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Changes to the Freedom of Information Act

Home / News & Views / Siobhain's views / Changes to the Freedom of Information Act

31 December 2015

I am proud that the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘FOI Act’) was introduced by a Labour government, and absolutely believe that it is one of the most crucial pieces of legislation Parliament has ever passed. It has given the public, campaigners and the media a powerful tool with which to hold the Government to account and increase transparency. 

I wholly believe that the Act was a great achievement and must be defended.

I also share concerns about the Government’s independent, cross-party Commission on the Freedom of Information, including its remit, composition and short time-frame. The Commission was set up in July 2015 to examine the implications and effectiveness of the FOI Act, and its consultation closed in November.

I would like to see the progress of opening up government to more scrutiny built upon, with the FOI Act’s successes used to strengthen the Act. There is a strong argument in favour of extending and strengthening the Act so that it covers organisations that are given public money, such as free schools, and companies that win large government contracts. I do appreciate that there are concerns about the use of coordinated FOI requests: however, just because some people are taking advantage of the law I do not believe this is at present sufficient reason for others to be denied bona fide requests.

It is therefore welcome that Labour’s Shadow Frontbench have held their own public, cross-party review into the Act this last month, which has looked at how we can strengthen the Act to properly include private sector contractors given public money.

I will look closely at both the Government and Labour’s reviews and consider their findings. However, it is important that any changes resulting from the Commission’s review do not weaken this crucial check on the power of the Executive.