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Public affairs to be less effectively conducted

Martin Rosenbaum | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Suppose the names of the paid staff of MPs were made public, what would be the consequences?

According to the Commons Speaker Michael Martin, it would be 'likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs'. That's why he used his power of veto under the Freedom of Information Act to stop the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas from ordering their disclosure.

Mr Thomas had favoured revealing their identity. His judgment drew attention to the fact that the list of MEPs' assistants in the European Parliament is publicly available. This shows for example that Lady Dulcie Mary Atkins is an assistant to her husband, the Tory MEP Sir Robert Atkins.

His involvement followed a complaint from the freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke, who wanted to know the names and salaries of MPs' staff.

Now that the Derek Conway case has led to the media publication of various lists of MPs who employ family members, I guess we may find out whether Mr Martin's fears will now come true that 'it gives rise to a risk that their ability to continue to work effectively, without unwarranted interruption will be inhibited and thus that the effective conduct of public affairs by Members will be prejudiced.'

This dispute is just one of several cases where there have been disagreements between the House of Commons authorities and the Information Commissioner about the level of detail about MPs' spending that ought to be made public. I've noted before that the Commons is one of the public authorities most frequently to have faced adverse decisions from Mr Thomas's office.

This partly reflects the level of interest in MPs' expenditure and the number of requests for greater information about it, as well as the Commons authorities' sensitivity on the matter. The latest adverse decision for them occurred earlier this month.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 01:57 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • SJ Gray wrote:

I used to work at the House of Commons - in the library and Information Office.

It was clear then (10 years ago) that every other MP's secretary or researcher was a family member.

It was, and is, a situation that merits further investigation. These are jobs without free and fair application procedures. They lack transparent contracts or checks on whether any work is actually done for large sums of money.
This gravy train further erodes trust in politics. MPs are complicit in a rotten set up which would not be allowed in business or the public sector.

  • 2.
  • At 11:44 AM on 11 Feb 2008,
  • KL wrote:

I currently work for an MP, and I am not related to that Member in any way, nor does my boss employ any relatives.

I do not want people to know my exact salary because it is no-one's business but my own. The salary scales are all published on the w4mp website (www.w4mp.org), and that it all the public needs to know.

If you are one of those calling for publication of MP staff salaries, think on this:

How would you like it if your boss suddenly decided to publish your name and salary without seeking your consent? I'm sure you would be as unhappy about such a suggestion as I am.

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