Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): May I support the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) for a debate on the Government?s selective and partisan use of the Freedom of Information Act?in particular the refusal by the Deputy Prime Minister to publish under
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the Act the report that he has already received from the inspector about a planning proposal in my constituency to build up to 10,000 houses on the green belt? It has national significance because it will be the biggest ever encroachment on the green belt. The Deputy Prime Minister has received that report, but apparently wants to put off publication until after the general election. He admits that encouraging public debate is important, but says that publishing the document would not help with public debate. Can we have a debate on this rather contentious matter?
Mr. Hain: I recognise the constituency point that the right hon. Gentleman raises, which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will note carefully. I reject the right hon. Gentleman?s central charge that there is some kind of selective release of information?officials advise on the release of information. In the instance of Black Wednesday, no Treasury Ministers were involved in the decision on the release of information. Indeed, the former Prime Minister, John Major, acknowledged as much on the “Today” programme this morning. The permanent secretary to the Treasury is in charge of all these matters. I am sure that, as a distinguished Secretary of State himself, the right hon. Gentleman would not want to accuse permanent secretaries of any partisanship, so I am sure that he was not doing so a moment ago.