Friday, 20 April 2007

Giving MPs a bad name

Today is one of those days which gives Parliament a bad name. A Private Member's Bill is being debated which seeks to exempt MPs from various parts of Freedom of Information legislation. Given that Parliament passed the legislation in the first place, it seems a bit rich for MPs to seek to avoid being covered by it. Lib Dem MPs are opposing the Bill but it looks as though the Government are giving it a 'nod and a wink' which may mean that it gets through in any case. Obviously MPs (like lots of other people) need to be able to deal with peoples' individual needs with confidentiality, but in general the assumption should surely be that we should be seeking to be as open as possible about what we do, rather than give people reason to suppose we have something to hide.

Another own goal for Parliament.


Gavin Whenman said...

You might be interested in this DCA consultation on limiting the FOI:
(there's still time to respond).

Hywel said...

Thank goodness for some sanity - though I would expect it from you :-)

What I don't understand is why this bill is necessary - surely MPs correspondence with and about constituents is covered by the Data Protection Act and thus excluded from the FOI legislation.

If not then a very narrow amendment may be justified but what is proposed seems hugely disproprotionate to acheive that end.

You may however want to have a word with your colleague Nick Harvey who was rather disappointing on this bill when it was in committee

Steve Webb MP said...

Just as an update, the "usual channels" (ie the Government and Opposition Whips offices) have obviously done a deal to clear the decks so that this Bill can be debated AGAIN on Friday (April 27th). It looks as though some further 'detailed' speeches may be required....

Hywel said...

I'm shocked you don't go along with the BBC who say it is down to a Parliamentary quirk!

Hywel said...

Have to ask the question though where were you today?

Come to that where was Ming - he thought it important enough to email all the members yesterday but not to turn up to vote.