A good day to bury bad expenses

  • A Home Secretary on the verge of resignation over allegations her husband put through porn on expenses.
  • World leaders descending on London for the G20 with expected riots.

A full news day and what better time to publish the much-delayed aggregate 2007/2008 expense totals of all MPs. These are the same aggregate totals that the House of Commons was supposed to publish back in October 2008 but felt unequal to the task.

A cynic might see this long delay as the defiant response to a High Court ruling ordering full disclosure.

I’ve put in a freedom of information request to get to the bottom of the delay and sudden about-face.

I’m all for full disclosure but must it always be done in such a reactionary, manipulative way? Haven’t the Commons authorities learned by now that best approach is one that is sensible, thought-through and respectful of the public’s right to know?

MPs 2007/2008 aggregate expense totals

4 Responses to “A good day to bury bad expenses”

  1. John L Bell says:

    I sent in a FOI for full details of all expenses and supporting paperwork, relating to
    accommodation for a select band of MPs by email in February.
    The time limit given in the FOI Act came…. and went…. so I emailed a reminder on 29th
    March!

    This was the reply;

    Detailed information about the claims made by all MPs is held only for the period 2004/05 to date (our records are kept for the current financial year and the three previous such years). I can confirm that this
    information is held by the House of Commons with the intention that it should be made
    available to the public generally. While a date for publication has not yet been set,
    there is a clear intention to publish this information at a future date so this information
    is exempt from the obligation to provide you with a copy by virtue of the exemption set out
    in section 22 (1) of the FOI Act (information held with the intention of future publication) and your request is refused. While there is a public interest in providing access to information relating to MPs such as
    that covered by your request, this interest is outweighed by the public interest in
    providing access as soon as possible to information about all MPs. Therefore, the balance of the public interest rests with maintaining the exemption while this information is being prepared for publication.

    Now let me check this…… I cannot get the information because everybody is going to get
    it (and all the other information) at some future date! They don’t know when ….. I don’t
    know when!…. but we are going to get it!…… but when?

    The old question about how long is a piece of string seems dead simple compared with this
    problem. Doesn’t it?

  2. Rich says:

    More interesting as a spreadsheet:
    http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pJqQPIhFzxnWA7pyEJcIXJg

    323 million pounds! That’s a lot of expense.

  3. Their use of Section 22 (1) of the FOI Act is yet another cynical manipulation of the legislation and MPs ability to manipulate the rules. The article in the Sunday Times today about the Speaker provides evidence that he is as guilty as the rest of misuing public funds. It time this mess and ongoing fraudulent use of taxpayers money was sorted out. If these claims were being submitted by civil servants we would have MPS baying for blood, police enquiries and prosecutions. Perhaps it is time that a private prosecution for Fraud was brought agains one or two of these MPs – that would trigger a rush to clean out the stables!

  4. Well done Heather, keep up the good work. You are doing more to better the system in this country, than the entire bunch in Westminster. They will never reform themselves. After much experience, I can assure you that the public sector will never reform itself; change will only come when it is so frightened of losing its jobs, perks, and self-interest, that, to retain some of it, it will then make sure that some change will happen.

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