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Expenses scandal spreading to Europe

THE British politicians' expenses scandal has spread to Europe after Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered his European legislators to meet stricter accountability rules amid fears that similar abuses could be taking place at the European Parliament.

For more than two weeks, disclosures over how British legislators used public money to pay for items ranging from horse manure to plasma TVs and swimming pool repairs have outraged voters and forced dozens of members of parliament to announce early retirement.

Brown has called for sweeping reforms of the British Parliament's expenses system, but has resisted calls to hold an early election to let the public oust those who abused the system.

The opposition Conservatives are far ahead of Brown's Labour Party in opinion polls and widely expected to win the next election, which Brown must call by June 2010.

The Labour Party said yesterday that members who serve as EU Parliament lawmakers will in the future publish more detailed breakdowns of expenses claims.

"We hope that the other political parties will eventually follow our lead on this," said Glenis Willmott, Labour group leader in the EU Parliament.

Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph reported that nine senior British Cabinet ministers spent 11,000 pounds (US$17,500) of taxpayers' money for advice on completing tax returns.

Most British lawmakers are paid 61,000 pounds annually, compared with an annual base salary of US$174,000 for legislators in the United States.


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