Promoted by Mark Ward-Jones on behalf of the Torfaen Constituency Labour Party at 27 Brunel Road, Fairwater, Cwmbran, Torfaen NP44 4QT.
I have been contacted by many constituents concerning the Conservatives’ plans to weaken the Freedom of Information Act. Although they claim that the FOI legislation is being ‘misused’ when members of the public question them, I believe they really want less open government where it’s harder for people to hold them accountable for their decisions.
I firmly believe that instead we should strengthen accountability and make public services work better for people. The FOI Act has been integral in creating a more transparent democracy and it is excellent that around 60,000 requests for information are made each year under the terms of the Act. It is also important that the Act is extended so that private companies who operate government contracts are also required to provide information to the public.
I have spoken to the office of Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and they have informed me that Mr Watson has launched a review of FOI to look at how it is really working and how we can strengthen and extend it. This review will give leading figures the chance to inform the debate on where the Act has worked well, where it could be improved and where it could be strengthened and extended.
Tom Watson said, “This is the most secretive government in my lifetime and that needs to change. Obviously there are things government cannot make public but there has to be a very good reason for secrecy. A lot of information that was freely available before isn’t made public now because the Tories want to conduct government behind closed doors. We need to ensure those doors remain open”.
I will be doing everything in my power to place pressure on the Government to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and associated laws, as well as supporting the review.