Labour MP Denis MacShane resigns over expenses

18
713

  By a Newsnet reporter

Labour MP Denis MacShane has resigned his seat following revelations that he fiddled his parliamentary expenses.
 
The former Cabinet Minister quit as MP for Rotherham after it emerged he had submitted 19 false invoices in order to obtain thousands of pounds of public cash.

By a Newsnet reporter

Labour MP Denis MacShane has resigned his seat following revelations that he fiddled his parliamentary expenses.
 
The former Cabinet Minister quit as MP for Rotherham after it emerged he had submitted 19 false invoices in order to obtain thousands of pounds of public cash.

The Labour MP was facing suspension from the House of Commons after the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges found that Mr MacShane had submitted 19 false invoices “plainly intended to deceive” Parliament’s expenses authority.  The resignation will now trigger a by-election in Mr MacShane’s former constituency.

Labour MP Kevin Barron, Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee, said it was the “gravest case” that the Committee had examined.  The Committee ruled that the former minister’s behaviour was “so far from what would be acceptable in any walk of life that we recommend that Mr MacShane be suspended from the service of the House for 12 months”.

There are now calls for police to re-open its investigation into the former Labour minister who escaped prosecution in July on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service .  Conservative MP Philip Davies claimed the report from the Standards Commitee represented new evidence.

However, it has emerged that the now former Labour MP may escape prosecution due to parliamentary privilege rules which forbid letters, in which he admits falsely claiming the cash, from being used as evidence.

The Committee made its ruling after investigating claims made by Mr MacShane for costs payable to the thinktank the European Policy Institute.  However the Committee found that the thinktank’s bank account was controlled by Mr MacShane himself.  

The MP entered 19 “misleading” expenses claims from the EPI.  The invoices were signed by the supposed general manager of the organisation.  However the Committee reported that the EPI did not exist “in this form” by the time in question, and concluded that the general manager’s signature was provided by Mr MacShane himself or someone else “under his authority”.

The Committee found: “In effect, he was sending the invoice to himself and writing his own cheque. The claims were paid out unchallenged by the House authorities and the money put into a separate bank account which Mr MacShane controlled.”

The Committee said it was it was not possible to say how much the MP had claimed “outside the rules”, but it “may have been in the order of £7,500”.  The committee also ruled that Mr MacShane had failed to co-operate with an investigation into the matter by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

In its report, the Committee wrote:

“He has expressed his regret, and repaid the money wrongly claimed. But this does not excuse his behaviour in knowingly submitting 19 false invoices over a period of four financial years which were plainly intended to deceive the Parliamentary expenses authorities.”

The report added:

“The real mischief of Mr MacShane’s actions was that the method he adopted submitting false invoices, as the commissioner said, bypassed the checks and controls the House had instituted in a way which enable Mr MacShane to spend public money as he thought fit.

“For example, one matter which we consider to be of the utmost gravity is Mr MacShane’s use of public money to support European travel.”

In September 2010, Mr MacShane had the whip withdrawn by Labour after the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards referred allegations that he abused his expenses to the Metropolitan Police.  Labour reinstated the MP in July this year when the police said they would not take any further action.

Yesterday, prior to his resignation, the Labour party suspended him and said that his career was “effectively over”.

Mr MacShane accepted the Committee’s decision, but claimed that the controversy around his expenses claims was because he was being victimised by the BNP.  One of the original complaints about Mr MacShane’s expenses claims had been made by a former BNP member.

In a statement, Mr MacShane said:

“I am shocked and saddened that the BNP has won its three-year campaign to destroy my political career as a Labour MP despite a full police investigation which decided not to proceed after investigations and interviews.

“I am glad the committee notes that there is no question of personal gain.

“Clearly I deeply regret that the way I chose to be reimbursed for costs related to my work in Europe and in combating anti-semitism, including being the Prime Minister’s personal envoy, has been judged so harshly.

“I remain committed to work for progressive values, for Britain playing a full part in Europe, and for combating anti-semitism even though I can no longer undertake this work as a Labour MP.

“I am consulting family and friends as I consider my position and study the full implications of the report. I am obviously desperately sorry for any embarrassment I have caused my beloved Labour Party and its leader Ed Miliband whom I greatly admire.”

Mr MacShane’s resignation is the latest in a series of controversies which have surrounded the former Minister.  During the 2009 scandal over MPs’ expenses, he was accused of claiming £125,000 in rent over a period of seven years for his garage, which the MP claimed was his constituency office.  Speaking to the Daily Mail, a fellow Labour MP privately told the paper that he was ‘very surprised’ at the scale of Mr MacShane’s claims.  Mr MacShane was ordered to repay £1,507.73 in wrongfully claimed expenses.

In August 2010, Mr MacShane – a former BBC journalist – was accused of bullying a volunteer worker with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.  The volunteer was meeting Mr MacShane in order to explain the new expenses system.  According to reports, the MP was “abusive and foul-mouthed” and left the volunteer in tears.

 

[Newsnet notice – We have been informed by organisers that the planned demo at Pacific Quay, scheduled for November 15th, has been postponed.  A new date will be announced in the near future.]