Extend Freedom of Information rules to include private companies on Government contracts, suggests Minister

 

Deputy Political Editor

Large private companies which win lucrative contracts from the public purse are to be encouraged to comply with freedom of information requests, a Government Minister has disclosed.

The move was announced days after the Commons public accounts committee denounced the “veil of secrecy” surrounding the award of contracts to corporate giants such as G4S.

The committee called for FoI legislation to be extended to cover such deals.

Simon Hughes, the Justice Minister, stopped short of promising fresh laws, but said a new code of practice on the issue would be issued to Whitehall departments by the end of the year.

It would “make sure that private companies that carry out public functions have freedom of information requirements in their contracts,” he told MPs.

However, the Campaign for Freedom of Information pointed out that he was not proposing making firms directly subject to FoI.

Mr Hughes also told MPs that the Government intends to extend the scope of the FoI Act as soon as is practical.

He said ministers were considering whether to bring Network Rail under the remit of FoI. The move comes after the legislation was widened to cover academies, the Association of Chief Police Officers, and 100 companies wholly owned by more than one public authority.

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