Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 15:38 UK

MPs to vote on address privacy

Royal Mail sorting office
MPs' letters should be vetted, says Julian Lewis

MPs have been granted a vote on whether they should be allowed to keep their home addresses secret to protect their privacy and security.

It comes as the Commons prepares to publish a detailed breakdown of all MPs expenses on a quarterly basis.

More than 230 MPs have backed a campaign by Tory MP Julian Lewis to ensure home addresses are blanked out.

Commons leader Harriet Harman earlier told MPs they would be given a vote on the issue on 3 July.

Mr Lewis told BBC News he was confident of victory "judging by the overwhelming strength of feeling in the House and the stance taken by the leader of the House, whom I applaud for standing up for MPs on this non-party issue".

Terrorist threat

The Commons authorities will publish a detailed breakdown of expenses, including second home allowances, from the Autumn.

But 235 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion by Mr Lewis calling for home addresses to be left out "if he or she objects to publication on grounds of privacy or personal security".

Anyone seeking nomination to be an MP must publish a constituency address but MPs are not obliged to publish the address of their second home, which is normally in London.

And those who face specific criminal or terrorist threats are thought to use false names on the electoral register, by agreement with the local returning officer.

But the arrangements were thrown into doubt last month when the High Court ordered the publication of a detailed breakdown of the expenses of 14 senior MPs, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron.

The judges ruled that 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.

Security vetted

But Mr Lewis rejected this argument as "lunacy" saying it would needlessly expose MPs to the risk of being targeted by extremists or individuals with a grudge against the government.

He said letters to MPs in the Commons were routinely security vetted.

"Just because some MPs' addresses have to be published some of the time, that is not an excuse for making them all publish their addresses all of the time in an easily accessible form," he told BBC News.

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

Last month, Mr Lewis made a Freedom of Information request for the home addresses of judges to be published to illustrate his point.

It was turned down on the grounds of "privacy" but The New Forest East MP said he had been told by Justice Secretary Jack Straw on Monday it had also been rejected to protect the "individual personal security" of judges.

In a Commons speech last month, Mr Lewis said the plan to publish addresses was "barking mad" - and it should be made as difficult as possible to discover where MPs live, if they had good reason to keep it secret.

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