Free the bills and more

The UK’s amazing They Work for You — citizen watchdog of government — has started a campaign calling on Parliament to put all bills in XML. I want that and not just for federal legislation but for actions of agencies, court rulings, budgets, and more. That’s what I mean below when I say that I want government to be searchable and that’s essentially what Obama means when he says he wants a standard format for government information.

They Work for You explains why:

Unless Parliament produces better bills:
* We can’t give you email alerts to tell you when a bill mentions something you might be interested in.
* We can’t tell you what amendments your own MP is asking for, or voting on.
* We can’t help people who know about bills annotate them to explain what they’re really going on about for everyone else.
* We can’t build services that would help MPs and their staff notice when they were being asked to vote on dumb or dubious things.
* We can’t really give a rounded view of how useful your MP is if we can’t see their involvement with the bill making process.
* We can’t do about 12 zillion other things that we’re not even bright enough to think of yet.

And here are the not-very-technical details. Here’s a jealous Australian. And here’s UK Tory leader David Cameron endorsing the idea:

: Later: More on the Guardian’s Free our Data campaign.