Dry rot MP says: 'I did no wrong'

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Margaret Moran, the Labour MP berated for her expenses claims, accused critics of hounding her out of her job after announcing she would stand down at the next election.

The Luton South MP billed £22,500 to the taxpayer to treat dry rot at a second home in Southampton, 100 miles from both Westminster and her constituency. The broadcaster Esther Rantzen said she would run as an independent candidate if Ms Moran stood for election again. The former That's Life! presenter may now stand in the constituency anyway.

Ms Moran also faces an embarrassing appearance before Labour's "star chamber", formed to discipline MPs who have fallen foul of the rules. Labour sources would not reveal whether Ms Moran would have been deselected, but she had been holding ongoing discussions with the panel, which has been under intense pressure from the party's grassroots to take tough action against offenders.

Ms Moran told friends of her decision yesterday morning. She issued a defiant statement, maintaining that she had never broken any rules and blaming the ordeal for her worsening health. She has agreed to repay the dry rot money.

"The understandable public anger over the issue of MPs' expenses has caused me great stress and has seriously worsened my existing health problem," she said. "I have done nothing wrong or dishonest in relation to my claim for expenses and have at all times acted on advice from the House of Commons Fees Office in relation to my family home in Southampton." She added that the Fees Office had since apologised for giving her misleading advice.

A new Labour candidate for Luton South will be quickly installed. Rantzen has already arranged to meet constituents on Sunday. "They [may] feel that my contribution would be irrelevant," she said. "But if they want me, they can have me."