MPs charged with false accounting

Three Labour MPs and a Tory Peer face charges of false accounting and
dishonesty under the Theft Act, in the fallout from the expenses scandal.

Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer announced prosecutions were
being brought against former Environment and Fisheries minister Elliot Morley,
David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield.

He also revealed there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against
Labour’s Lord Clarke of Hampstead, but that a decision is still to be taken in a
sixth case.

The charges follow the damning report on MPs’ expenses by Commons auditor Sir
Thomas Legg, who condemned the system of support for MPs requiring a second home
in London which he protested was flawed by lack of audit, self certification by
“sovereign” MPs and Commons Fees Office officials who frequently felt it was
their job to help MPs rather than police the system.

Files on the six were passed first to the police and then to the Crown
Prosecution Service and were excluded from the scope of Legg’s enquiries.

Morley, MP for Scunthorpe, faces two charges for dishonestly claiming
expenses, the first alleging that he dishonestly claimed mortgage expenses for a
house in Winterton, Lincolnshire and the second that he dishonestly claimed
expenses of £16,000 for the same property on which there was no longer a

Chaytor, MP for Bury North, faces three charges alleging false accounting:
the first that he claimed £1,950 for computer services using false invoices; the
second dishonestly claiming rent of £12,925 for a property he owned; and the
third dishonestly claiming £5,425 for a property rented from his mother.

Devine, MP for Livingston, faces two charges for false accounting: one for
dishonestly claiming £3,240 for cleaning services using false invoices; and the
second for dishonestly claiming £5,505 for stationery using false invoices.

Hanningfield, leader of Essex County Council, faces six changes for
dishonestly claiming expenses related to overnight stays in London when records
show he was driven to his home outside London.

Starmer appealed for nothing to be done in reporting events which would
prejudice their trials.

He revealed the defendants’ lawyers had raised issues of parliamentary
privilege which he said should be determined by the courts.

Devine, who was elected following the death of former foreign secretary Robin
Cook, said he was “astonished and devastated at the decision”, claiming he had
no case to answer and could explain what had happened in court.

All three MPs are barred by Labour for standing for re-election representing
the party.

Tory leader David Cameron has ordered the suspension of Hanningfield from his
party in the Lords, where he has resigned as Opposition business spokesman.

The peer said he was “extremely disappointed” to have been charged and
claimed he had acted in good faith.

A statement issued by the three MPs said they “totally refute” the charges.

Further reading:

defer judgment on MPs’ expenses

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