UK lawmakers pay for excessive spending

Over
half the members of Britain’s Parliament have been forced to pay back a total
of more than $1.6 million for dubious expense claims, according to a new report
that is meant to issue a final verdict on one of the worst political scandals
in modern British history.

The
report stems from revelations last spring that the legislative body’s expense
system had been used to reimburse politicians for everything from toilet seats
and dog food to large claims on furniture. In the wake of the scandal,
Parliament asked a former civil servant, Sir Thomas Legg, to audit all expenses
between 2004 and 2009.

Sir
Thomas’s report details a “culture of deference” created by MPs, in
which they expected Parliament’s fees office to rubber-stamp their claims.

A
total of just over $2 million has been recommended for repayment by 390 members
of Parliament, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for excessive claims on
items including mortgages, rent and services such as house-cleaning. The report
only addresses expense claims made on second homes, and not claims for other
matters such as food or travel.

The
scandal effectively ended the political careers of about 20 lawmakers who
either resigned or said they wouldn’t seek re-election next year. It also
prompted a shake-up of how the once self-regulating body polices itself.
Prosecutors will announce today whether they will charge a number of
politicians whose alleged abuses police looked into.

Sir
Thomas described the scandal as “traumatic and painful.”

On
Thursday, Sir Paul Kennedy, a former judge who was asked to consider appeals
from members of Parliament, released his own review detailing the cases of 75
MPs who protested the demand for repayment. A total of 44 appeals against
repayment were successful, in whole or in part, leading to a reduction of about
$284,000 in the overall amount recommended to be repaid. That would reduce
overall repayments to $1.7 million

Almost $1.2 million
has been repaid since 1 April, 2009. MPs have until 22 February to make repayments
or face having the amounts automatically taken out of their wages.