UK Politics

MPs' expenses: David Chaytor pleads guilty to charges

David Chaytor
Image caption David Chaytor will be sentenced in January

Former Labour MP David Chaytor has pleaded guilty to three charges relating to his expenses claims.

Chaytor, 61, the former MP for Bury North, was charged with false accounting totalling just over £20,000.

He claimed rent for his own flat in London and rent for a house in Bury, which was owned by his mother.

He would have been the first Parliamentarian to stand trial over his expenses but changed his plea before it was due to start on Monday.

Family member

Chaytor stood down as an MP at the general election - having been barred by Labour from standing for them again.

He was granted unconditional bail and will be sentenced on 7 January at Southwark Crown Court. He faces a maximum seven years in jail but is likely to receive a more lenient sentence because of his guilty plea.

Two other former MPs, one current MP and two members of the House of Lords are due to face separate trials over their expenses claims.

Chaytor had claimed £12,925 between 2005 and 2006 for renting a flat in Regency Street, near Westminster, which he owned - producing a fake tenancy agreement which said he was paying £1,175 a month rent.

He also falsely claimed £5,425 between 2007 and 2008 for renting a home in Castle Street, Bury, which was owned by his mother. He admitted he had not paid his mother, who had moved into a home because of illness. Under Commons rules he was not allowed to rent from a family member.

A third charge related to falsely charging £1,950 for IT support services in May 2006. The charge said that he supplied two invoices from a man named Paul France for his professional services "when in fact the services had not been provided or charged for". However in that case, Chaytor had not received the money claimed.

'Abused trust'

He had denied the charges but appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday to change his plea, having failed in a court bid to argue that expenses cases should be heard by Parliament, not the courts.

Chaytor's QC James Sturman told the judge, Mr Justice Saunders that £13,000 had already been repaid: "There are many misconceptions about the case which we will wish to put right on January 7.

"Obviously he accepts this is a serious matter. There is no loss to the public purse. Any sums claimed have been, or will be, repaid."

He said there had so far been "a total failure to reflect that his case reflects appropriate claims gone about in the wrong way".

Asked for his reaction to the verdict, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "We take seriously any breaches of rules on expenses. It's for the court to reach its judgement in that case."

He added: "It is very important that we do all we can, as we have done in Parliament, to clean up our expenses system."

Chaytor was mobbed by photographers as he left the court with his legal team before getting into a taxi. He did not comment.

Media disclosures

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Simon Clements, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "David Chaytor has admitted his dishonesty and will now face the consequences of his actions.

"No-one, no matter what their position, should be allowed to take money they are not entitled to.

"By his actions David Chaytor has abused the trust placed in him by the public.

"I would remind everyone that today is about David Chaytor alone.

"Nothing that happened today should reflect on any defendant in any other case."

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says that MPs hope Chaytor's conviction might allow public feeling on expenses finally to cool off.

Chaytor, who was elected during Labour's 1997 landslide victory, had spent his 13 years in the Commons on the back benches.

He was suspended by the Labour Party and barred from standing for them again after stories about his expenses claims emerged when the Daily Telegraph published hundreds of claims made by MPs over several years.

At the time he apologised for what he called accounting errors and referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for investigation.

But after a lengthy police inquiry the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February he would face criminal charges.

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