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Access to MPs’ expenses move criticised

Campaign for Freedom of Information
Press release 15 January 2009

The government’s proposals, announced today (Jan 15) to prevent FOI requests being made for MPs’ individual expenses claims have been criticised by the Campaign for Freedom of Information. Instead of allowing requests for spending on individual items, the government is proposing that annual totals should continue to be published, though broken down into more categories than in the past.

The Campaign’s director Maurice Frankel said: “the individual expenses claims of senior officials across the public sector are publicly available under the FOI Act. There is no justification for allowing Members of Parliament to meet a lower level of scrutiny than senior officials across the public sector. Chief Constables, local authority Chief Executives, senior BBC executives and others have to release their individual expenses claims, and that should be the case for MPs too.”

The Campaign pointed out that the FOI Act was amended in July 2008, to exclude MPs’ addresses from the scope of FOI requests and to prevent the disclosure of any regular spending on travel or future travel arrangements. These changes were justified as necessary to protect MPs’ security. The new proposals cannot be justified on security grounds.

The new proposals are contained in a draft Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order published today (January 15th) and due to be debated in the House of Commons next Thursday, January 22nd. The government is also proposing to amend the House of Commons’ publication scheme to require more information about expenses to be published, but only in the form of annual totals.

See also:
CFOI press release
The Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 and Explanatory Memorandum
Announcement by the Leader of the House in the Commons
Motion and explanatory memorandum relating to publication scheme of payments to Members

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