Filed under: Civil Liberties, Economy, European Union, Family, FreeBritain, Laws & Regulations, News, Police State, Politics | Tags: Communism, Corruption, EU, Government, Labour, Socialists, State, Taxpayer, Theft
Source: Daily Mail
MPs were last night accused of mounting a shameless cover-up operation to prevent voters from discovering the full truth about their lavish expenses.
This autumn, Commons authorities will for the first time release details of up to two million receipts submitted by MPs, covering claims for home improvements, furnishings and office costs.
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that MPs have insisted on having the information censored – and in such a way that could save them from potential embarrassment.
Under the changes, the location of MPs’ taxpayer-funded second homes will be cut out while full travel details – including potentially extravagant taxi journeys – will also be exempt.
The decision to edit the claims was nodded through the Commons without a vote just before MPs broke up for the summer and came after women MPs apparently broke down in tears at the prospect of their personal details being released.
The change meant amending the Government’s flagship freedom of information legislation.
It comes ahead of an extraordinary expenses ‘big bang’ later this year, when between 1.3million and 2million receipts submitted by MPs in four-and-a-quarter years will be published on the same day.
The decision to publish the information – which could now be delayed because of the sheer bulk of work to process the receipts – has effectively been forced on a reluctant Commons Speaker Michael Martin by campaigners for open government.
However, it left many MPs nervous about what would be revealed.
Following the law change, officials overseeing a huge scanning operation of the receipts – costing £1million and being carried out under secure conditions at an undisclosed location in London – have been instructed to delete every reference to addresses, even where an MP has no objection to them being published.
As well as blacking out details of MPs’ bank accounts and phone numbers, staff are removing references to anyone supplying goods or services to the deleted locations for fear that would provide a clue as to the addresses.
Full details of ‘regular’ journeys – such as taxis to the same destinations – will also not be provided although broader details of how much each MP spends on different modes of travel will be released.
MPs have also secured the right to see the expenses being published a month before the release date to ‘check’ the details are accurate – leading to fears they will use the period to remove key information.
Campaigners say the blanket block on revealing MPs’ addresses will spare them proper scrutiny of second-home allowances, now worth up to £24,000 a year to each MP.
They argue that MPs are fearful of far more scams being exposed, such as the fact that Tory MP couple Sir Nicholas and Ann Winterton were claiming housing allowances for a home they already owned outright.
Campaigners also say that blanking out details of who does work on an MP’s home or supplies services to it would obviously prevent questions as to whether MPs were getting value for money from who they used.
They also say that not detailing specific journeys made by MPs – which last year cost the taxpayer about £5million – will stop people challenging whether particular trips are valid.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group, said security issues were being used by MPs as an excuse for a cover-up.
‘A blanket ban on all MPs’ home details is completely over the top,’ he said. ‘This can only prevent proper investigation into and scrutiny by the public.’
He also demanded to know why Westminster was refusing to publish full details of each MP’s taxpayer-funded journeys on ‘security’ grounds while the Scottish Parliament regularly releases that information and while even some MPs privately admit travel claims could contain some of the biggest ‘fiddles’.
Obviously taking a leaf from the EU play book. EU accounts rejected for 13th consecutive year.
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