Sunday, May 20, 2007

The one where Richard writes to his MP

My MP voted for David Maclean's grubby attempt to exempt Members of Parliament from the Freedom of Information act. So I wrote to him:

Dear Jim Fitzpatrick,

I understand from the BBC
( that you voted to
give the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill a third reading. I was
surprised as none of the supposed justifications I have heard for this
bill are credible.

I have not felt the need to write to my MP before but your cynical,
self-serving act has outraged me in a way I didn't think possible.

I hope you are ashamed of yourself.

Yours sincerely,

Richard G Brown

He wrote back. I haven't asked for permission to report what he said so I'll just show you my reply:

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your quick response.

Although the downgrading of MPs' expenses from being covered under FoI to being available at the discretion of the speaker is worrying, my problem with this bill is somewhat deeper.

Whenever parliament imposes a new regulation or obligation on others, there are real costs: complying with the regulation can be expensive, failure to do the right thing can mean otherwise well-meaning people find themselves on the wrong side of the law and people will find ways to exploit the regulation in unintended ways, to the detriment of those forced to comply with it.

The great beauty of FoI was that it finally forced MPs to experience some of this phenomenon: silly, timewasting queries that waste researchers' time, the indignity of having one's expenses published and the need to be familiar with complicated processes in order to keep confidential correspondence private were all consequences of the FoI legislation and served to remind MPs - every day - of the knock-on costs that occur when parliament creates red tape with abandon.

I was, therefore, utterly outraged when you and others surveyed the impact of FoI on your working life and, rather than learn a lesson from it and resolve to do better when regulating in the future, chose simply to exempt yourself from it.

You may have noticed that nobody else in the country has such privilege; we cannot opt out of rules and regulations that we find inconvenient.

It was this arrogant show of hypocrisy that drove me to write to you and, although I was impressed by - and grateful for - your quick response, I continue to be dismayed by your voting for this bill.

Thanks and best regards,



Jon said...

I've been working myself up to writing to him on the same subject. While I have many policy disagreements with him (ID cards, just for starters), this is the only one that has really angered me. It's such shameless hypocrisy and only goes to lend weight to the common perception that all politicians are a bunch of self-serving careerist freeloaders.

Grrr. Muchly.

Jon said...

And naming your posts like an episode of Friends will have me DoSing your blog :p

Richard Brown said...

"It's such shameless hypocrisy and only goes to lend weight to the common perception that all politicians are a bunch of self-serving careerist freeloaders."

Couldn't agree more.

I don't think he realises quite how many people are disgusted by this sort of behaviour.

Would definitely recommend emailing him.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

I will, although I've been up for 30-something hours, so my language will not be the best. I will do it tomorrow. I'm tempted to go to his next surgery too.

Richard Brown said...

I'm glad you corrected your post...... Being awake for a fortnight would not have been good for your spelling :-)

Andy Piper said...

This made me go and check whether my MP supported it... looks like he didn't... good. I'm just as appalled as you are by this Bill, and I think your response is clear and provides some excellent analogies.

Richard Brown said...

Ahh... but did your MP vote against? If not, then I would still suggest writing to him and calling him a coward :-)