DCSIMG

Bill aims to offer more freedom to govt information

A LEGAL right to request information from the government will exist by June 2009, according to Chief Minister Tony Brown.

Mr Brown said he was intent on bringing an Access to Information Bill into law before the end of the parliamentary session.

But he told Tynwald it was 'not of considerable importance' as government officials already observed a Code of Practice on Access to Information.

He admitted it would not bind local authorities, but called on commissioners to use it as a 'guide'.

The government's Strategic Plan for 2007-2011 includes a commitment to provide the public with a statutory right of access to government information.

This is embodied in the Access to Information Bill, which was approved as policy by Tynwald in September on the understanding it would be introduced in the 2008/09 session.

Brenda Cannell (Douglas East) asked Mr Brown what had happened to the bill since then, as time was running out.

Mr Brown revealed the chief secretary's office would soon finish drafting the bill. It will then hold a consultation period before laying the proposed legislation before the House of Keys.

He assured Tynwald members the government was 'pursuing the matter' of introducing the bill.

He added: 'It is not of considerable importance as we have already got the code of practice, but I want to get a statutory right on the books.'

David Quirk (Onchan) asked whether the bill would apply to local authorities.

Mr Brown replied: 'I hope they use it as a guide. It is my view that local authorities should be as open as they can be, and as open as the government.'

The government's Code of Practice on Access to Information can be seen

by clicking the following link to the government website:

http://www.gov.im/lib/docs/cso/codeofpractice.pdf

Copies are also available from the chief secretary's office or the Tynwald library.

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