MP Expense Claims: Calling on the Fifth Estate

Revelations about MP expense claims are still unfolding, but proposals for reform are already emerging. One proposal places particular emphasis on the role of networked individuals to hold the MP’s accountable for their claims. The idea is to immediately put every claim made to the Commons fee office on the Web (The Sunday Times, 17 May 09: 15). This would lead MPs to anticipate public reaction to claims, and also open dialogue about the appropriateness of particular types of claims. The Web does enable more proposals and decisions to be open to public scrutiny. I’ve proposed that universities place new research proposals online as one means of informing the decisions of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs).* In my view, public scrutiny would complement but not replace the responsibility of University committees charged with this role. I would imagine that public comments on expense claims would also be a valuable input to the Common’s fee officers.

*Dutton, W. H., and Piper, T. (forthcoming), ‘The Politics of Privacy, Confidentiality and Ethics: Opening Research Methods’, Chapter 8, in Dutton, W. H. and Jeffreys, P. (eds), World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

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