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Massively unpopular legislation...put forward by a Conservative MP.

This is great. DC has responded quickly to widespread concern about this.

I echo your sentiments Simon. It should never have been allowed to get this far 'though.

How did it get this far?

Really doesn't look good:

Can we get away with it?
Ooops, there's a backlash, quick, start opposing...


Timberwolf, where was your hapless leader? He didn't bother to vote...

Another media cock up by the Press team - all this could have been nipped in the bud!

Cameron's press sec should have indicated his opposition earlier.


Yes - there is a demonstrable need for better early warning systems in CCHQ.

Better late than never so full marks to David Cameron....provided that this shamefully self-serving legislation is ditched.

Why wasn't there a three-line whip against this absurd bill in the Commons? If Cameron really wants to drum up support from liberal voters, that would've been the way to do it.

Thank $DEITY for the House of Lords. Sometimes it seems to me that they're the only remaining repository-of-wisdom within our political upper echelons.

Deputy Editor - Thanks for telling us about Ming Campbell's Petition. I have now signed it.

Other blogs are quoting DC saying that the Tories will oppose the bill "in its current form"?


CDM:Why wasn't there a three-line whip against this absurd bill in the Commons?

Because a Tory MP introduced it?

ChrisC:Other blogs are quoting DC saying that the Tories will oppose the bill "in its current form"? Hmmm....

Suppose the Bill is amended so that it deals with the confidentiality question via a change to the Data Protection Act, or a different change to the Freedom of Information Act? No reason to vote against that, might even be sensible, and clearly a million miles away from an immunity.

Good news, but agree with the others, the whip and Cameron's office needs to get their act ogether.

David MacLean's bill is a very good thing. One can see how wretched we've become as a nation when even people on Conservative Home rush to join in with the media's bogus (and HIGHLY self-interested) outrage on this issue.

MPs are not like other public servants. They are OUR elected representatives. If we denigrate them and tie their hands we are actually saying something pretty depressing about the esteem in which we hold ourselves and our traditional institutions.

Maclean is a man of real substance and his legitimate concern relates to the relationship between MPs and their constituents. The application of FoI legislation to MPs correspondence places the judgement on whether it is confidential in the hands of an 'Information Commissioner'. So you could write to your MP in confidence and still have it splashed all over the papers.

The same BBC journalists who can't wait to nose through individual receipts from MPs' expenses would go nuts at the idea that it might be done to them. And as for tabloid hacks...

Cameron and co have taken the cowardly option - pandering to media driven hysteria instead of standing up for the dignity of Parliament.

After his grievous blunder over Grammar Schools Cameron has a lot of ground to make it. Scuppering this disgraceful, anti-democratic legislation would be a good start.

I am glad to see the action Cameron has taken.

But why take it so late in the day?

The bill could have been destroyed weeks ago.

This is the right type of issue to pick a fight with his fellow MPs on as the vast majority of voters that have paid any attention to this think it was an outrageous move by MPs.

These are the Tory culprits: Peter Atkinson (Hexham), Simon Burns (Chelmsford West), Sir John Butterfill (Bournemouth West), James Duddridge (Rochford & Southend East), Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East), Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove), Greg Knight (Yorkshire East), Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East), David Maclean (Penrith & The Border), Bob Neill (Bromley & Chislehurst), Andrew Pelling (Croydon Central), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), John Randall (Uxbridge), David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds), David Tredinnick (Bosworth), Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone & The Weald), Lady Ann Winterton (Congleton), Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Tellers for the Ayes Tim Boswell (Daventry).

Mr Burke, can you point to any important ways in which the correspondence would be protected by exempting it from FOI - that aren't already covered by the DPA?

Can you point to a complaint an MP has made to the Info Commissioner about these issues?

I share your dislike of the hypocrisy of journalists, but if you have better knowledge than me on the above points I'm willing to be enlightened.

