Three Labour MPs and one Tory MP will face criminal charges over their expenses claims, the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer revealed on Friday.
The ‘deeply flawed’ system described by auditor Sir Thomas Legg took another public hit as it was revealed MPs Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Conservative peer Lord Hanningfield will be charged under the Theft Act 1968.
Solicitors for Labour peer Lord Clarke, of Hampstead, said he was ‘hugely relieved’ not to be charged. A sixth case remains under investigation however, as Mr. Starmer earlier added.
Giving the Crown Prosecution Service decision Mr. Starmer said: “In four cases we have concluded there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges and that it is in the public interest to charge the individuals concerned.”
Former minister Mr. Morley, MP for Scunthorpe, faces two charges over £30,000 in mortgage interest claims on a property in Winterton, Lincolnshire between 2004 and 2007.
The charges allege he made claims excessive to that which he was entitled when ‘there was no longer a mortgage on that property’.
Livingston MP Jim Devine was meanwhile charged for ‘dishonestly claiming’ money for cleaning services and stationery using false invoices.
Mr Devine MP said he was ‘distraught and astonished’ at the charges he described as ‘new’. He added the charges could be easily explained.
Mr. Chaytor, MP for Bury North, was likewise charged with ‘dishonestly claiming’, though those claims were £1,950 for IT services, and £12,925 and £5,425 regarding rent claims on properties he and his mother allegedly owned.
The three Labour MPs released a joint statement which said: “We totally refute any charges that we have committed an offence and we will defend our position robustly.”
The charged trio added the Parliamentary Commissioner for standards should have resolved their issues and they stressed ‘a complete inconsistency of approach to different individual cases.’
Tory peer Lord Hanningfield, Paul White, stands accused of ‘dishonestly’ claiming for ‘expenses to which he knew he was not entitled’, and was suspended from the parliamentary Conservative party.
The leader of Essex county council denied the charges and said all the claims he had made, including overnight stays in London, were ‘in good faith’.
“I have never claimed more in expenses than I have spent in the course of my duties,” he added. “To avoid any embarrassment or distraction for my party, I am standing down from my frontbench duties in the House of Lords with immediate effect.”
The four accused will appear in court at 2pm on 11th March.
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