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High Court orders MPs to 'fess up on expenses

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The Information Commissioner has welcomed the High Court's decision to force MPs to publish their full expenses.

The Court said the public had a right to know. "We have no doubt that the public interest is at stake. We are not here dealing with idle gossip, or public curiosity about what in truth are trivialities. The expenditure of public money through the payment of MPs' salaries and allowances is a matter of direct and reasonable interest to taxpayers."

Politicians have fought to keep secret their so-called John Lewis lists - the £23,000 each may claim if they have a second home. Payments are believed to have been made for new kitchens and bathrooms.

The Information Commissioner told MPs to release the information in February after a Freedom of Information request was turned down.

Deputy Information Commissioner Graham Smith, said: "We welcome today's ruling by the High Court which upholds the Information Tribunal's decision. MPs claim expenses in relation to their public duties and the public therefore has a right to know what that money is spent on."

One reason given by the Information Tribunal in originally granting the FOI request was that the system was so open to abuse. It emerged in February that MPs do not have to provide receipts for purchases of less than £250 or for monthly food bills of less than £400. Speaker Michael Martin announced a review of expenses.

Martin's spin doctor resigned in February after he inadvertantly mislead a journalist about Martin's wife's claims for taxi expenses.

The full judgement is available as a pdf here.

Speaker Martin and the Commons authorities have until 20 May to decide on a further appeal or must hand over the information by 23 May. The appeal is believed to have cost taxpayers about £100,000 so far. ®

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