UK party chair didn't properly declare income

AP News

5/27/2012 9:19:35 AM - AP News

The chairman of Britain's Conservative Party apologized Sunday for not properly declaring rental income on a London property, but rejected allegations that she had otherwise cheated on her expenses, in the latest revelation in Britain's long-running scandal over lawmakers' misuse of taxpayer funds.

Sayeeda Warsi, Britain's highest-ranking Muslim politician, acknowledged she had made a mistake in how she informed Britain's upper house about a west London apartment she rented out, but rejected a report by The Sunday Times newspaper that she had claimed expenses for accommodation in London when she had stayed for free at a friend's house.

Warsi bought the apartment in Wembley in 2007 and moved in in March 2008 when the Conservative party was still in opposition. After she became a government minister in 2010, she moved to a more central property and began renting out the Wembley apartment.

Under rules governing lawmaker expenses, Warsi should have declared the rental income and the full value of the first property to the upper house _ the House of Lords. Warsi said she had correctly listed the details of the property on a separate register for ministers but admitted that she should also have told the House of Lords.

"Due to an oversight, for which I take full responsibility, the flat was not included on the Register of Lords' Interests" she said in her statement.

Warsi flatly denied the Sunday Times report that she had stayed for free at a friend's. She said she claimed 165.50 pounds ($259) a night for staying at a house in Acton, west London, when she did not have a property of her own in London. Conservative party official Naweed Khan was staying at the house at the time and Warsi said she paid Khan for the nights she stayed there and then claimed the money back.

Khan confirmed to the Sunday Times that Warsi had paid him, but the owner of the house, one-time Conservative party donor Wafik Moustafa, told the paper Warsi had not paid for her stay.

Several British politicians from all parties were caught up in an expenses scandal in 2009 when a leak of previously secret expense files revealed that politicians had billed the public for living expenses and not been honest about how much they paid for accommodation. Several lawmakers were jailed for falsely claiming expenses.

Warsi was not implicated in earlier waves of the scandal, but Labour lawmaker John Mann said parliamentary officers should investigate the claims.

"If you are paying no rent where you are staying, you can't possibly be claiming subsistence for staying there," he said. "It all seems very murky. We need a full investigation into the matter."