Day of consequences for MPs’ expenses fraud: Jim Devine found guilty, Eric Illsley sentenced

Former MP Eric Illsley has been sentenced to 12 months in jail for fiddling his parliamentary expenses.

Whilst this will send out a strong message to those who abuse taxpayers' money, it does not change the fact that Illsley ran for Parliament last year knowing he was guilty and that he could have continued to collect his salary up until his resignation.  Despite calls for him to stand down Illsley waited until the last minute to resign, only doing so on Tuesday- just days before his sentencing. We hear that he has been paid £5,400 of his MPs’ salary since admitting his guilt last month, which he should repay immediately. If he hadn’t agreed to stand down this week, only a 12 month custodial sentence could have removed him from this position and with anything less he could have continued claiming an MPs salary from behind bars!

After the expenses scandal in the summer of 2009, the TPA spoke out for taxpayers who were rightly furious about MPs fiddling their expenses and leaving them to foot the bill. As well as being active critics of the behaviour and attitudes revealed, we continue to campaign for a fully transparent MPs' expenses system so these abuses of trust cannot happen again.

Reacting to the sentencing of Eric Illsley, Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"It is right that this disgraced criminal has been sent to jail for defrauding the taxpayer, that reflects the gravity of the crime and sends a clear message MPs are not above the law. He should never have stood for re-election if he knew he was guilty all along; that delay will have caused more disruption for constituents and greater costs to the public purse.  It is outrageous that Illsley continued to be entitled to an MP's salary after admitting his guilt; he should not be able to pocket  more of taxpayers' money and should pay back any cash that he has received since his conviction."

Earlier today a jury found former MP Jim Devine guilty of making dishonest claims on his parliamentary expenses.  He was found guilty on three charges of false accounting, totalling over £8,745 and cleared of another count relating to £360. He was MP for Livingston but was barred by Labour from standing again. He claimed in his defence that the false receipts for stationery were actually used to cover staffing costs and made excuses that another MP had told him it was allowed, but the jury did not agree.

Responding to the conviction of Jim Devine, Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Taxpayers will be relieved that in another expenses case justice has been done. After dismissing the arrogant assertion that they were above the law, the courts have again rejected MPs’ pathetic excuses for false claims. The expenses scandal in the last Parliament dealt a huge blow to public confidence. As proper punishments are handed out to those who broke the rules, and with robust checks and proper transparency in place to stop new abuses, politicians can start to rebuild trust. There now needs to be a strong sentence for Jim Devine, who didn’t plead guilty and has been convicted on multiple counts, to reflect the seriousness of lying to exploit access to taxpayers’ money and establish a proper deterrent.

Today’s decisions follow on from the sentencing of David Chaytor who received an 18 month jail sentence for fraudulently claiming more than £20,000. Last month we watched the trial of Lord Taylor of Warwick, who was found guilty by a jury of swindling the taxpayer out of more than £11,000.

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