Eric Illsley MP pleads guilty to expenses fraud charges

From the BBC:

Former Labour MP Eric Illsley has admitted he fraudulently claimed more than £14,000 in parliamentary expenses.

He pleaded guilty to three false accounting charges over claims for council tax, maintenance, repairs and utility bills for his second home.

Illsley, appearing at Southwark Crown Court, previously denied all charges.

He was re-elected as Labour MP for Barnsley Central in May, but had the party whip withdrawn after being charged and now sits as an independent.

The hearing has been adjourned for four weeks, for a pre-sentence report. If Illsley receives a prison sentence of less than a year he may remain an MP, but if he is sentenced for longer, he will be disqualified from being an MP under the Representation of the People Act 1981.

The House of Commons’ ultimate power of discipline over one of its own members is expulsion, which would create a vacancy in the Member’s constituency and so trigger a by-election. This has only happened three times in the last century.

The procedure for expulsion is that a motion is moved, generally by the Leader of the House, “that … be expelled from this House”. It is customary, depending on the circumstances, that a Member be ordered to attend to offer an explanation. However, if it is apparent that no possible excuse could be given, then the order to attend is not made. Should the Member be already in prison for the offence, then the prison governor may be ordered to bring the Member before the House. [UK Parliament website]

Former MP David Chaytor was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week, but Eric Illsley is the first sitting MP to answer charges relating to his expenses.

Speculation is now growing about a by-election in Barnsley Central, where Labour held the seat with a majority of 11,093 in 2010. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives were closely matched, with 17.3% of the vote each. Liberal Democrat Chris Wiggin took second place by six votes.

Chris Wiggin, who has not said whether he would stand for reselection in the seat, tweeted this morning:

My focus is Oldham this week. Let’s get Elwyn elected in Oldham East and Saddleworth for the Lib Dems, then we’ll see about Barnsley Central.

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  • All these Labour MP’s being arrested. The git in me says “About time”, I wonder if they’ll continue to call Lib Dems liars with a straight face?

  • @Rich
    Of course lying about paying rent to your partner is OK and shouldn’t be mentioned then Rich ? I’m not equating the two just pointing out that they are not linked.

    I think you’ll find that the expenses issues hit every party. I hope he follows his dihonourable friend to prison but please don’t tar all Labout MP’s with the same brush. There are more hounorable MP’s of all parties then there are liars and cheats, even Tories!

    I would like to see a whole load more MP’s in court including Mr Duck Island from Totnes and his friend who needed some essential Moat clearance work.

    As to whether some Lib Dems should be called liars, well Laws has admitted lying, everyone who broke their pledge has, in my opinion lied, to their electorate. Given the chance I’d tell them so to their face. Personally I think if the cap fits wear it, those Labour MP’s and Ex MP’s who broke the law should face the consequences, those who lie to the electorate need to do likewise.

  • paul barker 11th Jan '11 - 1:55pm

    Labour is, of course, full of decent people but there is something about The Labour Movement that turns Good people into crooks, cynics & thugs. On balance, its probably time for Labour to die.

  • Ironically, what David Laws did allegedly broke the rules [in my view] but wasn’t what I would personally judge as ‘wrong’ because if I were staying with my partner, I would expect to pay her rent and not just live for free. So slightly different to fraud.

  • Patrick Smith 11th Jan '11 - 4:20pm

    It looks as if the London L/D By-Election Buses will be on the road again soon and this time to Barnsley Central : but first let`s get Elwyn Watkins elected to serve as the new honourable MP on behalf of the residents of Oldham East and Saddleworth?

    It is the constituents and all decent families who have been betrayed and held hostage to fortune, by the `MPs Expenses’ deceits in Bury North and Barnsley Central.

  • I hope that a by-election is triggered. Whether he serves a custodial sentence or not, he is not fit to remain as an MP and should do the decent thing and resign. When will the right to recall bill get passed because if this man stays on as an MP whilst serving jail time (less than 12 months) then this is not fair on the Barnsley constituents and they should have the right to oust him.

    However, if there is a by-election then this may be problematic for the Lib Dems. Currently in 2nd, but with no chance of victory (11,000 Labour majority), I expect the Tories to pass the Lib Dems. What, however, is more concerning is the BNP position. BNP finished 4th in May, just 3,000 votes behind the Lib Dems in 2nd. If the Lib Dem vote does fall by as much as the national polls are saying, and if we assume that the safeness of the seat will lead to a low turnout, the BNP could well finish above the Lib Dems and that would be very alarming. It may not be a seat that any party apart from Labour will think about winning, but it could still be an interesting result as to who finishes in what position.

