Disgraced MP jailed for expenses fiddle still has Commons pass

Jim Devine, who made £8,000 in false claims, is excused court costs because he is bankrupt
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The Independent Online

An former MP with a criminal conviction for defrauding the taxpayer over his expenses still has a pass that allows him access to the House of Commons, an investigation has revealed.

Jim Devine, who in March was jailed for 16 months for making more than £8,000 of false expense claims, is still on probation and has only just had his electronic tag removed after being released from prison in August.

But he is still allowed to book restaurants with family in the Palace of Westminster, meet MPs informally and bring guests into the House of Commons.

Jonathan Aitken, jailed in 1999 for perverting justice, is also on the list of former MPs with passes. He said he had had the pass for eight or nine years and used it to chair a committee on the rehabilitation of offenders.

The revelations will add to pressure to reform the system of ex-MPs' access to Westminster after an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent found about one in five of the 79 MPs who applied for Former Member Passes after the 2010 election now work for companies or organisations with an interest in lobbying.

Yesterday, it emerged that Devine would be unlikely to be able to repay thousands of pounds of court costs arising from his prosecution because he was bankrupt. The former Labour MPs David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Eric Illsley, however, were ordered to repay legal aid and prosecution costs after their convictions for fiddling their expenses.

Southwark Crown Court told Chaytor, 62, the ex-MP for Bury North, and Morley, a former Environment minister and Scunthorpe MP, to each pay prosecution costs of £23,176. Illsley, the ex-MP for Barnsley Central, must repay £12,178. No orders were made against Devine, 58, former Labour MP for Livingston. The prosecution of the former MP Margaret Moran is unlikely to go ahead after a court heard she was "unfit to plead". Jim Sturman, QC, for Moran, said: "These proceedings are a continual threat to her life, not just to her liberty, and the experts agree that she is unfit to plead."

Last night, the Labour MP John Mann, who has campaigned for reform of the system, said: "This just underlines the case that the whole system needs to be reformed. These passes reinforce the image of the Commons as a gentleman's club and that undermines our democracy."

Devine could not be reached for comment.