Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Whitaker: In other words, the presumption is against the disclosure.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: One has to work out what the balance is.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: Then, of course, we are back to our old friend, the tie-breaker. My noble and learned friend's argument is that you sweep everything into the category and then subject it to a harm test. All right, it has been subjected to a harm test so there will be nothing to worry about. However, why have any categories at all? Why not say that every piece of information which anyone ever requests shall simply be subjected to a harm test?

Those who presented the Bill presented us with a list of categories and we have spent a few hours discussing how those categories are to be defined. My noble and learned friend, with commendable frankness, called the provision a "catch-all". I am finding it extremely difficult to understand what is the function of a category if it does not matter what is in it and it is simply subjected to a harm test.

Before I work myself up into a frenzy, at this hour in the evening I had better ask for leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 188 to 190 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 191:

("(3A) In relation to statistical information, subsections (2) and (3) shall have effect with the omission of the words "in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person".").

The noble and learned Lord said: I have already spoken to Amendment No. 191. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 192, as an amendment to Amendment No. 191, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 191 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 193 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 194 to 196:

24 Oct 2000 : Column 314

    Page 20, line 14, leave out from ("by") to end of line 17 and insert ("any Welsh public authority other than the Auditor General for Wales, means--

(i) the public authority, or
(ii) any officer or employee of the authority authorised by the Assembly First Secretary,").

    Page 20, line 21, at end insert--

("( ) in relation to information held by the Auditor General for Wales, means the Auditor General for Wales,").

    Page 20, line 22, leave out from ("any") to end of line 28 and insert ("Northern Ireland public authority other than the Northern Ireland Audit Office, means--

(i) the public authority, or
(ii) any officer or employee of the authority authorised by the First Minister and deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland acting jointly,").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 197 to 201 not moved.]

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35 [Communications with Her Majesty, etc. and honours]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 202:

    Page 21, line 9, at end insert ("or dignity").

The noble and learned Lord said: The conferring of honours raises questions of personal confidentiality and the Government believe that it should receive substantial protection under the Bill. The conferring of honours raises such questions not just in relation to the candidates for honours themselves and members of their families, but also in relation to those who contribute to the process of selection. Questions of confidentiality can arise just as easily in regard to posthumous awards. It will be obviously embarrassing, and potentially distressing, for surviving relatives to discover that the deceased was considered but rejected for an honour. The Bill has been drafted in recognition of this and reflects the status quo contained in guidance set out in the White Paper Open Government in 1993 which applied an exemption for honours material for 75 years.

Nevertheless, I accept the need for as much transparency as possible in the honours system. When this clause was previously debated in another place my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State undertook to look again at the duration of the exemption. The Committee will be pleased to learn that the policy has since been reviewed, and Amendment No. 327 has been tabled to reduce the duration of this exemption to 60 years.

Finally, Amendment No. 202 is merely clarificatory. The term "dignity" refers to peerages, and the amendment ensures that the exemption applies to the granting of peerages as well as meritorious awards. Amendment No. 338 ensures that the corresponding provision in the Data Protection Act is similarly amended. I beg to move Amendment No. 202. I hope that the noble Lord,

24 Oct 2000 : Column 315

Lord Lucas, accepts that the amendments to which I have spoken achieve what he intends and he will not move Amendment No. 203.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Did the noble and learned Lord really intend to refer to peerages or meritorious awards? Are peerages not meritorious awards?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The exemption applies to peerages and meritorious awards. I am not sure that I did say "or".

24 Oct 2000 : Column 316

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 203 not moved.]

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Bach: I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

        House adjourned at twenty-one minutes before midnight.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page