Monday 28 February 2011

Victory on expenses

Last year Lobbydog attempted to find out which MPs had taken their resettlement grants on leaving the Commons at the election, and which had not.

The reasoning behind the request was that there were some MPs who held very well paid private sector jobs and had no need for a hefty taxpayer hand-out to “adjust to non parliamentary life” – the rather spurious reason for the grant.

But the Commons Authorities, despite having just been through the trauma of the expenses scandal, refused to reveal the information claiming it would breach data protection law.

We complained to the Information Commissioner and after the watchdog’s intervention the Commons have now backed down.

They are in the process of informing all former MPs who took the grant that their names will be released in a list to come some time in early April.

It’s good the information is finally coming, but sad we had to drag it out of the Commons given everything that’s happened.

Read the full story here.

Cabinet Office receive complaint against Defence Minister

BRITISH nuclear test veterans fighting a legal battle against the Government have made an official complaint after a defence minister misled Parliament about their court case.

The veterans were present when the UK tested atomic bombs in Australia and the South Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s and complain that exposure to radiation has damaged their health.

The Ministry of Defence has refused to take any responsibility for their illnesses and so veterans have taken the Government to court in a bid to win compensation.

The case is yet to come to full trial but last month defence minister Andrew Robathan incorrectly told Parliament that judges had ruled there was no link between the tests and the veterans' ill health.

Veterans' representatives have now written to the Cabinet Office – which oversees ministers' professional conduct – arguing that Mr Robathan breached the ministerial code.

Read the full story here.

What is Big Society? Maybe debate will tell us.

The battle for the heart and soul of the ‘Big Society’ and what it means will be fought out during today’s backbench business debate in the Commons.

The first motion on the order paper talks about the Big Society as “seeking stronger communities and decentralising power”.

Those are fairly vague aspirations which leave open the possibility of Government spending and social programmes – accordingly the motion has won support from the likes of John Cruddas, Bob Russell and Tristram Hunt as well as some Cameroons.

Meanwhile the proposed amendment is far more prescriptive – suggesting such “stronger communities” should be facilitated by “increased individual and collective responsibility and freedom and reduced dependency on the state”.

In turn this amendment has won the support of the likes of Bill Cash, Christopher Chope and Edward Leigh.

Such a spat over what the Big Society means isn’t going to help David Cameron at a time when he’s already struggling to define the concept to the wider public.