Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

MPs deny advising Devine on claims

Two former colleagues have denied advising Jim Devine on expenses claims
Two former colleagues have denied advising Jim Devine on expenses claims

Two MPs did not advise a former colleague accused of fiddling his expenses to take cash from an allowance to pay his staff, a court has been told.

Former Labour backbencher Jim Devine claims he had a conversation with Tom Watson and Steve McCabe in the House of Commons Strangers Bar in which they told him he could use a communications allowance to cover staffing costs.

But the two MPs told Southwark Crown Court that no such discussion took place.

Devine, 57, who held a seat in the House of Commons for Livingston, West Lothian, is on trial for falsely claiming almost £9,000 from the public purse.

Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, said he hardly knows Devine.

The former defence minister also told the court that if anyone came to him with a question about expenses, he would point them in the direction of the fees office, rather than give them advice.

The prosecution barrister asked the MP if he ever told Devine he could use money from his communications allowance "in order to fund staffing costs". He said: "No."

Devine is on trial facing two charges of false accounting.

The first count alleges that, between July 2008 and May 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services from Tom O'Donnell Hygiene and Cleaning Services. The second count alleges that between March 2009 and April 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery from Armstrong Printing using false invoices.

Mr Devine, of West Main Street, Bathgate, West Lothian, denies both charges.

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