Just over a year after three journalists won their Freedom of Information battle against the House of Commons, details of MPs’ expenses claims were finally made public today.
But the documents put online on the official House of Commons website are heavily redacted – and appear without much of the information obtained by the Telegraph which enabled it to expose many of the excesses of the second home allowance system.
The publication today is the culmination of a lengthy legal battle by journalists Heather Brooke, Ben Leapman and Jonathan-Ungoed Thomas who all filed Freedom of Information Act requests relating to MPs’ expenses.
The House of Commons, led by Speaker Michael Martin, resisted an Information Tribunal decision that they release expenses information.
But in May last year, after a court case which is thought to have cost the Commons at least £100,000, the High Court ordered MPs to release the information.
It was the unredacted data revealing all MPs’ expenses, compiled as a result of that High Court ruling, which found its way into the hands of the Telegraph at the beginning of May.
The documents published today have the addresses of MPs’ homes blacked out as well as names and details of people and companies to whom payments have been made.
The disclosures in the Daily Telegraph about the claims have forced a series of MPs to announce their resignations in the past month.
Junior Treasury minister Kitty Ussher became the Telegraph’s latest scalp last night when she quit the government following allegations that she avoided paying capital gains tax by “flipping” her second home.
Labour MP David Chaytor has announced he is stepping down in Bury North at the next general election after admitting an “unforgivable error” in claiming £13,000 in interest for a mortgage he had already paid off.
But the latest expenses disclosure has Chaytor’s second home address blacked out – meaning it is virtually impossible to cross-check mortgage records.
The same goes for former minister Elliot Morley, who blamed “sloppy accounting” last month when it emerged he claimed £16,000 for a mortgage that had been paid off.
The Scunthorpe MP has since announced he will be standing down at the next general election.
In each of the four years covered by the disclosure, the claim form for additional costs allowance (ACA) states that money can only be reimbursed for “costs you have actually paid”.
Police are considering whether to launch a formal investigation into the arrangements of both men, along with a number of other MPs.
Here is a list of the redacted information which you won’t find in today’s MPs’ expenses disclosure:
- Any residential address of a Member of either House of Parliament
- Travel arrangements of a Member where the arrangements are regular in nature
- The identity of any person who delivers or has delivered goods, or provides or has provided services, to a Member at any residence of the Member (this does not apply to Members’ offices or to head office addresses of large suppliers)
- Expenditure by a Member on security arrangements
- All names of hotels/guest houses used
- Correspondence or advice letters to or from Department of Resources/ DFA
- All manuscript additions to forms, receipts etc where these have been made by HoC staff
- Dates and times on till receipts where the name of the supplier is included
- Bank and credit card statements (but mortgage or rental agreements or statements will be published to the following extent: (a) names of mortgagee/landlord/chargee (b) amount of interest and rent and (c) information contained on statements of account such as value of mortgage)
- Itemised parts of telephone bills listing calls to individual numbers
- Personal items on till receipts and invoices for which no claim has been made
- Misfiled pages relating to another Member
- Names and addresses and other details of members of staff on ‘C3’ forms (claims for staff expenses)
- Other information that is not central to the purpose of the claim or which could aid identity fraud including:
- Personal telephone numbers and other contact details
- Cost centres and departmental identification numbers
- Personal data of third parties (excluding the name of mortgagees, chargees or landlords)
- Bank/Giro details
- Photocopies of cheques
- Account, invoice, delivery, order, NI or reference numbers