Freedom of Information 2000

Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP,
Home Office,
50 Queen Anne's Gate,
London

cc: Keith Hill, House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA

8 February 2000

At last, a freedom of information bill. Alas, it appears not to be capable of freeing up much
of the information that needs to be freed for the efficient running of the country.

The bill needs to amended by:

1. Giving the Information Commissioner the power to compel disclosure. Without such
power, ministers will continue to be able to cover up their errors and not be held to account.
How many more Matrix-Churchill fiascos do we need in this country?

2. Giving a right to the public to know the facts collected during the formulation of
government policy. I can understand that a minister putting forward new policies or
legislation may want to present a cut-and-dried picture. However, the real world is never so
clear, and good governance requires all the facts to be openly debated before decision is
reached. More mistakes can be avoided this way.

3. Allowing exemptions only where information disclosure can be shown to be harmful. The
blanket exemptions such as the prejudice of the effective conduct of public affairs merely in
the opinion of the authority concerned are much too convenient for those in office with
something to hide. For me, it is a matter of good 'public service', an old fashioned term
perhaps. But to me, the public is paying for multitudinous levels of government and its civil
servants, and the public should know what is being done in its name.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Owen Lydiard