The former Labour MP Margaret Moran claimed nearly her full year’s allowance in a single false claim and even submitted expenses for an address that in fact belonged to an elderly couple, a jury has heard.
She is accused of falsely claiming around £60,000 in Parliamentary expenses in the four years to 2008, including an invoice for £22,500 - just under the annual maximum expense allowance for an MP – submitted in 2008.
The money was claimed to be for dry rot treatment at her Southampton home but instead went towards funding “home improvements”, the court heard. Southwark Crown Court heard allegations that she flipped her two homes, in Southampton and her constituency of Luton – changing which property was designated as her second home - in order to allow expenses claims on the former.
“In reality, she secured the cost of extensive home improvements, at an address in Southampton that was not then her second home, at public expense,” Prosecutor Peter Wright QC said.
According to the prosecution, one fake invoice she submitted in August 2007 for £14,805 was apparently for boiler repairs and work on her conservatory in her constituency home in Luton, when it was actually at her house in Southampton. On another fake bill for more than £4,000, address details given for a building firm were those of an elderly couple.
Mr Wright said: “They relate to the home of an elderly couple with no connection whatsoever to Elite builders. The invoice was a complete forgery. It was simply a means of pocketing £4,756.40 in public money.”
Ms Moran, who served as MP for Luton South from 1997 until the 2010, also claimed more than £2,000 for a landline at a property where there was no phone line fitted, the jury heard, and for carpet for three bedrooms for her one-bedroom Westminster flat. Mr Wright said: “It was rather a lot of carpet for a one-bedroom flat in London.”
He added: “She appears to have arranged for the taxpayer to foot the bill for repairs to which she was not entitled. Mrs Moran made, we say, a large number of false claims. Some of them were supported by bogus invoices that appear to have been created by her, or on her behalf, and submitted by her in the claims that were made.”
The prosecution said that she received around £53,000 of her false claims.
He told the court she “abused the scheme”, even resubmitting slightly amended expense claims which had been rejected. She is accused of trying to claim £47 for printing 50 Christmas cards and, when told they were not covered on expenses, she resubmitted a claim for “printing services”, the court heard.
Prosecutors claim that one of Moran’s constituency workers heard her give instructions to a member of her Luton staff to help submit a false claim.
When that claim, for birthday cards, was rejected, he heard her tell her office manager to call the printer and “tell them to change it (the invoice) to something permissible”.
The firm changed the description to “surgery cards” and she resubmitted the claim successfully, jurors heard.
Ms Moran is accused of 15 charges of false accounting and six of using a false instrument over the claims for parliamentary expenses.
The former politician was found unfit to stand trial due to mental health issues, thereforeproceedings are taking place in her absence. Rather than finding her guilty or not guilty, jurors have to decide whether Moran did commit the acts alleged in the charges, and whether they amount to the offences with which she is charged.
Mr Wright went through each count Moran is facing, detailing invoices she allegedly changed before submitting them to Commons authorities. The case was adjourned until Monday.