MPs seek special exemption from freedom of information laws

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The Independent Online

MPs are pressing for a special exemption from new powers that they brought in seven years ago in a popular attempt to open up government to public scrutiny.

A private members' Bill introduced by a former Tory whip and considered by a Commons committee today will stop the public from using the Freedom of Information Act to find out how their MPs run their private offices.

David Maclean's Bill, believed to have the support of prominent Labour ministers as well as the Leader of the Commons, Jack Straw, is the latest attempt to neuter Labour's much-trumpeted right-to-know legislation.

It is the second attack on the new powers in four months. In October, ministers proposed new measures that would dramatically curb the access-to-information powers. They include proposals to restrict the number of requests made by the media and make it easier to refuse requests on grounds of cost.

An adjournment debate in Westminster today, led by Don Touhig MP, will try to get Parliament to make the Government think again. But the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, says he expects the new measures, which are secondary legislation, to be implemented by the end of April.

Maurice Frankel, the head of the Freedom of Information Campaign, said: "If they do decide to back it and try to get it whipped through it may end up finding time to be debated which could make all the difference on it becoming law."