Cameron to repay expenses cash

LONDON Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:58am BST

1 of 4. An expense claim made by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is seen on a parliament website June 18, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - Conservative leader David Cameron, tipped to be the next prime minister, said on Thursday he would repay almost 1,000 pounds in expenses he had mistakenly claimed.

Cameron, who has sought to take the initiative in a long-running expenses scandal affecting all parties, had already said he would pay back a 680-pound maintenance bill. But he promised to repay a further 267.29 pounds mainly relating to mortgage payments in 2006.

"I'm very sorry about making a mistake like this but I think the best thing to do when you discover it is to deal with it as quickly as possible," Cameron told reporters.

MPs from all parties have been tarnished by weeks of disclosures in the Daily Telegraph about claims for everything from dog food and adult films to cleaning a moat and a bathplug.

The scandal has effectively ended the careers of more than a dozen MPs who have said they will not stand at the next general election, due by mid-2010.

The small sums involved in Cameron's case, and his prompt action, looked likely to limit the fallout for him. His announcement came hours after the expense details of all MPs for the past four years were released online, although with some key information blacked out.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party has suffered most from the scandal because it has been in power since 1997 and has failed to clean up a discredited system.

On Wednesday, junior finance minister Kitty Ussher quit little more than a week after rejoining the government following reports that she had avoided tax on the sale of one of her homes. She denied doing anything wrong.

The Conservatives are tipped to win the election but analysts say voters could switch to supporting fringe parties or independents, potentially crimping their majority.

CAMPAIGNERS DISAPPOINTED

Campaigners have fought a long battle for the release of details of MPs' expenses and claims can now be viewed on parliament's website: here

However, many details have been blacked out to protect the security of MPs and commentators said they were less startling than the uncensored information leaked in advance to the Telegraph.

Critics said the absence of addresses prevents voters from seeing who has been changing the designation of their main home to maximise allowances -- one of the most contentious issues.

"The information on MPs' allowances published by the House of Commons today would have made it impossible to detect the most serious abuses revealed by the Daily Telegraph over recent weeks," lobby group the Campaign for Freedom of Information said in a statement.

Conservative leader Cameron said people would be disappointed with the amount of information held back. "I think we need a more common sense approach to releasing this information and I hope we can do that in future," he said.

Brown has pledged to try to reform parliament and pull Britain out of its deepest recession since World War Two before he calls a general election.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir and Adrian Croft, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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