THE DIARY OF A GEEK IN OXFORDSHIRE


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Thanks to My MP - Dr Evan Harris


My thanks to Dr Evan Harris MP for his clear and detailed response to my email regarding MPs Expenses:

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Dear Mr Geekin,
Sorry for the delay in responding to this email. It slipped through the net.

I share your concern about this matter. My basic approach is that if it is public money then the public have a right to know how it is spent. Furthermore there is no reason why MPs should have any extra additional exemption from FoI laws as anyone else.

I believe in as much openness as possible from MPs. I am in the phone book with my Oxford address and phone number for example. Although there are security risks (I have had threats from anti-abortion groups, animal rights groups and anti-free speech religious groups) I think that they won't need the phone book to find me!

I was appalled by the attempt by the Conservative and Labour front-benches to try to get David McLean's private member's bill through which would exempt MPs from huge chunks of the FoI laws on the basis of protecting constituents' privacy. This was completely spurious as Data Protection rules apply in these areas. I was one of the small number of MPs (mainly but not exclusively Lib Dems) who turned up on the relevant Friday (18th May 2007) to speak and vote against the measures, (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070518/debtext/70518-0003.htm) which in the end were blocked in the Lords.

I signalled my opposition to the latest attempt to exempt MPs by signing Jo Swinson's EDM http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=37516&SESSION=899 even before it was published. The Lib Dems were going to oppose the order en bloc although the Conservatives were allowing a free vote (to allow their front bench to save face). As you are aware the Conservatives came to their senses and the Govt knew they would lose and have removed the order.

We will need to remain vigilant as David Heath made clear in his contribution at business questions last Thursday.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): May I, too, welcome the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) to his new position? I am sure that he is indeed a pivot. In the spirit of his congratulations to the Leader of the House on her change of heart on the freedom of information, I also thank him for the change of spirit in the Conservative party from the position adopted in respect of the former Conservative Chief Whip's private member's Bill only a couple of years ago—or even the position last Monday, actually.

I was sitting behind him cheering him on. David went on to set our position in the main debate on the expenses proposal. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090122/debtext/90122-0010.htm

I hope this reassures you about my position on this important matter, and that I have not suddenly changed my opinion on it.

Best wishes

Evan Harris

2 comments:

Ampers said...

I received a letter of platitudes from Ridi Vis, my MP as well.

Conservative MP for Harwich, Douglas Carswell has said, and has, printed his expenses in full on hos blog.

He is one of the very few Libertarians within the Conservative party.

Ampers

it's either banned or compulsory said...

At face value that is a very good response from your MP, Evan Harris.

Bravo that man.