06 February 2010

Terry takes the sting out of the expenses?

So the press is covered from front to back with the England ex-captain. A whole week of sensationalism, speculation and scandal. Who slipped under the radar? The MPs. Yes, they did get a days worth of coverage, yes it was the head story for the BBC and The Times, but seriously, the whole investigation cost more than was paid back. That is by far a more socially relevant story than John Terry having an affair. How did the investigation cost so much? Furthermore we are now hearing there is a little known loophole called parliamentary privilege. It beggars belief.

Politicians have urged the MPs facing charges over their expense claims not to use Parliamentary privilege to try to avoid court proceedings.

Lawyers for Labour MPs Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine have raised the issue of privilege.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the public would be outraged by the use of the principle - which normally protects MPs from civil actions.

The three MPs all deny charges which they face under the Theft Act.

So does a fourth politician who faces charges - the Tory peer Lord Hanningfield.

The politicians face charges of false accounting under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968. If found guilty they face a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment.


"Lawyers representing those who have been charged have raised with us the question of parliamentary privilege," Starmer said. "We have considered that question and concluded that the applicability and extent of any parliamentary privilege claimed should be tested in court."


Lord Hanningfield, who is charged with six counts of false accounting between March 2006 and May 2009, said he was "extremely disappointed" and insisted all his expenses claims had been made in good faith. He resigned as frontbench business spokesman in the Lords and from his post as leader of Essex county council, and was suspended from the parliamentary Conservative party.

The three MPs have engaged the same legal firm, Steel and Shamash, who also act as the Labour party's solicitors.

The MPs said in a joint statement: "We are clearly extremely disappointed that the DPP has decided to instigate proceedings against us. We totally refute any charges that we have committed an offence and we will defend our position robustly."

They added that they believed their cases should have been dealt with by the parliamentary standards commissioner, adding: "We are confident of our position and have been advised by eminent QCs."

Some MPs and legal experts questioned whether a defence of parliamentary privilege could be sustained. David Heath, the Liberal Democrats' constitutional affairs spokesman MP, said: "If there is any question about whether parliamentary privilege gives protection against prosecution for fraud, then parliament should make it very clear by passing a resolution to say that it does not."


George wonders that if £1.1 million was paid back, then how can only four MPs be charged with theft? This is one of the biggest, scandals in history and John Terry, bless his little cotton blue socks, has taken the sting out of the expenses story. That is a reason to take the armband off him, not his private life.

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