Thursday, 22 January 2009

MPs may have another go at concealing expenses warns Campaign for FoI

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has welcomed the government's decision to withdraw the proposed Order excluding MPs’ expenses from the FoI Act but warned that the issue may resurface.
Campaign director Maurice Frankel said : "It was wrong in principle for MPs to try and conceal their expenses claims when all other public servants have to release theirs. It was improper for the government to try and rush the measure through without the public noticing or having time to object. MPs should not be legislating on the quiet to remove an existing right of access to information about their own expenses in the hope that no-one will notice.”
However, the Campaign suggested that it was possible that the measure would resurface in the near future in amended form. Frankel added: “Some MPs are clearly desperate to prevent the release of past expenses claims which are likely to have exceeded what could reasonably be justified to the public.”
The Mail's Benedict Brogan refers on his blog to the claims and counter claims by the parties in Westminster about the expenses affair but says: "This ding-dong should not distract us from the central question: why did the Government decide to expose itself to a PR disaster by siding with the Labour and Tory backbenchers who want to keep things secret? Some say cost, others say security, but neither explanation stacks up. Surely Mr Brown made greater transparency and reviving institutions the cornerstones of his administration, not sparing the blushes of his own side?"
In his first full day in office, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum ordering government agencies to examine Freedom of Information Act requests with a bias toward release of the documents -- overturning eight years of a Bush administration directives to find ways not to disclose information," reports Editor & Publisher.
"For a long time now there's been too much secrecy in this city," Obama said. "The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known."
No wonder the press like him.

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