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"The bill has had 11 hours of debate and got a 3rd Reading majority of 71 which is greater than the Governments majority. It is opposed by only a handful of Members..."

And it was only supported by a handful of members. Mr MacLean, you're a disgrace to the Conservative Party and to Parliament.

David Maclean's main problem is that his case is a very complicated one, whereas his opponents can very easily distort the issue and lie to make it look like a simple attempt to suppress information. The press coverage of this Bill has been a shambles.

I would suggest DC tells him to " Get on his (quad) bike ".

Maclean is either deliberately concealing his intent or is ignorant of the law in this area. The rules to protect constitutents' personal data and communications pertaining to it are very strict - and if the existing law is not being followed, the solution is to enforce that law - not write more.

The real game here is concealing the lobbying and pleading that MPs do behind the scenes via letter to local councils and other public bodies. This is utterly unjustified - it is strongly in the public interest for the dealings of elected Members with public bodies to be available for scrutiny by the general public. Obscurity here is only to the benefit of those MPs too lazy to fight their constituents corner or too dishonest to tell their constituents what they have really done.

It is shameful that any Conservative MPs have backed a bill taking power away from the public and supporting more secrecy in Government.

I have a lot of sympathy for what Prentiz is saying. David Maclean is right in the llimited sense that, as everyone has agreed, confidential personal information regarding constituents needs to be safeguarded but (a) the mechanism to do that may well already exist courtesy of the DPA; and (b) if that is not so, a fairly minor legislative change would surely correct that position. The Maclean Bill seems to do much more than that and that is the key concern. I also take little comfort from a Speaker's assurance. Under this Government in particular, the office of Speaker has become politicised and transparency requirements under the conventions of Parliament are a poor substitute for spelling those requirements out in legislation.

So it is time that Teresa May was asked what her role in this was.

The fact is that public authorities have a duty under the data protection act not to release this information.

Public authorities routinely do either refuse FOI requests or delete people's details (like officials names) when providing information under FOI.

So if there are some authorities that are not following that duty, why do we believe that adding a duty not to release it under the FOI will change their mistakes? Does duplicating laws increase the chances of compliance.

The other aspect to this is the political naivety of Donald Maclean.

oops should have said David Maclean.

The NHS is drowning under Freedom of Information requests. But no-one has put up an exclusion for us in the NHS. Each PCT is dealing with 2-3 requests a week, on average. Hospitals will have the same problem. This probably takes up about 30 hours worth of managerial and professional time a week, if not more. I hate to think about the number of times I have had to drop everything else (patient related work) and run around like a headless chicken finding information for a freelance journalist by the deadline. The NHS receives no funding for this, and it is a real stretch on resources.
I think the NHS has the same argument about patient/ constituent confidentiality as anyone else (ie MPs). We just ensure we don't breach the data protection act and release no information that could identify people.
The system was poorly thought through, but that is no excuse for excluding MPs from it. Each request should be paid for by the people requesting it - according to the time and resources taken up in working on it.
The worst thing about this is that it has come over to the public as "tory sleaze" because the media are all to happy to keep mentioning it was a "tory mp" who is responsible.

"Turning now to expenses or, more accurately, the refund of the costs we have incurred employing staff and running an office etc."

When I submit expenses to my firm, I also submit receipts detailing my expenditure.

Is that what you do?

ChrisC: Do you have to pay for the paper you use during the course of an ordinary day's work? For the computer on which you work? For the phone and fax machine in your office? If you have a secretary or staff, are you personally responsible for paying their wages and oncosts?

David Maclean's defence is based on evidence that existing provisions of the Data Protection Act are not always being observed. Perhaps a few prosecutions would sharpen the minds of those concerned? The solution does not lie in yet wider legislation that, rightly or wrongly, will be perceived by the public as something with which to hide the misdemeanours of some MPs.

"ChrisC: Do you have to pay for the paper you use during the course of an ordinary day's work? For the computer on which you work? For the phone and fax machine in your office? If you have a secretary or staff, are you personally responsible for paying their wages and oncosts?"

No, of course none of those things.

But I know that the money meant for those things IS actually spent on those things.
I am not given an "allowance" which I can CHOOSE to spend on those things.
Do you see the difference??

