Victory is mine!

Today was the big day and again I’ve won a complete and total victory in my campaign to make MPs directly accountable to citizens.

In their judgment handed down today at the High Court, the judges agreed with an earlier Information Tribunal ruling which criticised the Additional Costs Allowance system as ‘deeply unsatisfactory’ . The judges ordered disclosure of all receipts and claims of the 14 MPs in the original requests along with the addresses of their second homes.

This ruling makes clear that in a democracy it is the people who are the masters and politicians must be directly accountable to them. Anyone making a claim on the public purse must be prepared to put forward their receipts to justify their expenses and to make those receipts public.

I must thank my lawyers Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers and Louis Charalambous of Simons, Muirhead & Burton for helping me bring this case to its full conclusion. The legal team worked pro bono up till the Tribunal and then on a conditional fee agreement.

It’s not right that a citizen is forced to fight so hard for such a basic level of democratic accountability from our elected representatives. All the while MPs have used taxpayer money to appeal this case through the courts – just so they can avoid being accountable to their constituents for how they spend public money. They should be ashamed.

I hope this decisive victory for freedom of information will finally make MPs realise what it means to be a public official in a democracy. As MPs so often tell us when they pass laws that invade our privacy and strip us of our civil rights – if you’ve nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide.

I am calling now on the House of Commons to adopt an expense system similar to that of the Scottish Parliament whereby all politicians’ expense claims are published online for any citizen to see.

The judges also ordered disclosure of the 14 MPs’ second home addresses – throwing out the Commons’ argument that a new level of secrecy should protect this information. Agreeing with Mr Tomlinson, the judges said the residential address of an MP was ‘not very private at all’ as MPs are required to disclose the address when seeking nomination for election and it is also published in the electoral register. They also pointed out that legislation requires many private citizens to make public their home address such as company directors whose address can be found in the register of companies. In addition everyone eligible to vote has his or her address recorded in the register of electors which can be viewed at local libraries and council offices.

There was a legitimate public need to disclose the address to verify that allowances claimed for second homes were legitimate – as there have been occasions in the past where MPs have claimed for second homes which either did not exist, were holiday homes, or were purchased as a private rental investment property.

The more MPs resist transparency the more they fall in the public’s esteem. Constituents are not content with the elitist and unaccountable old boys system that operates inside the Palace of Westminster. Drastic reform is needed to bring this institution into the 21st century.

Time for complete overhaul of the entire Parliamentary expense system: ALL MPs must provide receipts for ALL expenses and make those receipts public. If they are such cheapskates as to claim £1.20 from the public purse then they should be prepared to justify that to the taxpayer.

37 Responses to “Victory is mine!”

  1. Robert Tressell says:

    Fantastic news well done;My MP would not meet me or discuss the subject of his ACA expenses!…And took the right hump when i questioned this.His name is Jonathan Djanogly,already heir to daddys fortune,merrily claiming his ACa and holding down a second job as a City Lawyer.
    People like you should be given some sort of peoples award and afforded great respect for challenging unfair privilige.

  2. Wat Tyler says:

    Well done Heather.

    Excellent result.

  3. I am at a loss for words to describe your wonderful achievement, you are a truly amazing person.

  4. john nevile says:

    I cannot believe it!! You have taken on the Westminster establishment,and WON!!! Superb achievement. Best wishes to you and your team.

  5. Geoff says:

    A fantastic result and well done for persevering, a model for the rest of us apathetic beings 🙂

  6. Christine says:

    What a fantastic achievement and well done. This will rattle a few gilded (second) cages, and quite right too.
    I think this judgement will have great repercussions and we tax-payers and voters owe you a debt of gratitude.

  7. A Disgusted Taxpayer says:

    Very well done Heather. I note that the judgment states:
    “For example, there is evidence which suggests that one MP claimed ACA for a property which did not exist, and yet further evidence may demonstrate that on occasions MPs claiming ACA were letting out the accommodation procured from the ACA allowance.”
    Can we assume that you or one of your colleagues will now see to it that the identities of these fraudsters are published – the public has a right to know.

  8. Mark Webb says:

    I only have one issue with this. The home address part of the judgement is plain silly. It will cost the taxpayer money in increased 24 hours policing. Of course this information can be found – but why make it easy.

  9. John Page says:

    Congratulations 🙂

  10. Will Dean says:

    Well done! Good for you.

  11. Eva Menuhin says:

    Brilliant! You have courage, conviction, endurance, intelligence and style, and you’ve had a lasting effect on the government of a nation. If anyone desrves a medal, you do.

  12. Acorn says:

    Well done Heather, some days are really good days. Now we need to build in a taxpayers “claw back” clause, from the profits these MPs make when they sell these second homes.

  13. If someone outside the hallowed halls of Westminster claimed an illegitimate expense, he or she would be guilty of embezzlement and if caught would be sacked and possibly jailed. If our tribunes are abusing the public trust in this manner they should suffer the full rigour of the law. Your splendid victory brings that possibility nearer to fruition.

