Sticking The British Public With The Tab

Parliament in London
Parliament in London

If you listen carefully around the country estates of some British members of parliament, you can almost hear the sound of barnyard animals chomping at the public trough. But it's not animals, it's the MPs themselves, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

One actually claimed the cost of clearing out his moat. Several charged for cleaning their swimming pools. One for repairing his tennis court.

The MPs are allowed to claim expenses for having to have two homes - one in their constituencies and one in London.

But they've now been caught playing - some say fiddling - the expenses game.

Claiming tens of thousands of dollars not just on moats and chandeliers and tennis courts, but on the square called Anything Goes, putting in for light bulbs, cat food, a ride-on lawnmower, and horse manure (for the garden one presumes, not the accountants).

"The whole political class is getting spattered by this muck," said Quentin Lett, a political columnist. "It is not one party or another - everybody seems to be up to this."

On the square called Flipping, they've been refurbishing properties with public money and then selling them at a profit.

One MP claimed the expenses for buying an apartment in this building. But he actually already has his main family home very close by. How close? Within walking distance.

So the other sound you now hear is of contrition.

"I want to apologize on behalf of politicians," said Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Apologies are also coming from the leader of the opposition.

"I read about the swimming pools and the moats … I am completely appalled," said David Cameron.

Cameron is making his MPs give the money back. Winning back public trust won't be so simple.

  • Mark Phillips, CBS News London correspondent
    Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent based in London.