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The event launched the ICO’s latest report, Outsourcing Oversight? The case for reforming access to informationlaw, which seeks to understand and bridge the transparency gap by offering legislative solutions to increase public trust.

If you would like to see a blog on this event from panellist Tom Sasse, please see here.

The discussion featured:

  • Elizabeth Denham CBE, Information Commissioner
  • Jo Pedder, Head of Engagement at the ICO
  • Tom Sasse, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government
  • Event Host: Daniel Zeichner MP, PICTFOR Officer and Chair of the APPG for Data Analytics
  • Event Chair: Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent at POLITICO

The Event Chair Anabelle Dickson welcomed attendees and introduced the keynote speaker Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

Elizabeth Denham opened her speech by thanking the panel members, the host Daniel Zeichner MP and the chair. She then said that she was struck with the diversity in the room that included media, academics, government officials and civil society. Next, she went on to say that the report sought to find solutions for the failure of FOI laws to meet the intentions that they were set up to achieve. She went on to explain that FOI laws no longer achieve what they were designed to do because the world has changed at such a pace that legislation has struggled to keep up. To resolve this, she explained that the report was calling for an extension of FOI on the provision of public services – rather than a wholesale extension to all contractors.

Elizabeth Denham explained to the audience that the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the collapse of Carillion had sharpened her resolve on this issue. She said that these issues shine a light on the fact that all citizens have the right to hold people to account when it comes to public service provision.

She closed her speech by saying that lawmakers clearly intended for the FOI laws to evolve, but the UK has fallen behind international standards of transparency. She then said that she hoped that dialogue and discussion will mean things will change.

Next, the event chair turned to Jo Pedder, Head of Engagement at the ICO to provide more details on the key recommendations of the report.

Jo Pedder opened her contribution by saying that it was great to see so many people in the room. She summarised that the report was about addressing the challenges that modern services pose to access to information law. She then offered further detail on the 6 recommendations (these can be found here).

The event chair thanked Jo Pedder and called on Tom Sasse, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government to provide a response from the third sector.

Tom Sasse opened his speech by saying that the report asks an important question about the role of data and that the Institute for Government strongly supports its recommendations. He went on to say that there would need to be a discussion on enforcement regime and ensuring that the ICO has enough resources.

Following this, the event chair called on Daniel Zeichner MP, PICTFOR Officer and Chair of the APPG on Data Analytics to provide a thoughts as the event’s host.

Daniel Zeichner MP began his contribution by saying that the he felt the main recommendation of the report was to ensure that the laws we make are fit for the future. He went on to argue that the difficulty for citizens to access information relating to their public services produced very real issues for his constituents. He closed his contribution by saying that he looked forward to working with the Information Commissioner on the proposals.

Following this, the event chair opened up the debate to all attendees in the room – selected contributions are included below.

  • Darren Jones MP, Member of Parliament for Bristol North West and PICTFOR Co-Chair asked the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham if the report would get time for debate in parliament, or whether Parliamentarians should push for time to debate this.
  • Elizabeth Denham responded by saying that she hoped a select committee would take the report up as a discussion for debate. She reiterated that it was the first time any Information Commissioner had tabled their own motion in Parliament.
  • The Lord Clement-Jones asked the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham who Parliamentarians can recruit to the cause.
  • Elizabeth Denham responded by saying that housing, social care and probation were areas that the report was set out to influence.
  • Casey Calista, PICTFOR Secretariat, asked whether the Information Commissioner had any top line reflections on the implementation of GDPR.
  • Elizabeth Denham responded by saying that 2018 was the year that Data Protection came of age. She went on to say that, looking to the future, the ICO’s role was about dealing with AI auditing, data governance and driving compliance. She also argued that countries around the world are looking to the GDPR as a gold standard in legislation for strengthening consumer protection.

The event chair thanked all those that contributed to the roundtable discussion and called on speakers for closing comments, starting with Daniel Zeichner MP.

Daniel Zeichner MP said that the world has changed dramatically over the last 15-20 years and, given this, the report and its findings needed to be taken into consideration. He thanked the Information Commissioner for her time and said that the Parliamentarians in the room would keep the pressure on Government to make changes.

Tom Sasse thanked the Information Commissioner, saying that the report was excellent and he was pleased this was something she was personally driving.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that the report covers ground that had been discussed in other forums, and that given Grenfell and Carillion she felt that something needed to be done now.

The event chair closed the event by thanking the attendees, the event host Daniel Zeichner MP and the Information Commissioner and announced the next PICTFOR event.


If you would like further information on this topic or about PICTFOR’s programme of events, please get in touch!

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