Tory MP Chris Davies guilty of false expenses claim

Chris Davies MPImage source, Alfred Collyer/PA Wire
Image caption,
Chris Davies admitted the charges at Westminster Magistrates' Court

A Conservative MP has pleaded guilty to two charges of making a false expenses claim.

Chris Davies admitted to one charge of providing false or misleading information for allowances claims and one of attempting to do so.

The court heard how the charges related to when he was setting up his constituency office following the 2015 general election.

The MP for Brecon and Radnorshire will be sentenced at the crown court.

Davies, 51, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Friday, where District Judge John Zani said he did not consider his sentencing powers to be sufficient.

He admitted that in March 2016 he made a claim under the MPs' allowances scheme and provided an invoice that he knew to be "false or misleading".

The second charge was attempting to provide false or misleading information for an allowance claim using an invoice "that he knew to be false or misleading" in April 2016.

Two offences of forgery were dropped.

The court heard Davies had contacted a photographer in Brecon and purchased nine images from him to decorate and display in his constituency office - using his own money to pay the £700 for them initially.

There were two budgets available to him, the Start Up Costs Budget - for office furniture and IT equipment - and The Office Costs Budget, both of which he could claim the full amount from.

But Philip Stott, prosecuting, revealed Davies found in February 2016 that only £476.02 was left in the Start Up Costs Budget, with £8,303.75 remaining in the other.

He then proceeded to create two fake invoices, so the £700 cost could be split between the two budgets - £450 to the Start Up and £250 for the other.

The court heard he could have claimed the full amount from the budget with the larger amount available or had the photographer create new legitimate invoices to split the cost that way.

Image caption,
Chris Davies unseated Liberal Democrat Roger Williams at the 2015 general election

Mr Stott highlighted in a letter to the party investigating officer sent in February 2018, in which he responded to the allegations against him, that he had been "told in a conversation by a more experienced MP that you could 'split' expenses" and therefore attempted to do so.

Davies has since repaid the £450, with the £250 claim never submitted.

This is the first prosecution of its kind under the Parliamentary Standards Act.

Thomas Forster, defending, said this was a "disastrous accounting episode" and added that Davies was the "author of his own misfortune."

He argued the expenses system was not an "easy" one to understand and claimed Davies was "not motivated" by "personal gain".

Mr Forster said his client was a "family man" with two children who was local to his constituency.

Image source, Yui Mok/PA Wire
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There have been calls for Davies to quit

District Judge Zani said he noted that Davies was a man of good character who has shown "considerable remorse" and how there was no financial gain for actions.

"However, in my view, these are two very serious offences to which you have pleaded guilty," he said.

"The documents you created are troublesome in that they carried a deal of information that you put together which absolutely intended to deceive."

He said as an MP, a position of considerable responsibility and trust, there was a need to be "meticulous in your claims".

A Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman said Davies should resign, adding: "Representing his constituents in these circumstances is untenable.

"Brecon and Radnorshire deserves better from its MP."

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery, MP for Northumberland, also called on Davies to quit.

He said: "Trust in politics and politicians is essential to our democracy. Chris Davies cannot remain a Tory MP after admitting to this offence."

Davies was charged in February this year.

He served as a councillor in Powys before he was elected as MP for Brecon and Radnorshire at the 2015 general election, beating incumbent Liberal Democrat Roger Williams with the seat's largest majority since 1983.

He was a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Wales Office from January to July 2018

Before entering politics he worked as a rural auctioneer, an estate agent and also managed a mixed veterinary practice in Hay-on-Wye.