17 May 2009

Second British MP suspended over expenses scandal

1:19 pm on 17 May 2009

Britain's ruling Labour party has suspended a second MP in a damaging scandal over expenses claims.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper said Labour's David Chaytor claimed 13,000 pounds of taxpayers' money for a mortgage he had already paid off.

The Labour party has suspended Mr Chaytor, pending an inquiry, which removes his membership of the parliamentary Labour party and converts him into an independent MP.

With two MPs now suspended and a junior minister stepping down while allegations about his finances are investigated, Labour has been hardest hit in a scandal which has scarred parliament's reputation and could influence coming elections.

On Thursday, Labour MP Elliot Morley, a former cabinet minister, was suspended after he admitted claiming for a mortgage that had already been cleared. He said he claimed 16,000 pounds by mistake and had now repaid the money.

The following day, junior justice minister Shahid Malik became the highest-profile casualty of the scandal, stepping down pending an inquiry into allegations that he paid below-market rent for a house, breaching the ministerial code. He denies any wrongdoing.

Sanctions possible against MPs

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Saturday parliament must do more than clean up its expenses system to restore public trust.

"Unacceptable behaviour will be investigated and disciplined. I do not rule out any sanction," Brown said in an article to be published in Sunday's News of the World newspaper.

The Guardian newspaper reported that any Labour MP found to have made improper claims would be deselected and barred from standing at the next parliamentary election.

The paper, without citing sources, also said Brown had given ministers until Monday night to ensure that expense claims for the past five years were logged with parliamentary authorities.

Police have said they are considering launching a criminal inquiry into the expenses scandal next week.