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My noble and learned friend Lord Archer asked a simple question; will the Government produce a booklet? It will not be a matter for the Government, it will be a matter for the information commissioner. But we expect to prepare information for the use of both authorities and applicants. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, asked whether there will be any provisions in the code of practice? The answer is yes. The draft code--as I said earlier--is published and it contains provisions on good practice as regards providing assistance.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps he will answer the other question which I put to him. Will the code recommend that authorities give assistance to people whose request for information does not fall within the Act--for example, because it is not in writing? They may not know that they have to put the request in writing. Will authorities be required to point them in the right direction?
Lord Lucas: I am grateful to the Minister for his replies. I shall read them with great interest. However, I think the Government are missing the fundamental importance of this area; namely, the confidence required by an ordinary member of the public when dealing with local authorities or whoever, in knowing that that authority is under a duty to do its best to assist him, rather than, as has been our common experience--particularly for Members of the Committee opposite in their long years of Opposition--dealing with a source of information who is half the time doing his very best not to give any information or advice in a helpful way. If we wish to end that culture, or at least if we wish not to duplicate that culture with members of the public, which is extremely frustrating and off-putting for them, we need to have something firmer in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked whether there is presently on the face of the Bill any mention of assistance as well as advice. At present there is not. It should be there in Clause 44(2)(a) or thereabouts. I hope my noble friend will agree that, given the advice that the Minister has given us, we need to give thought to how we can anchor that with some clarity on the face of the Bill in order to make absolutely obvious to a member of the public that a public authority is under a duty to assist him.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the Minister for his fairly long reply. I thought it was stronger on the textual analysis of my amendments than it was on actually addressing the principles behind my amendments, which were backed by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and indeed by noble Lords behind him. I was not at all convinced by the argument about codes of practice. My memory is not so short that I cannot recall the phrase,
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I can tell that it says "resist" without even looking. It seems odd that the Government should set their mind against the proposition that we should have something on the Bill. I accept the textual analysis of my amendments. But I
I shall not read them out, but perhaps I may commend to the Minister Section 13 of the Official Information Act 1982 in New Zealand; Section 15(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 in Australia; and Section 6(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 in Ireland. They all deal with this problem on the face of the Bill. Those of us who think that this should be on the face of the Bill will probably read what the Minister says, regroup and return with an amendment which even his textual analysis will not be able to knock down. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
First, we have looked again at the way in which schools and further and higher education institutions are described in Part IV of Schedule 1. Schools have no legal identity and it is inappropriate to make them the subject of statutory obligations. Therefore, we have to change the reference to a reference to the governing body of the school or education institution. Information about institutions which do not have governing bodies, such as pupil referral units and maintained nursery schools, will be accessible through the local education authority directly responsible for such institutions. Similar arrangements are made in respect of schools and education institutions in Northern Ireland. Let me stress that this change does not reduce or limit the coverage of such bodies under the Bill. It simply ensures that the policy of including them within the scope of the legislation can have effect.
Secondly, a number of bodies are added to the schedule. These are bodies which were not identified on earlier trawls. They include, among others, the General Medical Council, the General Dental Council, the Insurance Brokers' Registration Council and the London Transport Users' Committee.
Thirdly, there are five entries to be deleted from the schedule. These are in respect of the entries relating to the police functions of the Port of London Authority, the Commonwealth Institute, the Local Government Commission for Wales and the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, together with a duplicate entry for the Public Health Laboratory Service Board.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Bill requires amendment in relation to the National Assembly for Wales. In group 10 on the groupings list, to which we shall come later, there is a whole series of amendments which deals with the noble Lord's point. Perhaps I may deal with his specific point then because there is a whole structure of amendments in relation to the position of the National Assembly for Wales.
I indicated that the entry relating to the Local Government Commission for Wales is clearly a confusion for the Welsh Local Government Boundary Commission. As a result, an amendment has been made in that respect. The police function of the Port of London Authority has been transferred to the Port of Tilbury (London). This latter body will be consulted with a view to being brought into the scope by an order under Clause 4.
Finally, the amendments make some minor changes to the names of bodies already listed. Taken together the amendments update the schedule and maintain its accuracy. The Government intend that Schedule 1 will be reviewed regularly and kept up to date. Clauses 3 and 6 make provision for any further updating to be done as and when necessary. I beg to move.
What interests me is that it takes 25 amendments to put right a straightforward list, one would have thought, of government bodies. Those of us who have become alarmed about the huge proliferation of government bodies are interested, although not surprised, to see that the Government initially did not know what bodies they were responsible for, got the names of some of them wrong and have had to correct them. It is a frighteningly long list when one looks at it from that point of view. But the fact that the Government got some of the names wrong is a cause for worry. It is a little like a company not knowing what subsidiaries it owns. That would be extremely worrying in the private sector.
However, I certainly do not wish to stop the Government correcting the list. I note what the noble and learned Lord said about it having to be corrected in the future. That was an accurate prediction.
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