A number of Labour MPs are renewing their calls to extend Freedom of Information Act requirements to private companies and registered providers who are undertaking activities that fall within what could be a wide definition of public services. This was reported on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme on the 15th February.
The calls follow genuine concerns in relation to building management and safety, especially in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Whilst no one would question any motivation to avoid a repeat of that terrible event, the imposition of the Freedom of Information Act regime could present an administrative challenge, becoming a burden on business and detracting from resources being otherwise available to pay for more effective health and safety and building regulations compliance. Within Government the Freedom of Information (FOI) regime has attracted criticism. Tony Blair called it one of his greatest mistakes in office whilst David Cameron referred to it as furring up the arteries of government. Having acted first hand helping public agencies to respond to FOI requests and having seen the effort and resources required to manage compliance, I understand the position of those urging the taking of a wider perspective before rushing into any adoption. The FOI regime has many benefits but its application needs to be considered carefully.