Press Release from the Public Administration Select Committee:
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE
Select Committee Announcement
For immediate Release: 13 November 2013
PASC CALLS FOR FURTHER EVIDENCE ON STATISTICS AND OPEN DATA
The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) is conducting an inquiry into statistics and open data in Government, with a focus on the progress of the Government in implementing its Open Data strategy. This is part of PASC’s wider programme of work on statistics and their use in government.
The Committee has held three sessions of oral evidence on statistics and open data and has received a number of pieces of written evidence in response to an Issues and Questions Paper .
The Open Government Partnership Annual Summit was held on 31 October to 1 November 2013 in London. Among other things, this was the occasion for a number of Government announcements about open data. In order to ensure that the inquiry reflects all the most recent developments, the Committee is now inviting further evidence.
If you have any comments about recent developments on open data which are relevant to the inquiry, and in particular if you wish to provide any supplementary evidence in the light of the Open Government Partnership Summit and recent Government announcements, please submit your response by no later than noon on Friday 29 November 2013 through the web portal athttp://www.parliament.uk/pasc.
Committee Membership is as follows:
Mr Bernard Jenkin (Chair, Conservative, Harwich and North Essex), Alun Cairns (Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan), Paul Flynn (Labour, Newport West), Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East), Robert Halfon (Conservative, Harlow), David Heyes (Labour, Ashton-under-Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Labour, Luton North), Greg Mulholland (Liberal Democrat, Leeds North West), Priti Patel (Conservative, Witham), Lindsay Roy (Labour, Glenrothes) and Andrew Taylor (Isle of Wight).
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Here are some of the responses to the UK’s second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan:
At last week’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit, the UK published its second OGP National Action Plan. This marked the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work by government officials and civil society network members to develop, scrutinise and reach compromise on the commitments to be included in the plan. The final result can be found at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/open-government-partnership-uk-national-action-plan-2013/open-government-partnership-uk-national-action-plan-2013-to-2015
Here is the civil society network’s foreword to the action plan:
Open government is critical to the wellbeing and empowerment of citizens around the world. It helps to ensure that those who take decisions that affect people’s lives are properly accountable and responsive to the public – supporting the effective, equitable and sustainable use of resources, delivery of public services and exercise of authority.
Citizens around the world are demanding ever more openness from their governments and other powerful actors in society. This is no less true in the UK than anywhere else. The UK public are demanding to know, and to have a say in, how public money is spent, how decisions are made and who influences them, who the owners of companies are and how much tax they pay, how UK companies operate overseas, and how public services are delivered and what their results are.
We welcome the progress made by the government in this National Action Plan on a number of important open government issues. Areas where we especially endorse the government’s commitments include beneficial ownership, transparency of aid flows and the global extractive (oil, gas and mining) industries. We had hoped to reach stronger and more ambitious commitments in several areas, and there are some issues, such as freedom of information and lobbying transparency, on which many of us disagree with the government and urge it to reconsider its current position.
Overall, however, we believe that the commitments included in this plan represent positive steps towards greater openness.
We particularly commend the commitment to openness demonstrated in the development of this plan by officials from the Cabinet Office Transparency Team, as well as government teams involved in drafting commitments. While not every commitment in the plan has been endorsed by every named organisation, we have all participated in a process of dialogue with government on the contents of this action plan. As is recognised by the Open Government Partnership, civil society has a critical role to play in promoting the rights and interests of citizens and challenging governments to be more accountable and responsive to the public. The formation of country national action plans provides governments with the opportunity to put into practice the principles of open government by including voices from civil society.
While the development of this plan has not been without its challenges and disagreements, we believe the process has itself demonstrated the benefits of greater openness. The result is a set of stronger and better thought through commitments with greater prospects for delivery than would otherwise have been the case. We commit to continue to work with and constructively challenge the government to fulfil our shared ambition of becoming the “most open and transparent government in the world”.
Campaign for Freedom of Information
Construction Sector Transparency Initiative
The Democratic Society
Institution of Civil Engineers
International Records Management Trust
Macmillan Cancer Support
Open Knowledge Foundation
Open Rights Group
Public Concern At Work
Publish What You Fund
Publish What You Pay UK
Transparency International UK
In a couple of hours David Cameron will be up on stage at the Open Government Partnership international Summit launching the UK’s National Action Plan for Open Government [http://data.gov.uk/sites/default/files/library/20131031_ogp_uknationalactionplan.pdf].
The development of this plan has taken nine months of intense work for both Government and organisations in the UK civil society network. Our role has been to support and coordinate the civil society organisations (CSOs) during this process.
