An interesting story is brewing in the world of e-government, with its denouement expected tomorrow. You may be familiar with websites such as TheyWorkForYou, which aim to improve transparency and accountability in Government by publishing information about the way MPs vote, what they are saying in Parliament, and how they spend public money. These websites rely on public access to this information under the Freedom of Information Act.
This week, MPs are voting on whether to make a legislative change to withdraw access under the Act to information on their expenses payments. MySociety (the charity behind TheyWorkForYou) is running a campaign to voice objections to the move (read more here); the UK Freedom of Information Blog is also running the story; and The Times and The Guardian have picked up on it too. As The Times says, the change in law would:
"exempt [MPs] ... from parts of the Freedom of Information Act, meaning that they will never again be forced to publish receipts for their claims .... This would make MPs the only public sector employees with special privileges to protect them from disclosing their expenses."
The proposed changes to the law are surprising, would restrict the ability of e-government websites to analyse the actions of MPs and it is difficult to see how they will improve public confidence in Parliament. It will be interesting to see whether the increasingly widespread criticism of the move has any effect on the result of the vote, pitting as it does contemporary e-campaigning (eg the lobbying of MPs through WriteToThem and mySociety's Facebook campaign) against traditional party politics.