Secrecy row over MPs’ foreign trips

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, has blocked the release of details about MPs’ foreign trips with the British Council.

From The Telegraph:

Since February 2007, 12 MPs have travelled overseas with the British Council to destinations including Thailand, India and Malawi, often at a cost of thousands of pounds.

MPs must normally declare any hospitality they receive from outside organisations, and the British Council does not appear on a list of bodies whose gifts are exempt from the requirement.

When The Sunday Telegraph used the Freedom of Information Act to ask the Commons authorities why the trips were not being declared, Mr Martin stepped in and took the highly unusual step of signing a special certificate preventing the release of any information about how the decision was reached.

The document, headed ‘The Certificate’, cites Parliamentary privilege as the reason to impose secrecy. It even halts any further investigation by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, who would normally have the power to intervene.

 

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said, “The Speaker’s decision to issue the certificate is pretty extraordinary and regrettable. If the House has genuine objections to the information being released than it should be prepared to fight its case before the Information Commissioner.”

Mark Hunter, Liberal Democrat MP for Cheadle said, “MPs cannot be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act that they themselves have passed.”

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This entry was posted in News and Parliament.
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6 Comments

  • How the hell does the speaker have to power to circumvente the law of the land like this anyway?

  • sorry the above anonymous comment was from me

  • Andrew Duffield 8th Feb '09 - 9:47pm

    What depths must this Speaker plumb before MPs do the decent thing?

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