Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/488/2442
Freedom of Information Act
MPs say stop looking at us!
IN A sickening display of self-serving hypocrisy, MPs voted in parliament to exempt themselves from the provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) act. Since 2000, that act has given people, at least in theory, the right of access to information held by public authorities.
Tory MP David Maclean's private members' bill aimed to remove the best known public authorities - the Commons and Lords - from the FOI act. The bill would also allow public authorities to refuse to disclose communications between themselves and MPs.
The bill's supporters claimed that they wanted to protect the privacy of MPs' casework with constituents. But the Act already exempted MPs' letters on individual constituents whose identification would breach either the Data Protection Act or common law. If there were problems with how effective that protection was, they could have amended the act accordingly. But they voted by 96 to 25 for total unaccountability.
A massive 525 did not vote, most seemingly trusting to their fellow-MPs' self-interest to stall the FOI Act that has ruffled both Tory and New Labour feathers. The Scottish Tories' leader was forced to resign when it was shown that the public were subsidising his taxi rides for private business. New Labour legislation has been held up, using FOI. Opposition to this new bill will now focus on the whims in an unelected House of Lords.
It seems Tory and New Labour MPs were most worried about information getting out about their salaries, protected pensions scheme, large expenses claims for allowances and outside interests. The Tory MP's bill went through largely on New Labour votes and abstentions.
These out-of-touch MPs get paid ten times the national minimum wage while supporting a 2% wage rise for public sector workers! Have they got something to hide? Too right they have!
In order to keep in touch with the people they represent, public representatives should be accountable and recallable and receive only the wage of a skilled worker. When Coventry's Socialist group leader Dave Nellist was a Labour MP, this 'workers' MP on a worker's wage' took only the wage of a skilled factory worker, less than half of what other MPs took for themselves.
If today's Labour MPs had the same relationship with their constituents and the working class as a whole, this cynical exemption would have been angrily rejected. Clearly, it is time for a new workers' party.
In The Socialist 24 May 2007:
Labour Party leadership
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Environment and socialism