British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the leader of the country’s main opposition party apologized Monday over lawmakers’ excessive expenses claims, pledging to overhaul the allowance system and win back public trust.
The apologies follow days of embarrassing revelations about claims made by British legislators and government ministers, who used public money to pay for items including porn movies, horse manure and a memorial wreath for fallen soldiers.
According to documents published by Britain’s Daily Telegraph in recent days, several lawmakers have taken advantage of lax existing rules to claim thousands of pounds (dollars) to renovate homes across the country.
“We must show that, where mistakes have been made and errors have been discovered, where wrongs have to be righted, that is done so immediately,” Brown said Monday, addressing a conference of nurses in Harrogate, northern England.
The newspaper reported that Brown paid his brother Andrew Brown 6,500 pounds (US$9,800) for cleaning between 2004 and 2006. Andrew’s wife, Clare Brown, said Monday the money was used to pay a cleaner the two men shared.
She wrote in The Guardian newspaper that, before he married, the prime minister was a “brilliant but extremely busy bachelor,” who had little time for domestic chores, and needed paid help.
Brown had “streams of people trudging through his flat, usually leaving dirty mugs and takeaway cartons in their wake,” she wrote. “He definitely needed a cleaner when in London.”
The Telegraph published Monday details of claims made by leading Conservative lawmakers, including allies of party leader David Cameron, who is thought likely to defeat Brown in a national election that must be called by mid-2010.
Tory lawmaker David Willetts claimed around 100 pounds ($150) after he called in workmen to replace 25 light bulbs in his home, the newspaper reported. Conservative election coordinator Oliver Letwin spent 2,000 ($3,000) to repair a pipe under his tennis court.
Michael Gove, the party’s education chief, spent thousands of pounds (dollars) furnishing two different homes in quick succession, under rules that allow lawmakers to claim the costs of running a second home close to Parliament.
“It is the responsibility of those we elect to behave properly. Not just legally, not just within the rules, but to the highest ethical standards,” Cameron told the nursing conference, which he attended after Brown.
Parliamentary authorities said they plan to allow outside auditors to check expenses claims in future. Both Brown and Cameron say widespread reforms are needed to the entire allowance system.
The Telegraph has also published expense claims from the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, which has five House of Commons members from Northern Ireland who refuse to participate in the London Parliament because they do not want to swear fidelity to the British monarch.