The Price of Freedom of Information

After spending over £100,000 and losing his appeal the Speaker is going to finally hand over the 14 MPs expenses to Heather Brooke tomorrow at 4pm. She will then be chauffeur driven to Wapping, where the Sunday Times will pore over the expenses of 14 leading politicians going back three years.
They have bought from Heather exclusive rights – the Sunday Telegraph is only getting the details of the two MPs it FoI’d and the rest of the media is being carved out completely. The Speaker is desperately keen to smother the story in the post Crewe and Nantwich media wake. The other papers are up in arms that the normal practice with FoIs is not being followed – once the applicant has been given the information it is normally freely available. The Sunday Times has effectively bought up an FoI with the connivance of the Speaker.

Guido doesn’t blame Heather – she along with her co-litigant Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas have got their hands on the one and only copy of the material – she wants to look at it herself first before throwing it open – which she plans to do on Sunday. The Speaker is not following normal practice – it is not his job to give exclusives out.

Heather told Guido that

I get the bulk as I asked for 10 over several years. Initially I asked for all 646 MPs but the Commons authorities said that would cost too much so I was forced to narrow it down. Funny how they had no money to compile the expenses but plenty to go to Court to stop them being made public!

As is always the case, the money I get for my articles goes back into my campaigning. Unlike the Speaker, I don’t have unlimited taxpayer funds on which to draw so this is how I make my living. It’s certainly not a profitable venture I can assure you (3 1/2 years for one story is not a good business model) but worth doing I think.

The receipts will number in the thousands. The sooner Heather gets them online – the faster we will be all able to hold our pigging politicians to account…

The Speaker is now hiring a dedicated Legal Counsel for £100,000, plus bonus and package. Heather financed her legal fight herself, the political class uses taxpayers’ money to fight against the public interest. Trebles all round for them and you pay…




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Jo Swinson on Chris Rennard…

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