Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-22)|
13 JANUARY 2009
Q20 Alun Michael: Yes, but one of
my concerns is that classically in an area of difficulty more
and more regulation guidance comes out to the point where people
are unable to cope with reading all the guides. Does it not at
the end of the day come down to mature and responsible judgements
Richard Thomas: To a large extent,
but I do think you need a framework of guidance. Up until now
I think there has almost been too much guidance. There have been
examples of fragmented guidance drawn up with the best intentions
in the world but it gets put into a drawer and does not get looked
at by anybody. The broad approach we have been adopting for the
last two years with our non-statutory code, and that will be converted
into a statutory one, is to have authoritative guidance, a single
set of principles with the authority of the Information Commissioner's
Office so that people can then use the judgement and the intelligence
to make their approach in line with some authoritative guidance.
I think that would be a better way to move forward.
Q21 Alun Michael: At the end of the
day it does come down to people not being able to escape the responsibility
within that guidance to make a proper judgment.
Richard Thomas: Absolutely, yes,
because you cannot legislate for every situation. What you can
do is put the ground rules in place for every scheme, every initiative,
and then on a micro basis make sure it is being followed in practice.
Q22 Chairman: Mr Thomas, Mr Smith,
Mr Entwisle, thank you very much indeed, Mr Thomas in particular.
It must have been very exciting to embark on the job you did at
a time when freedom of information was being introduced. This
Committee have worked closely with you, and indeed we both reported
before freedom of information came in and afterwards and I think
it is one of the success stories of recent government. It must
have been exciting to do that. I think we owe you a debt of gratitude
for the effort that you have put into it and the contribution
you have made to making freedom of information and established
part of our public life.
Richard Thomas: Thank you very
much; that is very kind of you, Chairman. I said at the end of
my written submission that it has been a great privilege to hold
this position. I still have five months to go, so it is business
as usual for the next five months, but I do lead a great team
and I do think I can put my hand on my heart and say that we are
a modernised and more confident organisation. We have had a lot
of demand upon us, life is never dull, but it has been a great
privilege and I am most grateful for the support of this Committee
over the last six years. Thank you very much.
Chairman: Thank you.