Louise Haigh MP and Labour's Deputy Leader, Tom Watson MP have launched a review into the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this week.
Labour's Commission will take evidence in public from leading figures in Government, Whitehall, the media, academics and NGOs.
At the first evidence session, held in Parliament on Monday, The Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “FOI is the price you pay for transparent and accountable Government”. He added that criticism of the FOI regime was caused by “mandarin panic” and added: “After ten years, the Act is doing exactly what it says on the tin”.
Other witnesses will include the former Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake; the Chief Executive of the Taxpayers Alliance, Jonathan Isabyl the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s Maurice Frankel and Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti.
The Government launched its own review of the Act earlier this year and appointed a five-strong Independent Commission to examine possible changes. Campaigners have warned it plans to water down the Act.
The Labour-led review will take place alongside the wider campaign to save the Freedom of Information Act. It will cover areas the Government’s own Commission will not look at, including whether the Act has been effective and how it could be strengthened and extended in the interests of open government, transparency and accountability.
Labour also issued a call for evidence today that will seek submission from interested parties and the public.
In a joint statement, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP and Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Louise Haigh MP, said:
"David Cameron said in opposition that 'sunlight is the best disinfectant' but now he's Prime Minister he's governing from the shadows. His Government wants to weaken the Freedom of Information Act. Labour wants to strengthen and extend it"
“The campaign to save the Freedom of Information Act is attracting support from politicians, the media, campaigning groups and charities – all of whom are opposed to the Government’s heavy handed attempt to water it down.”
“It is extraordinary that the Government’s Commission has refused to look at how this enormously successful Act has worked in the public interest and whether it could be strengthened or extended in the interests of open, transparent and accountable Government.”
“It is our belief the Government wants to water down the Act. Labour’s review will give leading figures and experts a chance to inform the debate and give their views about where the Act has worked well, where it needs improving and in what ways it can be strengthened or extended. Our evidence sessions will be open to the public”.