Letter: Free to breathe

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The Independent Online
YOUR BLEAK but salutary warning on the increasing dangers of asbestos ("Asbestos deaths to soar despite ban", 12 December) needs to be tied firmly to the need for effective Freedom of Information legislation. The success of the legal action against Turner and Newall in regard to the incidence of asbestos-caused mesothelioma in Armley, Leeds, could not have been achieved without gaining access to crucial papers in the USA under American FoI legislation which could not be prised out of the files in this country.

Even more of a paradox was my parliamentary campaign [as Liberal MP, Leeds West, 1983-87] against Digital, which was imposing US legislation here to the detriment of British computer companies. I was able to expose the extent of the scandal by reference to papers obtained from the Department of Commerce in Washington which could not be made available in the UK. Will the Government strengthen its Freedom of Information Bill in the light of these examples?