Wednesday 21 January 2009
Obama sends a message to British MPs
This article has been updated. See below.
No country epitomises freedom more than America. In the Presidential election campaign, both candidates published their tax returns for all to see. Compare that with the rather disgraceful proposal by the British Government to change the Freedom of Information laws, to exclude themselves from the Act’s provisions.
Last year the Government lost a High Court battle which required MPs to disclose details of their expense claims. Rather than comply with the Court ruling, the Government is now proposing retrospective legislation, backdated to 2005, to quash previous FOI requests, and to prevent future requests.
In his inauguration speech, President Obama said: “Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”
In the real world, employees are required to submit expense receipts to their employers. Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life said: “MPs should not claim money from the public purse if they are not prepared to have those claims opened up to the public.”
An internet campaign is now underway to encourage people to write to their MPs and tell them what they think about the Government's proposals. The vote takes place this Thursday and I will publish the result on this blog.
You can contact your MP through the web site www.theyworkforyou.com or alternatively write to them directly:
Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet)
Andrew Dismore (Hendon)
Rudi Vis (Finchley & Golders Green)
Barnet councillors Mike Freer (Conservative) and Alison Moore (Labour) and Haringey councillor Laura Edge (LibDem) are all standing for Finchley & Golders Green at the next election. Cllr Matthew Offord is standing for the Conservatives in Hendon. Perhaps they can all post messages here telling us how they would vote if they were the MPs today.
Update 22.01.09: Following a probing question from Conservative MP Douglas Carswell at Prime Minster’s Questions yesterday, Gordon Brown was forced into a humiliating climb down and abandoned plans to exempt MPs from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr Carswell is an exceptional Member of Parliament for whom the title “Honourable Member” is well deserved.