Edmund Burke, really? How come then that the opposition to this Bill is being spearheaded by Norman Baker MP, who sad to say has built up a strong personal following in the formerly rock solid Tory seat of Lewes? Are you seriously suggesting that Baker is not interested in the confidentiality of his communications with his constituents?

You might wish to see the comments of Nick Harvey, Lib Dem Defence spokesman, close to Ming, on this FOI Amendment Bill. Look in Hansard, Public Bill Committee proceedings for 7 Feb. Nick Harvey supported the Bill in Committee. Ming seems unaware of this or else typical Lib Dem hypocrisy? I am delighted by Cameron statement and opposition.

"the dignity of Parliament"

I've only just stopped laughing.

If Maclean was a man of "real substance" he would have worked out the scale of likely public opposition and, if really necessary, found another way to protect correspondence.

As someone else has said - can you point to a complaint an MP has made to the Info Commissioner about these issues?

Difficult to take someone seriously who talks of cowardice yet hides behind a pseudonym 'Edmund Burke'.
As I understand it, Maclean had many offers from the media to discuss his bill with BBC journalists,tabloid hacks etc. Funnily enough he turned them all down and refused to defend it! Cowardice eh?

Malcolm: As I understand it, Maclean had many offers from the media to discuss his bill with BBC journalists,tabloid hacks etc. Funnily enough he turned them all down and refused to defend it!

No, you're being unfair, Malcolm. Maclean clearly takes confidentiality so seriously that he's not prepared to reveal the confidential reasons behind his Bill. You simply can't trust the media with these matters. Makes perfect sense to me.

Very funny William!

Very good news. The bill is widely derided in the Lords (loud groans all round the house when it appeared yesterday), but without solid support from the Commons we might have hesitated to tell them how to run their own affairs, and limited ourselves to excising the Lords from it.

It is not right for a parliament to use its power for its own advantage. We have railed long about these sort of goings-on in Europe; it saddens me to see them creeping in here.

Let's deal with these points, one by one.

Sam - I can't discuss this on a public site but please give David MacLean a call - he'll give you some examples.

Michael - Baker is a low grade Lib Dem populist whose popularity in Lewes is actually quite shallow. Those of us who love the real Lewes (big shout to the Cliffe!) know that he might not be as comfortable as he thinks.

Chris - where is the massive public opposition? It's nothing more than a media-confected echo chamber.

Malcolm - sorry for exhibiting extreme cowardice by not using my real name. Can't imagine why...

There's a really sour, nasty whiff to the anti-MP comments we're getting here and elsewhere. The problem with our MPs is that too many of them are unpatriotic men of straw. The solution is to kick them out and get some better ones.

Attack the guilty men, not the institution.

Mr Burke,

I'll get in touch with David Maclean but I won't get my hopes up about the response.

Surely you can publicly provide examples of the types of existing problems? I'm hardly asking for names and addresses of constituents!

Sorry William. You're right of course and I stand corrected,as usual!

If I was operating on behalf of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group I'd take the opportunity to trawl through the expenses of MPs in order to establish their patterns of movement (eg - MP X always seems to sit in carriage B of the 5.15 from Euston on a Thursday so let's wait at Crewe station and jump on, shoot him in the head and then make good our escape).

Great - let's reveal the details of MPs' travel receipts because some creepy hypocrit from the Mail on Sunday wants to pander to the envy of his readers by writing a bullshit story about abuse of expenses. 'MP had glass of wine on train AT YOUR EXPENSE!'

Precisely, Mr Deputy Editor, no-one is asking for nuclear secrets to be disclosed. If it's all a horrible plot got up by the evil media to sell newspapers, a bit of transparency will surely put we doubters in our places.....

O/T. The Gov't have collapsed over the Home Information Packs issue. I wonder if they knew it would be defeated in the Lords? I wonder if David Maclean will withdraw his bill for the same reason?

"where is the massive public opposition?"

Are you mad?

"There's a really sour, nasty whiff to the anti-MP comments we're getting here and elsewhere." (Followed by anti-MP comment!)

