Freedom of Information in a hung parliament
OK, so the economy is the big issue in this election and FOI isn’t and probably never will be but it does matter as FOI can arm the public information about public services, public spending and decision making.
Right now the full result of the election are not known but we do know that no one party has an overall majority. I am optimistic about the opportunities that a hung parliament presents for achieving better FOI laws an greater transparency.
Minority Government means majority non-government
In general Governments have more to lose from increased transparency and opposition parties have more to gain. A minority Government might struggle to resist changes to the law to increase transparency if a number of other parties supported the changes.
Transparency as part of a deal
A party such as the Liberal Democrats could insist on changes to the law to increase transparency as a part of a much larger deal. This of course assumes that agreement can be reached on the major issues such as the economy and health. The Liberal Democrats would like to see the ‘ministerial veto’ scrapped.
On individual bills before Parliament we could see amendments to build in transparency e.g. bills which create new public bodies could be amended to make the newly created bodies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Conservatives as the single largest party
The Conservative support a number of improvements to Freedom of Information for example they favour the publication of the COINS database.
“A Conservative government will increase the range of publically funded bodies that are
subject to scrutiny using Section 5 orders under the Freedom of Information Act. … We will extend the Freedom of Information Act to these organisations within weeks of the General Election.”
The organisations that the Conservatives would like to make subject to FOI include Network Rail, Northern Rock,The Carbon Trust, The Energy Saving Trust, the NHS Confederation (in relation to activities in receipt of public funds), the Local Government Association and
Traffic Penalty Tribunals. (Big Ideas for real change in politics)
Addtofoi has been campaigning for these bodies and many others to be made subject to FOI for some time and will continue to do so.