Brown joins furore over MP FoI exemption bid

Gordon Brown is to intervene in the row over moves to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act, boosting hopes that the exemption may be killed off.

The Prime Minister-in-waiting has signalled he wants peers to change a Private Members’ Bill. This would return it to MPs where, with Parliamentary time limited, it would be in danger of being blocked.

Brown has been stung into action by media criticism of MPs for passing the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill introduced by former Tory chief whip David Maclean.

Maclean says the bill is needed to protect the confidentiality of MPs’ correspondence. But critics claim MPs acted to prevent further embarrassing disclosures about their expenses.

Ed Balls, a Treasury minister and close ally of the Chancellor, has said he would like to see an amendment in the Lords to guarantee the publication of MPs’ expenses.

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes has suggested a select committee should probe why correspondence is not being protected by the data protection law.

Suspicions that, despite the Government’s official stance of neutrality, government whips sided with Maclean were boosted when 13 of the 16 government whips, including Government chief whip Jacqui Smith and deputy Bob Ainsworth, backed Maclean in the voting lobbies.

Twenty-six ministers were among the 96 MPs who backed the bill, defeating the 25 who voted against it.

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