Our chance to extend Freedom of Information

Three years after the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act, journalists have been given their first chance to say how they think the Act should change.
Up until now it has been a hard fight just to hang on to existing rights of access to information under the Act.
But a public consultation – due to end on 1 February – has asked journalists how coverage under the Act should be extended.
Gordon Brown has publically stated his commitment to Freedom of Information and the press, so this would seem like a golden opportunity to increase our right to know.
Press Gazette believes that the simplest and fairest way to extend the Act is for it to include any private company or organisation performing a public function and funded by the taxpayer.
And in the case of companies which perform some public functions – like those running Private Finance
Initiative jails, schools and hospitals – they should be subject to the Act for their publicly funded work.
Stories like Network Rail’s disastrous Christmas engineering works over-running, and the collapse of London Underground company Metronet, suggest that many of these public/private companies should the subject to greater transparency.
They are spending our money, yet at present we have no right to demand minimum levels of transparency from them.
The increasing reach of the private sector means it is not just questions about financial probity which are currently going unanswered, but questions about the care of the elderly, the education of children, and the roofs over our heads.
Why should there be one set of rules for a local council press officer but another set for their equivalent at a housing association or city academy?
For details of how to contribute to the consultation go to the Ministry of Justice website.

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