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STRAW DEFENDS ANTI-SECRECY BILL

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Jack Straw, the home secretary, has defended his draft freedom of information Bill and accused critics of the paper...
Jack Straw, the home secretary, has defended his draft freedom of information Bill and accused critics of the paper of talking 'nonsense' and 'rubbish' in suggesting the Bill had watered down earlier proposals.

The Guardian (p6) reported that the home secretary chose the presentation of this year's freedom of information awards to attack what he called 'interest groups and sectional lobby organisations' for spreading 'blatant misinformation'.

Mr Straw told award winners at the event organised by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, that the Bill 'is a radical and reforming measure which will have a profound effect on the way public services will operate. For the first time every citizen will have a right of access to information held by bodies across the public sector.'

He challenged claims that the Bill had been diluted by dropping the 'substantial harm' test to deny information and replaced with a simple 'prejudice' test - saying that the judges and the courts would understand the new proposals better than the original plans.

'The information commissioner will have the power to make sure that organisations do not hide behind prejudice tests if they cannot make their case.'

He said the information commissioner would have similar powers to the parliamentary commissioner and pointed out the Bill put the request for information on a statutory basis.

Meanwhile, among the awards made by the Campaign for Freedom of Information were: Glenys and Colin Francombe for a three-year campaign against corruption in Blaenau Gwent, using their right to inspect financial records.

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