PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 23
1. FOI amendment bill seeks to exempt MPs
A Private Member’s Bill seeks to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 so that it would exempt from its provisions the House of Commons, the House of Lords and correspondence between Members of Parliament and public authorities. The Bill was read by the House of Commons for the second time on 19th January without any debate.
The Bill, which was introduced by David Maclean, the former Tory chief whip, will now be debated at Committee stage. Maclean said to the Guardian that the second reading was intentionally chosen to be last at the end of a busy parliamentary day: "I am showing some of the younger hands how you can get a Bill through parliament after long experience as a whip in both getting and blocking Bills through parliament."
Apparently his main reason for introducing the legislation was the complicated guidance about to be issued to more than 100,000 public authorities on whether they should release MPs' letters.
2. List of council properties should be made public
The Information Commissioner has ordered Braintree District Council to release the addresses of council properties owned by the authority. The council refused to release the list of addresses on the grounds that the information constituted personal information and disclosure would breach data protection rules.
The Information Commissioner ruled that the list of addresses was not exempt from disclosure. Although an address can be personal information, he did not consider that releasing the list would breach the Data Protection Act.
3. Information on excessive expenses to be published
The Information Commissioner has ordered Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council to reveal the names of some of the councillors and officials who repaid money to the council after making excessive expenses claims. The council had refused to release the information as it said that that would be in breach of the Data Protection Act.
The Information Commissioner does not require to be made public the names of the people who made voluntary repayments.
4. ICO appoints new FOI Assistant Commissioner
Steve Wood has been appointed to the post of Assistant Commissioner for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). He will be responsible for leading the FOI policy team which develops policy relating to Freedom of Information Act issues and provides advice on the substance, quality and consistency of freedom of information complaints.
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Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2007