3 Jun 2009

Another British minister resigns amid scandal

11:02 pm on 3 June 2009

Another British government minister has resigned from the cabinet, increasing pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to step down.

Hazel Blears is the fourth government minister to quit within 24 hours, as ripples continue to spread over revelations of MPs' expenses claims.

Other ministers to resign are Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson and Children's Minister Beverley Hughes.

A total of 15 MPs have now said they will quit over the expenses scandal.

Ms Blears has been under fire over her expenses and was tipped for the axe in a cabinet reshuffle expected after European and English local elections on Thursday.

The Salford MP paid back just over Stg13,000 after claims that she avoided capital gains tax over a property sale. She denied doing anything wrong but Mr Brown described her expenses claims as "totally unacceptable".

Shadow work and pensions secretary, Theresa May, for the Conservatives, said Ms Blears' resignation appeared to be a "calculated attempt to destabilise the prime minister".

She told the BBC: "Frankly, the game is up for Gordon Brown. We are seeing the dying days of this Labour government."

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are likely to step up calls for a general election when Mr Brown faces MPs on Wednesday afternoon for prime minister's questions.

Smith cites personal reasons

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who also faced expenses criticism, said on Tuesday she would step down for personal reasons but told Sky News she backed Mr Brown to stay in his job.

It is understood she is to leave the government in the cabinet reshuffle, which is expected within a week.

Ms Smith was one of the first MPs to be criticised in a scandal that has gone on for weeks.

A leaked copy of her parliamentary expenses claims showed she had charged taxpayers for her husband's rental of two pornographic movies.

In May, the Speaker of Britain's lower house of parliament Michael Martin was forced to announce his resignation, after coming under sustained pressure from MPs over his handling of the expenses row.

He was first person to be forced from the post in more than 300 years.