FOI: sign the emergency petition

We’re one step closer to cracking down on private companies like Virgin and G4S who are taking over our public services.

On Tuesday, the government’s own advisors backed what 38 Degrees members have been asking for in our hundreds of thousands – that we have a right to know what private companies who run services like in our NHS are up to.

But here’s the snag. The advice is buried on page 51 of a new report about transparency laws – known as Freedom of Information (FOI). It’d be easy to miss. David Cameron and his ministers will have the full report on their desks right now. And they’ll be weighing up which bits they should listen to.

This is where we come in. Will you sign an emergency petition now, telling the government to take their experts’ advice to extend Freedom of Information to private companies like Virgin?

Together we’ve come a long way. A few months ago, the government was planning to quietly water down FOI laws. But now, thanks to our huge campaign, they’re considering extending the law instead!

We’re not there yet, but our people-power has made huge headway. The expert report out on Tuesday wasn’t even meant to look at extending the law to private companies. But together, we’ve made sure the experts had to tackle this problem. 38 Degrees members are front and centre – even quoted – in their report.

The next few days could be crucial. The government will be looking at the report and deciding what to do next. And there is one thing we need to hammer home: don’t let private companies like Virgin get away with hiding how they’re running our NHS.

Please add your name to the petition now.

38 Degrees members have thrown a huge amount at this campaign. For the sake of our NHS, and to protect our public services, we know that private companies shouldn’t be able to hide what they’re up to. The pressure from thousands of us has already made the government panic – one minister even referred to FOI as a ‘very hot political potato’ that no one wants to touch. So we know our campaign is working, and now we’ve got a chance to make sure that our rights to Freedom of information are even stronger. Add your name to the petition now.

More Info on Freedom of Information and what we’ve done together so far:
An FOI request is something that anyone can do – it’s a way of asking for information held by the government, or public authorities like the NHS and schools.
38 Degrees members did a huge amount to ask the experts and our MPs to protect (and extend) Freedom of Information laws.
Over 170,000 us signed the petition to the Commission of Freedom of Information, calling on them to protect our rights to Freedom of Information:

Then over 29,000 of us submitted our views to the official consultation on Freedom of Information. The reaction from 38 Degrees members was so huge, that they invited 38 Degrees to give further evidence on why Freedom of Information matters to all of us.

Blanche Shackleton, Campaigns Director at 38 Degrees, gave evidence to the commission armed with 87,000 responses and comments from 38 Degrees members.

Together we demanded that our transparency laws shouldn’t just be protected, they should be extended to private companies. 200,000 of us signed a petition to the government, thousands of us emailed our MPs, and we hit media headlines across the UK

The final report from the Commission suggests that private companies who have contracts worth £5m or over to run public services should be subject to Freedom of Information requests (Page51-52 of the report, page 55 in the pdf)

And 38 Degrees members are quoted directly from page 51-52 of the report (Page 55 of the pdf):

“I believe FOI should include private companies providing public services. I want to know if my taxes are spent on private company contracts appropriately.”

“I do believe that FOI should cover private companies providing public services. If something is being paid for by the public for the public then the public should be able to scrutinise it and have its questions answered. It should make no difference who is providing the service. In fact it is probably more important to cover private companies in these circumstances since they are driven by profit and not by altruism.”

“FOI should be applicable to all private companies providing public services (except in cases where intellectual property; specifically patents might be involved). This is to help ensure that the public interests remain respected whenever a private firm is tasked with public duties.”