Political

Lib Dems press to extend Freedom of Information to charities, Royal household and companies with public sector contracts

Foot guards in ceremonial dress at Buckingham Palace

Ministers are to be urged to strengthen Freedom of Information laws and extend them to charities, private companies and the Royal household.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake is to table a proposed law change which would prevent ministers from overruling decisions by the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal.

His plans would also stop the House of Commons Speaker from vetoing FoI requests without a public interest test being applied. It comes after John Bercow invoked a controversial loophole in the FoI Act to withhold material, in response to a request by the Press Association, thought to raise concerns about the extent of drinking in Westminster’s subsidised bars…

Brake, who will put forward his plans in the House of Commons tomorrow, told Press Association: “FoI is fundamental to our democracy…

“I have always been very perplexed at Tony Blair’s statement that the worst thing he did was introduce FoI legislation. I thought it was going to war in Iraq.” [Press Gazette]

UPDATE: In related news, former Lib Dem minister Tom McNally has also been in the news on freedom of information.

Civil servants are attempting to dilute freedom to information (FOI) rules and retain a “culture of secrecy”, a former minister has warned as he claimed the Tories had blocked moves to increase transparency.

Lord McNally, who oversaw FOI laws during the Coalition, said there was no evidence for claims from Whitehall mandarins that the legislation was having a “chilling effect” on government work.

He warned that a government review into how to change the laws, which allow information to be released if in the public interest, was “rigged” to support tightening the rules. [Daily Telegraph]

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