Saturday, June 20, 2009

David Curry`s expenses

An interesting attempt by the Guardian to crowd source expense scrutiny:

Eg. the Skipton MP, David Curry. Apparently, Mr Curry paid for public service broadcasting out of his public service expenses.

I had a correspondence with Mr Curry about all this when MPs, including Mr Curry, were trying to obstruct access to these details.:

Dear David Curry,
I am writing to you from Japan but you would be my local MP in any UK election, via postal ballot. I am writing to ask you to vote against the draft Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 this Thursday and to sign Jo Swinson's Early Day Motion.
I feel strongly that the public money spent on MPs expenses should be subject to the greatest degree of transparency and accountability possible. Democratically elected representatives spending money given to them by the taxpayer should be in a position to share with their constituents precisely how that money is spent. The measure being decided on Thursday would have the opposite effect and the arguments for it are essentially attempts to justify the concealment of expenses that MPs could not justify publicly. If MPs have embarrassing expenses, they should still have the courage to vote against this order because the measure is wrong in principle. I am appealing to you to vote against it.
David Curry:
I am sorry but I believe you are wrong. No-one is trying to conceal expenses. It is a question as to what is a sensible level of detail. As for EDM I cannot see the earthly point of signing an EDM when the issue has to be voted on in the Commons itself. It has the whiff of sanctimoniousness about it. DC
Dear David Curry,
Thank you for replying to my message about the draft Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 this Thursday. I realise you must get hundreds of messages from your constituents every week and I appreciate the time you spent in making your position clear. I have no expectation of a second rebuttal but would like to give one pence extra to my initial tuppence worth. I have no detailed knowledge of Commons procedure and I must accept your point that the Early Day Motion is unnecessary and sanctimonious.
On the substantive point, you seem to be relying on the word "sensible" for the entirety of your positive argument for voting for the concealment from the voters of the precise detail of how their money has been spent. As I understand it, the information has already been collected and will be fairly easy to publish if MPs do not vote to stop it. So, the "sense" you talk of (but do not specify) must not be a claim about what is practicable but rather some sort of privacy claim about MPs' right to blur or generalise the information they give the taxpayer.
I am afraid that many members of the public will take the simple position that democratic representatives using public money should fully account for every jot and tittle that they spend and that they should account for it to their voters rather than in a private auditing process. We hear all sorts of gumph from politicians seeking to be elected. One piece of information that would seem to be relevant to our choice is precisely how they spend our money on their own expenses and how they define what is a claimable expense.
One of the Government ministers supporting the order is quoted in a newspaper as saying: "MPs' expenses should not be an entertainment show for the public." Failing any significant saving of public money or building of openness between representative and voter, I can't see any earthly reason why we should not at least get some entertainment from the money we are paying. I feel many, perhaps most, voters would agree with me, especially in the current economic climate.David Curry:
There is a real issue of cost and it is a recurrent cost because of the neeed to scan every single receipt etc. into the machine. There is a vital word in all legislation which is "reasonable" - what is a reasonable level of disclusure taking into consideration the cost and the benefit.. The costs are, of course, incurred by the taxpayer. I have no great personal isue riding on this- my expenses are a long way below the maxima. DC
So far, I think, more than 400,000 pounds worth of expenses have been repaid.

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