New laws forcing private healthcare firms to reveal details of their lobbying and donations will be introduced by a future Labour government, following a campaign by a North East MP.
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, has been calling for reforms to Freedom of Information laws so that they include private health care firms that receive NHS contracts.
It follows claims that firms have won contracts to provide services to the NHS, paid for by the taxpayer, after making political donations.
NHS trusts are regularly forced to provide information about their activities in response to Freedom of Information requests from the public, politicians and journalists.
But private firms are not included in the same laws.
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan has now said this will change if Labour wins the next election.
Labour would also include private firms running other services, such as prisons or schools, in new Freedom of Information legislation.
Mr Khan said: “Companies which hide behind the law and refuse to disclose information about the services they provide to the Government, local councils and other public bodies, would do so no more under Labour’s plans to make them more accountable. “With nearly £700bn of taxpayers’ money spent on schools, hospitals, welfare, roads, defence, policing, prisons and pensions, it is crucial to our democracy, not least to ensuring value for money, that this expenditure is properly scrutinised.”
Earlier this month, Mr Morris presented legislation to the House of Commons to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to apply to private healthcare companies.
Under new rules introduced by the Coalition government, each NHS primary care trust in England must open up at least three health services to “any qualified provider”, whether they are from the NHS, private sector, charity, social enterprise or voluntary organisation.
Businesses which have benefitted from NHS contracts include Care UK, which runs GP surgeries and 11 treatment centres on behalf of the NHS nationwide.
Much of this work began under the last government but Labour critics have expressed concern that the business is set to benefit from further contracts - while in 2009 the firm’s chairman, John Nash, who has since stood down, donated £21,000 to the office of Andrew Lansley, who at that time was the Conservative Shadow Health Secretary.
Mr Morris said: “Unfortunately, while more and more taxpayers money is being handed to the private sector, the responsibilities in relation to FoI are not allowing us to following the public pound. Instead, private companies hide behind the cloak of commercial confidentiality.”