Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Saturday, 6 February 2010

Accused MP 'naive about expenses'

MP Jim Devine
Mr Devine said he was told his actions were "acceptable"

One of the MPs set to face charges over his expenses has said he was "naive", but did not gain any personal financial benefit from his claims.

Jim Devine, Labour MP for Livingston, is accused of dishonestly claiming £3,240 for cleaning services and £5,505 for stationery using false invoices.

But he told Channel 4 News he "made a mistake" when moving money around after advice from an unnamed Labour whip.

Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Lord Hanningfield will also face charges.

On Friday, the director of public prosecutions said the three Labour MPs and one Tory peer would be charged under the Theft Act with false accounting. If found guilty they face a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment.

All four deny the allegations and say they will defend themselves "robustly".


Mr Devine told Channel 4 News the allegations against him had come "totally out of the blue".

Have I benefitted one pound financially? No I haven't
Jim Devine, MP for Livingston

He said the money claimed for cleaning was to cover a regular bill of £180 a month, but that he was told by the Commons Fees Office to make a single claim, in advance, for £3,240 for the full year ahead, even though the work had not yet been done.

Addressing the second allegation against him, Mr Devine explained this by saying he had moved £5,505 from his stationery budget to his staffing budget to pay someone for work and had then provided a receipt which "came from a printer's".

"I was advised by a whip that I could do this... who said that you could move money about like this. I was told that was acceptable," he said.

Asked if he had "invented" a receipt for stationery when the actual expense was for staffing, Mr Devine said: "It was not invented.

Elliot Morley - two charges over £30,000 of mortgage interest claims
David Chaytor - accused of dishonestly claiming £1,950 for IT services and also £18,000 in rent
Jim Devine - accused of claiming £3,240 for cleaning services and £5,505 for stationery
Lord Hanningfield - faces six charges of dishonestly submitting expense claims

"I would argue it was not a lie. I would argue that this was allowed at the time.

"If I have done anything wrong it is that I have been naive and I have listened to the wrong people.

"Have I benefitted one pound financially? No I haven't and that I think is the difference between saying I'm a criminal and saying I've made a mistake."

Mr Devine said he had been given no training before taking office and "no advice on how to deal with accounts".

The four politicians will not be arrested but will be sent a summons to turn up on 11 March at City of Westminster magistrates court.

They insist the issue should have been resolved by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and there had been "a complete inconsistency of approach to different individual cases".

Overnight stays

Former minister Mr Morley, MP for Scunthorpe, faces charges relating to a total of £30,000 of mortgage claims which, it is alleged, were "in excess of that to which he was entitled" and covered a period when there was no mortgage on the property.

Mr Chaytor, MP for Bury North, is accused of dishonestly claiming £1,950 for IT services and further sums of £12, 925 and £5,425 relating to rent on properties which he and his mother allegedly owned.

Clockwise from top left - Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Lord Hanningfield
Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield face charges

Paul White - the Conservative peer Lord Hanningfield and leader of Essex County Council - is accused of dishonestly submitting claims "for expenses to which he knew he was not entitled" - including overnight stays in London.

He stepped down as council leader on Friday and as a Tory frontbench spokesman.

The Conservatives said Mr Cameron had also asked the party's leader in the Lords, Lord Strathclyde, to suspend the Conservative whip from Lord Hanningfield.

Mr Chaytor and Mr Morley were suspended from the parliamentary Labour party last May.

The expenses saga continues to rock Westminster - on Thursday 372 MPs were ordered to repay money totalling £1.1m, claimed in second homes expenses over four years.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "very angry about what has happened" and called the criminal charges "very serious".

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