FOI private members Bills seek to extend transparency obligations

A private member's Bill, published on 28 October, seeks to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to apply its provisions to private healthcare companies and other bodies seeking health service contracts. If enacted, the Bill would apply to information relating to

a) contracts or bids submitted to an NHS body;
b) matters affecting its ability to provide services in accordance with that contract; and
c) its performance of that contract.

The sponsor of this bill, which is expected to have its House of Commons second reading debate on 5 December 2014, is Labour MP, Grahame Morris. If enacted, the Bill will enter into force on 1 September 2015 in England and Wales.

On 17 October the MPs debated another private member's Bill that would ensure that all information held by a contractor about a public service contract is subject to the FOI Act, regardless of what the contract itself says. The Transparency and Accountability Bill’s provisions on FOI have been drafted by the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

The Campaign’s Director, Maurice Frankel, said: “Each new outsourcing contract reduces the public’s access to information because of a loophole in the FOI Act. Information that is vital to the public may be kept secret simply because the contract doesn’t provide for access. The bill would restore the public’s right to know.”

See the Bill and the CFOI statement