MPs to discuss motion to extend Freedom of Information Act to charities

Tom Brake, Chief Whip for the Liberal Democrats, will propose the measure in parliament on Tuesday

A Liberal Democrat MP will call for the extension of the Freedom of Information Act to charities in a House of Commons motion to be discussed tomorrow.

The Freedom of Information (Public Interest and Transparency) 10-minute rule motion has been submitted by Tom Brake MP, foreign affairs spokesperson and Chief Whip for the Liberal Democrats, and says freedom of information legislation should be extended to private companies and social enterprises carrying out work for public authorities.

The motion also calls for provisions permitting ministers to overrule Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal decisions to be removed and a limit on the time allowed for public authorities to respond to requests "involving the consideration of the public interest".

A 10-minute rule motion is a private member's bill that allows MPs to make a speech of up to 10 minutes making the case for a new bill. If the house decides in favour, the bill is passed to have its first reading.

The motion will not change the law unless it receives government support.

A spokesman for Brake said he expected the bill to have the support of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative MPs, as well as from smaller parties.

It comes after The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported last month that the government was considering extending Freedom of Information Act to ensure greater transparency about how charities spent public money. 

The charity chief executives body Acevo and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations have both warned against extending legislation to include charities.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said the idea would be a "blunderbuss approach" that would be a "difficult and overwhelming obligation" for many charities.

In a statement today, Brake said: "A growing proportion of public sector work is carried out by private companies such as G4S or Serco and social enterprises and charities such as Kids Company. 

"Public sector work carried out by these organisations should be treated in the same way, from a freedom of information perspective, as a public authority carrying out this work. It is for this reason that I seeking to extend the Freedom of Information Act to cover private sector companies, social enterprises and charities."

A group of MPs and lords are carrying out an independent review on the Freedom of Information Act, which is expected to submit proposals to government shortly after two oral evidence sessions on 20 and 24 January.

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