LETTERS from former minister Denis MacShane admitting expenses abuses cannot be used to prosecute him because they are protected by Commons rules, it has been revealed.
Officials said parliamentary privilege meant the key correspondence was withheld from police when they launched a probe into the MP two years ago.
The documents are still not legally admissible, even though they were published in a Commons sleaze report on Friday.
The situation emerged after the Standards and Privileges Committee detailed how MacShane knowingly submitted 19 false invoices over a four-year period.
The cross-party group said the invoices were “plainly intended to deceive”, branding it the “gravest case” they had dealt with.
The former Labour Europe minister pre-empted the recommended punishment of 12 months’ suspension from the House by announcing his resignation as an MP last night.
He insisted he had not gained personally from the abuses but wanted to take “responsibility for my mistakes”.
“I have been overwhelmed by messages of support for my work as an MP on a range of issues but I accept that my parliamentary career is over,” he said.
Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon found the MP had entered 19 “misleading” expenses claims for research and translation services from a body called the European Policy Institute (EPI), signed by its supposed general manager.
However, the institute did not exist “in this form” at that time and the manager’s signature was provided by MacShane or someone else “under his authority”.
One letter from the MP to Lyon in October 2009 described how he drew funds from the EPI so he could serve on a book-judging panel in Paris. “I was invited by Jacques Delors to join a committee to draw up a shortlist for the European Book of the Year, on which I still serve,” he wrote. “Again, there were no funds to cover the costs of travel and staying in Paris for these meetings, and since I used them to try and advance the case of British writers … I thought it reasonable to use EPI money to cover these costs.”
Lyon also described how MacShane had a “cavalier approach” to the use of public money in purchasing computer equipment which was not used solely in support of his parliamentary inquiries. In some cases, departing interns were allowed to take away a parliamentary-funded laptop.
Scotland Yard dropped the case against MacShane in July after receiving advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.