Labour vows to extend Freedom of Information Act to cover private sector

A Labour government would massively extend the scope of freedom of information (FoI) law to cover private companies contracted to do public sector work, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said yesterday.

The Act would apply to private firms running prisons and delivering education and health services, which would all be subjected to the "disinfecting transparency" of the FoI regime, he told the Labour Party conference in Manchester.

The exemption for private contractors was a "blind spot" in FoI law, he said.

"I'm proud Labour introduced FoI, however awkward it can be," he said.

"Not only will the next Labour government protect FoI, but we will seek to extend it. For the first time, FoI will cover the delivery of public services by private companies.

"This includes our prisons, our schools and our health service. Public, private or voluntary, subjected to the same disinfecting transparency of FoI."

 

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has welcomed the move.

It said in a statement: “As contracting out of public services expands, the public's right to information shrinks. The Act only applies to information which a public authority holds about a contract or which it can compel a contractor to supply to it – which may be very little. And there's no point complaining to the Information Commissioner about a contractor who behaves obstructively. The Commissioner has no jurisdiction over contractors at all. Labour's commitment to address these issues is very welcome."

 

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