Sunday, January 25, 2009

Freedom of Information: Tories Had Done Deal With Labour

Don't get me wrong. I shall enjoy any bounty from FOI requests on hypocritical MPs of all parties - calling for openness while secretly hoping, or indeed plotting to stymie this. Thanks to Sam Coates for this digging.

The secrets of John Leech, Paul Rowen and other "Freedom of Information champions" in the Liberal Democrats will be particularly interesting given their craven bleatings, the published accounts of their local party units, and their often strange arrangements.

But with or without the FOI exemption the new rules and the increased granularity of expenses accounting are a great leap forward. And although I may have to share some of my receipts with the taxman and/or VATman and my accountant I do not have to share these with the press and bloggers of the nation. Which makes the level playing field argument defunct doesn't it?

Here is the order paper for the non-debate on FOI showing the increased openness being brought forward by the government, lettering scheme as forwarded to me (see update):

Main Business

† 1 BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE [Until 6.00 pm]
Ms Harriet Harman

That, at this day’s sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Ms Harriet Harman relating to Payments to hon. Members (Publication Scheme), Members’ Allowances (Green Book), Members’ Allowances (Audit and Assurance) and Committee on Members’ Allowances not later than 5 pm; in each case such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.

Ms Harriet Harman


(2) In addition, information relating to Members’ expenditure from the beginning of the current Parliament shall be published in relation to each financial year, to the extent that such information is separately identifiable, under the following categories:

(a) Administrative and Office Expenditure:

(i) accommodation costs for offices, surgeries, etc;

(ii) office equipment and supplies;

(iii) telephones and other telecommunications;

(iv) professional fees and charges;

(v) agency and other staff costs;

(vi) travel costs;

(vii) utilities;

(b) Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure:

(i) mortgage interest;

(ii) rent;

(iii) hotel costs;

(iv) council tax;

(v) fixtures, fittings and furnishings;

(vi) subsistence;

(vii) other household costs, including service charges, utilities, telecommunications, maintenance and repairs;

(c) Communications Expenditure:

(i) websites;

(ii) reports and surveys;

(iii) delivery charges, postage and stationery;

(iv) advertising;

(v) equipment;

(d) Staffing Expenditure;

(e) Travel Expenditure in relation to travel by Members:

(i) car, including third party vehicle rental and mileage;

(ii) rail;

(iii) air;

(iv) other UK and European travel;

(f) Resettlement Grant;

(g) Winding-up Expenditure;

(3) The Committee on Members’ Allowances shall keep the categories listed in paragraph (2) above under review and may modify them from time to time as the committee may think necessary or desirable in the interests of clarity, consistency, accountability and effective administration, and conformity with current circumstances.

Ms Harriet Harman

That this House approves the Guide to Members’ Allowances (the Green Book), published as Annex 1 to the First Report of the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee (House of Commons Paper No. 142) and endorses the Principles set out in Part 1 of the Green Book as the basis for all claims made by Members;

That the rules set out in the Green Book shall govern all expenditure on Members’ allowances with respect to all claims for expenditure arising on or after 1 April 2009;

That the Members Estimate Committee shall carry out a review of the provisions of the resolutions of this House relating to such expenditure, make such modifications to them as are necessary to ensure that they are consistent with the provisions in the Green Book, and report to the House; and

That this House thanks Ms Kay Carberry CBE, nominated by the Trades Union Congress, and Mr Keith Bradford, nominated by the Confederation of British Industry, for having acted as the Speaker’s external appointees to the Advisory Panel on Members’ Allowances.

Ms Harriet Harman

That this House approves the arrangements for the audit and assurance of Members’ allowances set out in the report of the Members Estimate Audit Committee to the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee, published as Annex 3 to the First Report of the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee (House of Commons Paper No. 142).

UPDATE 11:33: I've relented and removed the repetition.

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