MPs’ exemption passes

A fiddle? Hardly. This was a Stradivarius. Quentin Letts

I’m in America this week and what a relief it is to be in a proper democracy with a proper constitution, transparency and freedom of information laws. Yes, transparency is in a worse state in the US than it has been for decades, but it’s still light years ahead of Britain even on Britain’s best days. And these are far from its best days.

Last Friday, MPs held a last-minute vote to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act. With just five minutes to go before the bill would have been talked out for the second time, supporters called for a vote. The list of shame is here so you know who not to vote for in the next election.

I note that Julian Lewis MP (Con. New Forest East) voted against the bill. Interesting, because Dr Lewis was very keen to use the FOI when it first came into force. He invited me to the Commons tea room to discuss ways of ‘opening up’ government and subsequently filed about 100 FOI requests. I suppose transparency of one’s own expenses is where the opposition draws the line. Which reminds me of a very good description of the Opposition’s effort to challenge this government as it takes us closer to totalitarianism:

“Their occasional attacks on the Government have the halfhearted feel of criminals trying to grass up rivals.” – Bobby Robson

It was left to the Liberal Democrats to oppose this sordid bill, particularly Norman Baker MP. Why haven’t the Conservatives woken up to voters’ anger about secretive politicians and embraced the populist issue of open government and freedom of information? This is something that strikes a cord with many voters.

FYI: David Maclean‘s private member’s bill was supported by the House of Commons Commission, an organisation intent on maintaining dictatorship levels of secrecy. The Commission is itself run by Speaker Michael Martin (who vetoed the Information Commissioner’s ruling on my case to publish the names of MPs’ staff) and Jack Straw (responsible for watering down the original FOI legislation). Neither are friends of open government.

Oh – and good on the Daily Mail for this amusing piece of muck-raking about Mr Maclean’s own use of parliamentary expenses.
One wife, two mistresses… and a quad bike on Commons expenses


2 Responses to “MPs’ exemption passes”

  1. barry winetrobe says:

    “I’m in America this week and what a relief it is to be in a proper democracy with a proper constitution, transparency and freedom of information laws.” – Except, as I understand it, the US FoI Act does not apply to the US Congress, unfortunately.

  2. vaci says:

    It’s true that the US FOI Act doesn’t apply to the US Congress, but this post explains why.

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