Devine: I have done nothing wrong
Updated on 05 February 2010
On the day three MPs and a member of the House of Lords are charged over their expenses claims, one of those charged, Jim Devine MP, tells Channel 4 News he does not think he did anything wrong, but admits he was naive.
In a frank in-depth interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Labour MP for Livingston Jim Devine gives his side of the story after the CPS announced he faces two charges under Section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting.
Jim Devine MP: I'm at a total disadvantage here, because I was referred to the police on public speculation about shelving and electrical work.
Both these receipts have come completely out of the blue.
Three people had a company who were doing cleaning, maintenance and security.
My flat had been broken into. The police told me I needed security while I was away.
The stationery [claim] was for paying for leaflets and for moving money from one account to another, I had a lot of money in the communications account.
We have separate accounts - Londoin living, staffing, communication and an office budget. And you can move money around these accounts.
I was moving money from communications to the staffing budget.
I was advised by a whip that I could do this, who said that you could move money about like this.
There was stationery... other parts of the money went into a staffing account. I was told that that was acceptable. Nobody queried it.
KGM: Isn't that fraud, if you claim for one thing and use it for something else?
JD: I don't see that it is. The fraud, I would suggest, and crimnal activity, I would suggest, is that it is to my benefit.
None of this was to my benefit. I did not financially benefit by these two receipts.
KGM: But in simple terms you submitted a claim for five and a half thousand pounds for stationery. You did not spend five and a half thousand pounds on stationery, did you?
JD: I moved money around, as I was told I was entitled to do.
KGM: So where did the receipt come from?
JD: It came from a printers... it was not invented. It was explained to me that I could move money around. This is what I have done. I have a receipt from the individual who received payment over a six-month period.
I was told I could do this.
KGM: So you got a receipt from somebody you were paying as a member of staff, and submitted it as stationery?
JD: Yes. This was allowed at the time.
I came down as a by-election candidate in October 2005. I had no in-service training. I had no advice on how to deal with accounts.
I was given a pile of books, went to the fees office, filled in a form and carried on with the advice I was given.
KGM: What you seemed to have explained is that you put in a false receipt. But you claimed for one thing, and said it was another. Which is obviously why they've come after you.
JD: The false receipt would be if the five and a half thousand pounds was going into my pocket.
In my innocence I was told that [this claim] was acceptable.
I was investigated publicly over two issues - shelving and electrical work.
I referred myself to the police. I gave the police all my receipts. If I thought there was a problem, I would not have given the police those receipts. From my position I thought I had done nothing wrong.
KGM: Surely you can see that if you put in a receipt for one thing and it's actually for something else, that is false and therfore you've broken the law?
JD: Well, I don't accept that, and that is the debate we've got to have in court.
I think I would have broken the law if I had benefited financially from the arrangement.
KGM: What is your claim on parliamentary privilege? Why is it you think you should not be facing these charges?
JD: We're not arguing that we're above the law. What we're arguing is that we should have gone, in the first instance, through the parliamentary process.
We've just had the debate about what was the procedure - were you allowed to carry money over? Were you allowed to transfer it from one account to another?
I do feel - the three of us feel - that we're being treated in very different ways from a lot of our colleagues.
People yesterday had paid back 20, 30, 40 thousand pounds. Why are we being dealt with by police when there is clearly a process within parliament?
If I have done something wrong, I am not arguing that I am above the law.
If I have done something wrong, quite rightly I am entitled to be charged. I don't believe that I have done anything wrong here.
The taxpayer did not lose, because an individual that was working for me was paid. If I've done anything wrong, then it's that I've been naive and listened to the wrong people.
Have I benefited one pound financially? No, I haven't. And that I think is the difference between saying I'm a criminal and saying that I've made a mistake.