And everything - whether paid for by the firm or by me - is fully documented for audit purposes.

And I cannot employ relatives even if they were (unlikely) the best people available.

And, while I'm about it, I don't determine my own pay nor do I award myself the best pension terms in the country.

ChrisC, of course you spotted that MPs' allowances do have to pay for all those things which every other workplace provides for its workers.

MPs are not given 'an allowance' in the sense of handing over a cheque. The only reason why the Fees Office does not have receipts submitted for smaller items is that their very small office would drown under them if they did. If you've ever tried to get money out of the Fees Office you would know that far from freely handing out money, they are incredibly stingy and controlled (for instance, you can't use up part of one year's allowance and part of the next on a single big item).

What on earth is the cost of this misguided piece of crap that Maclean has pushed through Parliament.
Ain't there better things to discuss, like Toni's impeachment or having Gordo up for Grand Theft Pension, or Hewitt for lying, or for that matter any one from government on that offence.

My heart's bleeding. I guess they can comfort themselves by thinking about the pension scheme!

More seriously, if MPs cannot see why they should (even at increased central admin cost) align their own working practices and conditions with those of their constituents as closely as possible, in the interests of boosting their rock-bottom reputations, then they can have no-one but themselves to blame for the level of contempt in which they are held.

Maclean's stupidity can have done nothing but increase that contempt level to a new high!

"Perhaps a few prosecutions would sharpen the minds of those concerned?"

Exactly right - as in other cases a few prosecutions, applying the existing law, would have solved the problem without any need for a change in the law.

Justin is completely correct. Maclean's bill is a disgrace. I would de-select someone for that.

I notice that Mr Speaker (if i've read it correctly) will only be publishing a TOTAL figure. which, on its own is pretty meaningless.

It's nice of David Maclean to take his snout out of the trough long enough to attempt to give us some feeble excuses for his disgraceful amendment.

Well done David, you've gone right up in my estimation, now get back to playing on your taxpayer funded quad bike there's a good lad.

I sometimes think that the bile reserved for politicians is a little overdone. David Maclean's memo seems quite reasonable, although I don't know the details behind the alleged problems with the Data Protection Act etc. I also understand that he has now added an amendment specifically excluding MP's expenses from being protected by the Bill.

There are some on this board who seem personally outraged that MP's can claim expenses for costs incurred during the course of their work. My understanding of the practicalities of being an MP is that it is a pretty expensive business. Being a candidate alone has been estimated to cost up to £40k. It is also pretty disastrous for family life - spending most of the week in London, and being obliged to attend functions etc at weekends.

I'm not getting my violin out - MPs understand what they are getting into, and they have a basic salary well above the national average and a gold plated pension scheme (although that salary is well below the salary of the average GP, senior executivein the private sector, and a growing number of local government officers). But I do shake my head at the small mindedness of some posters who seem to want MPs to wear a sackcloth and ashes, and pay for everything themselves.

In my experience, MPs from all three main parties are generally hard working decent people who genuinely entered politics because they care deeply about the country and how it is run (something does seem to happen when perfectly decent MPs become cabinet ministers, but that's a different matter - power perhaps does indeed corrupt?)

To describe David Maclean as needing to "...to take his snout out of the trough long enough ..." is extremely unfair on an MP who works hard for his constituents. With regard to the quad bike, I don;t know the details but my previous company spent considerable sums of money on equipment and alterations to enable disabled members of staff to do their jobs effectively.

I think MPs are now in the position where everything they do is attacked mindlessly. I want MPs to be intelligent people who could earn a lot of money in other fields if they chose; and I want them to come from all backgrounds, not only those already wealthy enough to pay for the cost of the job out of their own pockets. We won't get that if some of the posters on this board had their way - with all MPs being a cross between a monk and a charity worker!

"I am honoured to serve on the House of Commons Commission, chaired by Mr Speaker and other members on it are Jack Straw, Sir Stuart Bell, Theresa May and Nick Harvey. I am honoured to - - - - "

You were set up you naive git .


I don't want MPs to pay for everything themselves.

What I do want is for them to ACCOUNT PROPERLY for what they do spend.

