Author Topic: Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill  (Read 1498 times)

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Offline HeidiT

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Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
« on: May 16, 2007, 05:16:17 pm »
Hi Everyone

Thought this is of interest:-

This Friday the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill will once again be debated on the floor of the House of Commons.

The proposal is a private member's bill, introduced by David Maclean, a Conservative MP.  If passed, it would exempt both Houses of Parliament and all communications between MPs and public authorities from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

The effect would be to remove any obligation for details of MPs' expenses to be made public.  However, the expenses of other public figures and senior officials such as judges, councillors and civil servants would remain accessible under FOI legislation.

It would also mean that members of the public would not be able to find out the advice or policy opinions that their own MP had expressed to public bodies.  For example, responses to public consultation exercises, representations to planning authorities and letters to NHS professionals on the provision of local health services would no longer be publicly accessible under the Freedom of Information Act.

Supporters of the amendment say that they are concerned about preventing constituents' correspondence from being disclosed. 

However, correspondence about constituents' personal affairs which contains personal data is already exempt from the Act and also protected by the provisions of the Data Protection Act. 

This is unacceptable.  Of all public servants, MPs have least right to be exempt from public scrutiny.  They are elected to represent our constituents' interests and to maintain high standards in public life.
The Freedom of Information Act is a vital tool for allowing members of the public to assess whether their MPs are doing so.

We must not allow it to be compromised.

Please contact your MP before Friday to make clear your support for the Freedom of Information Act and your wish to see David Maclean's proposed Bill rejected for the reasons above.  You can access your MP's contact details at www.writetothem.com

Thanks everyone

Offline Tel Hudson

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Re: Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2007, 06:06:04 pm »
The commons have voted and I for one am disgusted.  So we are left once again for the unelected House of Lords to protect us.  If you feel the same please visit this website www.ourcampaign.org.uk/foi and sign the petitition.
I am right 96% of the time. I don't give an aerial intercourse about the other 5%..

Offline Lynda

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Re: Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2007, 09:07:37 pm »
If you are averse to petition signing, do still consider writing to a peer using the good offices of the writetothem crew.

http://www.writetothem.com/lords

When we lobbied the Lords during the ping-pong of the ID Card Act, we got a considerable response. Those Lords who are fighting this battle for us particularly deserve our support by way of a thank you.
I like Tel am aghast that once again we rely on the unelected chamber to defend our rights.





What follows is a quick guide through Hansard's search doobie for those that are dedicated enough to investigate who said what on the FOI Bill. A quick search will tell you whether to thank ( and hearten ) a peer or petition them.


EXAMPLE - Lord Healey

Procedure:

1.  Go to the 'Advanced Search' page at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/cgi-bin/semaphoreserver?
FILE=search&SAVEDB=semukparl

2.  See the main 'What are you looking for?' window.

In the first row entitled 'With all the words' enter:   freedom of information healey

3.  Go down to the third main window headed 'Document Type - Which set of pages or document type do you want to search?'.

In the right hand side column, under 'Hansard' click the 'Lords Hansard' button

4.  Click one of the 'search' buttons, e.g. the one in the bottom right hand corner of the page.

5.  The reponse will either be what the peer selected said or   "No results were found" if your peer did not speak in any of the debates.


Lynda  NO2ID 07802 151464  Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Offline Robert Buckland

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Re: Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2007, 11:04:56 am »
Last Friday was not a good day for the House of Commons.  David Maclean may be right to say that the guidelines as to the status of correspondence between MPs and constituents are long and woolly, but a sledgehammer is being taken to crack a nut in my opinion.  The message being sent out by Parliament to the general public is entirely the wrong one.  MPs have significant privileges; for example, they are exempt from the laws of libel and defamation when making comments in Parliamentary proceedings.  The existence of these privileges depends very much as to how they are used and the presence of other checks and balances within the system.

