Labour conference: FoI laws 'should be extended'

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Sadiq Khan
Image caption,
The exemption for private contractors was a "blind spot", Mr Khan told conference delegates

Labour would apply freedom of information (FoI) laws to private firms working for the government, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan has said.

Mr Khan said companies running prisons or delivering education or health services should be covered.

Extending FoI would bring "disinfecting transparency" to the private provision of public services, he told the Labour Party conference.

Ministers recently accepted that FoI covers e-mails from private accounts.

"I'm proud Labour introduced FoI, however awkward it can be," the shadow justice secretary told conference delegates in Manchester.

"Not only will the next Labour government protect FoI, but we will seek to extend it. For the first time, FoI will cover the delivery of public services by private companies. This includes our prisons, our schools and our health service."

Charities involved in public service provision should also be covered by FoI, he added.

The coalition government had been embroiled in a two-year dispute with Information Commissioner Christopher Graham over whether e-mails relating to government business but sent from Education Secretary Michael Gove's personal account were accessible under the legislation.

This ended when the Cabinet Office reportedly agreed to the Information Commissioner's position.

As a consequence of this policy shift, text messages sent by the prime minister and cabinet members will now also be covered by FoI laws.