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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have a speaking note in front of me but, with due deference to the officials in the Box, I do not believe that it does justice to the way in which the noble Lord has raised the issue of the definition of data. It is a really interesting and perhaps even esoteric point. I sat here trying to envisage, in the very graphic way in which he explained it, the situation to which he was referring.

My concern--and no doubt the concern of those who have been struggling with definitions--is to understand what we gain by providing the broader definition of "data" which the noble Lord proposes. It is a fascinating concept. We have tried to be specific in the circumstances and to follow a consistent path of having a narrower definition. But I am intrigued by what the noble Lord has said.

I make no promises to do anything other than take up the point which he has raised, esoteric though it is, to see whether it is helpful in any way, shape or form. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for the way in which he has interestingly persisted with this matter. I am sure that there is benefit in pursuing it. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord to give me time to reflect on what he has said and to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am grateful for that answer. Of course I shall withdraw the amendment. I prefer the amendment which I proposed in Committee as regards the definition of "key" which probably meets the case better. But as always, or as almost always, I defer to the expertise of parliamentary draftsmen. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 101A not moved.]

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Schedule 4 [Consequential amendments]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 102:

    Page 100, line 31, leave out paragraph 13.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a very simple and straightforward amendment. At one time, it had appeared possible that the Freedom of Information Bill would receive Royal Assent before this Bill. It is now more than likely, perhaps even apparent, that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill has overtaken the Freedom of Information Bill in its parliamentary passage. It will no longer be appropriate for this Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Bill.

This amendment therefore removes the consequential amendment to the Freedom of Information Bill which had been included in Schedule 4. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, what an interesting amendment! It is extremely convenient that the noble Lord the Lord in Waiting has moved this amendment because he may be in a position to tell us, in view of his other duties and the fact that the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms is sitting next to him, how the Freedom of Information Bill is coming along. We know that it is awaiting a Committee stage. But we do not have any further information at this point.

Lord Carter: My Lords, we shall not be dealing with it before the Summer Recess.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, that shows the standard of helpfulness that we receive from the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms. That is information without any value and, therefore, contrasts greatly with the courtesy and assistance that we have received from the noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord Bach, when representing the Home Office.

The Home Office is not always thought of as the most helpful department of government but the two Ministers concerned have been extremely helpful in dealing with our concerns during the course of our debates on the Bill. I should like to put that on record. I also thank those outside this House who have been of great assistance to us in trying to understand what on earth it is that the Home Office is trying to achieve through this Bill, and in our efforts to improve it.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I feel like Stanley must have felt when he glimpsed Livingstone through the jungle undergrowth. We knew that the Freedom of Information Bill had been kicked into the long grass but, as to where it has been, I thought it was in cyberspace! But now we know and we can all spend our summer holidays dreaming up amendments for that Bill. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will be much refreshed.

It is always a pleasure to see the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms here. But it has been a great benefit to stay here on a Thursday finally to find out where the Freedom of Information Bill is. I am sure that many people outside will be equally happy to know that.

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I associate myself with the thanks to the ministerial team, who have been helpful. As I said earlier, I was never quite sure whether I was going to get a friendly lick from the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, or a bite on the ankle from the noble Lord, Lord Bach. But they are a very impressive team.

As has been said on a number of occasions, the reason that we have given Ministers and their advisers such a thorough testing has been the willingness of those northern universities and others to help us with

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a very technical Bill. We look forward to Third Reading and then on to the Freedom of Information Bill.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the two noble Lords have been extremely gracious, as always. My noble friend and I are very grateful for their kind comments. I commend the amendment to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

        House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past eight o'clock.

13 Jul 2000 : Column 451

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