Only the vote to increase their own pensions (to the sinlge most generous scheme in the country) has aroused more anger as far as I can see.

House repossess

"Massively unpopular legislation"

Massively unpopular in the press - I don't think it'll be an election issue.

It won't be an election issue?
No, not directly.
But do you think MPs come out well from this?
Will this have had the effect of increasing or decreasing turnout?

It's always amusing to hear someone say that we are so lucky in this country to have no corruption in our ruling elite such as those poor continentals have. One only has to lightly scratch below the surface to see the base institutional corruption that pervades the commons, and to meet just a few of our MPs to see what flawed creatures they are. The job seems to attract the self seeking, posturing rabble unsuited to any form of proper work. Of course there are one or two who are exceptions, which as they say, proves the rule. MPs, poor creatures, need only to spout the mindless class bigotry or the alternative tomfoolery, with conviction, to attract the attention of the party apparatchicks to get a feather bed for life, and all at public expense. Vote your own pay, pension, and limitless expenses, and help yourself to state treasure. After all you can buy the necessary votes using the voter's own money.

I usually let ignorant comments like Soothsayer's pass, because it only encourages him and others, but I'm afraid I'll take the bait this time.
The vast majority of MPs could make more money outside politics. "Limitless" expenses are used to pay staff, correspond with constituents, research policy and travel twice a week between the constituency and Westminster. A "feather bed for life" would not be my description of the hours MPs and their families commit to their jobs and the regular abuse they have to contend with, nor the lack of job security felt by most MPs.
Grow up, Soothsayer, or put yourself up for election and experience the feather bed for yourself.

Nick Longworth. Have you not noticed that they fall over each other to get nominated, not by any public examination, but by party bosses? They raise funds to run for nomination. It can only be for the huge rewards, certainly not for the delights of serving the public. If you think the disgusting behaviour of MPs in voting for this shocking bill is anything but self serving, then you are very naieve. Remember both front benches encouraged the bill, and those MPs who failed to vote deliberatly did so hoping the bill would go through, which it did.
Corrupt I say.

Actually, they put a lot of effort into being selected by local party members and then elected by up to 70,000 voters in a constituency. MPs are not 'nominated' by party bosses - even the delights of the A list left the final decisions in the hands of the members, or the general public in primaries.
Your childish view that all politicians are in it for themselves is simply wrong.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, if you genuinely think that David Maclean's motivation for bringing in this bill is to protect his expenses from prying eyes, then you are a fool.

Mr Burke:

Re your answer to Sam:

As far as am aware the provisions of this PM Bill do not apply to Councillors.

Councillors deal with constituents and heir personal and highly delicate problems e.g. a family wanting a housing transfer to escape the man they were giving evidence against in an stabbing incident. So if MPs are to have exemptions under FOI than surely so should Councillors?

The reality is that any correspondence of a personal nature is protected for both Councillors and MPs by Data Protection provisions.

As a Councillor I have had e-mails I have sent to Council Officers revealed under the FOI - always general issues around policy, opinions etc. It is a pain but that is democracy. Never once has a revelation concerned a particular identified constituent.

There may have been instances when confidential information on an MP's Constituent was released - if so the person responsible was breaking DPA legislation - intentionally or by mistake.

The fact that an existing law is breached does not justify further legislation - but suggests that the existing legislation should be better enforced!

As a Tory I am glad that the party is now making a stance.

Re your answer to Chris:

Of course this issue is not a big discussion point around the office water cooler. Regretably issues of freedom (ID cards etc) are not of great interest to the general public. But that does not mean that we political animals are wrong to regard these issues as vitally important - because they are!

Andrew Robathan: "I am delighted by Cameron statement and opposition"

So how come one of your whips, John Randall, is among the Dirty Two Dozen Tories who voted for this bill on Friday?

So, Nick Longworth, what do you think Maclean's motivation was if not to hide expenses of MPs and other equally "sensitive" information? It was clearly not to protect correspondence, other legislation does that to everyones satisfaction.
Despite the political sales patter I'm sure the public knows that party bosses dictate who gets the party nomination in a constituency in nearly all cases. I presume you believe that candidates seek nomination to bless the poor and heal the sick, but the rest of us do not.

