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Monday, May 26, 2008

FOI delivers parliamentary accountability-in UK

The House of Commons has released the documents containing information about how some members spend the allowance they receive when parliamentary duty requires those of them from other places to be in London, following the High Court decision referred to on this blog last week and the subject of Matthew Moore's column in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday.

There has been much to marvel at, as reported by the Daily Mail , none better than this account of the health minister insuring the life of her husband, also an MP and claiming the cost of their joint mortgage on a second home and the insurance premium as expenditure under the allowance. There has also been much head scratching that the equivalent of over $A250000 was spent arguing that the information should not be disclosed. Here is the account of Heather Brooke, the right-to-know campaigner who initially requested the details, of the three year battle and it's not over yet

The Daily Mail quotes Brooke, as saying: 'All public figures should learn from this case and realise that proactively publishing this information is the way forward and that by dragging their heels, MPs have only lowered themselves in the eyes of their constituents What is utterly unacceptable is the secrecy of the system and it indicates that MPs did not feel able to justify these expenses to their constituents.These revelations give the lie to MPs' arguments that these receipts would damage their security or privacy. The only reason they were held back was to avoid embarrassment.'

Its all now in the public domain after a long and expensive battle, because the houses of parliament in the UK are subject to the FOI legislation. In Australia, at Federal state and territory level they are not.

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