Thursday, April 19, 2007

Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill - report stage

David Maclean's Private Members Bill will receive its report stage in the House of Commons tomorrow. It is the first item on the agenda at 9.30 am.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has circulated a briefing to MPs in advance of the debate. The briefing states:
"We believe it is misleading to describe the Bill as a measure designed to protect constituents' personal information. Its main effects will be (a) to prevent requests for details of MPs' expenditure from being disclosed and (b) to protect MPs' correspondence with public authorities on matters of general policy from disclosure. We do not believe either of these changes is justified."

"We think it would be wrong for Parliament to exempt itself from a disclosure regime which it has applied to the whole of the public sector. The detailed expenses of ministers, judges, chief constables, councillors, civil servants, local authority chief executives and other public figures and officials are all disclosable under the Act...The particular case for exempting MPs' expenses alone has not been made."

"The Bill proposes a new exemption to cover all communications between an MP and a public authority.

This has been justified on the grounds that it would protect MPs' correspondence on behalf of their constituents from disclosure under the Act. If this is its purpose it is unnecessary, as such correspondence is already subject to at least two (and in some cases more) separate exemptions."
The briefing can be downloaded from the Campaign's website.

A total of 36 amendments have been tabled to the Bill. All but one of these have been tabled by an all-party group of MPs comprising Simon Hughes (Lib Dem), Richard Shepherd (Con), Mark Fisher (Lab), Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru) and Norman Baker (Lib Dem). Read the full list of amendments.

Barry Winetrobe's No 10 E-Petition against the Bill is still open for signature:

The latest version of the Bill (as amended in Committee) and Commons Library Research Paper are available here.


MPs seek to push through FoI exemption
- Press Gazette

What do MPs think they've got to hide? - Heather Brooke in The Times