SHAHID Malik is stepping down as a Justice Minister pending the outcome of an urgent investigation into claims that he paid only a subsidised rent on one of his homes.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked his independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Philip Mawer, to investigate the claims as quickly as possible and his report could come within days.
Mr Brown’s spokesman stressed the expectation would be that Mr Malik would return to office if he was cleared and said no replacement was being appointed in the meantime.
Sir Philip could report back within days.
Mr Brown's spokesman said: "There have been accusations made in the past 24 hours against Shahid Malik, in particular that he received preferential rent on his main residence.
"Because that allegation would represent a potential financial benefit and that potential and alleged financial benefit was not declared as part of his ministerial declaration, this could represent a breach of the ministerial code.
"In line with the procedures of the ministerial code, the matter has been referred to the independent adviser on ministers’ interests.
"In the light of these accusations that have been made against Shahid Malik and the need for them to be properly investigated, the Prime Minister has asked the independent adviser, Sir Philip Mawer, to establish the facts of the matter as a matter of urgency and advise accordingly.
"Pending the outcome of that investigation, Shahid Malik will be stepping down as a minister. He is not being replaced."
Mr Brown's spokesman went on: "The Prime Minister has spoken to Shahid. He has spoken to the Cabinet Secretary (Sir Gus O'Donnell), and (Justice Secretary) Jack Straw as well, and Sir Philip has been asked to conclude his investigation as a matter of urgency."
The spokesman stressed: "These accusations at this point remain accusations and it’s important that Sir Philip establishes the facts. Pending the outcome of his establishing the facts, that’s the reason why Shahid Malik is stepping down."
Asked if Mr Malik would return to office if he were cleared, the spokesman replied: "That would be the expectation."
The Daily Telegraph claimed that Mr Malik's main home was a three-bedroom house in his Dewsbury constituency which he had secured for a discounted rent of less than £100 a week.
Mr Malik said he went "one million per cent by the book" in designating the house he rents in Dewsbury as his main home and insisted he was "not in it for the money".
He declined to discuss the claim that he was renting the house in Dewsbury at below market value, saying: "That is my private business."
But he added: "The one thing I am clear about is that the rules are in complete tatters.
"I was a new MP. Everything I did, I asked before I did it because I didn’t want to be doing anything that was against the rules."
According to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Malik claimed expenses of £66,827 over three years - more than any other MP - on his second home townhouse in Peckham, south London.
Items covered included £730 for a massage chair and £65 for a court summons for the non-payment of council tax.
He also tried to claim £2,600 for a home cinema system, although that was reduced to just over £1,000 by the Commons Fees Office.
At the same time, it was claimed, the rent on his main home in his Dewsbury constituency was less than £100 a week - allegedly below the market rate.
But the Justice Minister initially displayed no signs of embarrassment today, saying: "I have absolutely nothing to apologise for. I have done nothing wrong.
"I have not been at the periphery of the rules. I haven’t abused the rules, I have been absolutely at the core of the rules."
He refused to return any of the money to the Parliamentary authorities, but said he would donate the £1,050 he claimed for his television to worthy causes in his constituency.
The MP said his massage chair was "legitimate expenditure".