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Thursday, May 24, 2007
Matsuoka tells Diet he won't talk about office expenses
By MASAMI ITO
Agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, under fire for reporting enormous utility expenses at his rent-free government office, repeated Wednesday before the Lower House Budget Committee that he does not intend to disclose the details of the fees.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet, as well as his Liberal Democratic Party, have been blasted by the opposition parties for "protecting" Matsuoka.
"I have repeatedly said that I have acted in accordance with the law," Matsuoka told the committee.
"If a new law or system is introduced after thorough discussion between the political parties, I will then follow it accordingly."
Matsuoka reported that his political funds group spent 5.07 million yen on water, lighting and heating in 2005. The office is in a rent-free building for lawmakers where tap water and electricity are free of charge, thanks to taxpayers.
In the five years to 2005, Matsuoka's expenditures at the free office came to about 28.8 million yen, but he has refused to explain them in detail.
On a TV program recently, LDP lawmaker Nobuteru Ishihara and Junji Higashi, a lawmaker from LDP coalition partner New Komeito, agreed that Matsuoka has not fulfilled his duty to ease public suspicions over the matter.
According to the Political Funds Control Law, lawmakers are not required to disclose details of utility costs and no receipts are required.
"The fact that the Political Fund Control Law is being used to protect lawmakers under suspicion is completely mistaking the means for the end," said Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Satoshi Takayama.