Research on Open Data and Transparency

Freedom of Information and the MPs’ Expenses Crisis

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mpsWhat was the impact of the UK MPs’ Expenses scandal of May 2009? Was it caused by FOI? Did it change how people voted? Did it reduce trust in MPs? This new book looks at why the MPs’ Expenses may not actually have been the biggest event since 1832.

Actually, as this sample chapter sets out

…despite some early predictions, the scandal was limited in its impact: the purported ‘revolution’ never occurred. We briefly review the comparative literature on the political impact of scandal, which illustrates why the effects of scandals are usually limited and reasons why voters may choose not to punish malfeasant politicians. We situate this scandal against other international scandals, highlighting similarities and differences in the effects of scandal depending on cultural contexts. The chapter illustrates the mediated nature of the scandal and how it is best understood as comprised of not only the acts of politicians themselves, but as a series of moves and counter-moves by the press and other actors.

My draft article from the book looks specifically at the role of FOI Worthy FOI and MPs’ Expenses. You can also see my five year retrospective here . The draft of chapter is also available at SSRN:

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act played a key part in triggering the MPs’ expenses crisis. Requests made under the Act led to the collation of all MPs’ expenses into one record, while the drawn out process of appeal and counter-appeal drew attention to the issue. The number of FOI requests submitted and their impact were shaped by Parliament’s unique governance arrangements, resistance to disclosure and the internal Commons culture. However, the crisis was not the result of a simple ‘disclosure’; it was an old-fashioned leak that finally exposed information on MPs’ expenses.

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