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Lawmakers step down over British expenses scandal
Thu May 28, 2009 2:33pm EDT
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By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) - Three British lawmakers who have faced criticism over their expense claims announced on Thursday they would leave parliament, joining a mounting casualty list from a row over politicians' perks.
Margaret Moran, from the ruling Labour Party, and Julie Kirkbride, an opposition Conservative, who have faced intense public anger over their expense claims, said they would step down at the next general election, due in the next year.
Conservative member of parliament Christopher Fraser, who claimed 1,800 pounds ($2,866) in expenses for trees and fencing, said he would leave at the next election but said his decision was linked to his wife's health rather than his expense claims.
They joined half a dozen other members of parliament (MPs) from Britain's main political parties whose parliamentary careers have been cut short by a public uproar about politicians' expense claims.
The controversy over his handling of the affair has also led parliamentary speaker Michael Martin to resign, the first speaker to be ousted in 300 years.
The decision by some MPs to step down now seems designed to try to prevent their parties suffering a backlash in their local areas at next Thursday's European and local elections.
Political analysts say voters may protest by staying at home or voting for fringe parties like the anti-European Union UK Independence Party or far-right British National Party.
Kirkbride said in a resignation letter she wanted to see the Conservatives "have a great result in next week's elections."
Moran said the public anger over the expenses affair "has caused me great stress and has seriously worsened my existing health problem."
Both have denied wrongdoing or breaking parliamentary rules.
The Daily Telegraph has obtained records of lawmakers' expenses and has been embarrassing some of them with reports on how they used their generous allowances to claim for items such as repairing tennis courts or cleaning a moat.
It said Moran spent 22,500 pounds ($35,830) of taxpayers' money to treat dry rot at a seaside house she had designated as her second home, 100 miles from her constituency.
British television personality Esther Rantzen had said she would run against Moran if she stood for re-election in her constituency in Luton, southern England.
Kirkbride stepped down after The Daily Telegraph published new disclosures about her on Thursday, saying she used taxpayers' money to fund a 50,000 pound extension to her flat so that her brother could live in the property. Continued...
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