MP Elliot Morley hits out over 'golden goodbye'

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Indy Politics

One of the MPs being prosecuted over his expenses today claimed the Commons is treating him unfairly by suspending his "golden goodbye" until criminal proceedings are over.

Former minister Elliot Morley said the decision, announced after he was charged with two counts of false accounting on Friday, went against "natural justice".

MPs leaving Parliament at an election are usually entitled to a resettlement grant worth up to a year's salary - just under £65,000 - depending on age and length of service.

But Commons Speaker John Bercow has directed that the payments due to the three MPs charged over their expenses are withheld until criminal proceedings are concluded.

In an interview with his local newspaper, the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Mr Morley said: "I think withholding the resettlement goes against natural justice.

"In effect it turns common law around, which judges me guilty until proven innocent. It is one of the many ways I have not been treated fairly.

"What happens in the legal outcome is a matter of conjecture and would be for the House to decide. I would point out I have repaid in full and do not owe any money in relation to expenses."

Mr Morley was charged under the Theft Act over allegations that he "dishonestly" claimed more than £30,000 in mortgage interest repayments on his second home in Winterton, Lincolnshire.

He was suspended from the Labour Party on Monday, along with David Chaytor and Jim Devine, who are also being prosecuted over their expenses.

They had previously been barred from standing again for Labour at the next general election.

The Tory whip has been withdrawn from Lord Hanningfield, also facing "false accounting" charges in respect of his expenses claims.

All four have been summonsed to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on March 11.

Mr Bercow said on Friday that the three MPs, because of the police investigations into their expenses, were yet to have their claims internally audited by Sir Thomas Legg.

"In these and any other cases, the House itself may wish to consider the members' conduct, once the criminal proceedings are concluded," he wrote in a letter to accounting officer Malcolm Jack.

"In such cases, it is necessary to take sensible precautions to ensure that any restitution can effectively be made."

He said he had been supported by senior MPs on the cross-party Members' Estimate Committee in suspending the resettlement payments.