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Denis MacShane Quits As MP Over 'Serious' Expenses Abuses

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Denis MacShane has quit as an MP over his abuse of expenses | Getty

Former Labour minister Denis MacShane has resigned as an MP after he was found guilty by a Commons committee of a string of illegitimate expenses claims running to thousands of pounds.

On Friday morning the Committee on Standards and Privileges said that it was recommending the Rotherham MP be suspended from parliament for 12 months after finding he submitted 19 false invoices "plainly intended to deceive" the expenses authority.

However a few hours later MacShane announced he would be quitting. "I have decided for the sake of my wonderful constituency of Rotherham and my beloved Labour Party to resign as an MP," he said.

"I have been overwhelmed by messages of support for my work as an MP on a range of issues but I accept that my parliamentary career is over."

MacShane's resignation will trigger a by-election in his South Yorkshire seat, which he won in 2010 with 44% of the vote and a majority of 10,462 over his Conservative rival.

In a damning report, the standards committee said the former Europe minister's actions were "so far from what would be acceptable in any walk of life" it was recommending his suspension from the Commons.

MacShane breached rules by claiming thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash for travel across Europe and entertaining European contacts, according to MPs.

The findings come after a complaint made in June 2009 about a raft of expense claims he made for "research and translation services".

Between January 27, 2005, and January 11, 2008, he submitted 19 claims forms backed by false invoices from the European Policy Institute (EPI).

The organisation's letterhead indicated there was a general manager and four associate directors but Mr MacShane admitted the titles were "simply on the letterhead to make it look more official", according to the report.

But the EPI had no office or permanent staff and names on the letterhead were friends of Mr MacShane dating back to the time he spent in Geneva in the early 1990s, it added.

Mr MacShane was "by far the main organiser" and also controlled the bank account, the report found.

The Labour MP told the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that he used the EPI to recoup expenses he paid out for research as part of his parliamentary work on European issues. He argued that he submitted the EPI bills for "ease of administration" for amounts he considered covered "what I had disbursed in the period concerned".

MacShane submitted a list of foreign travel to back up his defence, which included visits to France, Germany, Poland, Kosovo and Switzerland.

But the commissioner found much of the travel was against the rules. That included a trip to Paris for meetings around the European Book of the Year, which was "clearly not a parliamentary duty".

He also criticised MacShane for travelling to the French capital to interview candidates for a job as his personal assistant and for the apparent use of parliamentary funds to entertain European contacts.

The committee said the "real mischief" of MacShane's conduct was that the "method he adopted of submitting false invoices" allowed him to bypass rules to spend public money as he saw fit.

It said it was "impossible to escape the conclusion" that he claimed in that way to ensure he was not challenged over using taxpayers' cash to fund travel for his work in Europe.

MPs said it was this misuse of cash that was "most serious" and suggested that of the £12,900 of claims he made it was likely around £7,500 was "outside the rules". MacShane has repaid the entire £12,900, the report said.

The committee also investigated MacShane's claims for computer equipment. Of 14, six came from the House of Commons and he claimed for eight on his expenses. Some of the equipment had been given to interns.

That reflected a "cavalier approach" to public funding, according to the commissioner.

Also on The Huffington Post

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