As I have explained, the premature revelation of information, given in confidence to Government by a third party, can be injurious to that third party. If that information is revealed in a manner damaging to that third party, it can damage the relationship which should exist between Government and those who furnish it with such confidential information. In pursuit of that ideal I consider it entirely reasonable, and in accordance with the law, that Government and relevant agencies should seek to ascertain who was responsible for revealing information that ought not to have been revealed. It is important to make the point that the Official Secrets Act, for example, has operated under successive Governments and to my knowledge, no previous Government has sought to amend or repeal it to restrict the level of secrecy that applies. However, this Government is doing so through its proposal for its amendment to provide for a freedom of information Bill.
The Deputy should realise there is a balance of rights here. There is certainly a right to public information but the Government also has a right to be able to assure people who give it confidential information that the information will remain confidential. Furthermore, the Government has a right when negotiating on behalf of the people with another party, not to have its negotiating position undermined by premature disclosure. There are a series of competing rights which it is necessary to balance in appropriately drafted legislation. In that respect, the Government is preparing its freedom of information legislation, on which I look forward to Deputies' contributions.