MP FoI exemption debate kicks off again

A cross-party group of MPs will today restart the battle over a controversial bill to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act.

In what promises to be another heated round of debate, the FOI (Amendment) Bill is returning to the Commons, spearheaded by former Tory chief whip David Maclean.

Opponents to the bill thought they had shaken it off after an earlier marathon debate, but a quirk of parliamentary procedure revived its chances.

Critics of the exemption have vowed to use every device at their disposal to scupper the bill and have tabled an amendment.

Supporters of the bill say an exemption will protect correspondence between constituents and MPs. But some MPs believe the real aim is to block embarrassing disclosures about expenses and allowances.

Earlier this week, Jack Straw provoked accusations that Government whips were actively encouraging MPs to back the bill.

Despite the Government’s official stance of neutrality, the Commons Leader has given tacit backing to the private members’ bill.

Labour MP David Winnick said: “If the bill is carried – and it probably will be, because of the active canvassing – Parliament will be accused of hypocrisy and rightly so.”

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