Expenses MPs barred from using parliamentary privilege

By politics.co.uk staff

Three former MPs facing charges over their expenses will not be able to defend themselves using parliamentary privileges, a judge has found.

The ruling, which is likely to cause relief in Westminster, means the three men will stand trial on allegations of expenses fraud.

MPs in the Commons reacted angrily to the attempt to stop prosecution using the parliamentary privilege rule, which is designed to let an Mp speak in the Commons without threat of libel action.

Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield will now go on trial, and face a maximum of seven years in prison if found guilty under the Theft Act.

In his ruling, Justice Saunders found no “logical, practical or moral justification” reason for the parliamentary privilege rule to prevent prosecution.

The argument originally used by the men, that the rules covering freedom of speech in parliament should also cover expenses claims made in the parliamentary estate, would have meant that only parliamentary authorities could act on their behaviour.

The argument has now been judged to be legally unsound, but ads a PR exercise it was disastrous. Senior politicians knew it would further undermine confidence in parliament and contribute to the sense that all MPs were corrupt.