David Cameron has been urged to scrap his review of the Freedom of Information Act and instead strengthen the legislation to give voters a greater insight into the Government’s work.
Accusing the Prime Minister of wanting to “govern from the gloom,” deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has described the review of the transparency legislation out of touch with the public’s desire for more openness, a “waste of taxpayers’ money” and “predestined” to recommend raising barriers to obtaining information.
He claimed Mr Cameron was trying to “reverse the transparency Labour introduced” and seeking to “turn off the lights, systematically making it harder for people to engage with policy making, retreating into a darker and more secretive place".
Labour would strengthen and extend the FOI Act, he said, which was brought in by Tony Blair but who later admitted the legislation was his biggest regret.
Mr Cameron was criticised for appointing a commission full of opponents of the Act to look into reforming the legislation, including former Home Secretary Jack Straw, a vocal critic of the law despite playing a role in introducing it.
Mr Watson’s attack on the Government’s review comes after the former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake dismissed claims that the FOI Act had a “chilling effect” on civil servants.
In a speech in central London, Mr Watson will accuse Mr Cameron of contradicting his pledge as opposition leader when he said “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and promised the Tories would “bring the operation of Government out into the open”.
David Cameron's biggest controversies
David Cameron's biggest controversies
A book released by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft alleged that an MP and Oxford contemporary of David Cameron had allegedly seen a photograph of Mr Cameron performing a sex act on a pig while at university. Downing Street did not comment on the allegations and the peer said they could have been a case of mistaken identity
David Hartley/REX Shutterstock
2/8 ‘Swarm’ of migrants
In July 2015 David Cameron referred to refugees coming into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa as a “swarm”. He was criticised for using the language, which critics said was dehumanising
3/8 Child tax credits
In April 2015 David Cameron was asked whether he’d cut child tax credits. “No, I don’t want to do that,” he said, saying that he rejected reports that he would. Shortly after the election the Government unveiled cuts to child tax credits
4/8 Cycling to work
As leader of the opposition David Cameron was regularly photographed cycling to work. In early 2006 he was photographed cycling but with a driver in a car carrying his belongings. It was suggested at the time the cycling was just for show and that having two vehicles on the road instead of one was wasteful
5/8 Andy Coulson
David Cameron employed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as government communications director from 2010. After stepping down from the post due to coverage of the phone hacking affairs, Mr Coulson was later found guilty of conspiracy to intercept voicemails. He served a short prison sentence
6/8 His personal windmill
Early in his leadership of the Conservative David Cameron made an effort to change the party’s image by making eco-friendly gesures. As one of these gestures, the future PM put a wind turbine on his house. However, the turbine later had to be removed after neighbours condemned it as an eyesore and the council’s planning committee said it had been put in the wrong place
7/8 Funeral selfie
David Cameron was pictured posing for a ‘selfie’ with Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Some in the press criticised the prime minister for showing in an inappropriately low level of respect for the gravity of the occasion
8/8 Eating a hotdog with a knife and fork
The Prime Minister was pictured eating a hotdog with a knife and fork in the run up to the 2015 general election. He was accused of being “posh”. “I had a very privileged upbringing... I've never tried to hide that,” he said
“As Prime Minister he is methodically closing all the doors and the shutters, drawing the blinds and the curtains, retreating to the shadows at the back of the national farmhouse,” Mr Watson said.
“He wants to govern from the gloom in the old fashioned way, without the inconvenience of scrutiny, abandoning any hope of decency or trust.”
Mr Watson cited NHS England’s announcement that weekly bulletins on the health service’s performance over the winter will no longer include figures on four-hour waits in A&E departments, the number of ambulances queuing outside hospitals or operations cancelled at the last minute.
“His response to the crisis in our health service has been to introduce an NHS news blackout,” Mr Watson said.
“He thinks we won’t like what they’re doing, so they’re going to stop telling us about it.”
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