Monday, May 21, 2007

A squalid act of self-interest

Last week, we saw the Speaker of the House express her support for bringing Parliament under the Official Information Act. Meanwhile, in the UK, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. In a squalid act of self-interest, British MPs have just voted to exempt themselves from that country's Freedom of Information Act. The ostensible reason is to prevent personal information about constituents from being subject to FOIA requests. The real reason is because MP's see no reason why they should be accountable to the public for their travel expenses and other allowances. Or, in the case of the bill's author, David Maclean, for buying himself a quad-bike on the public tab. Interestingly, despite passing the FOIA in 2000 and an official stance supporting open government, the bill has the tacit support of the government, and of Blair and Brown. I guess they think open government shouldn't extend to holding them accountable...

The bill will now go to the Lords, who will give it a much less friendly reception. Peers are expected to try and kill the bill, and if they can't, to amend it so they are still subject to the FOIA in an effort to shame the Commons into dropping it. Hopefully it will work.

(More information can be found at Open Secrets and the UK Freedom of Information Blog)