HC Deb 04 June 1997 vol 295 cc383-4
11. Mr. Martyn Jones

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he intends to publish a freedom of information Bill; and if he will make a statement. [529]

Dr. David Clark

I intend to publish the White Paper on freedom of information before the summer recess.

Mr. Jones

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer and I welcome him to his position on the Front Bench. Will he ensure that when he publishes the White Paper and produces the Bill, which will bring about tremendous change for the people of Britain, the legislation will be retrospective so that people can see what the previous Government did during the past 18 years? They will then never vote for the Conservatives again.

Dr. Clark

I thank my hon. Friend for his interesting comment. He can rest assured that there will be the widest consultation on the White Paper. That is not, however, all that we are doing in respect of openness. In their manifesto, the Government made clear their commitment to the regeneration of our democratic process. Central to that was the White Paper on new government I announced yesterday. It will set out how we shall deliver accountable, accessible, responsive and efficient government to the people of Britain. Those proposals, alongside our freedom of information Bill, will bring an agenda of openness to government which we have never seen before.

Mr. Nicholls

Will the agenda of openness extend to the publication of the contents of the Excalibur computer so that Labour Members can understand what information is held on it? In this spirit of openness, might it not also be an idea if the information was published in the press so that we could all read it?

Dr. Clark

All the information contained in that computer is published information and it is available under the Data Protection Act 1988.