Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cameron Vows to Axe FOI Bill in the Lords

David Cameron has just said that Conservative Peers will vote down David Maclean's Freedom of Information Bill in the House of Lords. Good.

UPDATE: From the Press Association...

The Tories will try to block controversial legislation exempting MPs from
the Freedom of Information Act in the House of Lords, David Cameron said
today. Speaking at a news conference in London, the Conservative leader said
his party was not prepared to support the Bill in its current form in the
upper chamber. "We will act to stop the Bill in its current form in the
House of Lords," he said. The Private Member's Bill, tabled by Tory former
chief whip David MacLean, was controversially passed by the Commons last
week. It is now due to go to the upper chamber for consideration.

Mr Cameron's announcement puts further pressure on Gordon Brown, who launched his leadership bid with a promise to promote more open government. Currently the Government is officially neutral on the legislation, but it is widely assumed at Westminster that ministers are tacitly supporting the Bill. With the Liberal Democrats also expected to oppose the legislation in the Lords, Mr Brown could find his commitment to open government facing immediate challenge if he continues to stand above the fray. While Mr Cameron acknowledged that there was a "real question" about protecting the confidentiality of MPs' correspondence with their constituents, he said it could not justify the new legislation. "I think it is not really enough to say that this is just a House of Commons matter now because I think that there is a big debate about MPs making themselves not subject to the Freedom of Information Act when others are." Meanwhile Tory former Cabinet minister John Redwood, who also opposes the Bill, claimed it could still be sunk as Mr Maclean was struggling to find a peer to sponsor it in the Lords. "My inquiries revealed that so far no peer has come forward to sponsor and propose the Bill in the Lords. As this is a Private Member's Bill and not a Government one, it needs a willing peer to pick it up and run with it," he said. "Now the peers have seen what the media did to David Maclean, they are obviously having second thoughts. "Brave as our peers are, it is not much of an invitation to be asked to carry a hand grenade with the pin already out through the Lords stages, especially when the cause is such a bad one."


Matt Wardman thinks this means the Tories will only amend the Bill. I hope he is wrong. The whole Bill is flawed and should be rejected. It is unamendable.

39 comments:

canvas said...

Yes, very good.
That FOI bill was hypocrisy at its best.

Colin Moore said...

Better later than never

Matt said...

That wasn't what I heard Iain.

The story I heard was that they would attempt to exempt MPs' expenses from the MPs' exemption from data protection!

Hope I'm wrong.

Matt
http://www.mattwardman.com/blog/2007/05/22/tories-to-amend-david-maclean-freedom-of-information-amendment-bill/

Pedant said...

Iain, Cannot better your comment. Shocking that this bill was introduced by a Tory.

David Boothroyd said...

Party political involvement in private members' bills is not a good idea. The Speaker has always said that publication of MPs' expenses would be unchanged (and I expect the pathetic press coverage which always greets them will not improve either).

Anonymous said...

Does that mean it's a 'dead duck' or just wounded ? After all a game of parliamentary ping-pong might be in order.

Or should that be 'table-tennis' ?

Praguetory said...

"Party political involvement in private members' bills is not a good idea."

It is if the bill is a heresy voted through on the back of naked self-interest.

Mike H said...

"Party political involvement in private members' bills is not a good idea."

Even when it's such an ill-conceived bit of legislation and is passed by a tiny minority of the House on a quiet Friday afternoon?

It would have been better if this bill had never got off the ground in the first place.

sniper said...

david boothroyd 11:43

"Party political involvement in private members' bills is not a good idea."

Yes it is. They (Commons and Peers) are ALL supposed to work for my benefit. It matters not whether that benefit is personal or societal or whether I recognise a benefit or not. The only difference is that Private Member's Bills are not sponsored by Government or Opposition but by an individual, however, it still affects ME. Therefore I require Parliament (both Houses) to scrutinise a Bill on it's individual merit whatever the source.

This Bill has no merit. Wecome aboard Dave better late than never.

jilted john said...

This should be Camerons trump card over this vile spiteful Labour government. All he has to do is "The Right Thing" on every one of the nasty, money grabbing and big brother policies of NuLabour and he will quickly become the only option at the next GE.

This is the "Right Thing" in the eyes of the public.

Daily Referendum said...

My God, could the public have actually had some influence on politics. I thought we had been taken out of the loop?

David Boothroyd said...

The Bill was introduced to protect constituents that go to their MPs, not to try to stop publication of allowances. The misreporting of this subject has to stop.

Daily Referendum said...

The next target for Cameron should be the pathetic draft Local Transport Bill that is about to be presented to parliament. This Bill includes Road Pricing and Toll Roads.

http://dailyreferendum.blogspot.com/2007/05/road-pricing-continues-with-draft-local.html

Tony said...

Not before time I say. Credit to John Redwood, John Maples, Philip Hollobone, Richard Shepherd and James Clappison for opposing the amendment in the Commons last week. Looks like their lobbying since may have paid off.

Pedant said...

David Boothroyd. You mean like the Germans advancing west to pre-prepered positions?

David Boothroyd said...

Pedant: are you likening David Maclean to Josef Goebbels?

Frankly it's the side opposing this bill who are pretending that their Gleiwitz transmitter has been attacked, not the other way round.

Richard said...

David Boothroyd should do some basic homework on this issue before commenting, eg read the Liberty Briefing on Maclean's Bill at:

http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy07/freedom-of-information-amendment-bill.pdf

David Boothroyd said...

You don't need to do a lot of research to discover that Liberty are a lobby group with an interest to defend and are as capable of misunderstanding what is proposed as anyone else is. Especially given that we know that in practice, correspondence from MPs outlining constituents' concerns has actually been released under FOI.

