MPs vote to exempt themselves from Freedom of Information Act

On Friday 17 May 2007, MPs voted, by 113 votes to 27, to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act.

The Telegraph summed up proceedings as follows: "Acting in a way uncomfortably reminiscent of Communist officials in East Germany, they confirmed that members of the House of Commons believe that there should be one law for them, and another for everyone else."

On Friday a cross-party group of MPs, led by the Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes, battled for five hours to kill the bill, using procedural tactics to use up the time available. These included presenting a series of petitions, debating amendments at length, raising points or order and making multiple interventions.

But David Maclean's bill was backed by a number of Labour MPs, who turned up to vote to cut short the debate and pass the legislation. These included 26 ministers and prominent supporters of Gordon Brown, including Ed Balls, the Treasury minister, and Jacqui Smith, chief whip.

The Guardian noted that the situation in the UK Parliament contrasts strongly with that of Scotland, "where its parliamentarians are among the most publicly accountable in the world when it comes to expenses. The detailed expenditure claims, utility bills, travel and mileage forms of all MSPs are logged on the Scottish Parliament's website for any constituent to see".

House of Knaves (Daily Telegraph, 20 May 2007)

An insult to open government and democracy (The Observer, 20 May 2007)

A dark day for MPs (The Times, 20 May 2007)

An insult to open government and democracy (The Guardian, 20 May 2007)

Lords to shame MPs over secrecy bill (The Guardian, 20 May 2007)

'Hypocrisy' claim as MPs vote to keep expenses under wraps (The Scotsman, 19 May 2007)