WHILE Britain's banks buckled and sterling sagged Gordon Brown had to spend a good part of Wednesday coping with a parliamentary crisis over whether the public should be given access to the details of MP's permitted expenses claims. Last year the High Court ruled that these claims came within the Freedom of Information Act but the government has fought a rearguard action to keep them secret. A vote to confirm that cover-up was due on Wednesday but at the last moment Mr Brown cancelled it on the grounds that the Conservatives had withdrawn their support for it - a charge that David Cameron denied.

So the public will now be able to examine in some detail the life-style followed by their MPs and perhaps gain some hints from receipts from wine merchants which are the best vintages to buy just now. If it all seems petty behaviour over petty cash it should be remembered that the amount involved in
2006 /07 was more than 87 million pounds. The media and the public know that parliamentarians are not held in the highest esteem these days; they are seen to be as ready to work a fiddle when they have the chance as anybody else. Many have two jobs and employ their family in their offices and all take ludicrously long holidays. Gordon Brown got a lot of credit for championing the Freedom of Information Act; he should not risk losing it by trying to protect MPs from appropriate scrutiny.


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