DISCLOSURE OF MPs’ HOME ADDRESSES – 22 May 2008

Dr Julian Lewis: I hesitate to take up the House’s time by further referring to the issue of Members’ private home addresses being published, but this is one of the few opportunities available to me to develop the argument, which I shall do in detail.

Every hon. Member has a few special skills, some of which are more valuable than others. I have very few special skills, one of which is particularly rarefied – I have an understanding of the way in which extremists’ minds work. Were I an extremist, I would be cheering on the Freedom of Information campaigners who are urging, for misguided reasons, that the private home addresses of Members of this House should be made public in an easily accessible form.

I first learned to be careful about my private home address 31 years ago, when I was involved in a nasty campaign concerning the infiltration of a democratic party in this country by an extremist organisation. It was impossible in those circumstances for my address in the then constituency of Newham, North-East to be kept secret.

A number of things happened in the course of that campaign, including someone tampering with the brakes of my motorcycle, which caused me to sustain a significant injury, and the subsequent hurling of a boulder through my bedroom window late at night. I was fortunate that, as it hit the masonry, only the glass penetrated into the room and onto the bed where I was sleeping, rather than the boulder itself.

A few years after that campaign was over, I believe that it was the investigative journalist Barrie Penrose who wrote an interesting story in the Sunday Times about a firm called Detectives (Private) Associates, which had, in part of that campaign, been bugging my telephone line and making use of the political information. Even if I were not concerned about my personal safety, the case raised the question of my right to privacy to campaign, in what I believe was a democratic way, on an issue that was causing great concern to the political parties of the day. It was causing concern not only to the Labour Party, with which I was involved at the time, but to anybody who was concerned about the way in which extremism was trying to infiltrate democratic institutions.

Subsequently, a number of other campaigns involved my dealing with organisations of political extremists at home and Governments of a totalitarian nature abroad. I never doubted that if any of those bodies really set their mind to it and made a special effort, concentrating all their resources on it – they might simply follow me late one night – they would eventually be able to find out where I lived. I did not see that then, and I do not see it now, as a justification for making it easy for anybody to be able to dial up, at the touch of a button, where I live. At least if someone is going to have a go at me, let them have to work hard to find out the information as to how they are going to do so.

In those days, I was on my own, but now I live with my partner – at least, I live with my partner at my London address. If people are perhaps to know where my constituency home address is – I shall discuss that point in a moment or two – at least my partner is not exposed to nearly the same level of risk. That is because somebody might decide to have a go at me at, or, more likely, send something through the post to, my constituency home address than to my London home address, where she lives.

As a result of not only those past campaigns and the experience that I have gained from them, but also a recent event – I was involved for five years in trying to build up a case against a career criminal who had defrauded my elderly father of thousands of pounds for building work that had not been completed, and my lawyer advised me that it would extremely unwise for any of my addresses to be made easily publicly available – I decided that I would take on this issue.

I did not do so because, as one might think, I felt myself particularly at risk, although I am particularly at risk. I am one of the people most likely to benefit from the exemption that has been laid down all along by the Information Commissioner and by the Information Tribunal appeal ruling of 26 February, paragraph 84(7), which stated:

“Where a particular MP has a special security reason for keeping the address of his or her main or second home confidential (for example, because of a problem with a stalker, or a terrorist or other criminal threat), that address may be redacted.”

For those who do not understand that term, may I say that it means that whenever any piece of information about our expenses spent on such an address is made public, the actual address should be blacked out. One would have thought that that was a simple enough thing, but it appears to have escaped the understanding of the Information Commissioner and the Judges who have subsequently pronounced, in their wisdom, on those questions.

I would almost certainly be able to claim that exemption for myself, but as a result of my experiences, I have felt it particularly important to try to ensure that similar protection is extended to my colleagues, who might not have had my experiences and who might not yet be subject to the same sorts of threats that would entitle them to claim an individual exemption on the same basis as me.

Andrew Mackinlay: I want to tell the House and the hon. Gentleman that as a result of one of my parliamentary activities, I received 600 threatening and menacing letters – by hard copy, not by e-mail. Leaving aside the matter of their contents, if they had arrived at my home, as, inevitably, such letters will, I would have faced the logistical, practical problem of trying to identify which were my own private mail and which were those hateful, menacing letters. This issue has not been understood.

