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European Convention on Access to Official Documents

Volume 470: debated on Monday 7 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what differences there are between the requirements of the Council of Europe's draft European Convention on Access to Official Documents and the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in relation to public authorities in the UK. (175172)

The Government welcome the work that has been carried out by the Group of Specialists on Access to Official Documents in drawing up a draft convention. The Government are keen that there should be a robust convention along the lines of the Freedom of Information Act. The draft convention lays down principles relating to access, whereas the Freedom of Information Act 2000 sets out the detailed provisions of the access regime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In relation to coverage of public authorities the scope of the convention is broadly the same as the Freedom of Information Act, where it will be open to parties to the convention to broaden the definition of “public authorities” beyond an obligatory minimum standard. The Government are currently seeking views on whether to use the powers under section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act and extend the coverage of the Act and if so, which organisations it should consider.

The Group of Specialists will meet again in February 2008 to develop a draft Explanatory Memorandum.