Monday, June 25, 2007

Lords select committee report on Maclean Bill

The Lords' Constitution Committee, which examines the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House, has published a report on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill. The Committee's main conclusions are:
"In several respects we believe that the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill does not meet the requirements of caution and proportionality in enacting legislation of constitutional importance."

"During the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill in 2000 there was careful consideration of whether the administrative functions of the House of Commons and House of Lords should or should not be exempt from the Act. The decision was taken that they should not be exempt. We are unaware of any compelling case, based on constitutional principle, to change that decision. We take the view that voluntary undertakings, even those given by the Speaker of the House of Commons or those that might be given by the House of Lords authorities in the future, cannot be regarded (from a constitutional point of view) as a satisfactory substitute for a legally enforceable right to access to information."

Protecting personal information of members of the public from disclosure

"We believe that the House may be in a better position to assess the nature and extent of the problem, and any proposed remedies, in the light of a report by the Information Commissioner."

"The disclosure of correspondence between members of both Houses of Parliament and public authorities on the subject of individuals is a serious matter and should be explicitly prohibited. However, we do not believe that this mischief is addressed in a sufficiently proportionate and specific manner in clause 1(3) of the bill."
Read the full report (Pdf)

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