MP 'humiliated' by expenses black-out

WEST Suffolk MP Richard Spring has hit out at the House of Commons authorities for “humiliating” him by releasing his expenses claims with most of the items blacked out.

Graham Dines

WEST Suffolk MP Richard Spring has hit out at the House of Commons authorities for “humiliating” him by releasing his expenses claims with most of the items blacked out.

“This is not freedom of information - it's a mockery,” said Mr Spring. “I did not ask for this and can understand the puzzlement and anger of constituents who think we have been covering up dodgy claims.”

The heavily-edited version of the records, which meant many of the most controversial claims would not have been made public without a leak of the uncensored version to The Daily Telegraph, also angered Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who promised there would be no repeat of the practice in future.


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“The old system is being swept aside by the changes that we are making and a new, far more transparent system is being introduced,” he said yesterday.

“While ensuring that security issues are addressed, as they have to be, our first principle must be maximum transparency.”

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After losing a court battle under freedom of information legislations, Parliament officials agreed to publish claims from April 2004 to March 2008, but with sensitive details such as bank accounts, mortgage details, main and second home addresses, and staff names and salaries removed.

All MPs were asked to check their expense claims before they were issued, and told they could obliterate - redact - personal details.

Before these could be published, the unexpurgated claims were leaked to the Daily Telegraph, which discovered that some MPs were claiming for mortgages already paid off, avoiding capital gains tax, claiming for state-of-the-art electronic equipment, and expensive televisions.

The Commons this week released the information, but censored many of the claims which have lead to MPs being forced to retire by angry party political bosses.

Mr Spring said: “There were hundreds of pieces of paper to go through, and I did so. Yet I felt it was not in the spirit of transparency to have any item covered up.

“Thus having made no requests to have any items removed, it came to me as a massive surprise that the details of many of my claims are smothered in black ink.

“Frankly, it never occurred to me that this would be the case. I am sure there are many other MPs just amazed as me.

“It is an incredible own goal and makes a mockery of the whole process of our relationship with the public, who must be absolutely aghast. But so am I!”

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