Protect Freedom of Information

Many constituents have contacted me recently regarding the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the related campaign by the Campaign for Freedom of Information and 38 Degrees.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘FOI Act’), introduced by the then Labour Government, is one of the most effective pieces of legislation Parliament has ever passed.  The FOI Act has given the public, campaigners and the media a powerful tool with which to hold the Government to account and increase transparency.

I share some of the concerns about the Government’s independent, cross-party Commission on the Freedom of Information, including its remit, composition and short time-frame. As you may be aware, the Commission was set up in July 2015 to examine the implications and effectiveness of the FOI Act. The Commission’s consultation closed on the 20th November.

I would like to see progress of the past decade in opening up government to more scrutiny built upon, with the FOI Act’s successes and proposals being considered in order 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.

My Shadow Frontbench colleagues have announced they are to hold their own public, cross-party review into the Act in December 2015.

I will look closely at both the Government and Opposition’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.

 

Best wishes

Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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