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Gordon Brown Apologizes For Lawmaker Excesses

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David Stringer | Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the leader of the country's main opposition party apologized Monday for lawmakers' excessive expenses claims, pledging to overhaul the system and win back public trust.

The apologies follow days of embarrassing revelations about claims made by British legislators and government ministers, who used public money to pay for porn movies, horse manure and a wreath for fallen soldiers. Brown himself has been embarrassed by reports he paid his brother Andrew 6,500 pounds ($9,800) in public money for cleaning between 2004 and 2006, before he became prime minister.

According to documents published by Britain's Daily Telegraph, several lawmakers have also taken advantage of existing rules to claim thousands of pounds (dollars) to renovate homes.

"We must show that, where mistakes have been made and errors have been discovered, where wrongs have to be righted, that is done so immediately," Brown said told a conference of nurses in Harrogate, northern England.

The expense details have been disclosed following a four-year campaign led by Heather Brooke, an American freedom-of-information advocate who lives in London.

Her applications for the details were blocked by Parliamentary authorities in 2005. But in 2008 she won a High Court ruling ordering the information published.

Brooke said Monday the disclosure that lawmakers expensed swimming pool repairs, silk cushions and cookies showed her campaign had been valid.

Full details of the expense claims will be released in July. The Telegraph has declined to say how it obtained copies in advance, or whether it paid for them.

Andrew Brown's wife, Clare Brown, said Monday that the expense money from Gordon Brown was used to pay a cleaner he and his brother shared.

Brown had "streams of people trudging through his flat, usually leaving dirty mugs and takeaway cartons in their wake," she wrote in The Guardian newspaper. "He definitely needed a cleaner when in London."

The Telegraph published details Monday of claims made by Conservative lawmakers, including allies of party leader David Cameron, who is thought likely to defeat Brown in a national election that must be called by mid-2010.

Tory lawmaker David Willetts claimed about 100 pounds ($150) after he had workmen replace 25 light bulbs in his home, the newspaper reported. Conservative election coordinator Oliver Letwin spent 2,000 ($3,000) to repair a pipe under his tennis court.

Michael Gove, the party's education chief, spent thousands of pounds (dollars) furnishing two different homes in quick succession, under rules that allow lawmakers to claim the costs of running a second home close to Parliament.

"It is the responsibility of those we elect to behave properly. Not just legally, not just within the rules, but to the highest ethical standards," Cameron told the nursing conference, which he attended after Brown.

Parliamentary authorities said they plan to allow outside auditors to check expenses claims in the future. Both Brown and Cameron say widespread reforms are needed.

The Telegraph has also published expense claims from the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, which has five members from Northern Ireland who refuse to participate in the London Parliament because they do not want to swear fidelity to the British monarch.

The newspaper reported that the legislators claim 9,000 pounds ($13,600) a month toward renting a pair of barely used two-bedroom properties in London. The newspaper quoted real estate agents as estimating the two properties' actual rental value at nearer 3,200 pounds ($4,800) a month.

Sinn Fein politician Conor Murphy, who said he stayed in the properties just once in the past year, said they represented "fairly modest accommodation in a fairly modest part of London."

Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik, in Dublin, Ireland, contributed to this report

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