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Latest on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill

Posted by James Hammerton @ 11:03 pm on 22 May, 2007.
Categories British politics, accountability, freedom of information.
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MPs voted for this bill last Friday and it now heads up to the House of Lords. However the Liberal Democrats and the Tories have pledged to block the bill in the Lords.

The latest version of the bill can be found here.

Proponents of the bill claim that it is necessary to protect the communications of members of the public with their MPs from publication. The problems with this argument are:

  • The bill exempts both the House of Commons and the House of Lords from the FoIA, i.e. the public will no longer have a right to know with regards to the business of Parliament. Parliament will decide for itself what information it releases.
  • The bill also exempts all correspondence between MPs and public authorities, not just the correspondence that references information about constituents.
  • Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act already exempts information where its release would violate the Data Protection Act, and releasing information about what a constituent has said to their MP would count.

I will return to the arguments put forward by the proponents of the bill later.

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