"Transparency will Damage Democracy": Heather Brooke, MP's Expenses and Freedom of Information

Heather Brooke in The Guardian
Heather Brooke in The Guardian

If you want to understand the  background work which got us to the point where there is a disc containing MP’s receipts which can be bought by a newspaper read freelance journalists Heather Brooke’s account of her 5 years fighting the Speaker of the House of Commons and Andrew Walker, the man who runs the House of Commons Fees Office.

If you’ve got today’s Guardian it’s in the G2 Section, otherwise you can read it here.  For a taste of what to expect here were some quotes in court from Andrew Walker.  The receipts need to stay private because:

“MPs should be allowed to carry on their duties free from interference …”

“Public confidence is not the overriding concern per se …”

“Transparency will damage democracy.”

Or on Speaker, Michael Martin after the Information Commissioner ordered the receipt to be made public:

The speaker turned out to be a stubborn man. His own legal team advised him against going to the high court, so he ditched them and went lawyer-shopping at taxpayers’ expense. Not surprisingly, he found a lawyer willing to oblige. So now I was headed to the high court. This was serious. Costs are generally awarded and can run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Was Speaker Martin hoping the threat of bankruptcy would intimidate me?

And finally Heather’s thoughts on the story finally going to  a competitor, journalists at the Daily Telegraph:

what is the point of doing all that work, going to court, setting a legal precedent, dealing in facts, when every part of the government conspires to reward the hacks who do none of these things?

Great piece, inspiring work, please read the article and perhaps do what I’ve done, leave a message at www.yrtk.org,  (Heather’s Blog). My disclosure:  I’m hoping to be working with Heather soon.

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