Former Labour MP pleads guilty to fraud

 

FORMER LABOUR MP David Chaytor has become the first politician to be convicted over last year’s House of Commons expenses scandal.

Chaytor pleaded guilty in the Old Bailey just days before his trial was due to begin on three charges of false accounting for submitting fraudulent claims for office expenses and accommodation.

For months Chaytor had fought to prevent the case going ahead, claiming expense practices should be dealt with by the House of Commons and not the courts under the 500-year-old Bill of Rights, which declared the “exclusive jurisdiction” of parliament. Judges, including those in the Supreme Court, ruled against him, however.

The former MP could face seven years in jail for lodging over £18,000 in false claims – which he claimed were “an unforgivable error” when they were first exposed – when he is sentenced in mid-January. He will now be hoping his guilty plea could see that period reduced.

Three other ex-MPs, Elliott Morley, Jim Devine and Eric Illsley, along with two Conservative peers, are still to face trial.

Chaytor had claimed £12,925 between 2005 and 2006 for renting a flat in Regency Street near the House of Commons, claiming to pay £1,175 a month, but it emerged later that a false tenancy agreement had been drawn up in the name of his daughter, using her middle name, and that he and his wife actually owned the property outright.

His last hope of avoiding trial disappeared on Wednesday when the Supreme Court ruled against him, Mr Morley and Mr Devine, when judges ruled against their argument that criminal proceedings against them would infringe parliamentary privilege, saying there was no bar to the Crown Prosecution Service’s case.

Outside the Old Bailey, Simon Clements of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “David Chaytor has admitted his dishonesty and will now face the consequences of his actions. No one, no matter what their position, should be allowed to take money they are not entitled to. By his actions David Chaytor has abused the trust placed in him by the public.”

The courts held bad news yesterday for another ex-Labour MP, Phil Woolas, when High Court judges rejected his appeal against an electoral court’s ruling that he should lose his seat because he told lies about a Liberal Democrat opponent during the May election campaign.

Mr Woolas appeared to accept the result as he left the court, saying: “It is the end of the road – I am out.”