I asked Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock this morning to confirm that the Government will make changes to the Freedom of Information Act to allow taxpayer scrutiny of businesses providing lucrative public sector contracts.
Disappointingly, the Minister refused to make such a commitment.
I asked my question during Cabinet Office Questions in the House of Commons today.
At present, Government outsourcing is at record levels with over £100 billion worth of public services being run by private providers. This includes a £75 million Home Office contract with Clearsprings to provide asylum seeker accommodation in Wales including Lynx House in Cardiff Central, the firm that was forcing asylum seekers to wear red wristbands in order to have access to food and has been criticised for huge levels of overcrowding.
Currently, these companies are not currently included within the Freedom of Information Act, and subsequently not held to the same public scrutiny as Government-run services.
In response the Minister said he could not guarantee that the Act would be extended.
Clearsprings have lamentably failed the taxpayer and the thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers who are reliant on their ability to provide these services – entirely safe from the scrutiny of the Act. I am disappointed to hear that the Government will not accept the Commission’s recommendations as it is critical that all those who provide public services have the same level of public scrutiny and transparency.
You can watch the exchange here: