Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Bill — Inspection of accounting records by journalists and citizen journalists — 24 Mar 2017 at 12:30
John Baron MP, Basildon and Billericay did not vote.
“any members of the public who are registered to vote in local elections in the United Kingdom”.
“might not the Government-in the interests of honesty, openness and accountability-consider…opening things up completely, well beyond the intention of the Bill, so that anybody can access this information?”
“I shall come on to that point a little later and explain why the balance is right.”-[Official Report, 25 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 1211.]
“I am reminded of Margaret Thatcher, who in her maiden speech introduced the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, which was in a similar vein; it was about opening up local government to journalists and other interested parties.”––[Official Report, Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Public Bill Committee, 7 February 2017; c. 4.]
“an initial discussion without any obligation”
“If the rights were extended to anyone and everyone, there would be great potential to make mischief through multiple requests to inspect or copy documents, without the accompanying ability to make a meaningful contribution towards raising awareness or improving the accountability of the body concerned.”-[Official Report, 25 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 1199.]
“reached the conclusion that the interest which the claimant has as a non-domestic ratepayer is sufficient to bring it within the concept of ‘persons interested’.”
“duly accredited representatives of newspapers attending for the purpose of reporting the proceedings for those newspapers shall…be afforded reasonable facilities”.
“Employer Identification: Business card, employer I.D. badge, or letter of assignment on corporate letterhead. (Letterhead must identify media outlet name, address and phone)”
“Proof of Assignment: Sample by-lined article published within the past 6-months, or current masthead that includes the reporters name & title, or official letter of assignment from a media outlet.”
“to a strict code of ethics so as to maintain and preserve public trust, confidence and reliability”-
“To ensure this the process of ‘gate keeping’ is upheld within mainstream media. This relies on all experienced and trained journalists and editors to filter any nonfactual information from news reports before publication or broadcasting.”
“In 2015-16, it would seem that local electors exercised their rights over a total of 11,000 bodies only around 65 times.”––[Official Report, Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Public Bill Committee, 7 April 2017; c. 5.]
“The ability to inspect and make copies of the most recent accounting information from a local authority during a specific period could provide compelling and timely evidence of poor spending decisions in the last accounting period”.-[Official Report, 25 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 1212.]
“to inspect…any part of any record or document containing information which is protected on the grounds of commercial confidentiality”.
“Clearly, the aim of the Bill is to throw the light of transparency on council proceedings where taxpayers’ money is being spent. In that regard, it is vital that commercial confidentiality is not used as a tool to hide documents and that these proceedings become more open.”-[Official Report, 25 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 1203.]
“by giving journalists the right to access recent accounting information from a range of local public bodies, the Bill will assist them in ?their investigations”. -[Official Report, 25 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 1210-11.]
“I understand that hon. Members have raised concerns today, and they are exactly the kind of points that I would be more than happy for us to consider in Committee.”-[Official Report, 25 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 1200.]
“There will be some issues to be teased out in Committee”.
“I am absolutely certain that the issue will be teased out in Committee”. -[Official Report, 25 November 2016; Vol. 617, c. 1202-03.]
(1) At each audit of accounts under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, any persons interested may-
(a) inspect the accounting records for the financial year to which the audit relates and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other documents relating to those records, and
(b) make copies of all or any part of those records or documents.
(2) At the request of a local government elector for any area to which the accounts relate, the local auditor must give the elector, or any representative of the elector, an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounting records.
(3) The local auditor’s reasonable costs of complying with subsection (2) are recoverable from the relevant authority to which the accounts relate.
“I think it is somewhat artificial to say that non-domestic ratepayers do not contribute to the local authority’s budget. Although their contributions are channelled through, and will be subject to, redistribution by central government-the income will be received indirectly by the authority as a grant from central government-nevertheless I think this gives them a sufficient interest in inspecting the accounts”.
“Some of the ways the claimant puts its case cannot succeed. I reject the contention that it has a sufficient interest merely by virtue of being a media organisation. It seems to me that the use to which persons wish to put the information cannot of itself make them interested persons.”
“In subsection (1) ‘journalist’ means any person who produces for publication journalistic material (whether paid to do so or otherwise).”
“Inspection of accounting records by journalists and citizen journalists”.
“In subsection (1A) publication of journalistic material means the proposed inclusion in a newspaper or magazine whether paid for or distributed without payment and includes any article proposed to be published on any website on the internet whether it can be accessed without payment or upon payment of a subscription.”
“The purpose of this amendment is to make clear that the section covers all journalists who may wish to publish their articles in a newspaper or magazine or on the internet, irrespective of whether there are any charges for either.”
“Accordingly, we are seeking to extend the definition of ‘any persons interested’ in section 26(1) of the Act”-
“to include journalists, including ‘citizen journalists’”.
“bloggers and others who scrutinise local authorities but who may not be accredited members of the press to enable them to access a wider range of accounting material in order to report and publish their findings so that it is available to local electors in an area, thus providing them with information that will enable them to better hold their local council to account.”
“any website on the internet”.
“A global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardized communication protocols.”
“a worldwide system of computer networks-a network of networks in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer”.
“a set of pages of information on the internet about a particular subject”.
“other than an audit of accounts of a health service body”
“Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from ‘after’ to the end of the subsection and insert ‘any members of the public who are registered to vote in local elections in the United Kingdom’”.
“including any politician or journalist”.
“‘journalist’ means any person who produces for publication journalistic material (whether paid to do so or otherwise).”
“including ‘citizen journalists’, that is bloggers and others who scrutinise local authorities but who may not be accredited members of the press to enable them to access a wider range of accounting material in order to report and publish their findings so that it is available to local electors in an area, thus providing them with information that will enable them to better hold their local council to account.”
“Extend public access to certain local audit documents under section 26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.”
The House divided:
Ayes 15, Noes 41.
Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.
What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.
What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.
What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.
|Party||Majority (No)||Minority (Aye)||Both||Turnout|
|Con||41 (+2 tell)||3 (+2 tell)||0||14.5%|
|Christopher Chope||Christchurch||Con (front bench)||aye|
|Philip Davies||Shipley||Con (front bench)||tellaye|
|Philip Hollobone||Kettering||Con (front bench)||aye|
|Greg Knight||East Yorkshire||Con||aye|
|David Nuttall||Bury North||Con (front bench)||tellaye|