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Write to your MP to stop MPs' expenses becoming secret again!

Maurice Frankel
19 January 2009

Maurice Frankel (London, Campaign for Freedom of Information): The following message was sent out by the Campaign for Freedom of Information today:

Dear Friend

We are writing to ask you to write to or email  your MP as a matter of urgency opposing the government’s attempt to remove MPs’ and Peers’ expenses from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

The proposal was drawn up in secret with no prior announcement or consultation. It was revealed on the Parliamentary Order paper on Thursday last week and is due to be voted on in the Commons and the Lords on Thursday this week - January 22nd. It will become law the following day, if approved.

Please ask your MP to vote against the Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 on Thursday and to sign Jo Swinson MP’s EDM (a parliamentary motion) opposing the order.

Letters to MPs will need to go off immediately if they are to arrive in time.  You can email your MP using the WritetoThem website:
http://foiorder2009.writetothem.com/

We would be interested in seeing any response you receive.

You can read more about the proposals and what people have said about them on a new page on our website: http://www.cfoi.org.uk/mpsexpenses.html

Last year, a private member’s bill to remove both Houses of Parliament from the FOI Act altogether was approved by the House of Commons but fell when no peer was willing to introduce it in the House of Lords.

Under the new proposals:

  • Information about MPs’ and Peers’ annual expenditure, broken down by subheading, will be published each year as part of Parliament’s publication scheme.
  • But information about any individual item of expenditure will be secret and outside the scope of the FOI Act altogether.


In 2008 the Information Tribunal ruled that such detailed information could not be withheld under the Act. The House of Commons appealed against that decision to the High Court and lost.

As a result of the High Court decision, Parliament was on the point of publishing itemised information, including receipts, about all MPs’ expenses claims in the past few years. The proposed amendment would allow this information to be withheld.

The detailed expenses of all public officials, across the whole public sector,  are publicly available on request under the FOI Act. Only MPs’ expenses are given special protection.  No justification for this special treatment has been offered - and it is difficult to see what explanation there could be.

The Campaign believes it deeply inappropriate - and damaging to Parliament’s reputation -  that MPs should seek such special protection from a measure which they have deemed should apply to everyone else.

Regards

Maurice Frankel
Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information
Suite 102, 16 Baldwins Gardens
London EC1N 7RJ, UK
Tel: (020) 7831 7477
Fax: (020) 7831 7461
www.cfoi.org.uk

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