Dr Lewis: I welcome that response, which takes me nicely on in my line of argument. I am sure that only a momentary oversight has prevented the hon. Gentleman from adding his signature to Early-Day Motion 1620 on this matter, and I look forward to his doing so. It is not fair to expect Mr Speaker constantly to have to stick his neck out to defend what the hon. Gentleman previously referred to in another context as the privileges of this House if Mr Speaker is not made firmly aware of the united opinion of this House when it needs him to defend our privileges or, as some would call them, our rights. This is a matter of rights.

Let us consider the question of mail, which the hon. Gentleman so rightly raised. If I were applying an extremist mind to an extremist cause – I like to think that I apply my mind to moderate causes, such as the defeat of extremism – I know what I would do if I wanted to knock this ridiculous proposal on the head. I would buy a large packet of white soap powder and 646 envelopes, and I would then place a quantity of the soap powder in each envelope, together with a little note saying: “Ha–ha! You have just opened a packet of anthrax”, and send an envelope to each of the 646 private home addresses. Of course, people would not have opened a packet of anthrax, but it would take a brave or reckless MP not to take the trouble of immediately contacting the emergency services in case the envelope of white powder really did contain anthrax, as has happened in a case in the United States.

Are we insane enough to make this sort of information nationally available? If an experienced, professional, terrorist organisation is determined to knock-off a particular MP, it will, of course, track that MP and do something bad to him. But why should we make it easy for such an organisation to do the same thing to 645 other MPs at the same time? I could not understand how we reached this state until today’s business questions, when the hon. Member for North Durham (Kevan Jones) said something that I had not known: that when these matters were being argued before the relevant Commissions, no professional security advice had apparently even been taken. What on Earth did the officials of this House think they were playing at when they omitted to take that basic step?

Richard Bacon: My hon. Friend is making an extremely interesting speech. Is not his revelation of the failures to take security advice all the more extraordinary in light of the fact that I can remember three Members of Parliament being murdered in my adult lifetime because they were MPs?

Dr Lewis: I shall jump on a bit in what I was going to say as a result of that excellent intervention; I hope that the House will forgive me if I go back-and-forth a little in my line of argument. I have come to the conclusion that nothing will concentrate the minds of the Judges, the officials of this House or the officials who work for the Information Commissioner more than being put in the position in which they are seeking to put Members of this House. That is why I have, not at all facetiously, put in Freedom of Information requests asking for the private home addresses of High Court Judges in general. Now that we know the names of the three High Court Judges who took the decision, my Parliamentary Assistant has put in a supplementary request for their details to be made public. The grounds on which those Judges came to their decision were that if someone really set their mind to it, it would be possible to find out legally and quite straightforwardly where anybody in the public eye lived. If that applies to us, it applies to them.

However, in reality, the argument is a falsehood, as a moment’s reflection will reveal. If somebody wishes to take basic security precautions in respect of his address, it is possible for him to do so. My address has never been on an electoral register, and that is quite legal. Owing to my individual political history, I have explained to the electoral returning officer every time that I would prefer to register under a nom de plume. Anybody can do that. I fill in my electoral registration form with my nom de plume and sign it “Julian Lewis”, indicating that I have used that nom de plume.

It is true that when I stand in elections, my private constituency address has to be published in certain electoral documents; that fact is used as an excuse by the various individuals and bodies to say, “Well, the cat is out of the bag, so all the addresses for which money is claimed – either the London or constituency addresses – should be put in a big list on the internet.”

I have done an experiment: as I said, my private constituency address does not involve my partner and her safety. I have entered that address into the Google search engine with my name. I have had to fill in various forms with that address – I am talking only about my constituency address, not my London one – but despite that fact, no match comes up anywhere on the internet. If somebody is sufficiently evil-minded about it, they will no doubt now make a point of going to New Forest, East, ferreting around, finding the relevant forms and publishing my address in the papers. I have had to take that calculated risk in putting my head above the parapet and raising the issue at all. Good luck to them – they will just prove my point. However, at least my London address, where my partner lives with me, will not be involved.