  • Oh no let me clarify, I fully accept there are duff MP’s in all parties and honourable MP’s in all (This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting a Labour MP that’s always struck me as honest). I also applaud the parliamentary Lavour party for dropping Illsley as early as they did, if they’d done the same with Phil Woolas, Labour would look very good right now.

  • Personally I hope there is a by-election triggered and Illsley stands as independent. The people of Barnsley should have the choice to re-elect him even if the local Labour party stands its own candidate.

  • Poppie's mum 11th Jan '11 - 5:35pm

    Good to see expenses cheats dealt with, although there are a lot of others who appear to have got away with it.

    Will David Laws ever be punished for his …err….’wrong claims’ for his housing allowance ?

    Over £40,000 claimed contrary to the rules and apparently with clear knowledge it was against the rules.

    Even if Laws did not act in a legally fraudulent way it was both hypocritical and immoral for a man who seemed to ache for the chance to wield the axe on welfare benefits and public services.

  • Poppie's mum 11th Jan '11 - 5:39pm


    Some irony in your first comment, although unintended I suspect.

    1. Some Labour MP’s committing fraud does not wipe the slate clean of Clegg’s and Lib Dem leadership deceit to the electorate.

    2. Are you one of the much boasted of ‘non tribal’ Lib Dems. Again more irony if you are.

    3. David Laws, what are your views on what he did ?

  • Poppie's mum 11th Jan '11 - 5:43pm


    Which other Lib Dems are still under investigation, other than Laws ?

    Thanks, didn’t realise.

    It’s wrong for Lib Dems like Rich to make purely anti Labour remarks about expenses.
    What about the Lib Dem Assembly Member in Wales who has been convicted of assaulting several paramedics after a night out ? Does that reflect badly on all Lib Dems ?

  • Poppie's mum 11th Jan '11 - 5:45pm

    “Labour is, of course, full of decent people but there is something about The Labour Movement that turns Good people into crooks, cynics & thugs. On balance, its probably time for Labour to die.”

    What a bizarre comment ! Are you a Lib Dem ?

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 11th Jan '11 - 6:04pm

    “I’d like to ask whether the prospective by-elections (in Bury, Barnsley, Scunthorpe, Livingston…) will still be operated under FPTP”

    There are no prospective by-elections in Bury, Scunthorpe and Livingston, because Chaytor, Morley and Devine didn’t stand in 2010. Maybe you should be thankful!

  • Norfolk Boy 11th Jan '11 - 6:11pm

    It’s great to see people not letting go of things like the David Laws situation. The arrogance of our political class in thinking that if they send a couple of people to jail it somehow wipes the slate clean is just another sign that they will never ‘get it’.

    You can not claim “Expenses” to pay a partner rent.

  • richard heathcote 11th Jan '11 - 8:46pm

    some people seem to get away with theft lightly, at the end of the day even David Cameron paid a gardener and claimed that on his expenses, which in my opinion is a fraudulent claim. the fact he had second thoughts and paid the bill himself after the fact is irrelavent for all we know he was tipped off over a possible release of information regarding MP expenses.

    i think its right the guilty Labour MP’s are being sent to prison but i also think there is an element of scapegoating going on where some who have done similar have got off lightly. i think the houses of parliament are full of people who made the most of their expenses from all parties.

    as regards my view on David Laws if he was in a relationship with someone and living in that accomodation how could he possibly have an entitlment to claim for expenses to do that? if it was someone in social housing who had a partner living with them and claimed benefits as a single person they would be locked up. why should an MP be any different?

  • “Rules could not be any clearer really. “Are you sure?What does ‘partner’ mean in these rules- business partner? why not say ‘someone you are in a relationship with’

  • unsurprisingly, some people still haven’t got their heads around what Mr Laws did. Whether it’s wilful ignorance, tribal blindness or just obtuseness, I don’t know.


    He should be going to jail.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th Jan '11 - 7:56am

    You can not claim “Expenses” to pay a partner rent.

    But you can claim expenses to pay a mortgage here. How much do people really care about whether it was on paper as rent or mortgage?

  • Norfolk Boy 12th Jan '11 - 5:01pm

    Thanks for that Matt. I’m sure the large majority of people can follow it. I’m sure we all knew that a very cases would be made high profile while many, many others, such as Mr Laws, would receive a much lighter touch. It stinks.

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