|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I am afraid that I must disagree for the first time with my friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches. This amendment is a step too far and, at worst, it could probably be damaging. The Olympic Delivery Authority is the public body charged with delivery. LOCOG is nothing like the same animal; it is quite different and separate, and is charged with organisation. It will deal largely with private-sector companies and private-sector management teams which are used to the business management culture of private companieswhen I say private, I include PLCs; I do not mean personally owned companies, because I am sure that they will be multinational PLCs.
I have not spoken to my noble friend Lord Coe on this matter, in case it might be thought that I had. These are purely my own views. I simply believe that this would be damaging. I do not think that the Freedom of Information Act would be anything other than unhelpful in this context, and I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment to a vote.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I shall be brief. I strongly support my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who I thought put the case very clearly and succinctly in favour of bringing LOCOG within the terms of the Freedom of Information Act. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said that he had not previously disagreed with my noble friend and I, likewise, think that this is the first time that we have disagreed about the Bill.
6 Mar 2006 : Column 604
LOCOG may, as a private company, have a different status from the ODA, but it is simply the other half of the delivery of the Olympic Games for London. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, may be completely right that many of the contracts that LOCOG is dealing with are commercial, but there are very clear exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act, which states:
"Information is exempt information if it constitutes a trade secret . . . Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person including the public authority holding it".
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, the Freedom of Information Act has one particular impact; it eats up time. It puts huge costs and expense on companies, and no one knows that better than Her Majesty's Government, who are having to spend I dare say millions now answering queries and doing research to meet demands under the Act.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, in any event, LOCOG will be very much under the public spotlight. It will be spending large amounts of money raised for a public purpose, and I believe that it should therefore devote the necessary resources to what is necessary under the Freedom of Information Act. So I very much hope that the Minister, who sadly did not write his customary letter on this issue, as he has done on almost every other issue on the Bill. No letter was received on this subject, and perhaps he can make up for that omission now.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she introduced this amendment. She was kind enough not to challenge me on the contribution that I made in Committee where I may have given the impression that we had doubts on some aspects of the Freedom of Information Act: I indicated the difficulties with regard to the Act. The whole House knows that the Act has been in existence for only just over a year. There are teething problems and many challenges lie ahead. They do not just lie ahead: the Act has implicit in it a whole range of challenges over freedom of information.
In Committee, I sought to wrestle with the challenging issue of where the lines are to be drawn, given our experience of the Act as it has operated up to now, among very disparate bodies. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for indicating why the claims that LOCOG should be under the Freedom of Information Act should be resisted. LOCOG is very different from the Olympic Delivery Authority. We do not have the slightest hesitation that the ODA falls, as a public body, within the framework of the Act. We intend that it fulfils its duties in that respect.
6 Mar 2006 : Column 605
As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, indicated, LOCOG is a different body. It is a private company, limited by guarantee. It will be almost entirely privately financed, with funding coming from private sector, commercial sponsorship. It also gets a sizeable sum from the International Olympic Committee. LOCOG has contractual obligations to the IOC under the host city contract, so it is very different from the Olympic Delivery Authority. It is not a public body in the same sense at all.
We are not saying that LOCOG at some stage might fall within the framework of the Freedom of Information Act, but we know that it is not for this Bill to specify that. That is a consideration to be taken under the policy of the implementation of the FOI Act. For very obvious reasons, LOCOG fits into a different category altogether from those public bodies which we can identify, provided for out of public resource, which are bound to be open to questions in respect of freedom of information.
I am not trying to hide behind some abstruse argument with regard to the Bill. We say only that freedom of information is not the business of this Bill. Freedom of information, the Act and how we implement it are proper concerns of this House and, of course, the other place. We all know that we have, and will have, a considerable amount of work on decisions on freedom of information issues. But it would not be appropriate for us, within the framework of this Bill when it becomes an Act, to define LOCOG, when we have to consider it in the round with a whole range of other institutions and where they fit into freedom of information.
If I appear negative about freedom of information, I hope that it is not because it has been suggested that as a government representative I am cool about the concept of freedom of informationvery far from it. We are implementing the Act and making very great progress in the openness of information for our society. I am indicating that I am not prepared to consider freedom of information within the framework of this Bill. That is why I want the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, a distinction has been made between the ODA and LOCOG. But, to paraphrase my noble friend, they are mutually dependent. Freedom of information eats up time. But that is not an exception or an exemption listed in the many clauses of the Freedom of Information Act. I do not believe that it is to the credit of a Government, who were applauded for introducing freedom of information, to except a body now because of problems with which, admittedly, we are all dealing as it beds down. I anticipated most of the arguments made by the Minister, so I will not trouble the House by repeating them. He said that it is not for this Bill to specify that LOCOG should be subject to freedom of information, although perhaps it will become so in the future, and that freedom of information is not the business of this Bill. I believe that it is the business of this Bill. I should like to test the opinion of the House.
6 Mar 2006 : Column 606
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|