  14. DC says:

    Congratulations. Nice one.

  15. June Gibson says:

    Well done Heather and many thanks for your tenacity. Talk about David and Goliath!
    We are so very badly served at the moment by many part-time careerists in Parliament, who have increasingly abused the democratic system in every way possible. It needed someone to put the rakes on the gravy train.
    I wish someone like you could take on the matter of the EU’s unaccountability – another establishment where government-appointed Commissioners have failed us, one after the other, never mind our elected MEPs.
    I worry all the time about how I will manage to pay bills out of my State pension and savings; the way politicians
    so lavishly help themselves makes me very angry indeed.

  16. D-Notice says:

    Well done!

    Hopefully there’s many more great FoIA-rulings to come

  17. Guido Fawkes says:

    All Hail Heather!

    You have won a victory which hopefully serves to remind politicians that they are public servants accountable to the people. Day in day out.

  18. Donald Mallett says:

    I find it almost unbelieveable that there are still judges left in this God-forsaken country who are not in the government’s pocket. That, and nothing else is the good news.

  19. Paul Callow says:

    A great result, well done Heather for all your work, its high time those people that we elect recognize that they work for US and its all of us that pay thier salaries !!

  20. Scottish Politics says:

    Heather this is a wonderful result, well done!

  21. Nellie Vos says:

    This is wonderful news – congratulations. You have asserted the principle of accountability that politicians so frequently forget and ignore, hopefully it won’t take so much effort to assert it again in the future.

  22. The Essex Boys says:

    Just briefly…very well done and thank you, Heather. You and your team have much to be proud of and this is a genuine landmark for all of us who believe in opening up the system and making it work for US . As Darth Vader famously said…”Now I am the Master!” Let’s hope so.

  23. DD says:

    Congratulations, and more so, thank you.

  24. Mike Law says:

    Excellent Heather, this a truly historic moment.

  25. Mrs Kara says:

    Go Girl! Make the politicians jump through our hoops for a change. Goodness only knows we’re always expected to jump through theirs. Turn the screws and let them know what it feels like to be on the end of an intrusive, brutal juggernaut after your very soul and no intention of stopping until it’s flattened the very will to live let alone fight out of you. It’s about time they knew what it feels like to be clobbered by the blunt instrument of justice. I loved your analogy that if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear. Well done Heather. Well done.

  26. Bob Pitman says:

    Congratulations Heather, a great victory over a hostile and secretive system.
    We met last week whilst doing some filming for the BBC Politics show and you have consistently been named as the interviewee that we were most impressed by. On Thursday this week we met Nick Harvey MP and tried to explain why we want every last penny of expenses accounted for and published. I have been shocked at the degree of hostility MPs show towards a system thats fully accountable and transparent. We were even told that the Westminster officials didn’t want MPs receipting every penny as it would constitute too much work which why the £25 base was agreed!! But the real fear seems to be that the press will hound them over things they think are innocuous, but if that fear meant that they begin to self-police expenses spending I would count that as a huge step towards winning back some public trust in MP’s.
    Anyway congratulations and thanks!

  27. Bedd Gelert says:

    Will you marry me ?

    I’m not smart, good looking or rich, but I’m available !

    Wonderful stuff, Heather…

  28. Liz Brown says:

    Hooray- very well done indeed! and who can we expect to lead the way into exposing the expenses of MEPs? Also who will now force those MP’s with European links (Nick Clegg springs to mind) to show their expenses/pensions

  29. gordon taylor says:

    Now let us have the names of all those who have resisted information being made public along with the claims they have made

  30. Ben Bamber says:

    Absolutely wonderful. I have been unsuccessfully corresponding with my MP, [Alistair Burt], for nearly a year now to try ascertain the same information. Thanks to you, he is shortly going to have to give details of his expenses! You have done UK PLC a truly enormous service!!
    This is groundbreaking stuff, I’d like to take you to dinner!

  31. Sam Leith says:

    Good going, Heather. A total triumph for which claps and hulloos and congratulations. More power to your elbow. And nose.
    S

  32. Superbly done. You’ve made the country a more open place for us all. I’m so pleased for you and for us.

  33. John L Bell says:

    Well done, Heather.
    Thanks to you and your team we have taken a step away from parliamentary dictatorship and one towards parliamentary democracy!

  34. JPFife says:

    Well done Heather. When it’s about us giving information for ID cards they keep repeating the mantra “those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear” but when it comes to accounting for money they (supposedly) have already spent and are claiming back they run to the courts screaming injustice. If they have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear. … The only problem being that they all have something to hide.

  35. Rose Gibson says:

    Thank you for making our democracy better.

    This is one of those things that looks so obviously right in retrospect, but most of us didn’t realise it until someone else fought for it.

  36. tony says:

    well done!!
    however i am very sceptical as to whether you will have achieved anything as this sneaky bunch of pocket fillers will vote themselves a big pay rise to compensate!!

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