1689 Bill of Rights invoked by fraud MPs
The three Labour MPs who have been charged with theft over fraudulent expense claims have declared that they are above the law and will fight attempts to put them on trial.
Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine each face up to seven years in jail after Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced that he was charging them under the Theft Act 1968. Lord Hanningfield, the Tory frontbencher and leader of Essex County Council, faces six charges over his expense claims.
In a joint statement, the three MPs announced that they would fight the charges by claiming parliamentary privilege over their expense claims. It said: “We maintain that this is an issue that should be resolved by the parliamentary commissioner, who is there to enforce any breach of the rules.”
The four are charged as follows:
The former Agriculture Minister and Labour MP for Scunthorpe faces two counts under the Theft Act 1968 of dishonestly claiming expenses. The first count alleges that between April 2004 and February 2006, Mr Morley dishonestly claimed mortgage expenses of £14,428 for a house in Winterton, Lincolnshire. The second count alleges that between March 2006 and November 2007 Mr Morley dishonestly claimed mortgage expenses of £16,000 for the same property when there was no longer a mortgage on that property.
The Bury North MP faces three charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting. The first count alleges that in May 2006 Mr Chaytor dishonestly claimed £1,950 for computer services by using false invoices. The second count alleges that between September 2005 and September 2006 Mr Chaytor dishonestly claimed £12,925 for renting a property in Regency Street, London, when he was in fact its owner. The third charge alleges that between September 2007 and January 2008 Mr Chaytor dishonestly claimed £5,425, purportedly for renting a property in Bury, Lancashire, from his mother.
The Livingston MP faces two charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting. The first count alleges that between July 2008 and April 2009 Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services using false invoices. The second count alleges that in March 2009 Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery using false invoices.
The Conservative Peer, who is also leader of Essex County Council, faces six charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting. The charges allege that between March 2006 and May 2009, he dishonestly submitted claims for expenses to which he knew he was not entitled. The allegations focus on numerous claims for overnight expenses for staying in London when records show he was driven home and did not stay in the capital.
Cranmer understands that none of the four have been arrested.
It’s one rule for them...
None of the four have been finger-printed or had DNA samples taken.
It’s one rule for them...
And they are appealing against any trial by claiming their right to parliamentary privilege accorded them by virtue of the Bill of Rights 1689.
As a result of the conflict between Parliament and James II, Parliament issued the Declaration of Rights in 1689. Article 9 of the Declaration was a response to the case of William Williams and other similar cases:
Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges, and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of the kingdom ...
By prosecutions in the Court of King’s Bench for matters and causes cognisable only in parliament; and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses ...
And thereupon the said lords spiritual and temporal and Commons ... do in the first place (as their ancestors in like cases have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties, declare:
9. That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament.
Yet we ordinary souls have no such appeal when it comes to invoking our rights.
Could someone please explain to His Grace why Article 9 may be invoked by Members of Parliament to assert their privilege, yet subjects of Her Majesty may not invoke the following provision of the Bill of Rights in relation to their sovereignty?
And I do declare that no Foreign Prince Person Prelate, State or Potentate hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction Power Superiority Preeminence or Authority Ecclesiastical or Spiritual within this Realm So help me God.
Or is it just another case of 'one rule for them'?