The people I have been talking about have taken leave of their senses. The problem has been that we have not had the opportunity properly to present the security considerations to those who ought to consider them – namely, the Judges and commissioners. Furthermore, as I said in an intervention, we have not had an opportunity to raise the issues outside the House, because the very people who are determined that all this stuff should be exposed are the media themselves. I have no confidence whatever that I will be any more successful at making the public aware of the issues at stake as a result of this debate.

I have tried my best with the media. I had a very long conversation with a journalist from The Times whom I know well and whom I regard as principled. I explained to him at length the issues about the disclosure of MPs’ addresses, particularly in the context of the current terrorist environment. I explained to him what I would do, even if I were only an al-Qaeda sympathiser at home or abroad; I have given one example of what I would do, but I do not want to generate too many free ideas for the extremists out there by giving more. However, I could do plenty more things with my twisted mind; I am sure that the extremists do not need my suggestions anyway. The journalist had no answer to any of my points. He really did not – I am not doing him a disservice or being unfair to him. However, I could tell that he was uncomfortable with the conversation, which ended with him saying: “Well, I’ll have to think about it, Julian.”

I later had a conversation with a particularly experienced and distinguished parliamentary correspondent from one of the tabloid newspapers. He went even further than The Times correspondent. He said: “Gosh! It would be barking mad for those addresses to be published.”

Andrew Mackinlay: It is the barking mad that we have to worry about.

Dr Lewis: Indeed. Have any words appeared in that particular tabloid putting our side of the case? Not at all.

I should like to spend a moment considering what the Information Commissioner, supported by the wisdom of the High Court, proposes that we should rely on. I say it again: there is an exemption through which if a particular MP has a special reason for keeping his or her address confidential – because of a stalker, terrorist or other criminal threat – the address may be redacted. Right, let us think about that.

Let us take half-a-dozen female MPs as an example, and let us imagine that the provisions are about to come in. One of those MPs is being stalked. “Ah! That’s all right,” says the Information Commissioner: “We have catered for that – her address will be redacted.” Fine, so we go to press and the address of one of those half-a-dozen female MPs is withheld and the other five addresses are published. But hang on a moment – six months down the line, two of the other five suddenly acquire stalkers. What will we do about them? Will we say, “Sorry: general public, please disregard those addresses that we published”? Are we going to say: “Too late now – tough luck.” If we say that, why should the first one to be stalked have had the advantage of not having had her address published, while the others did not? Alternatively, will we say that the lady MPs should be moved and that we will pay for the costs of that? That would involve the public purse, and the issue is supposed to be about the public purse – although it is not, in my humble opinion.

Mr Bacon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is being very generous. Another issue that occurs to me is this: how are we supposed to know in advance that we are about to become a victim of terrorism? I say that very seriously. At about a quarter to three in October 1984, I happened to be in Brighton. I walked through the revolving doors of the Grand Hotel to see whether some friends of mine were still there. I sat down and had a chat. About four to five minutes later, the Brighton bomb went off. I did not know that that was going to happen; if I had, I would have been somewhere else.

Dr Lewis: That is why we can see that not a moment’s real thought has been given to the security implications. I am afraid to make the following proposal, because I know the bureaucratic mind as well as the extremist one – even now, I can see the bureaucrats groping madly for the wrong conclusion. My proposal is that if there are any grounds for withholding any hon. Member’s address because he already faces a specific threat, then that must be an argument for withholding every hon. Member’s address because we could become subject to such a threat at any time because of the nature of our work.

In fact, the bureaucrats would no doubt say: “Ah! Perhaps we have been too generous. Perhaps we had better say that it is so absolutely vital to be certain that MPs are not fiddling the Additional Costs Allowance – that is the matter of supreme importance – that we had better publish the addresses, even of those MPs who do face a criminal threat or threat of stalking or who have put their heads above the parapet.”

The very hon. Member for Hendon (Andrew Dismore) has put his head above the parapet many times by naming in this House extremist – I would call them un-Islamic – organisations and individuals. He has been very brave. He knows that he may well be attacked on account of his bravery, but why should he have the additional concern that his family might be? The whole thing is barking mad, as I said earlier.

Andrew Mackinlay: I have not signed that EDM so far – I am a bit of a loner in this place – but I will consider doing so. I have asked parliamentary questions on my own initiative, one of which asked whether the addresses of Judges’ lodgings will be published. They are demonstrably provided at public expense, and I imagine that the Government, who are craven, will baulk at pressure from the Judges and say: “You daren’t do that. These are public buildings.” I want the addresses of the Judges’ lodgings.

