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Govt extends Freedom of Information rules to more private firms

The Government is extending the Freedom of Information rules to more private companies that carry out public functions.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, justice minister Simon Hughes set out a radical extension of the transparency laws which could be rolled out as quickly as this year.

The Freedom of Information Act forces some public bodies to publish information upon request unless it is too expensive to collect or details are too sensitive.

This Ministry of Justice is proposing new guidelines so more contracts include requirements to abide by FoI laws.

FoI campaigners say it could apply to any private company that agrees a public contract but say guidelines have yet to be issued.

Hughes said: “We do intend to extend FoI further as soon as it will be practical. We intend to publish a revised code of practice to make sure that those private companies that carry out public functions have freedom of information requirements in their contracts, and go further than that, and we hope that will be in place by the end of this year.”

A spokesman for the Campaign for Freedom of Information says the changes are most likely to affect firms providing public services, which could include financial services firms that agree public contracts.

He says: “The power to obtain information from contractor depends on the precise terms of contract. If it requires records to be kept then information has to be disclosed by the private firm.

“This is a clarification and a change of practice in how contracts are agreed. We would like the Government to go further and bring major contractors directly under FoI in their own right.”

Last month a Money Marketing FoI revealed the FCA had spent £100,000 on board away days in the last five years.

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