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Treasury challenged on human rights advice

The Information Commiss-ioner has ruled that the Treasury must reveal whether it holds attorney and solicitor general advice about the compatibility of the Financial Services and Markets Act with the Human Rights Act following a two-year battle.

The Information Commissioner has also attacked the length of time the Treasury took to conduct an internal review into the matter.

The review took more than five months while the IC suggests a reasonable time would be 20 days, with 40 days in exceptional circumstances.

Information Commiss-ioner Richard Thomas rejec-ted the Treasury’s argument that the disclosure would undermine the constitutional position of law officers.

He said due to the amount of concern expressed about this issue when the FSMA went through Parliament, the disclosure that advice from law officers had been sought would provide reassurance to the public that fully informed decisions were being made.

Likewise, he said, if the information was not sought, it would raise legitimate and important issues about the basis for the Government making this decision.

The IC rejected the requests for internal advice from Government lawyers to be disclosed, citing legal professional privilege.

IFA Defence Union chairman Evan Owen first requested the information in April 2005.

A Treasury spokesman says: “We have yet to decide whether to appeal the decision. We are aware of the IC’s guidance on time taken to conduct internal reviews but it is important to consider cases such as this thoroughly.”

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