Council leader denies any wrong doing over expenses

THE leader of Essex County Council has strenuously denied any wrongdoing after claims that detectives investigating his parliamentary expenses are due to pass a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Roddy Ashworth

THE leader of Essex County Council has strenuously denied any wrongdoing after claims that detectives investigating his parliamentary expenses are due to pass a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Speaking to the EADT yesterday, Lord Hanningfield said that he could account for all of his House of Lords expenditure and that the only allegations against him were those previously made by Colchester's Liberal Democrat MP, Bob Russell.

The Daily Telegraph alleged that Lord Hannigfield was one of six parliamentarians whose expenses claims were being sent to Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, following a police investigation.


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The newspaper said that Mr Starmer would be tasked with deciding as to whether or not to proceed with charges and, if so, whether they would be for fraud or for false accounting.

However, Lord Hannigfield stressed yesterday that the House of Lords authorities themselves had no complaint about his expenses claims.

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“The only accusations against me are those that have been made by Colchester MP Bob Russell, and, as I have said before, I can account for my expenditure and the House of Lords Authorities have no complaint,” he told the EADT.

Lord Hanningfield had previously claimed that Liberal Democrat Mr Russell made a complaint to police and was determined to blacken his name when news of a Scotland Yard investigation into his expenses came to light in July.

The Daily Telegraph then reported that detectives from the Metropolitan Police specialist crimes unit wanted to establish whether Lord Hanningfield stayed in London on evenings for which he claimed expenses or instead returned to his home in West Hanningfield, near Chelmsford, 46 miles away.

Records show that the peer, who is also a Conservative front-bencher at Westminster, claimed �17,120 in the year ending March 2008 for the cost of staying overnight in London in order to attend the Lords.

Between April 2001 and march 2008 Lord Hanningifled claimed a total of �99,970.

Rules state that peers whose main home is outside the capital can claim an allowance of �174 a night if their stay is for the purpose of attending sittings of the house. Receipts are not required.

After Daily Telegraph published details of the initial probe, Lord Hanningfield said: “A Liberal democrat MP has made a complaint about my expenses to the police.

“This MP has been determined to blacken my name with personal attacks in the Press and in Parliament for actions that I have been taking in trying to improve the quality of education in Essex.

“Discussion and debate over policy has given way to personal attacks and innuendo.”

He told the EADT: “It is disappointing that we are in this position. It is no wonder that so many people are disillusioned with the political process.”

In response Mr Russell, who had already raised the matter of Lord Hanningfield's expenses in the House of Commons in June, refused to say whether or not he had reported the matter to police.

But he said he took Lord Hanningfield's claims about a Lib Dem MP to be a reference to himself.

He added: “I have drawn to the attention of various authorities matters which I think are of concern which need looking at.”

Mr Russell was unavailable for comment last night.

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