Clause 30 - Investigations

Part of Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 5th November 2020.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 2:45 pm, 5th November 2020

There are a number of existing laws, protocols and arrangements for all public bodies that give them, in certain circumstances, discretion not to do certain things, such as in relation to national security or the revelation of individual contracts—there are all sorts of things of that kind. Guidelines already allow that discretion.

I do not think that the idea that a Department should, under normal circumstances, publish reports to elucidate matters for the public, where those existing areas of discretion in the law do not apply, is in any way undermined. That is part of the process by which we express our confidence in that public body in the first place as a body that operates transparently and in concert with the Minister and Parliament to get the relevant matters out on the table and discussed and that can demonstrate that it is doing that. That is a perfectly appropriate way to ensure that the public and indeed this place are confident about its independent operation. I am not, therefore, sure that the point made by the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire, well-intentioned as I think it was, has a great deal of substance in relation to the clause.