HC Deb 10 June 1998 vol 313 cc1065-6
8. Mr. Ivor Caplin (Hove)

If he will make a statement on the report of the Select Committee on Public Administration on the Government's proposals for a freedom of information Act (HC 398). [43502]

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

I welcome the Committee's report, which sets out a clear general endorsement of our proposals for a freedom of information Act. The report is a key element in the overall consultation process and we are studying all of the Committee's detailed recommendations carefully.

Mr. Caplin

I quote from the PAC report—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—which states: A Freedom of Information Act is long overdue. We are allowed to quote.

Madam Speaker

Order. Hon. Members should read the report of the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons.

Mr. Caplin

Conservative Members should know better. Is that not symptomatic of 18 years of Tory rule?

Will my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster give an assurance that the report's 40 or so recommendations and conclusions on freedom of information will be given the utmost consideration in the generation of a freedom of information Bill?

Dr. Clark

I am particularly impressed by the Committee's report, because it raises certain important issues that have not been raised before. For example, its pertinent comments on coverage in Scotland following devolution and the interrelationship between freedom of information and data protection have certainly influenced my thinking.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

Does the Chancellor accept that not only the Committee but most people who are anxious to open up and improve the quality of government welcome his White Paper, back his personal commitment to it and hope to see legislation at the earliest possible date? For the timetable on introducing legislation to slip would be a serious setback to the Government's goal of opening up decision making.

Dr. Clark

The right hon. Gentleman has a long record in this area, so I appreciate his kind comments. I repeat what I said earlier: no one in the House is keener than I am to get the draft Bill on to the statute book. No decision has been taken that will have delayed in any way consideration of that legislation for inclusion in the Queen's Speech later this year.