HC Deb 05 July 1999 vol 334 cc323-4W
Mr. Fearn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to include individual restaurant health inspection data in his Department's proposals for freedom of information. [89131]

Mr. Straw

Food hygiene inspections are conducted by local authority Environmental Health Officers under the Food Safety Act 1990. This Act does not prohibit the disclosure of inspection reports unless they contain confidential information.

Local authorities are public authorities within the meaning of the draft Freedom of Information Bill and will be required to apply the legislation to information requests when the Bill is enacted.

Clause 34(2) of the draft Bill exempts information from the right of access if disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person. It is possible that inspection reports may fall for consideration under this exemption. But, even if the disclosure of a report is exempt by virtue of this clause, authorities would have a duty under clause 14 to consider, on a case by case basis, whether the information requested should be disclosed in the public interest.

In addition, under clause 6 of the draft legislation, public authorities would have a duty to adopt a publication scheme, which has regard to the public interest and must be approved by the Information Commissioner. Under clause 6, a local authority could agree with the Information Commissioner that such reports should be published as of right and if so, in what form and to what timetable.