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Long road to freedom

I refer you to the following debate – on Tuesday, April 17, in debate on occupational pensions, MPs referred to the two-year campaign by The Times to obtain documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

Gordon Brown: First, we introduced the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Secondly, I support it. Thirdly, I support the release of the papers.The debate has shown how the Act can give information, which people can dissect and then find Opposition policy completely wanting.

Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton, Con): The Chancellor’s remark that he welcomed the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was one of the most amusing comments that he has made in the Chamber. The Chancellor certainly did not come clean about it in the Chamber. It is good that he is now belatedly being held to account, simply because we happen to have the Treasury evidence

Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge, Con): The Chancellor told us that he welcomed the inform-ation coming into the public domain and he claimed credit for introducing the Freedom of Information Act 2000. So why for two years has he spent our money fighting the release of the papers that The Times requested, saying that their release would damage the process of government?

The House was informed on June 17, 1999 by the Treasury that the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 was compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights under section 19(1) (a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. A freedom of information request on January 1, 2005 to provide counsels’ opinions to justify this statement has still to be decided by the Independent Commissioner’s office.

The House of Lords select committee on regulators received evidence in February 2007 that the Act was not compatible. May I urge all readers to support the release of the documents that have been resisted by the Treasury for over two years.

Evan Owen

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