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Lord Hanningfield claims parliamentary privilege

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The Conservative peer accused of fiddling his expenses will argue he should be dealt with by Parliament instead of the courts, his lawyer said today.

Legal representatives of Lord Hanningfield, 69, the former leader of Essex CC, said he would join three Labour MPs in claiming to be protected by parliamentary privilege, covered in the 1689 Bill of Rights.

The legal argument involving all four defendants will now take place on 27 May at the request of trial judge Mr Justice Saunders, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC, the Honorary Recorder of Westminster, said it was “plainly important that all legal arguments be heard at one and the same time” as he moved the date from 4 May.

Any further discussions about the date will be heard by Mr Justice Saunders, Judge Rivlin said.

Lord Hanningfield was listed as Paul White by the court and faces six charges of making dishonest claims for travelling allowances.

The day before, Labour MPs David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine - all accused of theft by false accounting, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment - agreed to the same timetable for their cases.

Bury North MP Chaytor, 60, of Todmorden, Lancashire, is accused of falsely claiming rent on a London flat he owned, falsely filing invoices for IT work and renting a property from his mother, against regulations.

Scunthorpe MP Morley, 57, of Winterton, North Lincolnshire, allegedly falsely claimed £30,428 in interest payments between 2004 and 2007 towards a mortgage on his home which he had already paid off.

Livingston MP Devine, 56, of Bathgate, West Lothian, is said to have wrongly submitted two invoices worth a total of £5,505 for services provided by Armstrong Printing Limited.

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