HC Deb 06 November 1978 vol 957 cc496-7
32. Mr. Rooker

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on progress towards open government.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Since the Prime Minister's statement in the debate on the Address on 24th November 1976 and Sir Douglas Allen's letter to Departments of 6th July 1977, Government Departments have published and made available a great deal of material. The recent White Paper, Cmnd. 7285, makes clear that the Government have not yet come to a firm decision on how to proceed in developing the practice of open government. A more detailed study of overseas practices is to be made and further proposals, as promised in the Gracious Speech, will be brought forward in due course.

Mr. Rooker

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he say why it is taking so long to get the study of overseas practices under way? Bearing in mind that the latest information from the General Accounting Office in America on the cost of running the American legislation was published on 16th June, will he explain why it arrived in his office via The Times at the request of his Department on 31st October, some three months after the publication of the Government White Paper that says that the job would be done anyway?

Mr. Morris

I give my hon. Friend the assurance that my office welcomes information from any source, especially The Times newspaper. My hon. Friend referred to delay in initiating the study. I hope that he and other hon. Members will bear in mind that we are moving towards a fundamental change in our society as regards open government. Although the goal is not in doubt, it is right to look carefully at ways of achieving it.

Mr. Powell

As the catch phrase "open government" is a contradiction in terms, how can progress be made towards it?

Mr. Morris

How much progress has been made towards it? As the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will recognise, ever since the letter published by Sir Douglas Allen on 6th July 1977 the evidence has been there to see. Appreciable information is now coming from Government Departments.

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