Clause 1

Part of Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 7th February 2007.

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Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee) 10:30 am, 7th February 2007

I agree entirely. Clearly if one writes to a public authority and gives the personal details of a constituent, such as their CSA claim, information relating to their children and so on, that information should be protected. It should quite clearly be protected under the current Act. However, inadvertently, someone may release it. This measure would remove that small problem. When I write to the chief constable about a constituent—it may be wise or it may be foolish, and some colleagues may not wish to put it in writing—I will often say that I think my constituent has a genuine case. There will be times when I will say, “That is what my constituent told me. You may have a different view or side to the story.”

We must have the freedom to express to chief constables, the tax authorities and so on, our personal view about the veracity of a constituent. That may not be protected information in all circumstances. If that information is released accidentally by a police clerk releasing the file, it puts us in an enormously difficult position. We must have the right, as Members of Parliament, to express a personal opinion about a constituent or someone else when we write on behalf of a constituent and we must have a guarantee that that is protected. That is my motivation. It is what is driving me and I hope to convince the Committee that it is a problem that has to be remedied.