Liberty is quite correct to point to the abysmal standard of reporting of MPs' expenses claims though.

Anonymous said...

So where were you on Friday last week Dave?

This looks like rank bandwagon-climbing of the worst sort, after Dave had a quick scull round the weekend press and realised what a bad idea this Bill actually was. They could have killed the Bill last week if they had wanted to.

Pedant said...

David Boothroyd. I didn't say who, but cast around......

Chris Paul said...

Where's the link to the PA? And let's have a correction/update given Matt's point.

Iain Dale said...

Chris Paul, I posted the text for goodness sake. PA is a subscription only service. You can't link to it.

Bel said...

Good that Cameron is now deciding to do something. I wonder though whether this is only because he has heard the outcry caused by the amendment. I never heard a word from him about this before.

Still, I shouldn't question his motives too much. I suppose it is enough that he now wants the Lords to do something about it.

Iain Dale said...

Bel, I don't expect David Cameron had commented on a myriad of other Private Members Bills either. He has acted now and people should recognise that.

ChrisC said...

"Bel, I don't expect David Cameron had commented on a myriad of other Private Members Bills either. He has acted now and people should recognise that."

Bearing in mind your language strictures I'll be moderate.

I think we all recognise that he has acted AFTER the outcry. Pathetic. It's not as if there wasn't any warning, is it?

And what do the weasal words "in its current form" mean?

Ed said...

Why didn't DC whip the MPs to vote against it then?

Bel said...

Iain, you are right that Cameron is not expected to comment on all manner of private members bills. But this was no ordinary bill. It went to the heart of our trust in our elected representatives, an one would expect a party leader to have had an opinion on it. Ming Campbell certainly expressed his, although it seems he couldn't be bothered to turn up to vote. I recognise that David Cameron has acted now, and that is good.

Anonymous said...

"Bel, I don't expect David Cameron had commented on a myriad of other Private Members Bills either. He has acted now and people should recognise that."

Oh COME ON Iain. This is an avoidance tactic. It was obvious that this was more than another PMB. This had backing from members of his Party (Front Bench too) and from the Government.

If he had a principled bone in his body he would have come out before on this. Ming raised this at PMQs a while ago.

Anonymous said...

Everyone appears to be assuming the Bill will be debated in the Lords. It is a Private Member's Bill, which means it will need a peer who is willing to sponsor it, and then it will require a slot to be debated. However, most of the remaining time for Private Members' Bills - up to the summer recess - is now allocated. If taken for Second Reading after the recess, there would not be time to get through all its stages and back to the Commons before the end of the session. So it may fall anyway for want of time.

Anonymous said...

Can hear the sound of the barn door slapping Dave's bottom?

Anonymous said...

Come on Iain..

"Bel, I don't expect David Cameron had commented on a myriad of other Private Members Bills either. He has acted now and people should recognise that."

This is more than just another Private Members Bill - It had support from members of his own Front Bench and Labour MPs and was snowballing towards becoming law.

For him to come out only now is ridiculous as he's merely following the news agenda and demonstrating his lack of any sort of principle.

sniper said...

david boothroyd 11:43

“The Speaker has always said that publication of MPs' expenses would be unchanged”.

This information is not a scrap to be thrown to the varlets and scullions by their masters on a whim. It concerns money to be accounted for to me by the people I employ (Honourable and not so Honourable Members as well as some Noble and not so Noble Lords and Ladies). It is that straightforward, it is that simple. As with any employer my right to know how my money is spent is beyond question. It must not be subject to the moods and fancies of those who spend it.

david boothroyd 12:10

“The Bill was introduced to protect constituents that go to their MPs, not to try to stop publication of allowances. The misreporting of this subject has to stop”.

Given the appalling waste of public money and Parliamentary time on laws that have been passed and then shown not to have the effect claimed by their sponsors but some other effect, the above statement is assuredly a triumph of hope over experience.

Given that some measure of legislation is needed (which I doubt) then an amendment to the Data Protection Act could have been proposed and not the exemption of Members of Parliament.

Umbongo said...

You quote the great leader as saying "We will act to stop the Bill in its current form in the
House of Lords,"

What does this mean Iain? To me it means there will be an element of exemption for MPs which will be totally unnecessary. The proximate "excuse" for this bill was the non-event of constituent's privacy being breached (apparently no-one has complained that this breach has happened under FoI conditions). As you know, I know and even a delusional Cameron knows any privacy issues can be dealt with under data protection legislation (in being or easily brought in). So why doesn't Cameron simply say "we will stop this bill in its entirety"? No ifs - no buts.

Iain Dale said...

You'd better ask him. I am not his representative on earth, you know!

Anonymous said...

The past week has shown, yet again, that the House of Commons is failing to do its job properly. First we have the iniquitous attempt to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information, and then today's climbdown on Home Information Packs which was forced on the Government by a Judicial Review, not Parliamentary pressure.

It's time MPs of all parties woke up and put their brains into gear.

James said...

David Boothroyd: You claim the bill was introduced to protect communications between constituents and their MPs. Given this is so, why does the bill provide a blanket exemption for both Houses of Parliament from the FoIA and another one for all correspondence between MPs and public authorities?

And why were amendments that would have narrowed the bills scope specifically to cover the communications between MPs and their constituents rejected by the bill's supporters?

The Stoat said...

Good. I hope DC will (apologies to FU) 'put a bit of stick about' in the Commons to stop this waste of time MP protectionism from being rasied in the future

Umbongo said...

"You'd better ask him. I am not his representative on earth, you know!"

And do you think he'd give me a straight answer? [Rhetorical question]

Anonymous said...

If no peer comes forward tto sponsor this bill, will the Private members' Bill special expenses awarded have to be repaid?

Auntie Flo'