The Queen's Speech: Straw faces long struggle with open access campaigners
INFORMATION; RIGHTS TO SEE FILES OF STATE AND POLICE
Thursday 18 November 1999
The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, is facing months of detailed argument over the Bill, which will establish a statutory right to information for the first time. The battleground will be over limitations on the release of information.
A total of 195 MPs, led by five Commons committee chairmen, including the Labour MPs Giles Radice, Robert Sheldon, Tony Wright and Martin O'Neill, have signed a Commons motion to give the proposed Information Commissioner, Elizabeth France, power to order ministers to release information about policy formation.
The Home Office made some concessions after criticism by two Commons select committees, but Mr Straw has insisted that the commissioner should have the power only to recommend the release of information on policy development. He argues that releasing these details could inhibit frankness between ministers.
The Bill will give the public limited rights of access to information held by a wide range of bodies across the public sector, from government departments to town halls, the police, schools and health authorities. Parents would be able to obtain the admission criteria for local schools and find out how their application was dealt with.
The main exemptions are for rights to privacy, confidentiality and matters of national security. Public authorities will have to consider the public interest in requests for disclosure of information, even where an exemption applies, but they will not be required to release it. Furthermore, the Information Commissioner will be prohibited from ordering the disclosure of information in the public interest, and ministers and authorities will decide where the public interest lies.
Maurice Frankel, of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said the Bill was too restrictive. He said several blanket exemptions gave authorities a free hand in deciding what information to release, including the facts upon which government policy was based.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces Discipline Bill will give soldiers, sailors and airmen similar legal rights to civilians when they are charged with an offence. The Bill also introduces a right of appeal against a commanding officer's decision on minor offences, known as summary offences.
Colin Brown Chief Political Correspondent
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: What you shouldn't tweet about if you want to avoid jail today
- 3 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 4 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 5 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence referendum live: Latest news as Scotland votes Yes or No
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: Almost half of No voters have felt 'personally threatened' by the Yes campaign
Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...
£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...