I believe that openness and accountability are vital for any Government and that an appropriate balance needs to be struck between the need for transparency and the right for certain Ministerial correspondence to remain confidential. The FOIA - introduced by the previous Labour Government - sought to achieve this balance but I believe it is important to look at how this could be improved and modernised.
I am concerned about the Government's Commission on the Freedom of Information, including its remit and composition. I believe the Commission was set up by the Government in order to weaken the Freedom of Information Act. It is therefore welcome that my Shadow Frontbench colleagues have held their own public, cross-party review into the Act, to look at whether there is scope to extend any part of the Act in order to achieve its stated objectives.
The manifesto I stood on at the last election included a commitment to extend the scope of Freedom of Information laws so that public services run by large private companies are included and during the last Parliament Labour MPs supported amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which would have brought public providers of public services contracted out under the Bill within the scope of the FOIA.
I would like to see progress of the past decade in opening up government to more scrutiny built upon, with the FOI Act's successes and proposals being considered in order to strengthen the Act. I will look closely at both the Government and Opposition's reviews and consider their findings. However, it is important that any changes resulting from the Commission's review do not weaken this crucial check on the power of the Executive.
I have previously signed EDM 49 and I hope this letter outlines my strong commitment to defending our Freedom of Information laws. I will bear your views in mind and will monitor the outcome of my Shadow Frontbench colleagues' review into the Freedom of Information Act.