British minister Shahid Malik resigns over expenses

May 15th, 2009 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon Brown London, May 15 (IANS) A scandal over parliamentary expenses claimed its first government scalp Friday when Britain’s Justice Minister Shahid Malik stepped down pending an inquiry into claims made in a newspaper.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said there will be an official inquiry into the Daily Telegraph’s claims that Malik paid a discounted rent in his main home in northern England while claiming expenses of over 66,000 pounds - more than any other MP - for his London home.

The paper said Malik’s main home was a three-bedroom house in his Dewsbury constituency in Yorkshire, for which he paid a discounted rent of less than 100 pounds a week.

The newspaper said he also claimed 730 pounds for a massage chair and 65 pounds for a court summons for the non-payment of council tax. He also tried to claim 2,600 pounds for a home cinema system, but it was reduced to just over 1,000 pounds.

The prime minister’s office said it expected Malik to rejoin the government.

Malik refused to apologise or return the money to the tax office, offering instead to donate the cost of his 40-inch flat screen television to a local charity.

“I have absolutely nothing to apologise for. I have done nothing wrong. I have not been at the periphery of the rules. I haven’t abused the rules, I have been absolutely at the core of the rules,” the minister said.

He described the paper’s claim as a “fabrication”.

The Daily Telegraph has been running frontpage revelations for the past eight days about dubious expenses claimed by British MPs, severely embarrassing all the major parties.

Another newspaper, the Daily Mail, said it was launching a campaign to mount private prosecutions against MPs.

The latest revelation came as the ruling Labour party slumped to its lowest ever opinion poll rating.

A YouGov poll for The Sun newspaper suggested Labour support at a general election would be 22 percent, with the Conservatives on 41 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 19 percent, a scenario that would hand the Conservatives a 152-seat majority in a general election.

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