Freedom of Information (Parliament and National Assembly for Wales) Order 2008

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:48 am on 22nd July 2008.

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Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office) 11:48 am, 22nd July 2008

My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome that has been given to the order. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that we have not had discussions with Northern Ireland, but we are very happy to do so. Such discussions may well take place. As Scotland has a separate Act, it is for them to deal with these issues themselves.

My noble friend Lord Clark eloquently reminded us of the history, and noble Lords who were in another place will remember only too well the difficulties and the dangers. However, we have also had recent examples: noble Lords will recall that my right honourable friend has twice had visitors on her roof from the organisation that calls itself Fathers for Justice. So there are real issues of concern in any event. We are confident that we have protected every Member of your Lordships' House through this move. I am informed by the Clerk who looks after this information that it is kept secure, so the noble Earl, Lord Errol, need not worry about that. We will ensure that any requests are dealt with appropriately.

We do not have plans to review the Act more formally. As noble Lords may recall, I was the Minister responsible for freedom of information. The Act was brought in not to support journalistic enquiries into issues about your Lordships' House or another place, important though those are, but to enable ordinary citizens to find out information from public bodies in their locality, whether that is their health service, their local schools or another body. I think that we all recognise the importance and value of that. However, as with any piece of information, context is everything. We must continually strive to ensure that when information is released, people understand the context of what that information actually explains to the person who requested it, rather than, as we have occasionally seen, simply seeing the stark fact without realising its relevance.

There are continuous discussions to ensure that the Information Commissioner has the necessary relevant powers. For now, however, we are confident that this is an important move. It has already passed through another place, and I hope it will pass through your Lordships' House today.

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neil scott
Posted on 29 Sep 2008 12:38 pm

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