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Accountability: What others do...

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Kitia, May 11, 2009.

  1. Kitia

    Kitia JF-Expert Member

    May 11, 2009
    Joined: Dec 2, 2006
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    Brown apologises for politicians' perks

    By Kate Kelland

    LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised on Monday for politicians' expenses, which included claims for dog food and light bulbs, in a bid to staunch a damaging parliamentary scandal.
    The revelations in the Daily Telegraph about MPs claims were the latest in a string of embarrassing headlines about Labour MPs -- including Brown and his Cabinet colleagues -- and opposition figures.
    There has been widespread public anger and even calls for parliament to be dissolved. An election is not legally required until mid-2010.
    Brown used a speech to a nursing conference to contrast the apparent disparity in standards of the two professions.
    "I want to apologise on behalf of politicians...of all parties for what has happened," he said. "Just as you have the highest standards for your profession, we must show that we have the highest standards for our profession."
    The spotlight on Monday over reports of how MPs have used allowances on top of an annual salary of almost 65,000 pounds -- more than double the national average -- fell on Conservatives.
    The newspaper had published details over the past three days of claims by Labour MPs for thousands of pounds spent on gardening, home furnishings and security. The reports are particularly damaging at a time when Britain is suffering its worst recession since World War Two.
    Lord Naseby, a former deputy speaker between 1992 and 1997 told the BBC over the weekend the scandal brought the current Parliament into disrepute.
    "I think quite frankly, if this runs and runs, the Parliament should be dissolved, I think they have to start again."
    A poll at the weekend showed support for Labour at a record low of only 23 percent, against 45 percent for the Conservatives ahead of an election due by the middle of next year. Labour has ruled since 1997, but the polls point to a Conservative landslide in the next election.
    Labour faces local and European elections on June 4 and a bad performance is likely to fuel speculation about whether Brown should lead the party into the parliamentary election.
    The newspaper printed details of a 4.47 pounds claim for dog food by the Conservative spokeswoman for Wales Cheryl Gillan.
    David Willetts, Conservative spokesman for "innovation, universities and skills" was shown to have claimed 115 pounds plus VAT for workmen to replace 25 light bulbs at his second home in London. He claimed another 80 pounds "to change lights in the bathroom," according to the Telegraph.
    Oliver Letwin, another leading Conservative, claimed for 2,000 pounds to fix a pipe under his tennis court.
    Norman Baker, an MP for the Liberal Democrats, said lawmakers had been milking the system.
    "...they (expenses claims) have been used by too many MPs as an alternative income stream, as a way of bumping up salary without having to vote through an embarrassing increase," Baker wrote in the Independent newspaper.
    Conservative leader David Cameron sought to limit the damage by saying it was time for all politicians to "put their hands" up and admit the expenses system needed changing.
    This was "another bad day for parliament and frankly, another bad day for the Conservative Party," he said.
    "We are sorry that this happened and it needs to change."