The Newfoundland and Labrador government was on the defensive during a presentation to the committee reviewing the province's access to information laws.

Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement Sandy Collins faced tough questions about the more controversial changes under Bill 29, which was introduced in 2012 and gives government increased powers in determining what information can be withheld from the public.

"If it's not working, or if it appears to be broken or causing issues, which you've raised some significant concerns, I think it is incumbent on us to reflect," said Collins.

Sandy Collins

Minister Sandy Collins says the provincial government is open to recommendations to Newfoundland and Labrador's access to information laws. (CBC)

Review commissioner and former premier Clyde Wells said government was withholding information in cases where the laws didn't apply.

"It's clear that solicitor client privilege was being abused and being asserted to prevent the release of the documents," said Wells.

Wells said government's tendency to force people to go to court to get information they wanted, rather than letting the information commissioner make the call, was an unnecessary step.

"That's like telling me that I can get a really good meal if I'm prepared to go to South Africa to get it and incur all the costs of getting there. That's a bit extreme," he said.

Government defended Bill 29 when it was first introduced, despite public outcry and criticism about the laws, but Collins presented a changed tone from the province during Tuesday's presentation.

"If the system as it were today was working correctly, we wouldn't be having this discussion, so obviously there's some concerns there," said Collins.

The committee will be holding public hearings in St. John's until Aug. 21.