Philip Mawer in Jan this year:
“The degree of variation in the spend on stationery and allowances, and in some aspects of the travel regime, are not easily explicable,” Sir Philip said. “It is so marked that it is bound to give rise to questions about Members’ practice.”

"I am honoured to serve on the House of Commons Commission, chaired by Mr Speaker and other members on it are Jack Straw, Sir Stuart Bell, Theresa May and Nick Harvey. I am honoured to - - - - "

You were set up , you naive git .


Nobody expects MP's to pay for everything associated with their work out of their own pockets. We just expect them (or many of them) to stop being so bloody greedy and taking advantage of everything on offer whether they've incurred that expense or not.

The fact is that our society has generally become greedier and more selfish in recent years and the behaviour of many of our elected representatives reflects that (look at the vast increases in amounts claimed by many councillors)

We should receive better from people who put themselves up to represent us.

I support the ammendment. The press are making a fuss because they want grubby stories, the Mail's attempt to black Mr Maclean was revolting. I'm not sure there should be any FoI bill. I'd rather we could trust our MPs and the civil service. In any case, if they really want to hide something scandalous they usually manage it in despite of the Act.

*correct "black" to "blacken".

Adding, that I agree with James; and regarding Rachel Joyce's comments on FoI requests to the NHS, I would be inclined to support a smattering more exceptions. I'd abolish the thing outright if it didn't look so bad.

I don't believe that a culture of suspicion and harassment will make our MPs better people. And MPs have always been mocked and disrespected by the peasant mobs in times of relative prosperity. MPs should worry less about their standing with the populace and more about their jobs.

"I'm not sure there should be any FoI bill. I'd rather we could trust our MPs and the civil service."


So you would have been happy for, e.g., the fact that Brown ignored the advice on pensions to have been kept hidden?

Have you heard of public choice theory?
James Buchanan won a nobel prize for it.
This is why all public "servants" need to be held as transparently accountable as possible. (Which does not mean harrassed. They only need to be harrassed because they resist the accountability which of course they demand from us via the laws and regulations they so carelessly pass.)
And one of the many reasons why conservatives
should seek to limit the power of the state as far as possible.

"I don't believe that a culture of suspicion and harassment will make our MPs better people."

All I am asking is that MPs have to behave in their professional lives, by accounting properly for expenditure, as I do in mine.
Not too much to ask, is it?

MPs should worry less about their standing with the populace....IRJMilne. Probably about the worst piece of advice I've ever seen posted on this blog.
Have you ever done any canvassing IRJMilne ? If you had you would know that large swathes of the electorate believe our political classes to be sleazy and corrupt .I have lost count of the times I've been told 'you are all the same'. Our biggest threat isn't from UKIP,BNP or Lib Dems it's from the increasingly large percentage of Britions who have opted out of the political process and don't vote.Macleans bill reinforces the view that there 'one rule for them and one for us' and was extremely unwise. His subsequent refusal to engage with media to defend his bill was cowardly in the extreme and has brought shame on himself and our party.

malcolm - my opinion is that when things are going OK-ish, neither too well nor too badly, MPs will never be held in good stock by their countrymen. I should also really correct what I said to specify that this is what I think MPs should ideally do, not what MPs should do in practice. In any case, the attacks of all these FoI proponents here only perpetuate further this cynical attitude towards politicians.

As for publishing their expenses, that just should no come into this since several people have promised that publication of MPs expenses will continue. I agree that it should, though I think the media outrage on that issue is motivated by the wrong reasons.

"they resist the accountability which of course they demand from us via the laws and regulations they so carelessly pass"

In what respect am I unreasonably accountable via any laws and regulations? In any case, I mentioned MPs should stick to doing their jobs well. One aspect of this would be too pass less laws and less regulations. I think it is in part a fear of not being seen to do enough by a cynical public which makes MPs so unneccessarily hyperactive from time to time.

"His subsequent refusal to engage with media to defend his bill was cowardly in the extreme"
I am inclined to agree with that.

As for the "all the same" argument - surely that's more about policies, and practices when in government, and about the fact that things are going OK, and about various issues other than the preferential treatment of MPs.

