Former leader of Essex County Council, Lord Hanningfield, and three MPs have been released on bail after pleading not guilty over charges relating to expenses claims.
Source: NICK STRUGNELL
The peer, who was chair of the Council of Local Education Authorities (CLEA) between 1990- 1992, and was deputy chair and Conservative Group Leader of the Local Government Association from 1997 to 2001, denied theft by false accounting.
He will appear at Southwark Crown Court on 30 March, alongside Jim Devine, Elliot Morley and David Chaytor.
Their prosecution, at a court a short distance from Parliament, is the first to result from the Westminster expenses scandal.
District Judge Workman declined jurisdiction and agreed with an application by the defence for the case to be heard at the Crown Court.
Mr Knowles said the case raised issues of constitutional importance and it was right that it should be tested at the higher court.
Lord Hanningfield appeared before the magistrates immediately after the three MPs.
He said he would deny charges of wrongly claiming for “repayment of travelling and other expenses”.
Hanningfield faces six charges of false accounting, relating to claims for overnight allowances from the House of Lords between 2006 and 2009, when records allegedly show he was in fact driven to his home near Chelmsford.
The sums he claimed were between £150 and £170.
He was suspended from the parliamentary Conservative Party and stood down as leader of Essex County Council.