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Time to turn the lights on in Parliament

By Steven | May 19, 2009

The MPs’ expenses scandal rages on in Britain. MPs have expenses, you understand. Quite rightly, they can recover those that are “wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the performance of a Member’s parliamentary duties.” And what MP could effectively and conscientiously perform his or her duties without spending 2000 pounds to replace a leaking pipe under a tennis court, 600 pounds for hanging baskets and pot plants, 100 pounds to replace 25 lightbulbs, 3419 pounds installing a new plumbing system because the old one was “too hot”, 25000 pounds on security patrols, thousands of pounds furnishing second houses, and more thousands for reimbursement of mortgages that have already been repaid? At the other end of the scale, even the richest cabinet minister must have his yoghurt (expense claim: 38p).

Still and all: doesn’t this show us once again the value of transparency? Why not follow former Speaker Margaret Wilson’s suggestion that we should bring Parliament under the rubric of the Official Information Act?

Are we really so confident of the probity of our own MPs? Their skeletal expense revelations are hardly enough to provide reassurance that they aren’t committing their own rorts here. We should be entitled to know and evaluate for ourselves which MPs are thrifty and frugal with taxpayers’ money, which are squeezing out every cent they can, and which are crossing the line.

I suppose I should note that the UK Freedom of Information Act does include MPs’ expenses, but the little sods have been shamelessly fighting to hold back this information for years, arguing against release before the Information Commissioner, proposing special legislative exceptions, and taking the case to the High Court. All to no avail, though. The courts have forced them to release it.

But even after that, they were cleaning it all up for mass release on July 1, no doubt with some of the juicier bits withheld. It took a leak of the entire raw stinking pile for the whole story to become public, and for the MPs to be held accountable. (Of course, the politicians then expressed outrage at the “theft” and called in the police to sniff out the leaker… sound familiar?)

Topics: Official Information Act | 46 Comments »

46 Responses to “Time to turn the lights on in Parliament”

  1. electricray Says:
    May 20th, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Hi Steve
    Still waiting for my parliamentary claim for Moat Cleaning to be approved.

    Mean time, as I understand it, there was no transparency, at least not until very recently (like, it was due sometime soon) some naughty wagged leaked this to the Daily Telegraph. So while I’m sure the British MPs would love to claim some or other moral rectitude, I don’t think they really can.

  2. Steven Says:
    May 20th, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Yep. Isn’t that pretty much what I said?

    More interestingly: ought we both to be dignifying as a “leak” what really seems to have been a sale of information?

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