Dr Lewis: The hon. Gentleman is irrepressible and, as usual, he is not only irrepressible, but unanswerable. The only way in which the problem will be solved is to force the people sitting in judgment on these matters to consider how they would like it.

I mentioned briefly during Business Questions a couple of the other Early-Day Motions that have been tabled by other hon. Members – not in any co-ordinated way, I knew about them only when I saw them on the Order Paper. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) tabled Early-Day Motion 1623, which states:

“That this House notes the reasons given by the High Court as to why the addresses of hon. and right hon. Members can be published; and considers in the same spirit of openness and public accountability that the home addresses of High Court judges, who are adult, law-abiding citizens and holders of public office in the public eye”

– he has, of course, taken that word-for-word from their judgment about why our home addresses had to be published –

“should also be published along with a detailed break-down of the expenses which they charge to the public purse”.

He subsequently told me that the Table Office, for reasons which are understandable but nevertheless regrettable, crossed out the words at the end of his original draft, which were:

“on the basis that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”.

Andrew Mackinlay: They also charge the taxpayer for their ridiculous clothes.

Dr Lewis: I am not sure whether I should put that sedentary intervention on the record or not, but I fear that I have just done so. [Laughter]

I also draw attention to Early-Day Motion 1628, tabled by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Alan Meale) – a former Minister – that reads as follows:

“That this House notes the High Court’s reasons for why the addresses of hon. and right hon. Members can be published; and in the same spirit”

– gosh, it seems to be the same sort of words –

“of openness and public accountability, the home addresses of High Court judges, chief police officers, fire chiefs, chief executives of local authorities, chairs of public bodies and senior Crown civil servants should also be published alongside detailed breakdowns of the expenses which each charge to the public purse”.

I was not going to raise this point, but that EDM reminds me of a press story that I read recently concerning the fact that certain chief executives of local councils – people whose salaries are between three and four times larger than those of hon. Members of this House – had been receiving what was described as hate mail from members of the public because they were getting such gigantic increases in their salaries. As a result, for data protection and privacy reasons, their increases in salary were no longer to be revealed. I am not sure whether I have that right –

Andrew Mackinlay indicated assent.

Dr Lewis: I see that the hon. Gentleman agrees. It was certainly the case that someone would not be able to identify which particular chief executives had received massive salary increases. How would those chief executives like their home addresses to be published? They were so concerned about their privacy and about not getting nasty letters from irate taxpayers, that they did not even want it to be known that they had had such large increases, let alone to receive letters at their home address rather than at their work address.

Nigel Evans: I sit on the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport where I once asked Mark Thompson –

Mr Bacon: £620,000.

Mr Evans: We know how much he earns, but I said to him: “Do tell me how much Jeremy Paxman earns.” He said: “I am not going to tell the Committee because it is confidential.” Everyone is taxed through the TV licence; public money is provided for all BBC journalists, so the same sort of revelations should be made in that case.

Dr Lewis: This is where I have another confession to make. I am not a very religious man, but in so far as I have a religious hinterland, it goes back more to the Old Testament than the New Testament. I do not take the view that one should turn the other cheek; I take the view that if I am going to go down, I am going to take as many of these people down with me as I can. For that reason, I have not only submitted a Freedom of Information request for the private home addresses of Judges to be published, but I have started tabling questions to every Cabinet Minister – I am up to about 12 Departments so far – asking what their policy would be if they received a Freedom of Information request asking for the disclosure of the private home addresses of senior civil servants, who correspond to Ministers, and middle-ranking civil servants, who correspond to ordinary Members. I do not want to belabour those points, and I shall move on to newer ground.

Mr Bacon: I have just been reminded of a case from the Public Accounts Committee. We spent months, if not years, trying to get information on redundancy payments out of the Foreign Office. The amounts in question were not small – in many cases, they were £300,000, £400,000 or £500,000. Retired diplomats were being paid off without the inconvenience of having to continue their employment for five or six years more. It was impossible to get the names of the individuals involved, even though it was public money.

