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
DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION RELATING TO
MEMBERS' CLAIMS FOR EXPENSES
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.
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
(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