Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 12:08 UK

Expenses MPs should repay legal aid, Gordon Brown says

Three ex-Labour MPs will probably have to pay back the legal aid they are receiving to fight charges over their expenses, Gordon Brown has said.

David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Elliot Morley got the funding on Monday.

But the prime minister said "most people in their position" would have to return all or most of that money.

Tory leader David Cameron said it was a "complete outrage" their costs were being covered while Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg branded it "incomprehensible".

The three ex-MPs deny the charges relating to their expenses. A two-day hearing will be held Southwark Crown Court in London from 27 May.

'Law has changed'

Mr Brown was asked about the news that they had been awarded legal aid for their case, during an interview on Tuesday with BBC Radio Derby.

He said: "I think this money will have to be paid back by these politicians. I think the evidence is that people in their position will have to pay back the money - or most of the money - they get in legal aid.

"We have actually abolished this free legal aid from the end of June, so it has to be means-tested from the end of June and they wouldn't have got it in these circumstances.

"The law has changed, so I think the money will have to be paid back."

Asked to clarify Mr Brown's comments, his spokesman said that after a case had ended, a court could order defendants to pay back funding received through legal aid.

But the public would expect the three former MPs to pay back the money voluntarily even if they were not ordered to do so, the spokesman added.

He said Labour had altered the law to require means-testing of legal aid, although the changes were being phased in and had not yet been introduced at Southwark Crown Court.

Earlier Mr Cameron had called the situation "a complete outrage" and said there would be a review of legal aid under a Conservative government.

Mr Clegg said it was "outrageous that Labour MPs be given access to legal aid, totally incomprehensible".



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