British police will investigate the alleged misuse of parliamentary expenses by "a small number" of lawmakers.
London Metropolitan Police’s announcement stems from an expense scandal that has ensnared more than a dozen members of parliament, who have promised to step down in the next election. The controversy has also forced Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reshuffle his Cabinet. The decision to launch the probe came after consideration by a joint panel of police and prosecutors, the Met Police said. The panel was also considering investigating “a small number” of other individuals, the police said. The probe will be conducted by officers from the police force’s Economic and Specialist Crime Command, authorities said. The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which exposed the scandal after publishing leaked copies of lawmakers’ expenses, said detectives were focusing on two members of the House of Commons who had been accused of claiming for mortgages that didn’t exist, and one member of the House of Lords who made claims on a second home.
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The British government this week published details of lawmakers’ expenses claims from the past four years, a month after the Telegraph began revealing them. But unlike the Telegraph, which published entire copies of certain expenses claims, the government released heavily redacted versions, with many key details blacked out. Controversial claims detailed by the Telegraph included thousands of dollars’ worth of interest on mortgages that had already been paid or that didn’t exist; money spent to clean a moat on a country estate, and more than $1,000 claimed for small a duck house. Some lawmakers claimed the maximum monthly allowance for food, one claimed for dog food, and another for Christmas decorations. While the scandal has snared lawmakers from all major parties in parliament, it has tarnished the reputations of several rising stars in the Labour Party. Shahid Malik stepped down from the Cabinet after expenses claims that included nearly $5,000 for an in-home theater system. Brown reappointed him last week, though Malik now faces a parliamentary inquiry. Another Cabinet minister, Kitty Ussher, resigned after the Telegraph reported that she designated her constituency home as her main residence for just one month in 2007 to avoid paying about $30,000 in capital gains tax.
Parliament’s release of the blacked-out expenses claims came after the Sunday Telegraph filed a freedom of information request. The official publication was moved forward after the Telegraph published its series of reports. Many lawmakers defended their claims as being within the rules. But even where that was the case, the public criticized lawmakers for greed and for taking advantage.