“And it’s also time to address a blind spot in our Freedom of Information laws I’m proud Labour introduced FoI, however awkward it can be. 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.”
This echoes previous comments made by Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee:
“We ought to amend the Freedom of Information Act so that private companies are compelled to share with the public information on contracts which are funded with public money.”
Should this happen? Most definitely. As services are increasingly outsourced to the private sector, the public are able to access less and less information about how their local services are provided and therefore less able to hold service providers to account. Will it happen? It’s difficult to say with absolute confidence that this policy will be enacted should the Labour Party form the next government. After all, the Coalition’s “programme for government” indicated that they would “extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency“. And, like a lot of things in the Coalition agreement, they’ve not exactly showed signs of taking that pledge seriously.
If they are serious, Labour could genuinely position themselves as the party of transparency. But it’s a pretty big ‘if’ at this stage. After all, it was a Labour Prime Minister who introduced the Act, before claiming it was a “naive…foolish” mistake…