UK Liberty

Write to your MP about the expenses disgrace

Posted in accountability, freedom of information, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on January 20, 2009

This really is a disgrace.  The Government, lobbied by Labour and Conservative MPs, is pushing through statutory legislation intended to prevent us from knowing what MPs and Peers claim from the public purse.

A letter to the Times sums it up perfectly:

Sir, The proposed law that would exempt MPs from detailing their personal expenses on the grounds of the log-keeping being too onerous and burdensome is an insult to all taxpayers (“MPs defy the judges to keep ‘John Lewis’ expenses list secret”, Jan 16).

As a self-employed person I am instructed by my local tax office to keep, log and report all expenses, down to a sandwich or coffee, for five years. Failure to do so will mean I cannot claim these expenses against legitimate business expenses and hence mitigate my tax bill.

To have the people who set these burdensome rules now exempting themselves because it is too onerous is an outrage. This suggests that the rest of us do not have to keep such records, an idea that I doubt would be accepted by Revenue & Customs.

David Graney

Shrewton, Wilts

Tom Steinberg at MySociety on how you can help:

You can help in the following three ways:

1. Please write to your MP about this www.WriteToThem.com – ask them to lobby against this concealment, and tell them that TheyWorkForYou will be permanently and prominently noting those MPs who took the opportunity to fight against this regressive move. The millions of constituents who will check this site before the next election will doutbtless be interested.

2. Join this facebook group and invite all your least political friends (plus your most political too). Send them personal mails, phone or text them. Encourage them to write to their politicians too.

3. Write to your local paper to tell them you’re angry, and ask them to ask their readers to do the above. mySociety’s never-finished site http://news.mysociety.orgmight be able to help you here.

Persuade your MP to sign Jo Swinson’s EDM 492:

That this House notes with concern the provisions in the Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 to remove the expenses of hon. Members and Peers from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act; notes that this Order singles out hon. Members and Peers in a special category as the only public officials who will not have to disclose full details of their expenses; further notes the High Court judgement of 16th May 2008 and subsequent reassurances to hon. Members that expenses would be published in full by autumn 2008; further notes with concern the regressive effect of this Order on parliamentary transparency and the detrimental impact it will have on Parliament in the eyes of the public; and calls on Ministers to block or repeal the Order in the interest of hon. Members’ and Peers’ accountability to members of the public.

See also the Guardian, the Timesthe Daily Mail.

See also Maurice Frankel (also CFOI):

Under the new proposals:

  • Information about MPs’ and Peers’ annual expenditure, broken down by subheading, will be published each year as part of Parliament’s publication scheme.
  • But information about any individual item of expenditure will be secret and outside the scope of the FOI Act altogether.

Note Harriet Harman’s dishonesty:

The public will have more information than they have ever had before and we will take that back to 2005 …

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5 Responses

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  1. Harry said, on January 20, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I have written to my MP (http://harryaldridge.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/mps-and-their-expenses/)

    I also calculate that, seeing that over £1m has been spent trying to log all the records, this equates to over 23 receipts per week…

    £1m / 650MPs = £1,500 per MP. £1,500 / £7.50/hr = 200 hours of scanning receipts and data logging. Each receipts takes, say, 10 minutes to process, thus 6 per hour can be processed. 6 x 200 = 1,200, or 23/week, or 3/day.

    HOW can it cost so much to log the expenses? I want a detailed break down of the costs involved. I don’t believe the cost is more than £1,500 per MP. The Scottish Parliament manages just fine!

  2. ukliberty said, on January 21, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Thanks for your comment Harry. The cost estimate varies depending on the newspaper – the Times for example says hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent already, which may rise to £1m, the Daily Mail just says it’s £1m. Either way, it is only 5p per household ( £1m / 22 m households in UK), and I for one don’t mind paying 5p to find out about Follet’s windows, Blair’s kitchen and Beckett’s pergola.

  3. Alisdair Cameron said, on January 22, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    ukliberty, I got a very disingenuous and indeed shirty reply: I’ve taken a photo of it. Would you like me to send it on?

  4. Alisdair Cameron said, on January 22, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Here goes with a link to the letter…please remove it if not appropriate.
    http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/AlisdairSCameron/MPExpenses?authkey=rPLX7sU8SfM#5294137291299940882

  5. ukliberty said, on January 23, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Thanks Alisdair.

    I get the impression from what he’s said in Parliament that Clelland isn’t in favour of transparency but I’m not sure whether it’s wholly down to costs or not.

    I think he’s missed the point though that this law would have (1) set MPs and Peers apart from everyone else who can claim expenses, and (2) that the public are pretty concerned about what their money is being spent on, particularly at the moment. As I said elsewhere, I’m satisfied for politicians to be reimbursed for expenses incurred in doing their job, but not those incurred in fancying that new 42″ flatscreen TV they saw in John Lewis, or a new pergola.

    Indeed, I’m on their side in terms of the occasional three or four figure bill that they have to fork out for with their own money and then claim back, particularly because it seems it wouldn’t be the easiest of processes.


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