AddThis SmartLayers

Extend FoI powers, Labour’s new No 2 tells daily

The new deputy leader of the Labour Party has told his local newspaper he wants private companies providing public services to be made accountable to Freedom of Information laws.

Tom Watson made the call  in an interview with the Express & Star, Wolverhampton, his first since being elected to the role.

Mr Watson, who serves as MP for West Bromwich East, revealed to the Express & Star’s political editor Daniel Wainwright that he wants to make free schools that have yet to open and companies like G4S abide by the Freedom of Information Act.

A panel of former ministers and civil servants is currently reviewing the Act, in what has been criticised as an “all out assault on the public’s right to know by Trinity Mirror’s digital publishing director David Higgerson.

Tom Watson at the Express & Star's head office with editor Keith Harrison

Tom Watson at the Express & Star’s head office with editor Keith Harrison

The News Media Association has also warned the commission any change to FoI laws must not become a “retreat into official secrecy”.

The Cabinet Office says the commission will consider the balance between the need to maintain public access to information, the burden of the Act on public authorities and whether change is needed to moderate that while maintaining public access to information.

Speaking of Mr Watson’s comments, Daniel said: “Tom Watson has been one of our local MPs since 2001 and I was delighted he agreed to visit the Express & Star for his first newspaper interview since becoming Labour’s deputy leader.

“Mr Watson is well known for his role in exposing the phone hacking scandal but he has now made an important contribution to the debate concerning the Freedom of Information Act.

“Many public bodies make no secret of their dislike of the FoI Act and its costs, but it has also been a vital step forward in openness, transparency and holding the powerful to account.”