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British Politicians Berated for Abusing Expense System


The leaders of Britain's main political parties have apologized for the many in their ranks who have been taking advantage of lax expense oversight among parliamentary members. Using leaked records, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper has been publishing revelations of widespread expense abuse, generating a wave of pubic anger against the country's elected public servants.

Under the backdrop of the worst economic climate in Britain since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the disclosure of expense claims made by the country's politicians has infuriated the British public.

Those disclosures have come from leaked records obtained by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

On a daily basis since Thursday, embarrassed lawmakers have been under intense pressure as they have had to try to explain accepted claims for things like horse manure, dog food and even a bathtub plug.

In addition to the seemingly frivolous, records show that public funds have also been used for things like expensive home improvements.

On Monday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said 'sorry' publicly for the first time.

"I want to apologize on behalf of politicians, on behalf of all parties for what has happened in the events of these last few days," he said.

Although the Telegraph's revelations centered first on government ministers, the paper has now started to publish questionable expenses made by opposition politicians.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron says fundamental change must come quickly.

"Today we see more things that are going to make the public very angry and that show a system that is desperately in need or reform," said Cameron. "Individually, members of parliament have got to explain why they claimed, what they have claimed, and set that out. Collectively, I think we have all got to put out hand up and say, look this is a system that we operated and used that is absolutely not right and has got to be changed."

Both Brown and Cameron agree that widespread reforms to the allowance system are required, and as part of that parliament authorities say they may ask outside auditors to check expenses in the future.

Although the scandal has lowered public trust in all political figures here, it appears Mr. Brown's ruling Labor Party has taken the biggest hit. A Mail on Sunday newspaper poll shows support for Labor at 23 percent against 45 percent for the Conservatives.

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