Oral Answers to Questions — Justice: Topical Questions (23 Jun 2015)
Yesterday it emerged that the Secretary of State was considering making it more difficult to get hold of official documents under freedom of information rules. I recall that the previous Cabinet Minister, the now noble Lord Maude, suggested that open data should replace freedom of information. Will theSecretary of State clarify whether he has any plans whatsoever to amend theFreedom of Information Act 2000, and if so, what he has to hide?
I think we do need to revisit the Freedom of Information Act. It is absolutely vital that we ensure that the advice that civil servants give to Ministers of whatever Government is protected so that civil servants can speak candidly and offer advice in order to ensure that Ministers do not make mistakes. There has been a worrying tendency in our courts and elsewhere to erode the protections for that safe space for policy advice, and I think it absolutely needs to be asserted. There is no contradiction between making sure that we give civil servants the protection they deserve and also ensuring that the data—for example, the amount we spend in any Government Department—are more transparent than ever.