Journalists are joining forces this week to end a four-year legal battle to make MPs’ expenses public, down to every last taxi receipt and hotel bill.
Freedom of Information (FOI) campaigner and journalist Heather Brooke takes her case for access to MPs’ additional cost allowance to the Information Tribunal in London on Thursday and Friday.
Also fighting the case alongside her are two reporters who have broken many stories using the FOI Act: Ben Leapman of the Sunday Telegraph and Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas of The Sunday Times.
Brooke said: ‘It is not only in the public interest but the Parliamentary interest to release information through the legitimate mechanism of the Freedom of Information Act. In this manner, information is shared democratically with everyone.
‘It is to their constituents that MPs should be held accountable, and so it is to them that details of expense claims must be disclosed.”
The case is being brought by Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers, and Brooke is represented by Razi Mireskandari of Simons Muirhead and Burton. Ungoed-Thomas also has legal representation, but Press Gazette understands that Leapman will represent himself.
Mireskandari said: ‘Disclosure of MPs’ expenses in a manner that allows scrutiny is fundamentally in the public interest, necessary for open government, and encourages accountability so vital in any democracy.”
Andrew Walker, director general of the House of Commons’s department of finance and administration will be cross-examined for his running of the Fees Office which, according to Brooke, effectively allows MPs to ‘self-certify’the majority of their claims.
Brooke, who is American, wants MPs’ expenses to be laid bare so that the public can request to know everything an MP has claimed on expenses in a year, as is the case with members of many US legislative bodies and MSPs under the Scottish FoI Act.