I share their concerns about the Government’s intentions towards the FoI Act, especially given statements from Ministers and civil servants about the limits they would like to see placed upon it.
It is clear that the Government want to water down the Act, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Parliament has ever passed. The Act has been used by campaigners, journalists and members of the public to uncover data breaches, discover how many criminals are on the run and reveal that our nuclear power stations are in a shocking state of disrepair.
I believe that it should be extended and strengthened and repeatedly called for NHS services contracted out to the private sector to be subject to FoI requests in my previous role on the Shadow Health Team.
The Whitehall review, chaired by the former senior civil servant Lord Burns, has now finished taking evidence and is considering whether to recommend a fee of up to £100 to submit requests under the Act; making it easier to reject requests on cost grounds and handing ministers more power to block disclosures.
The people who sit on the Government’s “Independent” Commission have all been critical of the Act and they met in secret. The Commission’s discussions aren’t even subject to the Freedom of Information Act it was created to examine, which is extraordinary!
Labour have set up our own review of the Freedom of Information Act, inviting Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs to join a cross-party commission which is taking evidence on the working of the 2000 Act passed by the previous Labour Government.
I want to see the FoI Act strengthened, not weakened, and will be opposing any attempts by the Government to water down its current provisions.