Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Charged expenses peer Lord Hanningfield quits council

Lord Hanningfield
Lord Hanningfield denies the charges over his expense claims

Suspended Tory peer Lord Hanningfield, who is facing criminal charges over expenses claims, has resigned as leader of Essex County Council.

Lord Hanningfield, who has also stepped down from the Tory frontbench in the House of Lords, will be charged under the Theft Act, it has been announced.

He has denied the charges and said he would "vigorously" defend himself.

He said to allow him to defend the charges he had resigned as leader of Essex County Council.

"At the next meeting of the Conservative group on Tuesday 9 February the process to elect a new leader will start," he said.

Overnight stays

"I intend to remain active with the work of the council."

The council leader, who was born Paul White, is accused of "dishonestly" submitting claims "for expenses to which he knew he was not entitled" - including overnight stays in London.

He said: "All the claims I have ever made were made in good faith. I have never claimed more in expenses than I have spent in the course of my duties.

"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 Conservatives said he had been suspended from the parliamentary party.

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