Parliament has said that it will publish a full account of MPs expenses in July. Why wait, why not do it now? So MPs can censor the records:
Members will this week be shown copies of thousands of receipts and other documents due to be published under the Freedom of Information Act.
They will be invited to redact the documents, blacking out information they do not want to disclose.
Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, says the redaction process is harmless and necessary to preserve the privacy of MPs.
But the editing process has raised fears that MPs will use the opportunity to keep some information secret and even to delay the whole publication, which is supposed to take place this summer.
Following a court ruling, every receipt submitted for expenses claims by MPs since 2004 should be published later this year, around 1.2 million in all. The receipts show how MPs use the £24,000-a-year additional costs allowance, which is meant to fund a second home.
Each MP will be asked to review an average of 2,000 documents. They will be given a month to identify information they think should be withheld and submit their changes to the Commons authorities.
The redacting process is supposed to prevent the disclosure of sensitive personal information like credit card numbers.
But in discussions with MPs, Ms Harman has suggested that information like the names and addresses of shops, and even the time and date purchases were made, could be blacked out.
While there probably are legitimate reasons to keep some of this information private. But we can’t trust MPs not to abuse the system — some will surely censor stuff in order to prevent the public from getting afull picture of what they’ve been claiming for. Every address that an MP has made expenses claims for should be public knowledge; parliament is a high-profile public job which means they have less right to privacy than anyone else. If they want to keep their home addresses secret, they should resign from parliament.
(via Mr Eugenides)