Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 11:10 UK

MP expenses to be released to all

MPs at prime minister's questions
MPs' expenses are already published, as totals claimed under nine headings

Detailed breakdowns of expenses claimed by 14 politicians are to be released by the Commons, after it lost a three-year Freedom of Information battle.

The details will be released to all media, not just the reporters who made the FOI requests as originally planned.

The Commons said it had decided to make the information, which includes receipts to back up claims, more widely available due to public interest.

The High Court said the claims must be handed over by 1600 BST on Friday.

MPs' expenses are published every year under nine main headings - including the additional costs allowance (ACA) to cover the costs of running a second home.

'Unsatisfactory'

But for most only the total claimed is published, rather than a detailed breakdown showing what items had been claimed for.

Campaigners argued that the limited nature of checks on claims, many of which did not require a receipt, meant the system was open to abuse and an Information Tribunal agreed it was "deeply unsatisfactory".

Last week the High Court backed the tribunal's ruling that details should be published and on Monday the Commons gave up its legal fight.

The claims at issue were made in 2005 by 14 prominent politicians, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell.

A detailed breakdown of the expenses of all MPs dating back to 2004 - likely to run to more than a million items - is due to be released in the autumn and in future the information will be released on a quarterly basis.

The MPs' home addresses will be published unless there is a specific concern about individual security.

Stalker threat

The High Court had ruled that MPs' addresses should be published - pointing out they were already disclosed when MPs sought nomination for election and if someone was determined to discover it, they were likely to be able to do so.

The Tribunal had ruled however that addresses of MPs who had a good reason - for example a known stalker, terrorist or "other criminal threat" - could remain private.

But some MPs are angry that their home addresses will be published.

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell has tabled a motion calling for a breakdown of the expenses of, and home addresses of, High Court judges.

Labour MP David Winnick, a campaigner for Parliamentary transparency, said MPs needed to do more to explain why allowances were claimed.

Conservative MP Julian Lewis branded the plan to release MPs' addresses "barking mad" - and he hit back at the High Court's ruling by saying it should be made as difficult as possible to discover where they live.

'Anthrax letters'

Judges' addresses are kept secret to protect them from reprisals by criminals they have jailed - but Mr Lewis argued MPs should be entitled to the same protection.

He said letters to MPs in the Commons were security vetted - but publishing their home addresses would leave them vulnerable to hate mail and attacks by "extremists".

In a Commons debate on Thursday, he suggested a novel way someone could highlight the alleged dangers.

He told MPs: "I would buy myself a very large packet of white soap powder, I would then buy 646 envelopes and I would place a quantity of this soap powder in each of the envelopes and I would send it to the 646 private home addresses together with a little note in each saying 'Ha ha, you've just opened a packet of anthrax'."

MPs can claim up to 23,000 a year to spend on costs incurred while staying away from their main home - including televisions, rent or mortgage payments and up to 400 a month for food.

The Commons is conducting its own inquiry into MPs' pay and expenses.


SEE ALSO
MPs 'give up secret expenses bid'
19 May 08 |  UK Politics
Commons loses MPs' expenses fight
16 May 08 |  UK Politics
Clegg's 7k renovation expenses
14 May 08 |  UK Politics
MPs' 10,000 kitchens on expenses
13 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
'Lax' MP expenses rules condemned
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
'John Lewis' list kept from MPs
08 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Expenses details 'intrude' on MPs
07 Feb 08 |  UK Politics

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