HC Deb 10 June 1998 vol 313 cc1061-2
3. Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston)

What assessment he has made of the likely interaction between the process of discovery of documentation in civil proceedings or in contemplation of proceedings and the citizen's right to freedom of information where a potential party to proceedings is a Government Department or agency.[43497]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)

The process of discovery of documents in civil proceedings will not be affected by our freedom of information proposals. Departments that are parties to civil proceedings will not be unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged by freedom of information.

Maria Eagle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that interesting reply. Is he aware that, in parts of Whitehall, there is some resistance to freedom of information? In introducing legislation to implement the new right of information for the citizen, will he be careful to ensure that that right is as wide as the White Paper said that it should be and that it will not be restricted by appeals to the law, and to the civil law in particular, about restrictions that currently apply?

Mr. Kilfoyle

As I said in my original answer, it is absolutely our intention to ensure that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged. Of course we intend to publish the freedom of information Bill in draft. There will be an opportunity then for my hon. Friend to make her representations on any technical or drafting points that may or may not need to be improved.

4. Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

What provision he has made for future consultation on his proposals for freedom of information legislation. [43498]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Dr. David Clark)

I shall be publishing a draft Bill for public consultation and consideration by the Select Committee on Public Administration. That will continue the effective and successful process of consultation that began last December.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is it his certainty that, in the lifetime of this Parliament, we shall see legislation enacted?

Dr. Clark

I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. I believe that open government is good government. As a first step towards that, I have produced a radical and ground-breaking White Paper. In our manifesto, we made it clear that we intended to introduce legislation on freedom of information, to sweep away the secrecy that has hindered good government in this country. I am working with colleagues to ensure that this long-overdue legislation is ready for consideration for inclusion in the Queen's Speech later this year. I emphasise that no one in the House wants to see that implemented more than I do.