Former Labour Minister pleads guilty to expenses fraud

0
470

  By Angela Haggerty
 
Ex-Labour MP Denis MacShane has admitted falsely claiming £12,900 for “research and translation” services when he was instead using the money to pay for trips abroad.
 
Mr MacShane, 65, pleaded guilty to the charge of false accounting at the Old Bailey on Monday and has been released on bail until sentencing on 19 December.  The maximum sentence he could receive for the crime is seven years, and Mr Justice Sweeney told Mr MacShane during the Old Bailey hearing that “all sentencing options remain open”.

  By Angela Haggerty
 
Ex-Labour MP Denis MacShane has admitted falsely claiming £12,900 for “research and translation” services when he was instead using the money to pay for trips abroad.
 
Mr MacShane, 65, pleaded guilty to the charge of false accounting at the Old Bailey on Monday and has been released on bail until sentencing on 19 December.  The maximum sentence he could receive for the crime is seven years, and Mr Justice Sweeney told Mr MacShane during the Old Bailey hearing that “all sentencing options remain open”.

Suspicions over Mr MacShane’s expenses claims were first aroused in 2009 after the MPs expenses scandal broke, but evidence about him uncovered in a Commons investigation was initially withheld from police because of the parliamentary privilege rule.

Among the evidence withheld from police was letters from Mr MacShane, who served as Europe Minister under Tony Blair between 2002 and 2005, in which he was said to have admitted using a “nom de plume” to fake receipts from the European Policy Institute (EPI), a body he was in control of and which he described as a “convenient vehicle” to pay for research trips abroad.

In November last year, the cross-party Commons Standards and Privileges Committee concluded that Mr MacShane had submitted “19 false invoice over a period of four financial years which were plainly intended to deceive the parliamentary expenses authorities”.  The Committee described the case as the “gravest case which has come to us for adjudication, rather than being dealt with under the criminal law”, and recommended a 12-month suspension. 

Mr MacShane soon resigned and the police re-opened their investigation a short time later.  His case has raised questions about the parliamentary privilege rule, which prevented police from using information already in the public domain as evidence in their investigation because it was not admissible in court.

Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life said on the BBC News channel:  “It is important MPs are not seen to be in a privilege position.  I think it should be same as any other documentation, that the police should be able to get access to it to decide whether a criminal offence has taken place.”

The conclusion of the former Rotherham MP’s case – who served for 18 years as an MP following his 1994 by-election win – brings to an end the criminal proceedings brought about by the MPs expenses scandal.

Four former Labour MPs – David Chaytor, Eric Illsley, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine – have been convicted of crimes relating to the scandal.  Mr Chaytor received an 18-month sentence in 2011 after pleading guilty to charges of false accounting, while Mr Illsley was given a 12-month jail term after pleading guilty to false accounting.  Mr Devine pleaded not guilty but was later convicted and handed a 16-month sentence.

Mr Morley pleaded guilty to charges of dishonesty and was sent to prison for 16 months.  He subsequently became the first MP ever to be expelled from the Privy Council.  Another Labour MP, Margaret Moran, was given a supervision order because she was suffering with mental health problems.

From the Conservative party, Lord Taylor of Warwick was found guilty on six charges of false accounting and sentence to 12 months in prison, while Lord Hanningfield was given a nine-month sentence and later repaid £30,254.50.