Sleaze watchdog launches probe into Devine expenses

WESTMINSTER'S sleaze watchdog today confirmed he has launched an inquiry into Livingston MP Jim Devine over his expenses.

A spokeswoman for parliamentary standards commissioner John Lyon said an official complaint had been received and accepted for investigation.

Hospital campaigners in West Lothian said they planned to take the case a step further by making a complaint to the Metropolitan Police.

The MP – who has been banned by Labour bosses from standing for the party again – is under pressure over claims totalling 4,483 for rewiring his London flat and shelving work carried out by the landlord of his local pub.

The rewiring claim was supported by a receipt bearing a bogus VAT number and the name of a company which did not exist.

There have also been repeated questions about where the 66 metres of shelves really are.

The spokeswoman for Mr Lyon said: "The commissioner is currently looking into a complaint about Mr Devine."

Meanwhile, the Action to Save St John's group will make an official complaint about Mr Devine to the Met on Monday.

The MP said ten days ago he was going to call in the police himself in a bid to clear his name.

Gordon Buerskens, one of three Action to Save St John's councillors on West Lothian Council, said: "He seemed enthusiastic about having the police brought in, so in case it slipped his mind we thought we would help it along. Our concern is that, in terms of the shelving in particular, there has not been any continuity in the answers he has given.

"The 2,326 claim for shelving was made from Mr Devine's constituency office budget, but no shelving was in evidence at the premises.

He told the Evening News that Tony Moran, the landlord of his local pub had travelled to London to put the shelves up in his flat there. But he is said to have told his constituency party the shelves were installed in the cellar of a former Blackburn pub run by Mr Moran.

Councillor Buerskens added: "We believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest the possibility of fraud and that should be investigated."

Today it was reported Scotland Yard is launching a full inquiry into claims made by several MPs and peers for non-existent mortgages. The news comes as further revelations were made that MPs have also claimed for unpaid council tax on their expenses.

What do you think of the way MPs have handled the expenses affair?

David McNeil, 59, health service worker, St Leonard's: "It's an absolute disgrace, the whole lot of it."

Gill Williamson, 40, marketing manager, Newington: "I don't think they really wanted to handle it. I think if they hadn't been exposed we'd be none the wiser about it."

Jim Taylor, 56, taxi driver, Gilmerton: "I think it's reprehensible what they've done. Rather than just hold their hands up, they've done everything possible to be devious."