David Cameron to make more government data available

Image caption, The prime minister has written to all Whitehall departments about the drive

Prime Minister David Cameron has set out plans to make more government data accessible to the public.

Mr Cameron said he wanted to rip off the "cloak of secrecy" around government and public services - and extend transparency as far as possible.

Data being made available includes items of major government spending and the pay of top civil servants.

Mr Cameron outlined plans for freeing up the information in a letter to all government departments.

He said: "Greater transparency is at the heart of our shared commitment to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account."

Locked away

Hospitals will start publishing data on infection rates online from this week - initially releasing three months of information before producing weekly statistics from July.

Details of large government contracts will be published from September, items of central government spending from November and local government spending over £500 from next January.

Civil servants earning more than £150,000 will be named and their salaries disclosed, and this figure will be lowered to £58,000 later in the year.

In a podcast on the Downing Street website over the weekend, Mr Cameron said: "If there's one thing I've noticed since doing this job, it's how all the information about government - the money it spends, where it spends it, the results it achieves - how so much of it is locked away in a vault marked sort of 'private for the eyes of ministers and officials only'.

"I think this is ridiculous. It's your money, your government, you should know what's going on. So we're going to rip off that cloak of secrecy and extend transparency as far and as wide as possible.

"By bringing information out into the open you'll be able to hold government and public services to account."

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude MP told the BBC: "We want there to be more information out there, the whole expenses thing emerged because of openness and all the records were disclosed and that was very uncomfortable for members of parliament.

"We're saying this needs to go much more widely, we're saying the salaries of the most-senior civil servants, people working in the public sector should be disclosed."

BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue says Mr Cameron believes that publishing more government data will allow the public to scrutinise spending more closely as well as make civil servants spend more wisely.

Ministers also cite Cambridge University research suggesting that it will offer new business opportunities for private firms and could add £6bn to the size of the economy.

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