Measures such as this exemption upset that delicate balance.  I am disappointed that nearly 100 MPs, including many Parliamentary Private Secretaries, voted in favour of the Bill.  Please have a look at the list at the Division on Third Reading: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070518/debtext/70518-0012.htm#07051822001730]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070518/debtext/70518-0012.htm#07051822001730[/url]



Mod: link corrected - Lynda

« Last Edit: May 24, 2007, 11:11:21 am by Lynda »
"Forever poised between a cliche and an indiscretion" (Harold Macmillan on being Foreign Secretary)

Offline Lynda

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Re: Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2007, 11:13:53 am »
One has to give Simon Hughes his chocolate digestive for getting this point recorded

Quote
Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Simon Hughes: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there any way of formally recording in the Official Report or the Orders of the Day that a Third Reading debate has taken place with only the promoter of the Bill, and no one else, speaking in support of it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

Lynda  NO2ID 07802 151464  Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Offline CogDis

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Re: Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2007, 10:41:15 pm »

Looks like this one's now dead in the water.

This was Tuesday:

Quote
Gordon Brown is thought to be working behind the scenes for a compromise that would allow MPs to protect their correspondence with constituents from the Freedom of Information Act. A hint of his thinking came yesterday when his close ally, Ed Balls, said he thought the act should not apply to MPs' correspondence, but should apply to their expenses.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foi/story/0,,2085289,00.html

This was Wednesday:

Quote
The Tory MP seeking to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act today moved to change his private member's bill in an attempt to save it from defeat in the House of Lords.

Former chief whip David Maclean said he had put down an amendment guaranteeing that details of MPs' expenses and allowances would continue to be published.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foi/story/0,,2086420,00.html

And this was today:

Quote
David Cameron has told Conservative peers to vote against a controversial bill introduced by one of his own backbenchers which would exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act.

It aint goin anywhere ...


Offline Simon

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Re: Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2007, 03:44:52 pm »
Quote from: Public Whip Newsletter #11 - Freedom of Information and Parliament
Welcome to the eleventh Public Whip newsletter.

Inside this issue:
* Introduction - Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2007
* Third Reading - 18 MPs who tried to hide that they supported the Bill, exposed
* What did your MP do - Every MPs voting record on the Bill summarised
* Second Reading - 646 MPs (all of them) unable to say the word "object!"

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Introduction - Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2007

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2007 exempts Parliament and MPs from the transparency law which lets you scrutinise public bodies. The Bill had an unusual and colourful passage through the House of Commons the week before last.

Below, we explain the clever tricks that the Government used to pass the law with as few MPs as possible visibly responsible, and shows you which MPs are REALLY to blame.

If you've missed the the Bill in the news, here is a quick summary: http://foia.blogspot.com/2007/05/maclean-bill-returns-to-commons-on.html
The full history of the Bill on Parliament's funky new Bill pages: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/pabills/200607/freedom_of_information_amendment.htm

 - Francis, volunteer for Public Whip

P.S. If you want to stop the Bill, then the only way is via the House of Lords. Please go to http://www.writetothem.com/lords click "Random Lord", and write them a letter to tell them how you feel about the Bill.

***********************************************************************
Third Reading - 18 MPs who tried to hide that they supported the Bill, exposed

Because they have little Parliamentary time, it's particularly easy to stop Private Members Bills by filibustering. That is, by "talking the Bill out". Many members tried to stop the FOI(A) Bill by filibustering.

Right at the end of the 18th May there were two votes one just after the other.

The first was a closure motion which would stop the bill from being talked out. Anyone supporting the closure motion was supporting the passage of the bill.
    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2007-05-18&number=122

The second vote was the crucial Third Reading, which actually passed the Bill.
    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2007-05-18&number=123

Many news outlets have published lists of those who voted against Parliamentary transparency in that final vote. For example the BBC:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6670749.stm
Using Public Whip, you can find out more.

The following MPs voted for the closure motion, but then didn't vote in the Third Reading. Just 16 minutes later.

