MP Jim Devine 'devastated' over expenses charges

By Lucy Collins,Press Association Scotland
Friday 05 February 2010 14:20

MP Jim Devine said today that he was "astonished and devastated" to be charged over his claims for parliamentary expenses.

The Labour MP for Livingston faces two charges under Section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting.

Speaking at his home in Blackburn, West Lothian, today, Mr Devine said: "I am absolutely astonished and devastated at the decision that has been taken today.

"Two new charges have been brought, both of which are easily explained and both of which I'll be explaining in court."

The first count alleges that, between July 2008 and April 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services using false invoices.

The second count alleges that, in March 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery using false invoices.

Speaking moments after the announcement by Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, Mr Devine said: "I've just heard what the allegation is. I can't believe I have been treated in this way.

"I referred myself to the police and they've been through every single one of my receipts.

"Other people have paid money back. If there's a problem, and I don't think there is one, why wasn't I given the opportunity to pay it back?"

Mr Devine added: "I don't see how they can investigate without having questioned people related to this."

Asked about the prospect of facing a trial, he said: "I've just heard this, I'm devastated by this news.

"I know, from where I'm standing, I have no case to answer."

Mr Devine has already been barred from standing as a Labour candidate at the coming general election after questions were raised over his expenses claims.

It was alleged that he claimed from his constituency office budget for shelving which was apparently never installed at Labour Party premises in the constituency, near Edinburgh.

He was also alleged to have paid a further £2,157 for electrical work carried out on his London premises by a firm which had a false VAT number and a non-existent address.

A former psychiatric nurse, 56-year-old Mr Devine was Robin Cook's election agent and was selected to fight the by-election caused by the former Cabinet minister's sudden death in 2005.

After his arrival at Westminster he served as a parliamentary aide until resigning in protest at the decision to renew the UK's nuclear-armed Trident submarines.

Mr Devine said he had not been charged in relation to the shelving allegations.

The MP said: "I had some 13 witnesses to the shelving and other work and only one person involved in this was questioned."

He said he could not understand why he had been investigated and cleared previously but new allegations had been raised.

He continued: "There are now new allegations but I think I should have been told why by the House of Commons.

"If you look at the Legg report, I'm being questioned over two receipts that amounted to about £8,000.

"I don't understand why I was picked on."

Mr Devine added: "It's devastating and I fully expect to be cleared. I've got to consider, to discuss with my lawyers, how I'm going to react to this."

He stated: "I moved into this village not long after I was elected. I was told I could flip my house, I did not do that."

The MP, a former Unison official, referred to his trade union background and said: "I've always handed in receipts for expenses for stuff. I've tried to play by the book.

"I made a mistake with the shelving, I accept that. From my side I don't think I've done anything wrong.

"If I had done something wrong I would have allowed the police access to every receipt, to everything. I'm astonished."