- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

LONDON | Porn movies. Horse manure. A chocolate Santa Claus. Expense claims by British lawmakers to pay for an array of items were exposed by a newspaper Friday, stoking public anger over lawmaker excess amid the global recession.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph published details of claims related to 13 government ministers and offered examples of hundreds of other bills submitted by lawmakers to parliamentary authorities.

The documents revealed how some lawmakers used lax regulations to accumulate hefty bills to pay for housing taxes and costs of furnishing homes, while others claimed for trivial amounts - including a packet of ginger snaps worth about $1, two cans of cat food and an ice cube tray.

One lawmaker claimed the cost of servicing the swimming pool of his country home, while another paid for a hunter to catch moles that invaded his garden, according to the newspaper.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown - then Britain’s treasury chief - paid his brother, Andrew, $9,800 for cleaning services between 2004 and 2006. Mr. Brown’s office said the leader’s brother had handled payments for a cleaner the two men shared.

Figures released to Parliament show that the 646 House of Commons lawmakers claimed $134 million in allowances and expenses last year.

Under Parliament’s rules, legislators can claim expenses for a second home and expenses incurred when staying away overnight from their main home. They can claim rent, for example, or mortgage payments and furnishings, such as drapes, carpets and electrical goods.

The price for such furnishings were colloquially known as the “John Lewis list,” named after an upscale British department store chain. The list is being axed under reforms of the system currently under discussion.

Lawmakers had long refused to offer receipt-by-receipt breakdowns of their claims for public money, until a ruling under freedom of information laws ordered them to make the details known.

About 2 million receipts for claims by legislators will be published in July under the ruling, but the newspaper said Friday it had obtained the material ahead of its planned release.

Other bills show how lawmakers were prepared to claim even small amounts, including a bag that cost 7 cents, a chocolate Santa Claus-shaped snack priced at 88 cents and a tape measure costing 64 cents. One particularly wealthy Conservative lawmaker charged $15 for a bag of manure for his country retreat.

In March, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith acknowledged she had claimed the cost of two pay-per-view porn movies watched by her husband. Mrs. Smith said she later repaid the money.

Britain’s prime minister makes about $285,000 a year, while most lawmakers make about $93,100. In comparison, U.S. lawmakers in Washington are paid a base salary of $174,000.

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