Dr Lewis: That does not surprise me at all. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) said, we have an absurd situation in which, based in the same organisation, we have the people responsible for Freedom of Information requests and those responsible for data protection. Effectively, if there are conflicts, there ought to be two separate bodies to fight the corner of each side of the argument, but that is not the case at the moment.

I shall diverge a little more, as I have mentioned the Information Commissioner. I have a chequered history with the Information Commissioner, and I do not have a great deal of regard for the way in which that office has done its job. In September 2004, I was surprised to receive a summons from the then leader of my party, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Michael Howard). He informed me that although my only speciality in life was defence and security matters, as I hope some of the remarks I have made illustrate, he wished me to take on the role, on a temporary basis, of Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office. I am sure that he will not mind me mentioning it now the election has been and gone. He was quite blunt about it; he was concerned about the way in which the Freedom of Information Act might be applied – he had a lot of foresight on this – when it came into force. Although it had been enacted in 2000, it came into force only on 1 January 2005 and of course the election was due to take place soon after that.

My right hon. and learned Friend’s concern was that the Act lent itself to being used in a politically partisan fashion. It would be possible to release all sorts of detailed information about why previous Governments, who happened to be Conservative, had taken decisions that had led to all sorts of disasters like Black Wednesday, but it would not be possible to get similar information out about the current Government because it was too current, and exemptions would have kicked in concerning the act of government becoming impracticable if current matters were being investigated. My job, which was given to me on a temporary basis – the promise was that I would go back to Defence whether we won or lost the election, and I am delighted that it was fulfilled – was to try to neutralise that threat.

In the course of doing that job, I did two things. One was to table a lot of questions to a lot of Cabinet Ministers that I knew would be rejected, as indeed they were, and thus when old material was brought out, it became a matter of whether the Act was being used in a partisan way. The other thing was something I stumbled across by accident. I tabled a series of questions to every Department, asking how many confidential or secret files had been shredded in the each of the past five years – in other words, since the measure had been enacted but before it came into force. In several cases, there was no discernible change and a roughly equal number of files had been shredded in each of those years. However, in several Departments, including some important ones, there had been a massive increase in shredding files. To my mind, that provided at least a prima facie case that something had been going on and that some Departments had decided to make a bonfire of files before they had to open them. I thought that addressing that was surely what the Information Commissioner and the Freedom of Information Act were about.

Andrew Mackinlay indicated assent.

Dr Lewis: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman agrees.

To my amazement, Mr Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, immediately declared that he was unaware of the deliberate destruction of files by civil servants and that Departments were keen to co-operate with him. He said that he would give them all a clean bill of health but that, if I had any evidence that they had been destroying files to avoid the terms of the Act, I should give it to him. Excuse me, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I thought that that was his job. I believed that I had established enough prima facie evidence. When an Act is coming into force that requires many files to be opened and there is a pattern that shows files being destroyed steadily and then a sudden massive increase in that destruction, surely that is enough to trigger an investigation. However, he was having none of it.

By contrast, determining whether a bunch of Members of Parliament genuinely live in the houses for which they claim expenses shot to the top of the Information Commissioner’s agenda. Only today, he is at the top of the news agenda – it is the same man; he is doing well. I wonder what his home address is – perhaps I will find out. He is initiating an investigation into how the Tory Party gave names, voting intentions and so on to some media. Why does he need to investigate that? We know how it happened – a massive mistake was made. All the people who received the information assured everybody that they have destroyed it. Of course, those in the Conservative Party who are responsible deserve a severe reprimand for making a stupid mistake. However, why does the Information Commissioner leap on that and investigate it when there is no mystery? When something happened that genuinely mattered, he flunked the challenge. I do not hesitate to say that I have no confidence in the man as an individual and no professional confidence in him. The sooner he is brought before the House, so that he can be subject to some oversight and answer some questions, the better.

I want to consider the post that comes through hon. Members’ doors – the matter was raised earlier in an intervention. We go to great expense to screen our incoming mail in the House. What is the point of doing that if our addresses are published en masse? What terrorist or nuisance with half a brain would send letters to hon. Members at the House when they could send them to their home addresses? What shall we do? Are we to institute screening procedures at everyone’s home? Will we save money and do away with the screening procedures here because there is no reason to keep them other than to protect the building, because they sure as heck are not going protect Members of Parliament once the madness that we are considering occurs? If my address were published – I do not believe that that will happen for the reasons that I outlined – I would arrange for all my mail, personal, abusive and professional, to be re-routed to the House of Commons to be screened before it returned to my home address. Is the House prepared to take that on and the expense that it would entail?