I too have been very much against this Bill and said so on this site and elsewhere (in contrast to my more calm reaction to the Willetts proposals). I am still concerned about it but I really am wondering now if there has been an overeaction on this FOI thing as well. Today I had a paper from Macleans office setting out what he feels are the facts and they do present a more measured view of this than we have heard far. Perhaps other actions could have been taken to protect confidentiality but I think that there is more to this debate as well.


I think it would be a big mistake to underestimate how low an opinion so many people have of our elected representatives, and that is putting it very politely for some. The electorate are sick and tired of an out of touch government and feels its parliamentary representatives as a whole are not much better. Whether it is feather bedding their pensions and salaries, limiting freedom of expression (e.g. around parliament), or allowing bills like the FOI Amendment bill, the electorate perceive hypocrisy on the part of their elected and paid representatives. I do not give a damn what MPs might earn if they were not MPs. That hypothetical applies to all of us. They have chosen to do a well paid job which many thousands would ably and happily do.

Isn't this the same " honourable " David Maclean who bullied his way into a neighbouring constituency meeting a short time ago.

Set out below copy of email I sent to our leaders a few days ago, have read numerous comments and cannot see any reason to change my views.
Dear All,
Today I am ashamed of my Party.
It is an utter disgrace that the amendment to the above act was passed in the House with the tacit agreement of our front bench and other Conservative MPs.
For the past 10 months or so I along with many others have been out on the doorstep trying to overcome the apathy that is rife in the electorate at large, the most common phrase being "politicians are only in it for what they can get and are not interested in us" your actions, or should I say, your inaction has now confirmed this.
I have been a member of and worked for the Party since the early sixties and in all that time I have never ever seen such an abuse of Parliamentry business, you are always deriding Tony Blair about cronyism, but this was cronyism in the extreme.
I have already been approached by people in Llangollen, (non members) who know of my position within the Party expressing their disgust that the CONSERVATIVE PARTY agreed to allow this to happen. Staying neutral just will not wash.
Our Party leaders and MPs should hold their heads in shame, if not, then you have no shame. The saying "for evil to prosper all it takes is for good men to do nothing" is very apt.
I must inform you that you are very very close to losing this particular member and I have no doubt quite a few more.

Well said Mr Wishart.

On your bike then, Mr Wishart. You are a self-important, pompous liability who won't be missed.

I've worked with Dick Wishart for years and he is a decent man who has contributed a vast amount to our party. Can we please moderate out comments or we devalue the whole blog,


I'm surprised at the opposition to exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, when the exemptions to the Gender Equality Duty slipped through unnoticed...


We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to amend the Equality Act 2006 to remove the exemption for the Judiciary, Parliament and the House of Lords which allows them to discriminate on the grounds of gender.

Petition Details:
I was pleased to see new legislation come into force on 6 April 2007 that makes it 'unlawful for a public authority exercising a function to do any act which constitutes discrimination.'

It was with some surprise (or not) that within the Equality Act 2006, the upper echelons of society hold an exemption, including the Judiciary, Parliament and the House of Lords.

Draft Guidance has been made available by the Equal Opportunities Commission which also highlights that the above are exempted from not only discrimination, but harassment, including sexual harassment it seems. One can't help wondering
if this is a covert attempt by the House of Lords to reinstate the practice of 'prima nocta' (oh the good old days).

Parliament and the judiciary should be subject to the laws that they respectively create and enforce.

Well Well George Hillier have I struck a raw nerve, I will not trade insults with you as I dont know you nor you me, although you did miss out 2 things, I also smoke & drive a 4x4.
To the best of my knowledge we still in a country that allows free speech,I will continue to exercise that right until my dying day, if someone does not like my opinion all well and good, however to hurl abuse at something someone says that you do not agree with says more about you than it does about me.

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