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My hon. Friend referred to cases in which delays occur but the nature of the information is straightforward. Sometimes things are not quite as straightforward as they might at first appear, but even complex information must be dealt with quickly and in accordance with the memorandum. I accept that point. In extreme cases, section 77 of the 2000 Act makes it a criminal offence
for any public authority or any employee of any public authority to alter, deface, block, erase, destroy or conceal any record to avoid disclosure. That is a strong deterrent to any public authority that might be minded to evade, or to seek to evade, the requirements of the Act.
We have also invited the Information Commissioner to let us know whether he believes that Departments are delaying unduly, so that we can pursue the matter. My hon. Friend is quite right to raise those delays. They are unacceptable, we need to do better and we are doing better. We are moving forward. We are publishing more information proactively, and I am trying to encourage the chief executives of every local authority to publish their performance statistics on meeting freedom of information requests, so that there is greater transparency among local authorities. They are often a source of very important information for people, and that is one of the main benefits of the Act.
We are keen to extend the benefits of the Act further, so we are consulting a number of public bodies with a view to bringing them under the legislation's coverage. Subject to the outcome of that consultation, the Act could cover more public bodies, including UCAS, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman Service and scores of academy trusts.
We set up the Dacre review to review the implementation of the 30-year rule, and the Prime Minister has already announced the Government's intention, in responding to the review, to reduce the 30-year rule to 20 years. That is a significant step, and it will result in more information reaching the public domain sooner than it otherwise would have.
My hon. Friend asked for three things in concluding his remarks. The first two are not a matter for me, and I hope that he will forgive me if I do not comment on specific cases. On the third of his requests, however, I can say to him-I think that he is well aware of this-that the Government's principled position is exactly the same as his: of course people who are not domiciled in this country should not sit in the legislature. That is a clear position of principle. My hon. Friend will be aware that we are bringing forward measures that relate to the House of Lords, so that its Members cannot be non-domiciled and still sit in that Chamber. He will be aware also that we are actively considering how best we can bring in similar measures for this House, so I hope that that provides him with some comfort.
I very much hope that my hon. Friend will get the answers-or at least an answer-that he seeks from the Information Commissioner within the time frame that he has mentioned. I accept that he has waited far too long for an answer. Whatever the answer, he should receive it in a timely fashion, and we are endeavouring to ensure that that takes place. We have a long way to go, but we are making considerable progress, and I hope that that provides some reassurance to my hon. Friend.