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What Secrets are Our MPs Hiding?

Author: 
John Freeman
Update: The Guardian reported today that Gordon Brown announced the withdrawal of a plan to keep details of MPs' expenses secret at Prime Minister's Question Time, following the collapse overnight of a bipartisan agreement between the prime minister and David Cameron.

On the 16th May 2008, the High Court ruled that MPs' expenses must be published under the Freedom of Information Act.

Tomorrow, MPs are voting to change the law to keep their expenses secret after all, just before publication was due and after spending nearly £1 one million pounds and seven months compiling the data, hoping to bury the vote behind the news about Heathrow's third airport.

Some MPs are claiming that they need to vote for this Order to protect their addresses, even though they already changed to law to do this.

As one protestor at the vote says on MySociety.org, "The fact that some disclosures so far have embarrassed MPs, and ministers and the Speaker in particular, is no justification for saying that, as one MP is quoted as saying 'MPs’ expenses should not be an entertainment show for the public.'"

In yesterday's inauguration speech, US President Obama said: "And those 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."

Campaign web site TheyWorkForYou.com, which enables you to easily contact and monitor the activities of your MPs in parliament, suggest that now is time to tell our politicians that this is the attitude we're looking for in our leaders.

The outcome of this vote will be prominently displayed on every MP's page until after the next General Election.

What can you do?
• Write to your MP to protest: foiorder2009.writetothem.com
• Join
this Facebook group -- which already has over 6000 members -- and invite your friends and family
• Pick up the phone and call your local radio and TV news stations. This campaign now has huge coverage online, but TheyWorkForYou.com says letting people know about this is urgent and they need to reach out as fast as we can.
Read more detail about mySociety's thoughts on this issue

UPDATE: Read MySociety's comment on Brown's climbdown, titled "Blimey. It looks like the Internet's Won"
"... This is a huge victory not just for transparency, it’s a bellwether for a change in the way politics works. There’s no such thing as a good day to bury bad news any more, the Internet has seen to that..."
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