Mr Evans: There is a problem of privacy with that. Private mail could come in here to be screened. I suspect that my hon. Friend does not open all his own mail and that his secretary or researcher does that. All privacy would go. There seem to be no rights for Members of Parliament.

Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend is right. I have taken up too much of the House’s time, but I want to mention a final asinine comment by the High Court. If the law was an ass, it has been downhill all the way ever since. There are conventions in the House that we do not attack the Judges, but there are also conventions that they should not attack us. They started it and, as I said, I am an Old Testament character. Let us consider the penultimate paragraph of the brilliant judgment by those brilliant men, whose home addresses, not to mention their expenses, I am looking forward to finding out soon.

Paragraph 44 of the judgment states:

“We recognise that if the arrangements for oversight and control of the ACA system were to change, then the issues of privacy and security of MPs and their families might lead to a different conclusion to the one reached by the Tribunal.”

After all the arguments about the cat being out of the bag because we signed various forms and so on, the Judges say, “Well, actually, if the ACA system were improved or tightened up, we might not say that they need to publish the addresses at all.” There is something slightly wrong there. The paragraph continues:

“The Tribunal was required to act on the evidence available to it,”

– we all know now the quality of that evidence –

“and make its judgment accordingly. If the question were to arise again, the Commissioner, and if necessary the Tribunal, again, would have to make whatever decision was appropriate in the light of the changed circumstances.”

I hope that at least my colleagues, including the 14 unfortunate ones who are already in danger of having their private home addresses published, will read my remarks. Even if they have not thought about what might happen to them in future, it might happen. Frankly, we have reached a sorry state when a so-called privileged Chamber cannot even have in it hon. Members who can be sure that at least postal access to the places where they live with their families has a minimal amount of basic, common-sense security and protection.

* * *

EXTRACTS FROM THE WINDING-UP SPEECHES 

Mr Shailesh Vara (Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons): … My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr Lewis) made a powerful speech about the disclosure of Members’ addresses. His personal experiences serve as a strong warning about the potential dangers that we all face. I for one believe – as I think that most hon. Members do – that there should be the utmost transparency but, while I recognise that we are public figures, I think that we are entitled to some of the courtesies that are due to all citizens. The security of our addresses is certainly one of those courtesies. We are public figures, but we are also entitled to some of the privileges of the ordinary citizen.

Mr Bacon: It is right and proper to urge transparency when public money such as the Additional Cost Allowance is being spent, but does my hon. Friend agree that transparency about the disclosure of home addresses is a different matter?

Mr Vara: I agree entirely: my hon. Friend is right to say that transparency is of the utmost importance – we all agree about that – but that a distinction must be made. Society has become a lot more hostile towards Western countries, especially Britain and America, and the security of the people who speak about such matters in debates in this House deserves to be considered very seriously. I wish my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East well in his campaign to ensure some sense of secrecy regarding Members’ addresses.

* * *

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Helen Goodman): … The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr Lewis) made a serious speech about hon. Members’ rights and privileges. He pointed to the fact that those rights and privileges are given to MPs not as individuals but in their role as Members of this House. He is concerned about the security of individual hon. Members and pointed to the importance of hon. Members being able to speak and vote honestly and according to their consciences without fear for their safety or that of their families. He stated that it is important to consider hon. Members’ security when they are not in the Palace of Westminster and that the security situation of hon. Members is both uncertain and unpredictable.

Dr Lewis: I am sorry to take up more time, but a number of hon. Members have raised an additional point: the publication of constituency addresses, which will occur in a number of cases, could be described as a Burglars’ Charter, because hon. Members spend part of the week in their constituencies and a lot of their week at Westminster. If some bright spark were to collate the constituency addresses, whether as a result of the Freedom of Information request or any other investigations that they may see fit to pursue, we would be advertising the fact that lots of properties are empty at certain times of the week. I wonder what the insurance companies will say about that when we renew our premiums – perhaps the public purse would have to step in in that respect, too.

Helen Goodman: The hon. Gentleman has made a valid point. The other people who will be affected by the measure are hon. Members’ neighbours, which is also a factor.