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Labour and Conservative's shameful vote on secrecy

May 22, 2007 9:00 PM

Liberal Democrats in Northampton have slammed Labour & Conservative MP's who have voted for a change to the law to remove the public's right to see MPs' travel and expenses claims.

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, introduced by the Conservative MP David Maclean, would remove any obligation for MPs' expenses to be made public. It would also stop people from finding out what their Member of Parliament has said to other public bodies.

Northampton North Liberal Democrat campaigner Andrew Simpson said, "This Bill has brought Parliament into disrepute.

"I find it unbelievably hypocritical that MPs should require other public officials to reveal their expenses whilst banning people from seeing their own. They seem to think there is one rule for MPs and another for everyone else.

"It is clear what has prompted this. Earlier this year, the parliamentary authorities lost a legal battle to keep the details of MPs' travel expenses secret. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker mounted a successful legal challenge to House of Commons secrecy. As a result, Parliament was forced to declare how much each MP had claimed in travel expenses broken down according to whether it was by car, rail, air or bicycle.

"Clearly, some MPs found the publication of this information a bit embarrassing. They don't think they should have to justify to their constituents their publicly funded travel arrangements. They would rather hide behind a wall of secrecy.

"The change to the law agreed on Friday was a shameful decision. Whilst Gordon Brown was claiming he was in favour of more accountable government, his own party was conspiring with the Conservatives to lock the doors on open government to deny the people the right to know what their MPs are spending taxpayers' money on.

"This was a sordid and appalling pact by two parties that say one thing but do another.

"There is however a glimmer of hope. The changes have to be passed by the House of Lords. Liberal Democrat peers have said they will fight this change all the way. And I will be giving them my full backing to stop Labour and Conservatives pulling this veil of secrecy over the actions of MPs."

Andrew Simpson has also welcomed the launch of a national petition by Liberal Democrat Leader Menzies Campbell against the proposals to exempt MPs from Freedom of Information rules. The petition calls on all political parties to back the campaign to stop the change going through.

The petition can be signed on line at http://www.ourcampaign.org.uk/foi


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