British MPs face widespread criticism for censorship of their expenses claims

June 19th, 2009 - 1:01 pm ICT by ANI  

Gordon Brown London, June 19 (ANI): The files released by the House of Commons authorities withheld details that would have exposed the worst abuses of the MPs expenses system, despite a pledge from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that “transparency” was the only way to restore public faith in democracy.

Party leaders struggled to explain the decision to publish heavily blacked-out versions of MPs’ claims as public anger mounted.

The parliamentary expenses files do not expose MPs who have “flipped” their designated second homes, and many of the most controversial claims have been completely blacked out in the documents, The Telegraph reports.

Details that would have allowed the public to identify interest claimed on so-called “phantom mortgages” - such as in the case of Elliot Morley, former Environment Minister or MPs who were able to avoid paying capital gains tax on the sale of properties such as Kitty Ussher, the Treasury Minister forced to resign, were also excluded.

Controversial claims by Tory MPs for the cleaning of a moat and the purchase of a floating duck island were also omitted.

The decision to publish the information in this way following weeks of disclosures about questionable claims in The Telegraph provoked widespread surprise and anger in UK.

MPs had originally argued that their addresses be excluded for security reasons, but vast additional swaths of their claims have ended up being censored.

Hundreds of pages of claims have been removed altogether before the expense files were published, but the paper promises that the same will be made available on its website.

Last night, the House of Commons announced that 183 MPs have now repaid claims totalling more than 470,000 pounds. MPs who have privately repaid money without making an announcement include Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, and John Bercow, a Conservative MP hoping to become the new Speaker.

More than 15 MPs have announced that they will stand down at the next election in the wake of the expenses scandal. (ANI)

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