UK Releases Lawmakers' Expenses Amid Scandal

Britain's Parliament posted copies of lawmakers' expense claims online Thursday, but censored almost all of the juicy details that have triggered public anger and forced dozens of legislators to resign.

Copies of the claims, and about 1.2 million receipts, were posted on the Internet following a four-year legal battle by freedom of information advocates and concerted efforts by the House of Commons to block publication of the details.

But the addresses of lawmakers' second homes, the destinations on train tickets, the hotels used, the numbers on phone bills and other details have been blacked out. The heavy deletion marks inserted into the material make it impossible to determine what many of the claims are -- or whether there was an attempt to manipulate Parliament's rules.

Even the most notorious claim, a 1,645 pound ($2,666) charge for an ornamental duck house for a pond, made by an opposition Conservative lawmaker, has been blacked out.

Details of the claims have been disclosed over the last month after an uncensored copy was leaked to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

The revelations have led dozens of lawmakers to quit ministerial jobs, or announce they'll soon leave Parliament. The outraged British public paid back the country's major political parties by voting in large numbers for fringe groups in recent local and European elections.

Details disclosed by the newspaper showed how some lawmakers manipulated rules by routinely switching the designation of their second home -- enabling them to furnish and improve several properties over a number of years. Some of those homes were sold during Britain's housing boom. But the sections cannot be found in the public data, because all addresses have been removed.

Lawmakers are supposed to use their allowances to fund the essential cost of a home near Parliament, but in some cases used public money to furnish houses elsewhere -- sometimes later selling them at a profit.

Kitty Ussher, a junior Treasury minister, quit her government job Wednesday night -- only a week after Prime Minister Gordon Brown reassigned ministers in the wake of the scandal -- following allegations that she switched the designation of her homes to avoid taxes.

The newspaper also proved how some lawmakers had made bogus claims for mortgage payments on home loans that had already been paid off, another practice not revealed by the public data.

Details of legislators' claims were leaked to the Daily Telegraph newspaper by former special forces soldier John Wick, who said he acted as a middleman for another person, but has not revealed his source.

The Times newspaper said Wick had offered to sell it the information for 300,000 pounds ($486,000). The Daily Telegraph has declined to say whether it paid for the data.

Maurice Frankel, of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said without the leak, the public would still be unaware of some abuses of the allowance system.

"The most serious abuses revealed by the Daily Telegraph would never have come to light," Frankel said.

Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life -- which scrutinizes standards at Parliament -- said he still expected that scrutiny of the public data would expose more outrageous charges.

"I don't think we are at the end of this story at all. We may not even be at the beginning of the end. I think this is going to run and run," Graham said.