Labour faces backlash over information Bill

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT has watered down long-awaited freedom of information legislation under pressure from the security services and police, it will reveal today.

It is likely to face criticism from anti-racist campaigners and consumer groups when it finally publishes its Freedom of Information Bill.

It emerged yesterday that the Bill will not enact in full the recommendations of the Lawrence inquiry to allow public scrutiny of all areas of police work. Some police activity will be opened up but Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, is understood to have imposed strict limits, following the advice of senior police officers.

The Bill will also propose that the public pay a fee for certain items of information, with a charge of pounds 20 possible.

The legislation, which will be published in the House of Commons today after months of delay, will open up the decision-making processes of councils, schools, hospitals and Whitehall departments for the first time.

However Labour MPs signalled yesterday that they would try to toughen up the draft Bill. Backbenchers are most concerned that the Bill will allow access to information only if it would not "prejudice" government or police activity. Stronger proposals, to release information if it would not cause "substantial harm" to the bodies concerned, have been dropped.