Freedom Of Information 1999

Jack Straw MP,
The Home Office,
Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1H 9AT

14 June 1999

I am very keen to see a Freedom of Information bill at long last. However, I did not expect
it to come with the pages of exemptions that your current draft has. Specifically:

Section 28 (3) c (page 15) 'be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public
affairs.' - this could exempt anything. In fact, I see no principle in operation behind any of
section 28, other than 'do as I say, not as I do'.

In general the use of the term 'prejudice' rather than 'substantially harm' leaves the bill too
weak in many places, particularly noticeably in sections 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, especially when
there is no clause against exemption to serve the public interest.

Section 26 covers the reasonable parts of section 27, which should therefore be scrapped.

In addition, I am informed that the recommendations from the Lawrence enquiry
concerning police openness have been ignored. This is just the bill to cover that subject I
would have thought.

I am informed also that the new Information Commissioner will be unable to deal with
concealment of misconduct by public bodies. This could be bad news if the current powers
are superseded by this bill.

The rich variety of excuses for keeping the old government doors tight shut is very
impressive. The good news is that it isn't too late to fix these problems.


Owen Lydiard, Director, Have IT Now Limited