Lords, Clause 44(4) provides that,

"Before issuing or revising any code under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult the Commissioner".

That is clearly a sensible provision. I have no problem with the Secretary of State consulting the commissioner. However, I think that there is a case for stipulating that the Secretary of State shall consult other bodies as he deems appropriate. The commissioner is an obvious and necessary person to consult. But there are others who will be in a position to offer informed comment. In revising the code the Secretary of State may find it helpful to consult the public authorities themselves.

I fully appreciate the point that the Minister will doubtless make in response: that the provision of the clause does not preclude the Secretary of State from consulting other bodies. However, by stipulating that the Minister must consult the commissioner there is the danger that the Minister will take the commissioner as the only person to be consulted.

My amendment makes clear that the Secretary of State should consider consulting other bodies. It does not tie the Minister's hands by stipulating the bodies to be consulted. The Minister may even conclude that there are no other bodies that he deems appropriate and thus need not consult anybody other than the commissioner. The purpose of the amendment is simple. It is to ensure that the Minister at least gives thought to consulting other bodies. That I think is appropriate. To achieve that purpose the amendment is necessary. I beg to move.