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Speed or haste?

Martin Rosenbaum | 16:31 UK time, Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Is the Department for Constitutional Affairs in a big hurry to introduce new, more restrictive regulations on freedom of information?

I understand that Baroness Cathy Ashton, the junior minister responsible, told the recent meeting of the Information Rights User Group that the new regulations would be laid before Parliament on 19 March, with the intention that they come into force on 17 April. (The DCA press office has refused to confirm this timetable publicly, telling me that they won't comment on what is said at User Group meetings.)

Once regulations are laid before Parliament, MPs and Peers have a chance to object to them. By the way, due to the Easter recess Parliament will not be sitting between 29 March and 16 April.

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Are some things are kept secret?...can you tell me how much money was spent on government reports in the last 5 years concluding that the elderly are best cared for at home? If many hospitals are gearing up to have day-patients only, can you tell me how much money the government are going to save by doing this and will it go towards supporting the Carers working with the elderly in their own homes? Will any politician support Carers by giving them a nice break at Easter too?

  • 2.
  • At 04:00 PM on 18 Jan 2007,
  • Peter HOAR wrote:

Martin, Is it true that Mr Macleans private members bill (2nd Reading Friday 19th Jan) will exempt absolutely, both Houses of Parliament, from answering all FOI requests ?

Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2007 Bill 39 Second Reading 19th January.

This bill is published here - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmbills/039/2007039.pdf

The Bill appears to have two distinctly separate intentions --

1. To make all correspondence between MPs and public authorities “Exempt Information” by inserting a new (additional) Section 37A to Part II. - (The list of Exempt Information) viz - Sect 1 (3) of the Bill.

2. To totally exempt the House of Commons and the House of Lords from the FOI Act, by removing both Houses from the list of public authorities subject to the Act. - Schedule 1 (Public Authorities ) Part 1 General - Paras 2 The House of Commons and Para 3 The House of Lords. Viz - Sect 1 (2) of the Bill – “… delete paragraphs 2 and 3.”

I do understand both Houses are already exempt in respect of the provisions of Section 36 - “Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.” Now, if I have misunderstood the intention of this bill I am happy to be told so. I did ask Mr Maclean, but was merely referred to the bill as published, so I have to do the best I can. I will refrain from more comment until this is clarified, but the second reading is on Friday 19th Jan 2007. If it passes, assuming I have not got this wrong, all FOI requests to both Houses of Parliament will then be rejected as being absolutely exempt under the Act. - Peter HOAR

  • 3.
  • At 10:33 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Peter HOAR wrote:

Martin, Have you seen this ?

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2007 received an unopposed 2nd reading last Friday and appears to have Government support.

The Bill has two distinctly separate intentions -

Part II - To make all correspondence between MPs and public authorities “Exempt Information” A minor adjustment.

Part I - To totally and absolutely exempt the House of Commons and the House of Lords from the FOI Act, by removing both Houses from the list of public authorities subject to the Act. - A fundamental restriction.

If it passes, all FOI requests to both Houses of Parliament will be rejected as totally exempt under the Act. No wonder it has Government support. Why the deafening media silence ? - Peter HOAR

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