Right: Grahame Morris MP (photo: http://grahamemorrismp.co.uk/)

Labour MP Grahame Morris has this week tabled a motion in Parliament to extend the Freedom of Information Act to include companies who have been private contracts as part of reforms being made to the National Health Service.

The motion is an attack on the privatisation of the NHS as well as a call to make the FOI act apply to privatised sections.

Mr Morris says he is “deeply concerned at the unfair advantages being handed to private healthcare companies” and“demands that in future all private healthcare companies be subject to freedom of information requests”

Reforms to the NHS are allowing “private companies to hide behind commercial confidentiality and which compromises the best practice aspirations of the public sector” Mr Morris says.

The motion was submitted as an Early Day Motion, which unfortunately means it is unlikely to ever be debated. Very few EDM motions ever get debated despite the

Labour appear to be fully behind the extension of Freedom of Information laws, which is easy to do while they are not in Government, their position may change if they win the 2015 elections. At their party conference earlier this year they called for the FOI laws to be extended to cover private firms working for the Government.

Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan told the Manchester conference at the beginning of October that extending the Act would bring “disinfecting transparency”.

He said: “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.”

In the few days since it has been tabled it has received support from 12 MPs, unsurprisingly these have all been Labour MPs, with none of the other parties yet to lend their support.

However in 2010, in the build up to the General Election, David Cameron outlined a plan called “Big ideas to give Britain real change.”

Inside the plan the Conservatives said they will “expand the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to include taxpayer-funded bodies.” He said it will give the public access to information, which is only available to Ministers. The document goes further to say:

“A Conservative government will increase the range of publically funded bodies that are subject to scrutiny using Section 5 orders under the Freedom of Information Act. These bodies will include:

  • Network Rail
  • Northern Rock;
  • The Carbon Trust;
  • The Energy Saving Trust;
  • NHS Confederation (in relation to activities in receipt of public funds);
  • Local Government Association; and
  • Traffic Penalty Tribunals”

Since being elected Mr Cameron has gone very quiet about his plans to expand the scope of the FOI act and even quieter about the fifth point of expanding the Act to cover all parts of the NHS receiving public money.

It appears Cameron agrees with the Labour Party on extending the Freedom of Information Act, however his I’m guessing his position may have changed slightly now he is in power and subject to the Act.

If you would like to write to your MP to ask them to support the motion to extend the Freedom of Information Act there are two simple steps 

  1. Find out who your MP is.
  2. Write them an email and reference the motion

 

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.