House Committee First Report


10 December 2002

  By the Select Committee appointed to supervise the general administration of the House and guide the work of the Management Board; to agree the annual Estimates, Supplementary Estimates and the three-year spending forecasts; to approve the House of Lords Annual Report; and to approve changes in employment policy.



  1.  Earlier this year the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee twice considered the question whether information relating to claims for expenses submitted by Members would need to be disclosed when the rights of access to information held by public authorities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 come into force on 1 January 2005; and whether the House should publish such information in advance of that date. The Committee has given further consideration to this question and now makes this report to the House.


  2.  The Freedom of Information Act gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities and sets out exemptions from that right. The Act applies to both Houses of Parliament and specifically identifies them as public authorities.

  3.  As required by section 19 of the Act, the House has agreed a Publication Scheme setting out the classes of information which it publishes or intends to publish. The Scheme, which must be periodically reviewed under the Act, was itself published in November.

  4.  The Finance and Staff Sub-Committee took the view that disclosure of information relating to expenses was likely to be required from January 2005 and favoured publication of such information before that date. However, it did not recommend that Members' expenses should be included in the initial Publication Scheme pending legal advice on the matter which had been sought by both Houses of Parliament.

  5.  Allowances claimed by Members of the Scottish Parliament are published in the annual report of the Parliament's Corporate Body in aggregate form, broken down by Member and by each allowance, in accordance with section 83 of the Scotland Act 1998. A Standing Order of the Northern Ireland Assembly provides for similar publication by that Assembly.

Legal Advice

  6.  Legal advice suggested that the House should publish, in aggregate form, the expenses claimed by each Member, broken down by the main categories of expenses, and that it could not easily justify doing less. It would still be open to individual Members to give notice under section 10 of the Data Protection Act 1998 if they consider that the disclosure of the expenses claimed by them would, or would be likely to, cause them substantial damage or distress that would be unwarranted. Any such notice would be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of that section.


  7.  The Committee makes the following recommendations:

  (a)  The House of Lords' Publication Scheme should be amended to include information relating to Members' expenses. This information should be published annually (related to financial years), broken down by the main categories of expenses available, namely: travelling expenses, day subsistence, night subsistence, secretarial etc. costs and the costs of the post-paid envelope scheme for correspondence on parliamentary business. Since travel costs vary widely, an indication should be given of the location of each Member's main residence.

  (b)  Details of expenditure on select committee and parliamentary delegation travel should be published separately.

  (c)  Details held by the House of claims for Financial Assistance to the Opposition parties and the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers ("Cranborne money") should also be published.

  (d)  This information should be made available before the rights of access under the Freedom of Information Act come into force on 1 January 2005. It should be published in Autumn 2004, once all claims by Lords for the financial year 2003-04 have been submitted and paid. The House should also publish information in respect of the financial years 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04 because the Act is fully retrospective and records of expenses are retained in the Accountant's Office for a period of three years, as agreed by the National Audit Office.

The Committee understands that these recommendations are broadly in line with policy developed in the House of Commons.

  8.  Before Autumn 2004 the Committee will give further consideration to this matter. It will ensure that all Members are notified in person of the decision of the House and that they are given the opportunity to see in advance the data relating to their own claims. The Committee will also consider in detail the categories of expenses to be disclosed and the form in which the information should be published. The Committee will report further to the House as appropriate.

  9.  The Committee recognises the sensitivity of these recommendations. We strongly believe that, since public funds are involved, accountability and transparency are necessary in this area. Our recommendations strike the correct balance between the rights of individual Members of the House and the public interest, and they are necessary to ensure compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

previous page contents

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002