This means they supported the Bill, as they did not join in the attempt to filibuster. But they were not confident enough of their opinions to put on record that they supported it in the Third Reading division itself. Well, that or they had to rush home in the vital minutes to feed their dog:

    Christopher Chope, Christchurch (Con)
    Jonathan Djanogly, Huntingdon (Con)
    Stephen Hammond, Wimbledon (Con)
    Nick Hurd, Ruislip - Northwood (Con)
    Eleanor Laing, Epping Forest (Con)
    Shailesh Vara, North West Cambridgeshire (Con)

    Edward Balls, Normanton (Lab, minister)
    Ian Cawsey, Brigg & Goole (Lab, minister)
    Paul Clark, Gillingham (Lab (PPS))
    Vernon Coaker, Gedling (Lab, minister)
    Barry Gardiner, Brent North (Lab, minister)
    Roger Godsiff, Birmingham, Sparkbrook & Small Heath (Lab)
    Mike O'Brien, North Warwickshire (Lab, minister)
    Bridget Prentice, Lewisham East (Lab, minister)
    Joan Ruddock, Lewisham, Deptford (Lab)
    Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield (Lab)
    Jacqui Smith, Redditch (Lab, minister)
    Gerry Sutcliffe, Bradford South (Lab, minister)

http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2007-05-18&number=122&number2=123

If any of those are your MP, you may like to write them a letter.
    http://www.writetothem.com/?a=westminstermp

If you want to know how to get to these fancy division comparison pages, please ask on the forum and we'll give a little tutorial.
    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/forum/viewforum.php?f=3

***********************************************************************
What did your MP do - Every MPs voting record on the Bill summarised

There were three other divisions on FOI(A) a week ago on Friday. One was a filibuster division. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2007-05-18&number=119&dmp=996

And two were amendments that would have made the Bill do more exactly what its stated purpose was (to protect constituents correspondence), without exempting Parliament and MPs from all other FOI requests. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2007-05-18&number=120&dmp=996
http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2007-05-18&number=121&dmp=996

You can use those to make more lists of MPs who really supported the Bill, but tried to hide that they did so. But that gets a bit complicated, so instead here is a complete list summarising every MPs overall voting record on the Bill.

http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/policy.php?id=996&display=comparison

Those near the top (such as Norman Baker, Richard Shepherd and David Winnick) have a perfect record of opposing the Bill at every possible point. Those at the bottom of the list (such as Tom Watson and John Randall) have the imperfect record of having supported the Bill at every possible point.

You can also find a quick summary of the Public Whip data on every MP's TheyWorkForYou page.  It is in the Voting Record section. For example, for my MP it says "Very strongly for a transparent Parliament." http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/david_howarth/cambridge

***********************************************************************
Second Reading - 646 MPs (all of them) unable to say the word "object!"

The Freedom of Information Amendment (Bill) 2007 is not officially a Government bill, but a Private Members Bill sponsored by an ex-Tory whip called David Maclean. However, everybody knows that really the Government fully backs the Bill.
    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foi/story/0,,2077592,00.html
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6689031.stm

If you still claim that it is not a Government Bill (for example, if you are David Boothroyd), then let's have a discussion about it here :)
    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2911#2911

The curious thing about Private Members Bills is that they are incredibly easy to slow down and stop. Of particular puzzlement is why nobody objected to it at second reading. All that it would have required would be for one MP to shout out "object". But nobody did.
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2007-01-19a.1115.1

If anybody can explain this, please let us know on the forum!
    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1069

Meanwhile, it seems quite reasonable, if harsh!, to individually blame every single MP for the passage of this Bill through the Commons.

Now it's your turn.

To stop the Bill now, the only way is via the House of Lords.

Please go to http://www.writetothem.com/lords click "Random Lord", and write them a letter to tell them how you feel about the Bill.

You might like to point out some of the following that matter to you
  * That MPs voted against amending the Bill to only cover constituents correspondence.
  * That anyway, privacy of constituents correspondence is already covered by the Data Protection Act.
  * That really the Government is trying to weaken Freedom of Information legislation.
  * That this will further deteriorate the relationship between people and Parliament.
  * That secret Government is worse Government.
  * That the nefarious way the Government is passing this Bill is insulting and undemocratic.

***********************************************************************
     If you think this is interesting, or have friends who care about transparency, honesty or politics, forward this newsletter to them now!
***********************************************************************

The Public Whip ( http://www.publicwhip.org.uk ) is a project to data-mine the record of Members of the United Kingdom Parliament, so that you can hold them to account.

Subscribe a new address to this newsletter? Sign up here. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/newsletters/signup.php
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