Your right to know what’s done in your name with your money

Padlock on keyboardOpenness, transparency, and accountability. These three values underpin the public service ethos, they are the foundation of good government and a healthy democracy.

As a taxpayer you have a right to know and to question how your money is being spent. However, your ability to question is being slowly eroded piece by piece as our public services are outsourced, fragmented and privatised.

While companies such as Atos, G4S and Serco become dominant in our public sector taking over multibillion contracts, the responsibilities of running a public service do not follow as companies hide behind a cloak of commercial confidentiality, and remain beyond the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Continue reading

Ending the secrecy that shrouds the sell off of the NHS

The NHS gets the recognition the government won't give it...The arguments about the fragmentation and privatisation of NHS services are well rehearsed. The public know the reorganisation wasted £3 billion and vital resources which should have been spent on frontline services and patients, but what has often gone unnoticed is the democratic deficit and the erosion of our rights to question those who run public services and spend our money.

Freedom of information (FoI) is one of the Labour government’s greatest achievements, ensuring transparency and accountability in modern government but currently it is not possible to make private providers comply with freedom of information requests, which is why this week I re-tabled my Private Members Bill ‘to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to apply to private healthcare companies; and all other bodies seeking health service contracts’. Continue reading

Whistleblowers v Big State and Big Tech: we still need Davids to bring down Goliath

Big brother is watching youThere are several huge lessons that flow from this latest explosive story about the comprehensive range of the modern surveillance State. First, if we are ever going to know what is really going on behind the scenes and what government is getting up to, we are entirely dependent on the morality and courage of a handful of very brave whistleblowers, since government cannot be trusted to be transparent or honest. Continue reading

Freedom of information: Blair’s hostility shows how important it is

Blair’s failure to co-operate with the Parliamentary select committee investigating the effectiveness of the Freedom of Infomation Act (FOI) shows just how important it is and why it now needs to be strengthened and extended. What he’s afraid of is, of course, how much more it will reveal of the unsavoury background to his autocratic style and how what really happened diverges sharply from the slick spin with which it was presented.

Blair got almost all the big decisions of his premiership wrong: Continue reading

Where Fox goes, is Gove far behind?

The Government has set great store on claiming that the Fox saga was a one-off. He had broken the Ministerial code, he had refused to heed warnings from his Permanent Secretary that his behaviour was outside the constitutional guidelines for such a sensitive position, and in effect he was running a privatised foreign and defence policy independent of the FCO and MOD. But, Cameron and others insisted, there were no wider implications because no other Ministers were behaving in this way.

Step forward Jonathan Djanogly, the justice minister, who right on cue has been forced out of regulating the claims management industry after an investigation by the Cabinet Secretary on the grounds that he didn’t declare that his brother-in-law owns a firm that provided staff for the claims management companies, and that he and his family could profit from the changes to legal aid he was piloting through Parliament. But that’s minor compared to Gove. Continue reading