Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The IT Law Angle on MP's Expenses

.. since everyone else is having fun, why not us? Pangloss late to the keyboard as in Adelaide (AUSTRALIA!!) but this is still worth blogging and a story of far more lasting import than duck islands and moat cleaning. Via ARCH, the organisation that works for child privacy:

"MPs' expenses: Information commissioner performed U-turn over publication
The information tsar was planning to order the publication of the full details of MPs' expenses three years ago, but watered down his final judgement after pressure from the House of Commons, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Leaked emails show that Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, had prepared a draft decision in 2006 which would have ruled that the Commons was not acting properly under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and should release expenses details, including receipts.
However, after a series of communications between his office and Commons authorities he backed down.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned that Jack Straw, who was then the Commons Leader, held a meeting with Mr Thomas and his deputy, Graham Smith, between the commissioner's preliminary and final rulings.
A spokesman for Mr Straw, however, denied last night that the talks – at which senior MPs from other parties were also present – played a "fundamental" role in the commissioner's U-turn."

Ruichard Thomas has of course already left the ICO (and not for any reason connected to the current scandals). But it would be nice to think that this storyemerging in the current climate of public fury - and only published a few days before Jacqui Smith, initiator of how many anti privacy moves? left office, albeit for her embarrassing expenses tricks not her parts in creating a surveillance state - will give his successor the courage to follow his own convictions in future. The job of Information Commissioner is after all to protect privacy of the people and openness in government, not the government of the day.

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