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British politicians claim for dog food, light bulbs

DOG food and light bulbs were among items British politicians claimed on their expenses, a newspaper said today, the latest in a string of exposures to shame parliament and damage Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

After days of embarrassing headlines about members of Brown's ruling Labour Party claiming thousands of pounds of expenses for such things home repairs and cleaning services, the spotlight fell today on opposition Conservatives.

The Daily Telegraph printed details of a 4.47 pounds (US$6.55) claim for dog food by the Conservative spokeswoman for Wales Cheryl Gillan.

Meanwhile David Willetts, Conservative spokesman for "innovation, universities and skills" claimed 115 pounds plus VAT (Value Added Tax) 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.

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 in comments broadcast on television and radio.

"We are sorry that this happened and it needs to change," he added. "We have to acknowledge just how bad this situation is and just how angry the public are."


The row over expenses -- which erupted in March when a member of Brown's government was found to have claimed expenses for porn movies and a bath plug -- is particularly damaging for Brown's centre-left government when voters are being forced to tighten their belts in an economic recession.

A BPIX opinion poll in the Mail on Sunday newspaper gave Labour 23 percent support with the Conservatives on 45, enough to give the main opposition party a landslide victory if repeated at a parliamentary election due by mid-2010.

The paper said the survey showed that, for the first time, a majority of voters -- 52 percent -- believe Brown should stand down, and the results were the worst for Labour since 1943.

The expense row intensified on Friday, when the traditionally Conservative-supporting Telegraph began publishing leaks about Labour MPs' expense claims that have tarnished the reputations of both cabinet and junior ministers.

The paper has continued to print details on claims for thousands of pounds spent on second homes, personal security, nappies and comics. Other ministers claimed for home improvements, furnishings and work on their gardens.

Two Labour parliamentarians have threatened to take legal action over the publication of expense details they said were inaccurate, but the Telegraph has said it plans to publish more.

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.


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