Page last updated at 20:51 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 21:51 UK

Hague warns MPs of 'fraud risk'

William Hague
Mr Hague said Parliament was facing a "horrendous crisis"

Some MPs may have committed fraud in their expenses claims, shadow foreign secretary William Hague has said.

Asked on BBC One's Question Time whether criminal prosecutions should be brought against some MPs, Mr Hague said: "In all probability, yes".

On the same programme, deputy Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said he believed investigations would show "outright criminality" committed by some MPs.

Police and prosecutors have said they will look at allegations against MPs.

Officials from the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have established a panel to consider allegations made in the Daily Telegraph about MPs' expenses claims.

We make the law but we must never be above the law
William Hague

So far, three Conservative MPs and one Labour MP have agreed to stand down after criticism about their expenses claims although they have all argued they were operating within the rules that existed at the time.

The paper is set to publish further allegations on Friday.

Mr Hague said that, "on the face of it", some of the cases exposed in the past two weeks, "look like fraud, not just misusing the rules".

The revelations had been a "disaster" for the political system, Mr Hague said, adding that he would not rule out further disciplinary action against Tory MPs who have said they will step down.

"MPs are not above the law. We make the law but we must never be above the law.

"There will be more MPs who are not standing for election. There may be some who are subject to prosecution and then we have to rebuild trust in our political system."

'Hanging offences'

For the Lib Dems, Mr Cable said he believed some MPs may effectively have "stolen from the taxpayer".

He said certain actions, such as the so-called "flipping" of homes to maximise allowances and non-payment of capital gains tax on sales of homes funded by the taxpayer, were "hanging offences".

Investigations must be carried out quickly, he added, to separate such serious offences from the cases of MPs who had exploited but stayed within the rules and those who were blameless.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said he believed that some MPs "may go to jail" as a result of the expenses scandal.

But he said the media should not rush to judgement on the individual conduct of MPs.

Meanwhile, former independent MP Martin Bell, who was elected on anti-sleaze ticket in 1997, said he would not rule out standing in the next general election on a similar basis.



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