This week we are continuing in our efforts to protect and extend Freedom of Information (FOI) and I am delighted that the Taxpayers Alliance Chief Executive, Jonathan Isaby, the Campaign for FOI and Lord Bob Kerslake will be attending this week’s FOI review session. Broad support is building across the charitable sector, trade unions and the media in supporting FOI and the Government’s attempt to water this down is being met with strong opposition.
In Local Government questions I will be asking the government about their plans for affordable housing, which they currently define as £250,000 outside London and calling on them to define affordability in relation to income in law.
I will be sitting on the Charities Bill Committee overseeing the scrutiny of this legislation, which will see more powers given to the Charities Commission to give warnings and suspensions to charities. The current draft is very broad as to what would constitute a warning offence and Labour would like to see more safeguards around this part of the legislation to make sure it is used appropriately. There are some concerns within the sector that this new legislation combined with the Lobbying Act or “”Gagging Law” will further limit charity’s abilities to challenge the Government and express their views.
The Bill will also affect Housing Associations - potentially forcing them to sell off their affordable homes, and not necessarily acting in the best interests of their tenants. I plan to scrutinise this draft legislation on the Committee and table appropriate amendments to ensure that it is as fair as possible.
Also this week I will be joining several local Primary schools for their Christmas lunches. I will also be visiting Royal Mail’s Woodseats Delivery Office to see their impressive Christmas post process and the fantastic work undertaken by the staff there. I will also be visiting local food banks, with donations – including those which have been kindly dropped off at my office. My office will continue to be a collection point up to and including the 17th December.