#MPexpenses – what are the Lib Dems doing?

I said earlier on today that the Lib Dems have a tale to tell about combatting the current plan to exempt members of Parliament from freedom of information legislation in force across most of the rest of the public sector. The party has been fighting this particular battle since David Maclean’s 2006 bill won support from both Conservative and Labour members, and had tacit support from the Government in its unusually trouble-free passage through the parliamentary process.

Now the bill is back in the form of an Order, proposed by the Leader of the House, there can be no doubt that the measures have the backing of the Government, and support from many corners of the house. Those following the facebook group will have seen wiggles of parliamentarians trying to find an excuse for supporting keeping their expenses private.

But as the saintly Obama said earlier today,

[T]hose of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

So just how many Lib Dem MPs have nailed their colours to the mast as firmly opposed to this measure?

As we told you last week, party leader Nick Clegg is quoted in the Guardian, as is Harriet Harman’s shadow David Heath. Both are opposed. But are there weasel words in their statement?

Although this is not a matter for a whipped vote, [the Liberal Democrat leader] Nick Clegg and I have taken a consistent and clear line on the application of the Freedom of Information Act. It must apply to members of parliament just as it applies to anyone else in public life. We shouldn’t be seeking exemptions and special treatment just because it may be inconvenient.
I will certainly be recommending that colleagues vote against the proposal to exempt parliament.”

Why isn’t it a whipped vote?

On with the list of those we know about: Jo Swinson made her views clear by twitter over the weekend; as did Lynne Featherstone, who also blogged about it.  

A number have made their views clear via the wall of the Facebook group, either themselves or through constituents:

The proposals are outrageous, and I also plan to vote against them, along with my party colleagues.

Andrew Stunnell MP

MPs and Peers would be the only public servants exempted under the Act. This is outrageous, and I’m glad Lib Dem MPs, including my wife Lorely [Burt], will be voting against the Order.

Richard Burt
Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate
West Worcestershire

My MP, Libdem (David Laws) replied to say he’d be voting against.

I’m a Lib Dem MP, and I’ll be voting against the proposals on Thursday, along with my colleagues. I can’t believe that the government are trying to get this through again, when they had to drop similar proposals last time. Will they never learn? The Conservatives position is just as weak – they should be voting against the proposals on Thursday, not abstaining. In my view it’s quite simple – I spend public money in the course of my job, and how I spend it should be completely open to public scrutiny.
Julia Goldsworthy MP

Sandra Gidley told a constituent she was in favour of FOI but wouldn’t be drawn on the detail until reading the actual text (fair enough!)

Then there’s Jo Swinson’s EDM – signed so far by a disappointing 11 members, including 5 Lib Dems: Evan Harris, Bob Russell, Adrian Sanders, herself and Steve Webb (who has also blogged on the subject.)

A hashtagged tweet tells us of John Leech’s plans; another reveals Sarah Teather has joined the Facebook group.

Phew!  Those sources of information give us 15 MPs we’re sure of.  I can add Paul Holmes to that list because I, er, texted him and asked.

So, that gives us: Burt, Clegg, Featherstone, Gidley, Goldsworth, Heath, Harris, Holmes, Laws, Leech, Russell, Sanders, Stunnell, Swinson, Teather and Webb. 16/63 – over a quarter – of our MPs on the side of the angels – what about the rest?  A quick trawl of Lib Dem MP websites leaves me none the wiser, as practically none of them has said anything on the subject.  So now… over to you!  Can you add a Lib Dem MP to the list?  Are you a Lib Dem MP wanting to make your position clear?

EDIT: Eagle-eyed Mark Pack also found Martin Horwood on a facebook thread

EDIT2: This morning’s press reports a 3-line whip for the Lib Dems after all. Call off the witchhunt!

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This entry was posted in News and Parliament.
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5 Comments

  • From The Times this morning:

    Both main opposition parties have said they oppose the move. The Tory front bench will vote against the change, with other MPs being urged to follow their lead. All Liberal Democrat MPs are under a three-line whip to vote against.

  • Signatures to Jo Swinson’s EDM crept up to 32 yesterday. Danny Alexander, John Barrett, Paul Burstow, Ed Davey, Tim Farron, Andrew George, Mark Hunter, John Leech, Michael Moore, Willie Rennie, Andrew Stunell and Phil Willis all signed up.

  • “I wrote to my MP, Dr Evan Harris, yesterday with regard to this question.

    As yet, I’ve received no response”

    Patience is a virtue.

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