Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Patrick Mercer resigned the Tory whip on Friday in order, he said, to save the party embarrassment. His resignation came following claims that he broke Parliament's lobbying rules.

Of course, Mr Mercer, is hardly the first Parliamentarian to find himself accused of impropriety, and won't be the last either, as we've seen this week.

It's not just politicians who've been caught out. Fortunately, though, we all have a right to know about how publicly-funded bodies and employees make use of the authority entrusted to them.

There are a couple of obstacles to finding out the truth: Certain organisations, including the BBC enjoy substantial and frequently unwarranted exemptions from the need to be open and transparent. The exemptions are bad enough, but the problem is obviously made worse when the public body, itself, cannot be trusted - as happened about two years ago when there was an attempt to deceive me about expenses. At the time I suggested to the BBC's Information Policy & Compliance Department that "a root-and-branch review of procedures" be undertaken.

For a while, things seemed to improve, with staff being generally very helpful and polite. However my more recent impression is that the Corporation is reverting to type, and not being honest and transparent. Certainly some of the things they've said recently don't quite add up, and they appear to have a totally unsatisfactory policy in respect of the Gifts and Hospitality Register. The Register is particularly important because it can shed light on whether an employee might possibly be putting their own interests above those of the public's.

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