The plan commits government to some ambitious and challenging commitments. CSOs in the network particularly welcome the government’s commitments on transparency of aid flows and the global extractive (oil, gas and mining) industries. And of course the significant prize that the Prime Minister will announce, that the Government will create a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership of companies. This means that the public will be able to identify who ultimately controls, owns and profits from companies and legal arrangements. This will help to reduce the scope for the misuse of companies for illicit purposes including tax evasion, money laundering, corruption and bribery.
There are a number of other smaller and larger commitments which will help to open up the British Government allowing citizens to hold it to account.
But the process of developing the National Action Plan has been as important as the commitments that are in it. The CSO forward to the plan commends ‘the commitment to openness demonstrated in the development of this plan by officials from the Cabinet Office Transparency Team, as well as government teams involved in drafting commitments.’ This recognises the very different way that this plan has been developed when compared to the last time round.
This has not been a process of co-option though, but a genuine search for a partnership. CSOs have not accepted all of the commitments that the government wanted to include in the plan, either because they were not stretching enough, or we did not believe that they contributed to genuine open government. At the same time the government has not accepted every proposal that we have made. The relationship has been challenging at times, but I think that the strong endorsement in the CSO forward demonstrates that it has been positive and productive overall.
The process has delivered a plan that is far stronger than the government could have developed alone. The commitments are stronger for two reasons. First, CSO are genuinely supportive of some of the most challenging commitments in the plan. This will help to ensure that they are implemented effectively (rather than sniped at from the sides for not being stretching enough). Second, I believe that we have helped government to spot flaws in early drafts of some of the commitments. Removing these flaws will help to ensure that the resulting actions lead to more genuine open government.
I believe that the relationships and trust that has developed provide a solid basis for CSOs to work with the government to develop even more ambitious commitments in the future, while at the same time holding it to account for the implementation of the commitments in this plan.
Simon Burall, Director of Involve and coordinator of the UK OGP civil society network
Today (8 October 2013), civil society organisations from the UK OGP civil society network sent the following open letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to announce a series of ambitious commitments towards greater openness:
Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
Cc: The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP (Deputy Prime Minister),
Rt Hon Francis Maude MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office),
Nick Hurd MP (Minister for Civil Society)
8 October 2013
Dear Prime Minister,
The end of October is a critical moment for open government in the UK and beyond. The UK will publish its second open government National Action Plan, host the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit, and hand over the baton of chairing the OGP. We hope that the Government will mark this important occasion by announcing a series of ambitious commitments towards greater openness, building on the leadership shown at the G8 Summit.
We welcome the emphasis that you have placed on the principles of open government both domestically and internationally and your ambition of becoming ‘the most open and transparent government in the world’. The true strength of your Government’s efforts will ultimately be judged by the level of new ambition in the commitments made and delivered through the action plan launched on 31 October at the Summit in London.
For the UK Plan, while progress has been made in finding common ground on a number of important issues, we are concerned by the absence of any truly ambitious new commitments. With three weeks to go, we call on you to take a lead in delivering such commitments:
1. Make public who owns and controls companies and trusts, by publishing a beneficial ownership register that meets the standards set out in the Open Data Charter. A public register would support good corporate governance and a clean and respected business environment, as well as lift the veil of secrecy that the corrupt and the criminal use to hide their identity.
2. Enable public scrutiny of all organisations in receipt of public money, by opening up public sector contracts and extending transparency standards and legislation. Endorse and implement a system of ‘Open Contracting’, ensuring public disclosure and monitoring of contracting from procurement to the close of projects, and amend the Freedom of Information Act so that all information held by a contractor in connection with a public service contract is brought within its scope.
3. Bring lobbying out into the open in the UK, by developing a robust, compulsory register of lobbyists. An open and comprehensive register would allow public scrutiny of who is lobbying whom, what they are seeking to influence and how much is being spent in the process.
Ambitious commitments such as these will not only send a clear message about the UK’s commitment to open government at home, but will lead by example and demonstrate the level of ambition expected of other countries as they draft their own national action plans.
Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy
Anne Thurston, Director, International Records Management Trust
Anthony Zacharzewski, Director, The Democratic Society
Cathy James, Chief Executive, Public Concern at Work
Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD
Chris Taggart, Co-founder & CEO, Open Corporates
Claire Schouten, Programme Director, Integrity Action
David Hall-Matthews, Managing Director, Publish What You Fund
Emily Gerrard, Director, Development Research and Training UK
Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns, Global Witness
Javier Ruiz, Campaigner, Open Rights Group
Dr Laura James, CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation
Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information
Miles Litvinoff, Coordinator, Publish What You Pay UK
Richard Murphy, Director, Tax Research
Simon Burall, Director, Involve
Tamasin Cave, Director, Spinwatch
Tim Davies, Director, Practical Participation
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