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Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I would not dream of ever doing that. I wonder whether the noble Lord is aware that a single judge has precisely the function of weighing the conflicting rights between personal privacy and freedom of speech and information in a whole variety of contexts. Spycatcher was one example of such conflict: between the public's right to know the information from the former spy who was disloyal and government's need to protect their secrets against unwarranted disclosure. A single body--the court--has to do that weighing and balancing using concepts like proportionality to do so. There are many other examples. If one had two courts, one dealing with free speech and the other with personal privacy, that would be--I am not sure what "moonshine" is, but something a little rude.

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5 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: Before the noble Lord rises to make his response, does he agree that, although we have two counsel, one for the prosecution and one for the defence, it would be extremely odd if we were to have two judges, one to consider the case for the prosecution and the other the case for the defence?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Yes, I can see that. Perhaps we should not take the comparison too far. However, unless I have misunderstood the position, the point here is that the commissioner will also adopt the role of trying to protect the citizen who wants information from the government department that does not want to release it. This is not only a judicial matter or a court situation; it concerns also the role of the commissioner in trying to ensure that we--the public--can get at information and that a government department cannot needlessly hide it.

It may be that I have misread the role of the commissioner. Perhaps the commissioner is not there to help, but simply to adjudicate. I may have to study that point again, although no doubt the Minister will intervene if I am entirely wrong on this. I hope that the role of the commissioner is intended to be that of being helpful to the citizen in his quest for information from what will be, frankly, fairly reluctant central government and probably even more reluctant local government.

I am still not entirely convinced by the Minister's remarks as regards why he thinks that the current proposals set out in the Bill are exactly right. He spoke a great deal about Select Committees and their role in dealing with these matters, but I am not sure which Select Committee would be involved. No specific Select Committee is to be set up to look at these issues. Perhaps the Minister can help me on this point.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My understanding is that these kinds of issues are dealt with by the Home Affairs Select Committee. That committee has a long tradition of dealing with such matters. However, it may be that another place will take a different view. Perhaps there should be a specific Select Committee set up to focus precisely on information issues as a whole. That may prove to be a way forward.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: That was a helpful intervention. The Minister did not mention the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier, but it is clear that he envisages that committee as the relevant body. He has also made it clear that the Government will not have a closed mind should the other place decide that a separate committee should be formed to deal specifically with freedom of information and related matters.

The Home Affairs Select Committee already shoulders a fair burden. The Home Office is not an idle department of government, as noble Lords know only too well when they consider the number of Home

19 Oct 2000 : Column 1219

Office Bills brought before your Lordships' House. Furthermore, the range of its responsibilities is considerable and, as a consequence, the range of matters of concern to the Home Affairs Select Committee is also considerable. However, I am not sure that the notion of the Home Affairs Select Committee taking on this added responsibility is one that fills me with a great deal of confidence, given its present workload.

Lord Goodhart: Perhaps I may suggest to the noble Lord that a more appropriate committee might be the Select Committee on Public Administration. In the other place, that committee conducted an investigation and produced a report on the draft Bill.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The noble Lord has made a good point. However, I suspect that he may have introduced a potential element for turf wars to break out in Whitehall. After all, I had first thought that this Bill would come to us via the Cabinet Office. That was certainly David Clark's understanding. But the Bill was grabbed by the Home Office, which explains why the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, is in his place. I believe that the team is Home Office-based, although the Minister at the Cabinet Office, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, is also here--in his capacity as the Government's trouble-shooter in these matters. However, I suspect that he is present more to relieve the pressure on the poor Home Office team. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, appears to spend a great deal of his time at the Dispatch Box. When he is not battling against me, he needs to battle against my noble friends Lord Cope and Lady Blatch. That situation reflects the volume of Home Office legislation.

As I have said, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has made a good point. Perhaps the Home Affairs Select Committee is not the right body to undertake this duty. Or perhaps it is exactly the right body. The Home Office may have more secrets that it wishes to keep to itself than any other individual government department. However, I shall not pursue that line of thought.

I am sorry that I have not received a more sympathetic response on this matter. It is important that Parliament's role in public life as regards matters arising between citizens and government is adequately recognised. It is a great pity that that has been taken away. I think also that it is a pity that the Data Protection Commissioner is to take on the role of information commissioner. I am not in the least convinced by the arguments that have been advanced in support of that move and I may well return to the matter in due course.

I should like to resolve the issue of whether we should deal with this matter via a parliamentary ombudsman by testing the opinion of the Committee.

5.5 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill?

19 Oct 2000 : Column 1220

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 141; Not-Contents, 67.

Division No. 1


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alderdice, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brett, L.
Bristol, Bp.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Diamond, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Gale, B.
Geraint, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Longford, E.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McNally, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Paul, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strange, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Dartington, L.


Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Biffen, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Butterworth, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Cox, B.
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Denham, L.
Dundee, E.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Haslam, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Kimball, L.
Laird, L.
Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L. [Teller]
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monson, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Noakes, B.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peel, E.
Plumb, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Sharples, B.
Shrewsbury, E.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 16 agreed to accordingly.

19 Oct 2000 : Column 1221

5.16 p.m.

[Amendment No.107 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [The Commissioner and the Tribunal]:

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