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MPs to vote to keep their expenses secret

Posted by James Hammerton @ 4:17 pm on 17 January, 2009.
Categories British politics, accountability, freedom of information.
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From The Times:

Details of MPs’ claims for plasma televisions, furniture and cleaning bills will be kept secret after Harriet Harman bowed to backbenchers’ pressure to stop expenses claims being published.

MPs are preparing to pass a new law next week that will exempt them from parts of the Freedom of Information Act, meaning that they will never again be forced to publish receipts for their claims, in defiance of an order by the High Court. This would make MPs the only public sector employees with special privileges to protect them from disclosing their expenses.

At the same time, the Speaker’s committee revealed that it had watered down tough restrictions on what MPs could claim for. A new regime was promised after Derek Conway, a Conservative Member, was found to be abusing the system. The plans for rigorous external audits, however, have been diluted and a ban on buying furniture and electrical items has been scrapped.

MPs will be allowed to continue using public funds to buy “white goods”, electrical equipment, sofas, chairs, tables, decoration, cleaning, insurance and security. Controversially, MPs will also be able to claim additional sums on their mortgage for “refurbishment”, plus £25 for each night spent away from their main home, without receipts.

A document from the committee led by Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker, said: “It has been argued that it would be excessively burdensome for Members to have provided receipts for all transactions and that additional costs incurred . . . would be likely disproportionate.”

This is taxpayers’ money they’re spending. Apparently they don’t believe we should know how they’re spending it. It is a disgrace.

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