US state legislature shows the way for Parliamentary transparency

Writing int he Mail on Sunday, Freedom of Information campaigner Heather Brooke contrasts the expenses regime in Parliament with that of the Washington state legislature, which she covered 15 years ago as a young reporter in the United States:

I was asked by my editor to look into all the claims made by Senators and representatives in Washington State.

Imagine my surprise when a clerk brought out boxes full of receipts for me to examine. Everything was there – restaurant bills, hotel bills, airline receipts, postage accounts and stationery costs.

After sifting through it all I found nothing – not one improper claim. That is the benefit of open, accountable government.

In 2004, she began her efforts to obtain similar details from Parliament, and has been hampered at ever step.

Meanshile, a committee headed by Speaker Michael Martin is considering whether to scrapping the second homes allowance. Brooke and two other journalists recently won an Information Tribunal case over whether details of MPs’ claims of the allowance should be disclosed. According to reports last week, the allowance could be scrapped in favour of a pay rise.

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