HC Deb 23 June 1999 vol 333 c381W
Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to make advice given to Ministers public. [86781]

Mr. Straw

Under the proposals set out in clause 14 of the draft Freedom of Information Bill, published on 20 May, Departments will be required to consider whether to exercise their discretion to disclose advice given to Ministers taking into account all the circumstances of the case including:

  1. (a) the public interest in allowing public access to the information; and
  2. (b) whether the disclosure to the applicant of the information in question would be in the public interest.

The proposed Information Commissioner would be able to regulate the exercise of the discretion by virtue of his powers under clause 43 of the draft Bill. As disclosure of this kind of information is discretionary he will not be able to require the Department to disclose any particular information, but he will be able to:

  1. (a) require the Department to make a decision in accordance with that section; and
  2. (b) specify matters to which the Department must have regard in making that decision.

Advice to Ministers is exempt from the statutory requirement to disclose information under clause 8 of the draft Bill by virtue of the exemption set out in clause 28.