On the Politics Show, Sunday 03 June 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Lord McNally.
The attempt to remove MPs and Peers from the Freedom of Information is "the worst PR for Parliament that I've heard in 40 years" according to the Lib Dem Leader in the Lords, Tom McNally.
He said that no-one in the Lords had yet tabled the measure, so it may not even come up for a vote but, if it does, he will table an amendment to try and vote it down when it comes for second reading.
Lord McNally was also asked about the Lib Dem performance in recent elections and admitted they were disappointing. He said the party is "treading water a bit." He said the solution was for the party "to paint in much more vivid colours."
INTERVIEW WITH: LORD MCNALLY
JON SOPEL: Tom McNally is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and he'll be trying to defeat the Bill and he joins us now and Lord McNally, thanks very much for being with us. Where are we on what's going to happen next.
LORD McNALLY: We're waiting for somebody to adopt this orphan. Strangely, Mr Maclean didn't make the usual arrangement which is to get a member of the Lords to sponsor his Bill when it arrives and there was a rumour that swept Westminster just before we left for the recess, that Lord Trethgarne was going to adopt it, but not yet. We'll know tomorrow in fact.
JON SOPEL: Yeah, but the Tories look like they're going to be voting with you, so it looks like you're going to be able to defeat it.
LORD MCNALLY: I hope so. Whoever puts it down, I will put down the technical motion that will allow this Bill to be defeated at second reading. I don't think it's amendable, I think it's wrong to try and amend it. This is a flag-ship piece of legislation and should not be amended or changed by the back-door on a Friday afternoon.
JON SOPEL: I would imagine you've been having conversations in anticipation of its return. Is there a deal done, do you think with the Tories for example, just to oppose or do you think they might try to amend.
LORD MCNALLY: I, well, the Conservatives have been a bit waffley on this, as they are on a lot of things when it comes to actually voting in the Lords. And what I think to do is let's cut through all this amend it, safeguard it, let's throw the Bill out and then, in my view, the best thing that can happen, if there are real criticisms - Mr Alistair Darling is supposed to have written to Lord Falconer, expressing his views on the matter - why not have post-legislative scrutiny? Why not put a Committee of both Lords and Commons together and those that say that this Bill isn't working could come out of the closet, and those who want the Bill strengthened could give evidence, and we could handle it properly.
JON SOPEL: Didn't MPs though have a legitimate concern about it.
LORD MCNALLY: No. I mean this kind of... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: The sort of people who were supporting it, you know, the Martin Salters, Ed Balls, they're not people who are just trying to cover their own tracks are they.
LORD MCNALLY: Well then, they should have read all the editorials and much of the post bag, the day after they'd passed it. It was the worst piece of PR for parliament, that I've known in forty years. It really was, don't do as I do, do as I say. The whole idea of freedom of information, which Liberal Democrats and Labour were committed to before 1997, was to get the culture of secrecy out of Whitehall and out of Westminster, and for the Commons to pass this piece of squalid little self interest, holes it below the water line.
I think actually, you've got to remember that the Bill itself was a compromise on a compromise. David Clarke, the first Cabinet Minister, who produced a wonderful White Paper on Freedom of Information, was sacked because he was too radical. We compromised on this Bill. We're not going to have it changed by the back door.
JON SOPEL: Lord McNally, this is first time we've had a Liberal Democrat on the programme since the local election results. Now, at the time of the local election result, senior Liberal Democrats were saying, 'well, they're very encouraging, they're good'. The dust has settled, can we be a little more honest now. They were very disappointing weren't they?
LORD MCNALLY: Not very disappointing but I can only give my personal view. I thought we would make bigger inroads into some of the old Labour fiefdoms in the North than in fact that we did. But we got 26% of the vote, we were not rolled over in the South and South West as many predicted. It was not an... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Oh, I could recite some Councils, Waverley, 24 losses out of 27 seats held. Bournemouth, 23 losses out of 30. South Norfolk, 20 losses out of 27 (hesitates)... pretty bad.
LORD MCNALLY: Well that's interesting. Our total losses were a hundred. You've just named about seventy from three Councils, which makes me think that overall, nationally, it wasn't such a disaster after all. But if you're saying, are we treading water a bit, I think we are and I think that one of the problems, one of the problems is the great long goodbye. A new Prime Minister, there is a great deal of difficulty for a third party. My view is that we have got...(interjection)...
JON SOPEL: David Cameron seems to be doing all right. I mean isn't that the problem - but isn't that the problem for you as a Party?
LORD MCNALLY: Well, I would question whether David Cameron is doing all right after the last week's headlines. I think he's got a lot of repairing to do in his own Party. But I take the point and it is a problem when you've got a new Conservative leader trying to put forward policies, when you've got a new Prime Minister, how does a third party, get in to the story. My view is that we have got to paint in much more vivid colours.
JON SOPEL: Would you accept that there are mutterings against your leader, against Sir Menzies Campbell.
LORD MCNALLY: I don't know. I have not heard anybody mutter in public. I'm quite sure that at the odd dinner party table, there are speculations about Party leaders as - it won't be long before there will be mutterings against Gordon Brown; so... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: So if there were mutterings, what would you advice be.
LORD MCNALLY: My advice would be to realize that we went through a pretty traumatic leadership about a year ago. We are actually, about a third up than what we were in the mid-term last time. We were well in to the 20s. We got 26% at the local election, we're still very much in the game.
And we have got a lot of talent at Ming's disposal; so I think keep calm, realize that we have got a leader that has a lot more substance. Indeed, if I read some of the newspapers, Gordon Brown is considering inviting him in to the Cabinet. You can't have it both ways: on one hand one of the rival clubs wants to sign him and on the other, you say he can't score the goals. I can't both be true.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Lord McNally, thanks ever so much for being with us. Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH JON SOPEL
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The Politics Show Sunday 03 June 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.
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