Lib Dems Welcome Prison Sentence For Lord Hanningfield

In response to the nine month prison sentence imposed on former Essex County Council Leader Lord Hanningfield, for the House of Lords expenses fraud, Cllr Mike Mackrory, Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition Liberal Democrat Group on Essex County Council commented:

“The public have every right to expect that people who abuse their position to defraud the taxpayer, must feel the full force of the law. The case exposed a shocking misuse of power which has undermined the reputation of hard working local councillors. We now await the further police investigations into the outstanding allegations of fraud within Essex County Council by Lord Hanningfield.”

The BBC reports:

Paul White, 70, was convicted of six counts of false accounting relating to nearly £14,000 of claims in May.

White has said he will seek leave to appeal against the verdict. If granted, the Court of Appeal will hear the case.

He was found guilty of claiming money for overnight stays in London when he had actually returned home to Essex.

Peers were able to claim up to £174-a-night when attending Parliament, if their main home was outside the city.

But during his trial in May, the court was told White submitted false claims for hotel bills including one when he was actually on board a flight to India at the time.

He also fraudulently claimed for train fares and car mileage.

Passing sentence at Maidstone Crown Court, Mr Justice Saunders said that while there were “ambiguities” in the expenses system in the Lords, it was clear that White had claimed for expenses “he did not incur”.

“He knew when he accepted a peerage that the job of a working peer was unpaid and he did not have to accept the honour,” he said.

“It is not for me to say whether peers should or should not be paid but whatever you think of the scheme, it was not for any peer to take money to which he was not entitled on the basis that he believes he is worth it.”

Mr Justice Saunders said White’s dishonesty and that of others had had “serious consequences” for the reputation of Parliament.

“Great trust was placed in peers to be honest in their claims for expenses. The public expects no less of them. Lord Hanningfield and others have broken that trust.”