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The Minister for the Cabinet Office replies to a letter from the Open Government Partnership civil society network


Thank you for your letter dated 8th October 2013.

Like you, we feel that this summit marks a critical moment. The Open Government Partnership is helping to drive a transparency revolution around the world and I am enormously proud that Britain has been at the heart of it since its foundation.

Open government isn’t an optional add-on or a “nice to have”, it is absolutely fundamental to a nation’s success in the 21st century. In the global race, it is a vital part of any country’s plan for prosperity.

The Prime Minister has consistently made clear our commitment for the UK to become “the most open and transparent government in the world”. Our resolve has not weakened. Indeed, our engagement with civil society and organisations such as yours to develop and agree the stretching and ambitious commitments in our second Open Government Partnership UK National Action Plan has strengthened, not lessened our commitment to open government.

The result of this partnership is a set of commitments that take important steps towards increased openness helping to ensure that:

the public can see and understand the workings of their government through more transparency
the public can influence the workings of their government and society by participating in the policy process and in the delivery of public services
the public can hold the government to account for its policy and delivery of public services
I am delighted that today the Prime Minister will announce that the UK government will lead by example by creating a publicly accessible central registry of company beneficial ownership information, showing who ultimately owns and controls UK companies. Business is vital to economic recovery in this country, and has created 1.4 million new jobs since the last general election. We are on the side of businesses and we have cut back on burdensome bureaucracy. But some company structures can be open to misuse, helping a smaller number of individuals carry out a range of crimes from tax evasion to money laundering. We firmly believe that the scrutiny this registry will invite will support efforts to tackle the misuse of companies for tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes.

And beyond that, our National Action Plan contains a range of ambitious and significant commitments, in the areas that really matter – health, schools, policing. We note the other priorities you have outlined. We will build on the existing foundation of transparency in procurement and contracting and, in consultation with civil society organisations and other stakeholders, we will look at ways to enhance the scope, breadth and usability of published contractual data.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trades Union Administration Bill will create even greater transparency in the way people and organisations interact with government and politics, to give the public more confidence in the way third parties interact with the political system. These organisations play an important role in the political process, helping to inform policy making and ensuring views are heard by those in government. This Bill will ensure that we know for whom lobbyists lobby.

We are grateful to you for providing challenge, support and scrutiny as we have developed this package of commitments. The UK’s IRM report highlighted areas where we need to improve, and we urge you to hold us to account as we deliver our next action plan. We welcome, indeed we need, your input.

Transparency is an idea whose time has come. People around the world are demanding much greater openness, democracy and accountability from their governments. Citizens are demanding that the state should be their servant, not their master, and that information that governments hold should be open for everyone to see. This summit will drive that agenda forward, and this government will lead from the front.


Francis Maude 


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