Details of MPs’ expenses claims to be released before July

May 12, 2009 at 3:45 pm 1 comment

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The House of Commons Commission met yesterday and rejected calls for the immediate release of details of four year’s worth of MPs expenses claims.

For the past five days The Daily Telegraph has been publishing some of the claims of the Prime Minister, Cabinet members and leading Conservatives and Labour MPs, which led the Speaker of the House to make a statement yesterday.

Partially censored details were due for publication in July after a lengthy campaign by freedom of information advocates.

The House of Commons Commission is the overall supervisory body of the House of Commons Administration.

Its members are Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell, Mr Speaker, Leader of the House Harriet Harman and her Conservative shadow Alan Duncan, Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey and Tory MP and former Chief Whip David Maclean.

After yesterday’s two-hour meeting Mr Harvey said:

“We will do everything we can to speed up the process, but that must not be done at the expense of exposing personal data.”

Yesterday Mr Speaker told the House:

“Members will be aware of the unauthorised disclosure of material relating to their allowances, which has appeared in the press on Friday and over the weekend. This has caused great public concern.

“Leaving aside the legal aspect, to which I shall return in a moment, the House has to make serious change to the system of allowances. Right hon. and hon. Members will know that we have been working to new rules from 1 April.

“We also know that there will be further changes, with proper, independent audit assurance. But working to the rules and the rules alone is not what is expected of any hon. Member; it is important that the spirit of what is right must be brought in now.

“We are also setting up an operational assurance unit with independent oversight to secure the proper handling of claims. This will be operating very shortly.

“To return to the legal aspect, the Clerk of the House immediately sought advice. He was advised that there was no real basis for seeking an injunction but that there was some basis for considering that a criminal offence or offences may have been committed.

“As right hon. and hon. Members will know from a communication that they received on Friday afternoon, he accordingly referred the matter to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police.

“I can understand hon. Members’ concerns about the revealing of details of bank accounts, style of signature and verbal passwords and their concern that an individual who may have sold the data is also capable of selling this information further.

“That is why the police have been informed.

“I am also writing to the publisher of the newspaper, drawing this fact to their attention and reminding them of the serious security implications if personal data that might expose Members and others to risks to their safety were to be published.

“The letter will be copied to all national newspapers.”

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Entry filed under: Commons, Procedure. Tags: , , , , , .

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