The Parliamentary passage
Asymmetric warfare
in The politics of freedom of information
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This chapter examines the legislative process in Parliament. A wide but fragile alliance sought to strengthen the bill but was caught between the desire to move the policy in a more radical direction and the fear that the government would drop the bill that, after all, attracted little electoral support.

The FOI bill reached Parliament following two highly regarded committee investigations in House of Commons and Lords. The government faced an increasingly assertive and expert alliance of Parliamentarians in both houses seeking a ‘stronger’ law, supported by campaigns by the national media. The government foresaw a difficult passage (Straw 2012). The government veto power was weakened and clauses made for better balancing tests when decisions to release were even.

An ‘ultimate’ confrontation was foreseen for the final House of Lords stage when a cross-party grouping of Peers appeared set to hold out for a much stronger piece of legislation. However, amid rumours FOI would be dropped and behind-the-scenes deals, the alliance in the House of Lords was forced to choose between losing the bill and having a slightly improved Act on the statute books. The FOI bill was then finally subject to an abrupt, curtailed final debate in the Commons.

The politics of freedom of information

How and why governments pass laws that threaten their power


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