Expenses peer gets nine months

By Alex Stevenson

A Conservative peer found guilty of expenses fraud has been sentenced to nine months in jail.

Seventy-year-old Paul White said he hopes to appeal the verdict, delivered unanimously by a jury on May 26th, in the court of appeal.

Lord Hanningfield was convicted of six counts of false accounting under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968. He claimed over £13,000 in parliamentary expenses eligible for those staying overnight in London.

Taking advantage of an allowance which permitted Lords £174 for every night they spent in the capital while attending sessions of the Lords, he actually spent those nights in his home in Essex.

"The Metropolitan police service welcomes the sentence which follows a thorough and detailed investigation of Lord Hanningfield's parliamentary claims whilst a peer in the House of Lords," the Met said in a statement.

"Given there are a number of outstanding investigations relating to other MPs' and Lords' expenses, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Lord Hanningfield is the second peer to be sent to jail for expenses-related fraud, after another Tory peer, Lord Taylor of Warwick, was sent to jail for 12 months in May.

During his trial he claimed he had taken advice suggesting he take the payments "in lieu of a salary". Lord Hanningfield said most peers treated the Lords like a "club" by turning up for ten minutes to claim their allowance.

He had claimed that "all the other peers were doing it" but declined to offer names. Lord Hanningfield, a former pig farmer, had served as an opposition whip and frontbench spokesman.

Four ex-MPs – David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Eric Illsley and Elliot Morley – are currently serving jail sentences for their expenses claims.