I have not done any canvassing (though I am likely too next election, in despite of the new grammar schools policy), but I am aware of the general cycnicism towards politicians - but it's mentioned somewhere near the start of Tony Benn's diaries, Churchill mentioned the problem in the 20's, the same issue crops up throughout history, back to the Romans and beyond. The great masses are a cynical bunch and nothing will change that.

I do not believe that MPs will be trusted less if we are not allowed to view their letters.

The problem I have with the amendment bill and why I think that it reflects tremendously badly on anyone who voted for it, is that it removes accountability of parliament by the electorate. By making Westminster free from FOI, anything that they do can be hidden. Under DPA, personal information should not be included in FOI responses. If it is, the people concerned should be invesitgated for breach of DPA, not have the FOI amended!
It is like saying that we cannot catch all drink drivers so lets end the blood alcohol limit. Restricting FOI is not the answer, educating Westminster staff so that they respond correctly and in good time is.

What people here and the press appear to concentrate on is the MP's expenses and private correspondence on behalf of their constituents.

That is only a minor part of this bill.

The more overreaching and important part is the exclusion of Parliament (both houses). What it means in reality is that no government decision can ever be questioned. It can never be traced as to how that decision was reached, what influences occured, what correspondence was sent or received, what lobbying took place or what advice was given in arriving at a particular decision.

It would in effect that government could work in secret.

People forget that MP's and Ministers work for us. They are public servants, not masters.

Therefore every action should be accountable, should be transparent, unless there is an overriding national security angle, ALL government papers, discussions, decisions should be open to FOI.

This Bill will effectively kill our right to know anything about what MP's and Ministers do.
Government will be able, with impunity, do whatever it likes, knowing that we will never be allowed to know about it.

They will never be held to account for any decisions or actions, because we will have lost the right to find out.

This Bill is wrong, a precursor to more authoritarian government.

"People forget that MP's and Ministers work for us. They are public servants, not masters."

I'm simply not convinced by this sort of thing. Is this is the case, why not allow everyone to vote on all bills via the internet? Modern Athenian democracy.

There has been no FoI Act pre-Blair. I remain unconvinced that it should ever have been passed at all. It strikes me as another regrettably short-sighted Blair Bill.

"Outrageous to suggest the....,decision of Mr Speaker cannot be trusted" (David Maclean), rather disingenious, which Mr Speaker?, or does this assurance that details will be published become binding on all further incumbents of this role. I think the earlier comment that said Maclean was a naive, git, hit the nail on the head, he has been set-up and is too dim to realise it.

"Outrageous to suggest the....,decision of Mr Speaker cannot be trusted" (David Maclean)

-the Speaker in question is Michael Martin , Labour MP for Glasgow Springburn
- who has never made any attempt to even appear to be other than a Labour partisan , openly working for Blair to twist the functioning of the British parliament in favour of the Labour governemnt . He is totally biased and happy to be so , thinks it is correct to be so and cannot understand why all those stupid English Tories can't see this also .

Any such notions of impartiality in the discharge of this important office are strictly for his predecessors and the birds - and for anyone who is naive and quaint enough to believe in all that old rubbish , including large numbers of people in England
( the impartiality of the office derives from an English concept not a British one )

and to a number of totally wet and out of date Tory MP's who have STILL failed to grasp that , since Blair , things have changed utterly . The British parliament is now become a vehicle for permanent Labour power over the British state and , via that , for the decanting of vast anounts of money from England to the celts , principally to Scotland .

Nothing else counts .

Which leads on to the absurd Conservative policy of English votes on English matters in the British parliament .
Leaving aside the fact that since the Barnett Rules apply to nearly all British government expenditure and therefore any "celtic " MP could logically argue that nearly all matters that come before the parliament are not simply English because the have spending implications for the Scotland , Wales and Ulster

- it also relies upon the Speaker ie Martin at present , to determine what is an " English " matter .

It might be that even the likes of Mr Maclean can discern a little problem here .

Parcel of Rogues in a Nation (old Scottish lament), only this time its our Nation not theirs. Come to think of it Blair, Brown, Cameron, Maclean, Mr Speaker, etc, etc, we've been conquered by stealth, not to mention the West Lothian question.

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