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Labour’s promise to expand the reach of freedom of information (FoI) requests to cover private companies, such as G4S or Capita, in relation to their public service work will be meaningless as long as those companies, along with government departments, can use clever excuses to duck out of their responsibilities.

Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, interviewed by The Guardian, said more and more public services, funded by taxpayers, are being run by private companies who are outside the scope of freedom of information.

That is why Labour will expand the reach of FoI requests, opening up up private contractors that run prisons, courtroom and health services to public scrutiny.

There’s only one problem: Government departments already have a range of excuses available, with which to bat away any inconvenient requests.

Just take a look at this article on the politics.co.uk website, detailing a few of these tricks. Vox Political‘s own FoI request for up-to-date statistics on the number of people who have died while going through the ESA claim or appeal process is currently stalled, having run into a ‘section 22’ exemption on the grounds that the information will be published at a future date.

It has not been made clear how far in the future this date may be, but, considering some of the requested information is now more than three years old, it seems likely that the Department for Work and Pensions is waiting for Hell to freeze over.

Here’s another article, from the Huffington Post, showing how even the simplest, easiest-to-answer requests are being rejected.

Why should we believe private companies will be any more open to examination than government departments?

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