Why does Chris Grayling not want the readers of The Herald to know which companies and organisations are participating in the Coalition Government's Mandatory Work Activity scheme and other work experience programmes?

Since January this newspaper has been requesting the names of those providing placements in Scotland. Initially we were told the information was commercially confidential, even though similar lists have been published elsewhere in the UK under Freedom of Information.

Now the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has conceded that the real reason for withholding the information is the strength of the protest campaign against the controversial schemes, which have been denounced as "workfare", "forced labour" and even "the latter day workhouse".

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with work experience, especially for the young and the long-term unemployed. As many middle and upper-class youngsters lucky enough to land good quality internships have discovered, it can be a vital foot in the door of the jobs market. But it must be designed and operated with the needs of the jobseeker at its core, rather than to provide free labour or displace paid staff.

One of the best ways to put that to the test is to operate transparent schemes, open to outside scrutiny. If these programmes are as useful as the DWP would have us believe, why not invite journalists to look at them and interview participants? The department's coyness suggests it is running scared.

At a conference today, entitled Tapping into Talent, Mr Grayling, the Employment Minister, will attempt to restore confidence in the Government's back-to-work programme, after some employers have backed out of mandatory placements and as others reconsider their position. (It sends a negative message to a potential employer, if a person's only work experience has been forced on them.)

No compulsion or welfare privatisation can disguise the fact that there are not enough jobs to go around. A particular problem with these initiatives at the moment is that they coincide with parents in low-paid part-time work losing tax credits if they work less than 24 hours a week. They are having to compete for extra work with thousands of unpaid temporary workers on Government programmes.

If big companies believe they are doing something socially useful by participating in these schemes, they should have the guts to put their heads above the parapet and open themselves for inspection. That is why The Herald is appealing to the Information Commissioner against this unfair ruling.