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March 3, 2008

Leapman: Expenses ruling ‘could end careers’ in Commons but delays shows weakness of FOI

By Martin Stabe wirepost

Ben Leapman of the Sunday Telegraph is celebrating the Information Tribunal case that saw him — along with fellow journalists Jon Ungoed-Thomas of the Sunday Times and freelance Heather Brooke — win a landmark ruling that MPs’ second-home expenses must be disclosed.

The ruling, Leapman wrote in yesterday’s paper, “could end a few careers” at Westminster.

The piece charts the progress of Leapman’s request from 2005, when he first requested six MPs’ claims for Additional Costs Allowance through the appeals process until last week’s ruling.

Leapman writes: “The three-year delay exposes a wider weakness in Freedom of Information. Public officials can push issues into the long grass by withholding documents that ought to be released. At Westminster, there is talk of scrapping allowances and giving MPs a big pay rise to compensate. If this is meant to restore public confidence, I do not think it will work.”

In a leader, the paper adds that: “The only people to benefit from continued secrecy are corrupt MPs who are cheating on their expenses. It is our money, not theirs, and we have the right to know that it is not being misused.”

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