MPs will debate extending the Freedom of Information Act to charities after a Ten Minute Rule Bill was scheduled for a second reading later this year.
A Ten Minute Rule Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act so that it applies to charities among other things, was introduced yesterday by Liberal Democrat MP, Tom Brake (pictured).
The MP for Carshalton and Wallington said a “tougher” Freedom of Information Act was needed to “provide the public with the knowledge that they can hold their government to account”.
It has been scheduled for a second reading on 11 March.
Brake called for the Act to extend to “any private companies, social enterprises and charities contracted to carry out work for public authorities”.
He also called for a limit on “seemingly endless time” taken by organisations and government departments to respond to FoI requests.
“The introduction of a statutory time limit will force requests to be dealt with promptly,” he said.
The move follows the launch of an independent Freedom of Information Commission in December, to review the existing Act, including whether to extend its remit to charities carrying out public sector work. The Commission is due to hold its first evidence session today and a second session on 25 January.
An FoI Commission spokeswoman told Civil Society News it has received “around 30,000 responses to the call for evidence”.
“We are still in the process of considering and analysing these. We are looking in detail at the issues raised in those responses,” she said.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, recently warned against extending FoI to charities, calling it “a blunderbuss” that would “do nothing for transparency” and “ultimately harm good causes”.
In response to yesterday's Bill, Acevo suggested that charities and commercial organisations that deliver public services could sign up to a "voluntary code on information release".
Bubb said: "Charities are constantly being told that we should ensure as much of our resources go to the front line as possible. Recently, Rob Wilson, the civil society minister, exhorted charities to ‘eke out every last penny for good causes’. How would that be consistent with having to divert resources to cope with new regulations under FoI. Moreover, why should what little public money goes to these organisations be spent in this way?”