The political career of one of Labour’s most senior and long standing Parliamentarians was at an end last night after he was found to have knowingly submitted numerous false expense claims over a three year period.
Denis MacShane, a privy councillor and former Minister for Europe, said he was resigning as an MP after a damning report by the Standards and Privileges Committee concluded he had knowingly submitted 19 false invoices that were “plainly intended to deceive” Parliament's expenses authority.
The committee, which adjudicates on allegations of wrongdoing against MPs, said it was the “gravest case” it had dealt with.
It added it was impossible to say how much Mr MacShane had claimed “outside the rules” but it “may have been in the order of £7,500”.
Tonight the Conservatives called for the police to re-open their investigation into Mr MacShane’s expenses with a view to bringing a criminal prosecution against him for fraud.
In its report the Standards and Privileges Committee recommend that Mr MacShane should be suspend from the House of Commons for 12 months due to the fact his actions had been “so far from what would be acceptable in any walk of life”.
After the report’s release Mr MacShane said he was considering his position as MP for Rotherham but later announced he was standing down.
“He has expressed his regret, and repaid the money wrongly claimed,” the report said.
“But this does not excuse his behaviour in knowingly submitting 19 false invoices over a period of four financial years which were plainly intended to deceive the Parliamentary expenses authorities.”
The findings come after a complaint made by the BNP in June 2009 about a raft of expense claims Mr MacShane 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.
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”.
Mr 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”.
The committee said the “real mischief” of Mr 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.
The committee's recommendation must be approved by the Commons - a formality which is usually passed on the nod.
Mr MacShane previously had the whip withdrawn by Labour when the allegations were taken up for investigation by Scotland Yard in September 2010.
He was reinstated in July when the Metropolitan Police said they were taking no further action.
But in a letter to the Metropolitan Police the Conservatives said they should now re-open their criminal investigation.
“I understand that the evidence collected by the committee during its investigation was subject to parliamentary privilege, and thus could not be used by the Crown Prosecution Service,” the Tory MP Philip Davies wrote .
“Now that the report has been published, and parliamentary privilege no longer applies, I would ask you to consider reopening the investigation.”
Tonight in a statement Mr MacShane said : “In the light of the Parliamentary Commissioner’s decision supported by the Committee of Standards and Privileges to uphold the BNP complaint about expenses claimed in connection with my parliamentary work in Europe and in combating anti-semitism I have decided for the sake of my wonderful constituency of Rotherham and my beloved Labour Party to resign as an MP by applying for the Chiltern Hundreds or as guided by the House authorities.
“I hope by resigning I can serve by showing that MPs must take responsibility for their mistakes and accept the consequences of being in breach of the House rules.”