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October 14, 2009

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Brown orders UK politicians to pay back excessive claims

MEMBERS of Parliament found to have made excessive expenses claims should pay back what they owe soon or face the consequences, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron said yesterday.

The expenses scandal, which rocked parliament earlier this year, resurfaced this week with a demand from independent reviewer Thomas Legg for repayments.

Details of legislators' claims, which were leaked to a newspaper earlier this year and later released publicly, revealed how scores of politicians made inappropriate demands or manipulated housing allowance rules.

Some used public funds to renovate homes that were later sold for substantial profits or bought items including pornographic movies, horse manure and an ornamental duck house.

Some politicians complained Legg's retrospective tightening of the rules with lower spending limits went too far, but party leaders are eager to put the scandal behind them in an effort to appease voter anger ahead of an election due by mid-2010.

"We've got to show people we've taken action," Brown said. "Parliament will have the authority to take whatever action is necessary ... I would advise any MP after they have made their representation to make the appropriate payments."

Brown himself has said he will repay more than 12,000 pounds (US$19,000) in cleaning, gardening and decorating bill claims.

Conservative leader Cameron warned his party that refusing to comply with any refund Legg had suggested would result in a ban from the next parliamentary election.

"If people are asked to pay back money and if the authorities determine that money should be paid back and they don't pay it back, in my view, they can't stand as Conservative MPs, that is the minimum point," Cameron said.

"That is the least we can do to try and sort out these problems of the past before going on to the future." Cameron has been asked for more details about mortgage payments.

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said his retrospective changes were unfair.

"It is contrary to the rules of natural justice and if parliament can't govern itself with the rules of natural justice then it's certainly got no right to be governing anybody else," Widdecombe told BBC radio.

Legg has proposed that lawmakers claim no more than 2,000 pounds per year for cleaning, or 1,000 pounds for gardening. Under those recommendations, Brown's expenses were 12,415 pounds over the limit.


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