The Home Secretary, who is ready to defend the Bill, will face sharp criticism from MPs on a select committee who have accused him of watering down the plans proposed in a White Paper by David Clark, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, before he was sacked by Tony Blair.
Sheila McKechnie, of the Consumers Association, said she would rather the Bill was dropped than reach the Statute Book in its present form. "It is an absolutely disgraceful Bill. It will be a stain on this Government's record for years to come," she said.
Senior Government sources last night denied the Bill was being shelved. But the Home Secretary is expected to be questioned about growing rumours at Westminster that the Bill could be left out of the next Queen's Speech in November because of the Prime Minister's order to the Cabinet to focus on popular legislation to revive Labour's fortunes in the run-up to the general election.
Campaigners yesterday demanded changes in the "deeply flawed" draft Bill on the eve of the committee hearing to cross-examine the Home Secretary on his legislation.
One member of the Commons committee, Tory MP Richard Shepherd, said: "Many of us are very concerned about this retreat."
The campaigners were told that the background briefing papers on the Freedom of Information Bill are being withheld by the Home Office, and may not be issued until after the consultation period is over next month.
The Bill will not allow the disclosure of advice to ministers, which MPs believe will be used as a "catch all" clause to frustrate demands for information.
The critics demanding changes include Mark Fisher, the former arts minister, sacked at the same time as Mr Clark. Mr Fisher said he hoped Mr Straw would change the Bill. "He is not a macho minister who sticks to his own opinion as a test of his own strength. He is open to flexibility and reason,' he said.Reuse content