Publication of expenses receipts may be blocked

The Times says that it has received evidence that MPs are planning to prevent future publication of receipts submitted with expenses claims, following their embarrassment this week after they were forced to publish details online. If this is successful, expenses will be made available only in spreadsheet form, meaning that far less information will be open to public scrutiny, and will apply to all claims made after April the 1st 2008.

Althought the spreadsheet would include individual claims made by each MP, data such as correspondence between the submitter and the Commons Fees Office would not appear. Rejected claims - such as Sir Peter Viggers' infamous duck house, considered by many to show how some MPs expected the tax-payer to finance their luxurious lifestyles - would also not be included. A similar system is currently in use by the Scottish Parliament and shows only the name of the MSP making the claim, the item the claim covers, the date, supplier or service provider and the sum being claimed.

"Dubious Dave" Cameron claims to have "no recollection" of agreeing to proposals to once again limit the amount of information available to the public on MPs' expenses.
Image by Modryvolic, taken from Wikipedia, used in accordance with Creative CommonsAttribution3.0 Unported license.

The newspaper's sources say that all three main party leaders have already agreed to the proposal, though David Cameron claims that he has "no recollection" of doing so. Nick Clegg, meanwhile, says that the spreadsheet must include extensive details and Gordon Brown has not yet made a comment.

Many MPs' reputations have been seriously harmed by the recent scandal and the public have a lower opinion of Parliament than ever before, one that may never improve. The anger over the Commons' decision to redact such vast amounts of information from the details published two days ago proves that if MPs want the electorate to once again trust them they'll need to provide us with all the information other than that covered by the Data Protection Act. This news serves only to damage their reputations even further, creating as it surely will a feeling that they are trying to keep something from us in an effort not to get caught out again as they recently have been.

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