The issue of whether private companies operating under public contracts, should be subject to FOI is to be discussed in Parliament today.

A bill by Lib Dem MP John Hemming says all information held by private companies for the purposes of public contracts should be subject to FOI laws.

At present the information is not covered by the FOI Act and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find out information about the services that are being provided under outsourced contracts.

If changed it could help people to follow the trail of how public money is spent by private providers.

The Campaign for FOI, who have helped to write the clauses on the FOI Act, said that the bill would restore the public’s right to know.

The Private Member’s Bill, Transparency and Accountability, proposes:


It isn’t, by any means, the first time that there have been calls for private contractors getting public money to be openned up to the scrutiny of the FOI Act.

Labour have repeatedly pledged to extend the Act to private contractors if they win in the 2015 election.

As hinted at by FOI Man Paul Gibbons one of the best outcomes for FOI at the next general election would be a Labour and Lib Dem coalition.

On the impact of his bill Hemming said: “Public services are increasingly being provided by contractors instead of public authorities – but the FOI Act hasn’t kept up with this change. The public’s right to information about their services should be the same regardless of who provides them.”


I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare time ever since.