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Brown's demand for expenses information

Martin Rosenbaum | 15:19 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009

Apologies for the break (and thanks to those of you who noticed and complained!), but I'm now back to work on freedom of information and Open Secrets.

I should mention two other interesting FOI blogs that have started in the meantime.

Panopticon is about information law and is mainly written by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops, two barristers who have successfully built up a specialism in FOI and related cases.

FOI News is run by the journalist Matthew Davis, who's also made FOI into a successful specialism. If you've been following newspaper stories based on revelations under FOI over the past few years, you will probably have been reading his work - but because he was from an agency selling the stories to the papers you wouldn't have seen his byline. Now you can.

Meanwhile as the House of Commons expenses saga continues, I've remembered a document I obtained under FOI some time back, which seems to demonstrate Gordon Brown's determination to obtain information about expenses and allowances to ensure public finances are seen to be properly managed.

It's from 1975 when he had been elected as a student to the post of Rector of Edinburgh University and engaged in a series of battles with the univerity authorities.

In one of these he demanded information on the cost of renovations to the homes of staff which had been carried out by the university's works department. And he wanted "a full list of expenses and entertainment allowances paid to members of the University administration".

All this was requested on the grounds that "in this time of economy I believe it is vital that the University's finances must not obly be properly managed but be seen to be so".

Extracts from Gordon Brown's letter

The details he sought included the cost of plumbing work but it's not known whether this extended to the price of a bathplug.

Incidentally looking back now at the piece I wrote before Mr Brown became prime minister about the material I'd got under FOI from Edinburgh University about his rectorship, I see that none of the propositions I raised about his possible premiership seem to have come true - yet, anyway.


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