Ming Campbell has today emailed party members and supporters urging them to lobby their MP about Friday’s freedom of information debate in Parliament.
In the email Ming wrote:
This Friday the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill will once again be debated on the floor of the House of Commons.
Liberal Democrat MPs at Westminster, spearheaded by Norman Baker and Simon Hughes, are working hard to stop it. You can help us by contacting your MP – via www.writetothem.com – and asking them to publicly declare their opposition to the Bill.
The proposal is a private member’s bill, introduced by David Maclean, a Conservative MP. If passed, it would exempt both Houses of Parliament and all communications between MPs and public authorities from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.
The effect would be to remove any obligation for details of MPs’ expenses to be made public. However, the expenses of other public figures and senior officials such as judges, councillors and civil servants would remain accessible under FOI legislation.
It would also mean that members of the public would not be able to find out the advice or policy opinions that their own MP had expressed to public bodies. For example, responses to public consultation exercises, representations to planning authorities and letters to NHS professionals on the provision of local health services would no longer be publicly accessible under the Freedom of Information Act.
Supporters of the amendment say that they are concerned about preventing constituents’ correspondence from being disclosed.
However, correspondence about constituents’ personal affairs which contains personal data is already exempt from the Act and also protected by the provisions of the Data Protection Act.
An unholy alliance of Conservative and Labour MPs is backing this attempt to water down public access to freedom of information. They have the clear support of the government, which, unusually, did not block the Bill at Second Reading and therefore seems happy to see its own Freedom of Information Act watered down.
This is unacceptable. Of all public servants, MPs have least right to be exempt from public scrutiny. We are elected to represent our constituents’ interests and to maintain high standards in public life.
The Freedom of Information Act is a vital tool for allowing members of the public to assess whether their MPs are doing so.
We must not allow it to be compromised.
Please contact your MP before Friday to make clear your support for the Freedom of Information Act and your wish to see David Maclean’s proposed Bill rejected for the reasons that I have mentioned. You can access your MP’s contact details at www.writetothem.com