MPs can strike a blow for freedom and privacy

With the approval of parliament, our government is planning to hold more information about us than ever before. It wants a national identity database of every UK citizen, identity cards for many UK residents, DNA records kept for millions of innocent people, and records kept of emails sent (although not their contents), web-pages visited and phone calls made. In arguing that these measures are needed for the protection of society, they assure us that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”.

It has now emerged that the government has drawn up proposals to exclude MPs’ expenses from the Freedom of Information Act (Leaders, 17 January). This despite the fact that the existing law has exposed irregularities in how MPs are using their expenses. This double standard is concerning in and of itself. That it is happening during an economic downturn when we are all being expected to tighten our belts is nothing short of outrageous. That it happens 18 months after Gordon Brown launched his premiership by announcing that parliament should be covered by the Freedom of Information Act is deeply worrying.

MPs will have an opportunity to pass or block the Freedom of Information Order this week. If they pass it, they will do the reputation of parliament tremendous harm. We urge them to see sense and block this regressive measure.

Peter Facey Unlock Democracy, Maurice Frankel Campaign for Freedom of Information, Matthew Elliott TaxPayers’ Alliance, Roger Smith Justice, Phil Booth NO2ID, Anthony Barnett OurKingdom, Neil O’Brien Policy Exchange, Guido Fawkes, Louise Christian, Stuart Weir Democratic Audit, Sunny Hundal Liberal Conspiracy, Pete Myers, Neal Lawson Compass,Simon Davies Privacy International, Henry Porter, Ken Ritchie Electoral Reform Society, Barry White Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, John Kampfner Index on Censorship, Prof AC Grayling, Prof David Miller SpinWatch, Nick Mole PAN UK, Tony Curzon Price Open Democracy, John Jackson