CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

SECURITY – MPs' HOME ADDRESSES – 22 May 2008

[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.]

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[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 Julian 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.]

[For Julian's speech in this Debate, click here.]