Ex-MPs face criminal trials over expenses

Three former MPs have been told they must stand trial in a criminal court after failing in their final bid to be judged by their parliamentary peers.

David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine went to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, claiming they had parliamentary privilege, but their attempt was dismissed by a panel of nine justices.

They now face separate criminal

trials at London's Southwark Crown Court, the first one being due to start on 22 November. The former Labour MPs are accused of fiddling their expenses and face charges, which they deny, of theft by false accounting.

In October, Nigel Pleming, QC, representing Mr Chaytor and Mr Devine, argued before the Supreme Court that the MPs' expenses scheme was part of proceedings in the House, so the men should be protected by parliamentary privilege. "I also wish to emphasise that this is not, and never has been, an attempt to take them above or outside the law," he maintained. He said the House had "the power to punish, and to recover any monies wrongly claimed, and is well capable of investigating allegations made against its members".

He added: "The administration of the scheme is also entirely a matter for the House of Commons – this extends not only to its creation but to its regulation and enforcement. So far as we are aware these are the first criminal prosecutions of members of the House of Commons for over 300 years."

The former Bury North MP, Mr Chaytor, 61, the ex-Scunthorpe MP, Mr Morley, 58, and Mr Devine, 57, the former MP for Livingston, are all on unconditional bail.

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