BUSINESS QUESTION – FILE DESTRUCTION & FOIA – 2 December 2004

Dr Julian Lewis: May I put in a word of support for the important campaign that the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Graham Allen) is waging to try to limit the activities of loan sharks?

May we have a statement from the Minister for the Cabinet Office about reports of accelerated destruction of departmental files in many Departments in the run-up of the coming into force of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on 1 January? That appears to be an extremely worrying development, but I am happy on this occasion to exonerate entirely the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster because, as he is spending so much of his time on non-departmental work on Labour's election campaign, I cannot imagine that he has developed any file worthy of being shredded.

[Mr Hain: The hon. Gentleman's constituents will applaud him for being a one-question man. Whatever he asks, he manages to get in a spurious point about the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman supports the Government's policies on loan sharks. May I therefore assume that he will encourage his Whip to ensure that the Consumer Credit Bill is given a free run through the House of Commons and the House of Lords – [Interruption.] It is, of course, the right of the House of Commons to scrutinise it.

The hon. Gentleman is an expert conspiracy theorist. He is eloquent and diligent in his chasing of those theories, but this one takes the biscuit. Of course, a Labour Government introduced the Freedom of Information Act, and there are consequences as a result of that, including his ability to ask spurious questions.]